Technicolor Daze

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Sunday, May 25th, 2014

The spot where Noah had been sleeping was empty when Theo woke up. After they arrived at Noah’s the previous night, Noah wanted to drink a beer and smoke some cigarettes, hoping to drown the thoughts that were leaving him anxious. Theo had wanted to ask about the dream, but decided against it, having seen how on edge Noah looked. They went straight to bed once Noah had finished his beer.

Theo checked the time on his phone and saw that it was half-past nine. Where’s Noah? He thought as he looked around in confusion. He got up with the sudden urge to pee and walked to the living room as he headed to the bathroom. As he crossed the living room, he noticed Noah smoking on the balcony. He went to the bathroom first before joining Noah on the balcony.

“Good morning,” he said as he stood by the doorframe.

Noah turned around to look at Theo, “Mornin’.”

“Have you been up long?” Theo asked. He noticed Noah was smoking a cigarette from his packet.

“Not too long. Just a few minutes before you. I bummed one of your cigarettes, by the way. I was all out of mine,” Noah raised the cigarette to his lips to take a puff.

“That’s fine,” Theo didn’t like smoking before having something to eat, so he just watched as Noah finished his cigarette, “Why are you up so early?”

Noah looked away as he took one last puff, before stubbing his cigarette out. He avoided looking at Theo when he answered. “I have a photoshoot at eleven,” he said before exhaling the smoke.

Theo could tell by the way Noah’s shoulders tensed up and by the slight shake in his hands that there was more to the story than Noah was letting Theo know. But he also didn’t see the point in forcing Noah to talk about it if he didn’t want to.

“Oh, okay. Well, I’ll be free all day so if you’re free after the shoot, you can always come over,” Theo offered. Whatever Noah was going through, he wanted to be the person who was there for him when Noah needed someone.

Noah looked at Theo, a conflicted expression on his face. It seemed like all he wanted to do was to stay with Theo, but underneath that strong desire was a hidden emotion that Theo couldn’t quite read. It looked like a mixture of fear and guilt. He ended up nodding at Theo’s invitation and saying, “I should start getting ready. I have to leave soon if I want to be there on time.”

“Okay. I’ll just have a shower and head out then if that’s okay,” Theo could tell that Noah wanted to be alone at that moment so he was going to give him space.

“Sure, you can go first. Could I bum another cigarette? I’ll get you a pack to make up for all the cigarettes from yesterday and today,” Noah said as he played with his fingers.

“It’s fine. Take as many as you need. Do you have a towel by the way?”

“Yeah, hold on a sec,” Noah walked into his room and grabbed a towel before joining Theo on the balcony again, “here you go.”

“Thanks. I won’t be long,” Theo grabbed the towel and headed into the bathroom.

As he showered, he couldn’t help but wonder what was going through Noah’s mind. What was he actually going to do that day? Why were his hands shaking? Why was he chain-smoking? What did the text message he got on Friday night say?

Sadly, he didn’t have the answer to any of those questions.

After rinsing his body and drying himself off, he headed out the bathroom and back into Noah’s room, where he got dressed. He noticed Noah had left a pair of briefs on the bed for him, so he put those on before wearing the same clothes he’d worn the previous night. Noah was still smoking on the balcony once he was dressed.

“The shower is all yours,” Theo told him.

“I’ll shower after I finish this cigarette,” Theo looked at the ashtray and he noticed that since they’d arrived at Noah’s place the previous night, Noah had filled the empty ashtray with cigarette butts. Theo was almost out of cigarettes.

“Okay. Anyway, I won’t keep you busy, so I’ll get going. But like I mentioned, I’ll be free all day, so if you want to come over after the shoot, just give me a call,” Theo offered once again, giving Noah a meaningful look. He knew Noah was in some kind of trouble and he wanted to let him know that he was there for him if anything were to happen to him.

“Will do,” Noah forced a smile before taking one final puff and extinguishing the cigarette. He handed Theo his pack and said, “Sorry for smoking most of it. I almost finished your pack.”

“It’s fine. I’ll get one on the way home,” Theo stepped closer and leaned in to press a kiss to Noah’s lips, “Hopefully, I’ll see you later. Have a nice photoshoot.”

