Maddie Coleman sits at a small table inside Java. She is nursing a Mocha Latte and trying to decide what to discuss about in her next v-log. She glances over at the counter and sees a high school girl wiping the counter lazily. Maddie smiles as she thinks about the days when she was in high school and had to work a summer job. High school also reminds her of Casey Hughes, who she now hears is getting married soon. Her memories of Casey lead her to the summer after high school when she had an internship at WOAK and to a young man named Noah Mayer.
Maddie gives a sigh and grabs her coffee mug, intent on getting another Mocha Latte. She doesn’t see the tall, athletic built, dark haired young man until she runs right into him. He isn’t wearing the signature Java uniform: an olive green shirt with the shop’s logo and a casual pair of blue jeans. Instead the man is dressed in a sky blue polo and blue jeans that look barely worn. Maddie begins to apologize profusely until she looks up and sees who she is talking to.
“NOAH!” Maddie exclaims as she attacks him with a bear hug.
“Maddie?” Noah says a little taken aback, “I thought you moved away with no intention of returning.”
“I thought you would have left town by now too. I mean to go off and study film making.” Maddie says as she motions for Noah to join her at the table she has just vacated.
“No, I am still here and still attending Oakdale U. I have a life here, besides it’s the only place where I feel at home.” Noah says as he sits down across from Maddie.
“Really,” Maddie asks, “Because when I left it seemed to me that you weren’t planning on sticking around for very long.”
“Maddie you left over two years ago. A lot can change in one year, so you can only imagine how much has changed in two years.” Noah says softly as he gazes at his hands.
“So tell me about all that has happened.” Maddie says, kicking into reporter mode.
“Well as you know when you left Luke was paralyzed. So for the next few months I worked with him for hours every day. He was determined to walk again by Christmas time. Around Thanksgiving of that year I had to go see my father off to Statesville Prison. I was talking to him, no more like cowering as he insulted me. Then Luke shows up and tells my father that he loves me and that what we have is right and that he belongs in jail.” Noah begins not even looking at Maddie.
“He said that he loved you? How did you respond?” Maddie asks leaning a little bit closer to Noah.
“Regrettably I responded by pulling away from him a little bit. I knew that it hurt him; I could see it in his eyes. I didn’t want to hurt him I just didn’t know how to respond to his gung ho togetherness personality. So at Christmas I expressed my feelings to him in the only way I knew how.” Noah sighs and leans back in his chair.
“I wrote him a message inside a Christmas card. I remember how Luke read it and then looked at me like he could just die right then and be a happy man. At that moment I decided that no matter what I would do anything I could to keep Luke happy. That was before Ameera came into our lives, things were never the same after her.” Noah finally looks at Maddie silently begging her to understand.
“Who is Ameera? Please don’t tell me you lied to her as well.” Maddie says as she remembers the hurt Noah had caused her two and a half years ago.
“No, I didn’t lie to her.” Noah mutters.
“I would hate to think that you hurt another girl like you hurt me.” Maddie says icily.
“No it wasn’t like that. Ameera was an Iraqi girl who came to Oakdale in search of my father, who had cared for her in Iraq. She found me instead and I felt my heart go out to her so I vowed to help her in any way I could. Soon her Visa expired and she was going to be deported so I did the only thing I could think of to keep her safe, I married her.” Noah explains all the while not taking his eyes off of Maddie.
“YOU WHAT?” Maddie screams, “You just told me that you didn’t lie to her.”
“I didn’t lie to her. She knew all along that Luke and I were together. Luke even pretended to be in a relationship with Casey in order to fool the government officials. I was making the situation work, until Ameera left suddenly saying that our marriage could be annulled. I didn’t like the looks of things so I went to NYC in order to find her. It was there that I found out my dad was planning on using her as a way for him to flee the country as well.”
“Wait, let me get this straight. You got married, then your dad kidnapped your so-called wife and so you go after her? I guess what I don’t understand is why? Why would you go after her if you were really in love with Luke?” Maddie asks as she grabs Noah’s hand.
“You know Luke asked me the same thing a few times during this whole ordeal. My answer was and still is this: I didn’t want her to be yet another victim of my father.”