Noah simply nodded with the forced smile on his face. Theo turned around and walked out of the apartment, feeling a bit anxious about the whole situation and also slightly hurt that Noah didn’t trust him and felt the need to lie to him, but he told himself that there had to be a good reason for Noah to have lied to him.

Theo leaned against Noah’s closed apartment door and checked his pack of cigarettes. There was only one left. Noah had smoked almost half of his pack in the last ten hours. Theo had never seen Noah chain-smoking like that before and that left him worried about Noah.

Still lost in thoughts, he went down the stairs and headed out the building before walking to the closest convenience store to buy a new pack. The bus ride back home was a bit of a blur as Theo couldn’t stop thinking about what Noah was hiding from him. He had a strong gut feeling that something was terribly wrong, but he didn’t know what it was and felt powerless about it.

When he arrived home, Alice was in the kitchen preparing a cup of coffee. “Oh, you’re back early,” she said as she stirred her coffee.

“Yeah... Noah has a photoshoot...” Theo barely looked at Alice as he poured himself a glass of water.

Alice watched as Theo’s glass overflowed and some water spilled over onto the kitchen counter, but Theo didn’t seem to be bothered by it, “You’re too quiet. Is something up?”

Theo suddenly noticed that he’d poured too much and drank some of the water. He looked at Alice and saw her looking at him with an expectant look on her face. His thoughts had drowned out her question, “Did you say something?”

“Yeah, I asked you what’s up. You seem to be worried about something,” Alice took a sip of her coffee.

For once though, Theo didn’t really feel like talking about it with Alice. He felt like it wasn’t Alice’s business. “It’s nothing. I didn’t get much sleep last night. Just feeling tired, that’s all.”

“Oh, okay...” Alice didn’t quite buy it, but she let it go for that moment. He would tell her when the time was right. She watched as he finished his glass of water in one gulp feeling a bit concerned. She wondered if Theo and Noah had fought or broken up.

“I’m going to my room to have a nap,” Theo said after placing the empty glass in the sink, “I’ll wash that later.”

As he reached his bedroom door, Jamie left Alice’s bedroom and warmly said, “Hey, Theo!”

Theo didn’t even seem to hear her greeting as he stepped into his room and shut the door. Jamie turned to Alice and asked, “Is he okay?”

“I don’t know,” Alice said gazing at Theo’s door with concern.

In reality, Theo wasn’t feeling sleepy. He just wanted to be alone. His mind was trying to guess what was wrong with Noah, coming up with multiple theories, each one more ridiculous and far-fetched than the prior one. He felt horrible thinking about worst-case scenarios like drug addiction or Noah being a member of a triad.

He laid down on his bed and fished his phone out of his pocket. He hadn’t really glanced at it since Saturday morning. He noticed he had some messages. One from Liam saying he was leaving and one from Alice asking him if he was sleeping over at Noah’s. He’d completely forgotten to wish Liam a safe journey to Mexico, so he quickly sent Liam a message on Facebook, hoping he would see it when he arrived in Mexico City. He then spent an hour scrolling through his social media feeds to distract himself from his negative train of thought, but it was no use - the more he tried to ignore it, the more his mind would work against him and present him with a new possible theory.

The words Noah had spoken in his slumber on their way back from Hong Kong kept repeating themselves in Theo’s mind. Begging him not to leave. Begging Theo not to hate him. But why?

This isn’t working, he thought as he got up from his bed. He decided to go for a run, hoping that would distract him. He changed into some shorts and a t-shirt, filled his water bottle, and put his running shoes on before leaving the apartment.

That day he ran longer than he’d ever run. He ran until he felt like he was about to pass out. Ran until his feet were sore and his legs felt like jelly. By the end of his run, he was no longer in Taipa, but in Coloane. He’d run all the way to Hac Sa Beach and collapsed on the dark sand, trying to catch his breath. He drank almost all of the contents of his water bottle, feeling completely parched after running that long and in that heat.

Sitting on the beach as he watched the waves roll in, he felt a moment of peace. He knew that his worries were still there, but he would wait until Noah was ready to tell him.

His stomach grumbled, letting Theo know that he should eat something. He’d left his phone at home, so he didn’t know what time it was, but he luckily had his wallet on him, so he decided to buy something to eat at the stalls near the bus stop before catching the bus to go home. He bought some barbecue skewers and ate them as he waited for the bus.

Fortunately for him, the bus didn’t take long to arrive. He headed back to Taipa, where he got off near one of his favorite noodle places and ordered a bowl. By the time he arrived home, it was already a quarter past four in the afternoon. He checked his phone, but there were no messages from Noah.

He typed out a message to Noah asking him, ”So, how is the photoshoot going?" But decided not to send it. He would wait for Noah to reach out to him.

Exhausted from the run, he took a shower to relax his muscles as well as to wash off the sweat and sand. After drying himself off and putting his pajamas on, he collapsed onto his bed, feeling completely knackered. The run had worn him out so much, he eventually fell asleep.

He woke up when he heard Alice and Jamie enter the apartment as they chatted enthusiastically about something. It was already half-past seven. He’d slept for almost three hours. Alice knocked on his door, “Theo, we got you some char siu fan.”

Theo got up and opened the door as he rubbed his eyes, “Thanks.”

“Did we wake you up?” Alice asked Theo after handing him the plastic bag with the Styrofoam container.

“I fell asleep after going for a run,” Theo headed into the kitchen to transfer the contents of the take-out container onto a plate to eat. He wasn’t feeling very hungry, but he wouldn’t say no to a warm meal either.

“Didn’t you nap in the morning too?” Alice asked, trying to pry some information from her friend.

“Couldn’t fall asleep so I decided to go for a run. Ran until Hac Sa,” Theo said matter-of-factly.

“To Hac Sa?!” Jamie and Alice asked almost in unison, both shocked at Theo’s statement.

“Yeah. To be fair, it wasn’t a planned run to Hac Sa. I just wanted to run and only noticed how much I’d run when I noticed I was already in Hac Sa,” Theo said as he transferred the food onto a plate.

“What the fuck?! How did you only notice when you arrived in Hac Sa?!” Alice asked in shock, earning a shoulder shrug from Theo, but she noticed Theo seemed to be in a better mood, “Are you feeling better now?”

“Yeah, the run and the nap helped,” Theo had successfully distracted himself from thinking about hypothetical worst-case scenarios. He was slightly concerned that Noah hadn’t texted him yet, but he didn’t want to drown himself in negative thoughts. And though he knew that, he couldn’t help but wonder just how long could a photoshoot last for Noah to not have contacted him yet.

Theo ended up chatting with Alice and Jamie for a bit, as they ate dinner together, before returning to his room when his friends left to spend the night at Jamie’s place. He still hadn’t received any messages from Noah. It was Sunday night, so he decided to catch up on some YouTube videos he still hadn’t watched. Time flew by and soon it was almost time for him to go to sleep. He was a bit worried when he noticed Noah still hadn’t texted or called him by eleven pm, but he had to get ready to sleep as he had work the next day.

He went to the bathroom to brush his teeth and use the bathroom before returning to his room. Just as he was setting his alarm clock though, he received a call from Noah. Theo sighed in relief before answering the call, “Noh?”

But relief quickly turned into concern when he heard Noah’s shaky and raspy voice through the speaker, “Theo, c-can I come over to yours now? Please?”

“Yes, of course. Are you okay?” Theo couldn’t hide the concern from his voice.

“I’ll-I’ll be there in five minutes,” Noah said before hanging up.

As soon as Noah hung up, Theo started pacing back and forth in his room, imagining worst-case scenarios in his mind. He had no idea what had happened, but he knew something horrible had happened and that it was somehow connected to the same event that had taken place two weeks before when Theo met up with Noah at 3 am at the Carmo Garden.

Time slowed down. Every second felt like a minute as Theo waited expectantly by the buzzer, impatiently waiting for Noah to ring it. To contrast with the slow ticking of the clock, Noah’s heart was beating loud and fast. And when the buzzer finally rang, Theo didn’t even waste time before clumsily buzzing Noah in. He opened the door to his apartment and waited by the door, looking at the elevator, watching as it went down to the ground floor before heading back up again. Counting down the floors to reach his own.





And the doors opened. Theo held his breath as he waited for Noah to step out. When he finally laid his eyes on Noah, his heart almost broke at the sight of the man. His hair was a mess, one of his eyes was swollen, almost as if he’d been punched, his bottom lip had some dried blood on it, he was limping, and his expression was that of a man who had reached the pits of despair.