“So did you get Ameera away from your father?”
“Yes, only because my father decided to jump overboard to his death when he heard Luke calling out to me. He thought that I had betrayed him and so he thought the only way to escape was to drown. After that I was really messed up I broke things off with Luke and wallowed in my own self pity. I knew that I was hurting Luke, because he was always around trying to get me to change my mind. I didn’t care; I needed to cut myself off from him completely so I got a job here at Java. I even went on a date with a guy named Tony, but that ended with me getting back together with Luke. The worst thing I did after my dad died was I enlisted.” Noah recounts with an air of someone bearing a heavy burden.
“Noah, what compelled you to do that?” Maddie asks incredulously.
“I was upset and thought that I needed to do something productive and meaningful with my life. The Army seemed like the best idea. However, I couldn’t go through with the process because I came to realize that by doing so I would not only hurt the man that I loved but I would also be hurting myself. So I returned home to Luke,” Noah says, “Do you still want to hear the rest? This is just the beginning of our problems.”
“Oh please continue I want to know everything.” Maddie says eagerly.
“Okay. Well not long after I nixed my Army recruitment idea Luke received a big portion of his inheritance from his father. At first Luke was reluctant to take it, but then he decided to take it and basically slap the Grimaldi’s at the same time. He invested it into the Luke Snyder Foundation and we hired a man named Brian Wheatley to help run it. Luke and I were very excited about this little venture of ours and Luke was even happier that Brian had taken a liking to his Grandma Lucinda. To make a long story short Luke eventually found out that Brian wasn’t who he had led us to believe he was. I had to go to Italy for a little summer trip around this time, and so I was unable to be there for some crucial business deals. However, the smile on Luke’s face when I returned from my trip early made the absence all that much more memorable. Luke even begged me not to go away without him ever again. We were finally 100% happy in our relationship. I believed that nothing in the world could spoil our happiness. That is until the election happened.” Noah got up and grabbed a glass of water to quench his thirst.
“Neither of us was even remotely interested in running for a student government office. Until we found out the Film Festival on campus was going to be cancelled and the deciding vote was the student body president. So we thought that we would go to the person running for the position and plead our case. However, we soon found out that would not work because the person running for office was Kevin, Luke’s ex-best friend. So it was then and there that Luke decided to run for student body president. The entire campaign was a fiasco. Kevin played dirty and he was going to easily win the election. Luke didn’t want to see the Film Festival get the ax so he decided to stuff the ballot box. When Dean Rivers found out he questioned me and Luke separately. I hated ratting Luke out to the Dean but, I couldn’t lie not about him. I loved him too much to not tell the truth. I don’t know who said ‘the truth will set you free’ but they were so wrong.”
“I remember going to Luke’s house after I finished talking to Dean Rivers and I expected to see Luke a little upset, but what I saw was even worse. Luke was FURIOUS! He blamed me for everything blowing up in his face. I was shocked to hear that the Dean had expelled him. The worst part about this visit was Luke turning to me with tears in his eyes and saying, ‘You love ME? I can’t even look at you right now.‘ I couldn’t believe he was so angry at me that he didn’t even want me around. I don’t think I had ever felt as hurt as I did at that very moment. It was as if he had slapped me in the face. I walked away from him that day and for the next month or so we hardly spoke to each other.”
“One day however, I was minding my own business and thinking about Luke when Ali and Casey called me. They told me they had seen Luke at Yo’s getting drunk, but that he had ran off with his car keys still on him. I found him drunker than drunk wandering around Old Town. I took him home to the farm and I hid his keys from him. I felt so guilty, like I had caused him to drink. He even begged me to stay. I looked at him and my heart ached, I wanted to stay with him. However, I knew that if I did I would be miserable and then I would say something wrong and Luke would hate me. I had to leave him before he had the chance to leave me. So I left him at the farm and I went to Yo’s and had a few drinks myself. A few days later, once he had sobered up, Luke came to me and told me that Brian had kissed him that very same night. I regret how I reacted to his admission because it ended up causing him more pain.”
“The holidays came and I realized that I really missed Luke. I decided to go to his parent’s house and see him. We ended up walking to Old Town where I gave him his gift. I knew that he loved the symbolism in the gift from the moment he opened it. After that we kissed for the first time in months. We also agreed to work things through for the sake of our relationship. Then you showed up in town for the holidays. I should have figured out right then that you were going to be a problem.”
“Me? How was I a problem?” Maddie asks.
“Luke has never gotten over the fact that you and I were once lovers and when you showed up in town again he began to doubt our relationship. He knew that you and I had been physically intimate, hell he walked in on us in Branson. Luke also knew that I was reluctant to have sex with him, but for good reason. Our relationship up to that point had not been easy at all. There was yet to be a ‘right moment’ presented to us.”
“However, I went on thinking that Luke would be okay with you tagging along with us on New Years and I reinforced that notion with the promise of finally sleeping with Luke that very night. However, Luke saw me leave with you and he got the wrong idea and so he started to drink. I ended up finding him kissing Brian and I thought it was the other way around. When I found out the truth I was so angry. I couldn’t even stand to be near Luke. I couldn’t figure out how he would do such a thing. After all those times he had complained about the guy, I didn’t get how Luke could just turn around and kiss him.”
“For a couple of weeks Casey tried everything he could think of to get us back together. Nothing worked, I believed our relationship had been damaged beyond repair and for the first time ever Luke agreed with me, however reluctant that agreement was. Then one day Luke and I were shoved together in the middle of Old Town. Luke started in on me from the start. He called me selfish and I questioned him, not out of disagreement but as an innate response. As he accused me of being selfish with my feelings and reluctant to let people in all I could think about was how much I really did miss him. His passion in that moment compelled me to do the unexpected. I kissed him right there in the middle of Old Town and not just a simple kiss, this was a full throttle passionate kiss.”
“Wow” Maddie mutters under her breath.
“After that I wanted nothing more than to be as close to Luke as I could get. We practically ran back to his parents’ house. Once there we rushed to his room and well you can imagine what happened next. I just remember looking at Luke as we were clutching at each other, and thinking ‘There is no one else in the world I would rather be with.’ At that moment I knew that we could get through anything. For a while we did. Then Luke got hit by a car. I remember being so scared. I was so afraid that the love of my life would never wake up. That we would never get the chance to do all the things we had ever dreamed of doing.”
“Noah, I am so sorry.” Maddie says with tears in her eyes, “You guys have been through so much.”
“Then Damian showed up in town and along with him came a couple of crazy Grimaldi’s who went by the names Zac and Zoe. They wanted Luke’s inheritance and when they couldn’t get it through devious technological hacking skills they decided to go the old fashioned route. One day they kidnapped me and made me call Luke and lie to him about where I was at. I hated lying to Luke because I knew that my lie would cause a spark constant worry inside him. He would worry about my well-being and about what he had done that was so bad. I even told the Z twins this as they tied me to a pole. It seemed like I was there for an eternity, then one day I saw Luke. In my tired, starving state I thought he was merely an illusion. Then I felt my ropes being loosened and I knew that Luke was really there. However, Luke was tied up before he could get us out. So there we sat for days, unable to see each other, unable to call for help. Then one day we tried our hands at escaping once again. That attempt backfired as well. I even got shot. I remember hearing Luke’s hurt and anguish as he screamed at Zac and Zoe. For the next few days I slipped in and out of consciousness as I lost more and more blood. The one thing that stayed constant was Luke’s unspoken love and devotion to me. It was a simple comfort I had to cling to during our difficult ordeal. Then one day I hear Zoe talking to Luke about having his baby. In my muddled brain I couldn’t make the connection, until I felt Luke resisting his restrains as if he was trying to get away. I realized then that Zoe was trying to have sex with my boyfriend. A fury like I have never felt before bubbled up to the surface and I used it as fuel as I grabbed a hold of Zoe with my legs.”