Theo quickly ran to the man, barefoot and in his briefs, desperate to comfort the man and find out what happened to him. “Noh? What happened?” He gently grabbed Noah’s arm and pulled it over his shoulders to help Noah walk to his apartment. As he did that, he noticed Noah flinch slightly.

“We’ll t-talk in your apartment,” Noah shakily uttered.

Once inside the apartment, Theo led Noah over to his couch and helped him sit down. He noticed Noah flinched in pain as soon as he sat down, which made Theo even more concerned. Where else had Noah been hurt?

“Hold on a second,” Theo said as he dashed into the kitchen to grab some ice and a glass of water. He put some ice into a zip lock bag and poured a glass of water before bringing the two items and a fresh kitchen towel along with him and rushing back into the living room.

Theo handed Noah the zip lock bag and said, “Put this on your eye,” before dampening the towel in the water from the glass and started cleaning Noah’s lip cut to assess the damage. Noah looked at him as he cleaned his lip, but as soon as Theo’s gaze met his, he looked away.

Theo saw that the cut on the lip was shallow, so it didn’t require any medical attention. He looked at Noah with concern, not really knowing how to begin the conversation, so instead he just offered the remainder of the water, “Here, drink some of this.”

“T-thanks,” Noah accepted the glass and took a sip.

When Noah handed the glass back to Theo, he placed it on the coffee table and sat next to Noah on the couch. He waited for Noah to tell him what had happened at his own pace, but when the silence grew too long and Theo’s curiosity got the best of him, he ended up asking, “Who did this to you?”

Noah sighed, before burying his head in his hands. He was quiet for a bit before answering in a small voice, “A guy I met up with today.”

“What guy? Was it at the photoshoot?” Theo knew there hadn’t been a photoshoot, but he wanted Noah to answer on his own terms.

“There was no photoshoot. I lied about that... Sorry...,” Noah buried his head deeper in his hands, “I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t.”

“What is it?” Theo asked, wanting nothing more than to touch Noah to comfort him, but he decided against it, recalling how Noah had flinched at his touch earlier. Noah took a deep breath before lifting his head and staring ahead with a broken look on his face, not daring to look at Theo.

“Remember that regret I told you about?” Theo nodded even though Noah wasn’t looking at him, “I didn’t want to tell you about this because I was afraid you would hate me if you knew the truth, but I can’t really hide it anymore, can I?”

“Whatever it is, I’m here for you,” Theo said. He was hesitant to touch Noah, not yet knowing where he was hurt or if Noah was okay with it.

“You may not think that way after I tell you... But here it goes,” Noah looked down and took another deep breath before uttering, “Last year, I went out with some friends to celebrate having moved into a new flat with my friend and I met a guy at the club we went to. He was hot, rich, and from the mainland, and I was very naïve, tipsy, and horny. He invited me to his hotel room and promised me some fun. I was sleeping around at the time, meeting guys here and in Hong Kong, so when he invited me to his hotel, I didn’t even think twice.”

Noah paused to look at Theo briefly, before looking away, almost as if afraid of finishing the story for fear that the man sitting beside him would be repulsed by his past actions, “When we arrived at the hotel, he offered me cocaine and I hadn’t done cocaine since this one night I tried it out in Berlin and I was drunk so I thought ‘fuck it!’ In retrospect, I should’ve seen the huge red flag because he didn’t join me in taking cocaine. He stayed sober.”

Theo noticed Noah clenching his fists before he continued, “We ended up fucking all night long. It was actually fun and the next day I thought, well, that was a fun one-night stand. I never expected to hear from him again.”

Noah paused for a bit, clenching and unclenching his fists out of frustration and anxiety, as he tried to find the courage to finish his story. Theo could already see where the story was going, but he let Noah continue, “A few days after I got a call from an unknown number. It was him. He invited me to his hotel again and I thought, hey, why not? It was fun last time. But when I showed up, he showed me... he showed me footage from that night. He had me on camera snorting stuff, giving head, getting fucked, talking dirty... He had it all on camera. He showed it to me. The fucker had installed hidden cameras around the hotel room. He told me he’d gotten information from my phone while I was asleep. He’d copied all my contacts and he knew where I worked, who my friends and parents were, he knew things about me I hadn’t even told him.”

His words had poured out like vomit and Noah had to take a break to breathe before adding, “He told me he lives in the Mainland but comes over to Macau to do business once in a while and he wanted someone to entertain him on his stays and he said he wouldn’t leak the footage to anyone if I kept him company on his visits.”

Noah didn’t even dare glance at Theo, fearing his reaction. Instead, he looked down and said, “I wanted to go to the authorities, but he has me doing some drugs in the video... I didn’t know the laws here and I h-had just found a job, so I felt cornered... And he used that knowledge to his advantage by telling me that the videos would ruin my life if he sent them to the right people. I didn’t know what else to do...”

Theo wasn’t really sure how to react to everything he’d heard. All he knew was that he wanted to give Noah a tight hug and protect him from something like that ever happening again and a seething rage against the Chinese stranger, whose identity he didn’t even know. He felt a need to know everything so that he could help Noah to the best of his abilities, “So, you’ve been meeting up with him since last year?”

Noah nodded, still not looking at Theo, and said, “I know he has more footage... I don’t know what he’ll do with it if I stop meeting up with him... I feel like shit. I feel stupid, dirty, and disgusting for accepting his terms. I didn’t understand why he’d done it. Why me. I would’ve willingly slept with him without the blackmailing, but I felt like I had no other option at the time...And, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but for the most part, it wasn’t that bad. It was just meaningless somewhat contractual sex, but he was still respectful of my wishes in bed and we switched roles a few times.”

Theo’s desire to punch the faceless stranger grew stronger. He couldn’t imagine the kind of pain Noah had had to experience because of the man who had blackmailed him.

“And tonight?” Theo knew that whatever Noah would answer would be painful to hear, but he needed to hear it.

“The last time and today were rougher than usual... Last week, he decided he no longer wanted to bottom and he wanted to try some bondage stuff his friend showed him. And I’ve never really been into bondage...” Noah’s hands started shaking as he talked about it, “I couldn’t really bottom after that... I’m sorry.”

“Hey,” Theo tentatively put his hand on top of Noah’s shaking hand to reassure him, “I understand. I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like...”

Noah looked at Theo, looking a bit relieved despite the tears lingering at the corners of his eyes, threatening to fall, before continuing, “I didn’t want to go back after that. I felt even worse about myself because I was hiding it from you. On Friday morning, he texted me, telling me he wanted me at the hotel all day and that he’d leave at night for a flight. I told him I wouldn’t go. He sent my friend a photo of me from the night when he met me. It wasn’t an explicit one, but he was just giving me a warning...”

Theo felt Noah’s hand clench underneath his as he continued, his voice growing shakier with each word, “And I couldn’t say no. I didn’t want anyone to see that side of me. I still don’t. But after tonight, I don’t think I c-can see him again...”

“What happened tonight?” Theo was afraid to hear the answer.

“Tonight was... Well... He f-found out I was seeing someone and he wasn’t h-happy about it. S-so he decided to teach me a l-lesson. But this time he brought some... some friends along... Scheiße!” Noah swore as he struggled to talk about it as tears rolled down his face.

Theo immediately wrapped his arms around Noah and whispered in his ear, “Shh, you don’t have to say anything else. I’ve got you now. You’re here now.” He didn’t need to know more than that. He didn’t want Noah to relive that experience while it was still fresh. The two men sat side by side, Noah wrapped in Theo’s arms, his body shaking as he bawled and sobbed into Theo’s shoulder. Theo tried his best to contain his tears to be strong for Noah.

After Noah had calmed down a bit, Theo slowly let go and the two men gazed at each other. Noah’s eyes were red and swollen. “I’m sorry I hid this from you,” he whispered in a small voice.

“You have nothing to apologize for. I only wish I’d known it sooner, so you wouldn’t have had to go there these last two times...” Theo lovingly caressed Noah’s cheek, allowing Noah to lean into his hand.

“Don’t you feel disgusted by me?” Noah looked down to avoid meeting Theo’s gaze as he asked that question.

“Noh?” Noah glanced up at Theo, “When I look at you, I definitely don’t see someone disgusting. I see a strong and amazing man who is in a tough situation and needs help. This doesn’t change how I feel about you. I care about you a lot.”

Noah surprised Theo by hugging him tightly. Theo hugged him back, hoping his arms wrapped around the brunette would bring him some comfort. “I was afraid I would lose you if I told you. I also care a lot about you in a way I’ve never cared about a person before,” Noah whispered into his ear before pulling back from the hug.