“After we were freed from Zac and Zoe Holden took Luke and I on a trip to New York City as a way for us to get our minds off of things. While in New York Luke admitted to me that he saw us someday living together in the beautiful city and with his words I felt my heart swell to twice its normal size. I couldn’t believe that Luke was so confident about us even after all that I had put him through. Around this time Luke and I decided it was officially time for us to move into our own apartment and so we went about doing that; except we were hit with one more snag, my father returning from the grave. When my father kidnapped me I was so afraid, not of him hurting me, but of how this would affect Luke. I didn’t want Luke to get hurt; after all we were finally getting our lives on track. Then as my father was trying to get me to leave with him Luke showed up with Damian and Luke held me as he told me the right thing to do was to call the cops. So I did. With my father gone I thought Luke and I were home free.”
“Were you?” Maddie asks in earnest.
“No. Not long after my father was arrested Luke began working for Grimaldi shipping and I began working on my senior project with my new advisor Professor Mason Jarvis. Things were a bit rough, mostly because Luke didn’t like Mason all that well. However, we were trucking along with everything going fine then Holden’s truck went off the road in Kentucky and it burst into flames. Luke was devastated by the sudden loss of his father. He blamed himself for his father’s death. I stood by and watched as Luke broke down right in front of me. He told me that he didn’t want me around but, I didn’t oblige him. I showed up and I told him that I was going to be there whether he wanted me there or not. The look in Luke’s eyes at that moment in time showed me just how grateful he was that I was there. Then I held him as he cried and cried. I wanted to cry to because Holden had been like a father to me. However, I knew that Luke needed me and I was going to be there for him. Then I had to go away to work on my senior project with Mason. This meant that I had to miss Holden’s funeral. Luke told me that he was okay with it but, I knew that he was just saying that to make me feel better.”
“Things were fine after that even though Luke was still a little withdrawn. Then his father came back, very much alive and where was I? I was with Mason. Again my absence was forgiven by the love of my life. Before I knew it Luke was back to his old self but he was also more wary of Mason’s intentions. Their competition continued even as my film project started to wind down. Then Mason kissed me on the forehead and Luke saw it on the dailies. This sent Luke over the edge. He went to Damian for advice and that caused Mason to get fired and my film to get the ax. I remember seeing Luke and being so angry at him. I wanted nothing to do with him and I didn’t even want to think about him. So I went to work on finishing what I could of my film and that’s when it happened. I was blinded by a firework blowing up in my face.”
“From the day I woke up until just a few weeks ago I was blind, so we are talking about four months of dwelling on my pain because I couldn’t see. I was angry at Luke but at the same time I could tell he loved me. Even when I pushed him away for finishing my film or for causing Dr. Oliver to leave town, he still stood by and insisted on helping me. We even broke up over my anger towards him.”
“You guys broke up?” Maddie cries.
“Yes. We have been separated for a few weeks now. However, looking back now the whole time I didn’t have any sight the thing I missed the most was not that I couldn’t see. I missed what I couldn’t see any more. I missed seeing Luke’s beautiful smile everyday when I wake up. I missed seeing him look at me in that way that set him apart from a crowd. Then when I finally did get my sight back I felt so guilty for shoving Luke away that I couldn’t stand to be near him. I still can’t. I love him so much but I just can’t let myself forgive him and me for everything that has gone wrong in our life together. I know my avoidance of Luke hurts him because I watch him from afar and I have yet to see him smile like he used to. Maddie, what can I do? I want him back so badly but, I don’t think he wants me back.” Noah finishes with a lone tear rolling down his cheek.
Maddie stares across the table at the man who broke her heart all those years ago. Looking at him hunched over with a look of the utmost sadness on his face. Maddie’s heart aches for her ex-boyfriend and wishes she could take away his pain. With that she comes up with a plan.
“Noah, only you can answer that question. Look I’d love to stay and chat some more but I need to get somewhere.” Maddie says as she gets up from the table and walks out of Java.
Noah sits at the table a little bit longer before he too gets up and walks out the door. He walks until he reaches the front door of Luke’s parents’ house. He looks in the front window and realizes exactly where Maddie had to get to. On the front couch Maddie is sitting with Luke and the two are talking in an animated manner or at least Maddie is talking animatedly.
Noah turns away and decides it is high time he went and visited his old friend Dusty Donovan.