Theo placed his hands on either side of Noah’s face and said, “You won’t lose me. I was yours from the moment you first winked at me at the D2 toilet,” Noah giggled a bit at Theo’s remark. A small smile amidst the pain.

“I need a cigarette,” Noah said, placing the zip lock bag on the coffee table as he got up. Most of the ice inside of it had already melted. Theo followed Noah out into the balcony. Noah extended a cigarette out to Theo, offering it to him and Theo accepted it. They used Noah’s lighter to light them up, casting a smokey haze into the air.

“I think you should go to the police to report this,” Theo said after they’d been smoking in silence for a while, “My friend Joel is a criminal lawyer and I’m sure he can help.”

Noah remained silent as he thought about what Theo had suggested. Deep down, Noah knew Theo was right. He should’ve gone to the police straight away after the first encounter. Theo added, “I know you don’t want him to spread the videos, but... I just don’t want you to see that man ever again.”

“I don’t want either... I know I should go. I’m just afraid of what he’ll do,” Noah uttered in a small voice, his words no louder than a whisper.

“One step at a time. Don’t focus on that for now. I’ll be here for you in the aftermath,” Theo grasped Noah’s hand and squeezed it tightly.

Noah nodded his head before taking one final puff and gazing at the distance as he exhaled the smoke.“Will you come with me to the police station?” Noah asked as he looked at Theo.

“Of course. I think it’s best if we go there now. The quicker we get there, the better your case will be,” having talked to Joel about his cases, he knew that the more evidence there was, the better his case would stand a chance in court.

Noah nodded as he stubbed his cigarette out, “Okay.”

“Let me just call up my friend. Wait a sec,” Theo quickly headed back into his room to grab his phone and dialed Joel’s number.

A sleepy and raspy voice answered him, “Theo?”

“Hey, Joel. Sorry for waking you up. I have a little emergency and I need your help,” Theo felt bad about calling his friend in the middle of the night on a Sunday night, but Joel was the only person who could help him.

“Hold on a sec,” he heard Joel get up from his bed and walk a bit, probably heading into the living room to not wake Michelle up, before asking with a yawn, “What’s up?”

“Remember that guy I’m seeing?” Theo asked.

“Did you just call me at almost 1 am for love advice?” Joel whined.

“No, I wouldn’t call you if it weren’t serious. So that guy, Noah, he’s here with me now. He... He needs to go report something that just happened to him to the police and I was wondering if you could help,” Theo didn’t really want to say what had happened. He didn’t want to say the words out loud.

“What happened to him?” Joel suddenly sounded more awake and concerned.

“He was blackmailed and coerced into having sex with someone,” Theo answered.

“Oh, fuck. Is he okay?” Joel asked.

“He’s shaken by the whole ordeal, but I think it’s best to report it now rather than wait until tomorrow,” Theo said. He noticed Noah standing by the door of his room, glancing at him, almost as if asking what Joel had said.

“I’ll meet you at the Case Reporting and Emergency Operation Center in COTAI. I’ll text you the address,” Joel said before hanging up.

Noah looked at Theo expectantly, who said, “My friend will meet us at the police station.”

“Thank you,” Noah said with a meaningful loom. Theo could sense that there was more to those words than what the man had expressed. The rest remained unspoken.

The two men walked to the address Joel had sent Theo. Joel instructed Theo for them to head in first and report it and he would join them there to talk to Noah and the police. On the way to the police station, Theo helped a limping Noah. There weren’t any cabs on the way, so they had to walk. They walked quietly, as Noah was lost in his thoughts, still feeling shaken by the events that had taken place earlier that day.

When they arrived at the Case Reporting and Emergency Operation Center, Noah stood frozen at the entrance, his breath was shallower and his hands shaking a bit. Theo grabbed a hold of his hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

Noah looked at Theo who just said, “Take a deep breath.”

Noah took a deep breath, feeling slightly more relaxed with Theo’s hand in his, but he was still hesitant in taking a step forward.

Theo knew Noah needed more reassurance so he added, “Don’t worry about the next steps. You’re not alone. From now on, I’ve got you and I’m not letting go.”

And those words gave Noah the courage to take that first step.

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