We landed in San Francisco; grabbed our luggage and we were home bound. We decided to head back to my place for awhile to unwind before Sheila decided to drive home.
"I'm so exhausted!" We both said, flopping down on the couch.
"If there would have been a time change, we'd have been screwed," she laughed.
"Seriously. I don't know how people do international travel all the time," I thought about some of the journalists I had met over the years that had come from other countries. They were expected to be ready to go and look alert at all times. I know I had a hard enough time adjusting to it all.
"I guess I should head home. I want to see how my pictures turn out," Sheila said excitedly. She had documented just about everything we did in Hollywood, because it was such a monumental event for both of us.
I walked Sheila out to her car, and called Carter on the way back up to my apartment. It was only his machine; my heart sank.
"Hi Carter, it's Stace. I just wanted to say that I got back safely! You can call me back if you want to. If not, just know I had a really amazing time in LA and it's something I'll never forget. Bye," I hung up.
Not even five minutes later, my phone rang. Carter. "Hello?" I answered.
"You didn't really think I wasn't gonna call back, did you?" He asked in a soft voice.
"Well...One always has to be cautious. Especially after only knowing a certain person for less than two weeks. I mean, c'mon Carter, it's common sense."
"I get common sense! But, I thought our connection ran deeper than that."
"I'm practical. I don't just go with feelings; I make pro and con lists for just about every decision I make and I lie in bed at night running through each and every possible scenario when I have to choose between two things," I explained. "Did I not tell you the story of when I was five and my parents told me to pick between a chocolate ice cream bar or a vanilla cone?"
He laughed hysterically at this one, "Oh no, you did. It was quite detailed and expansive I must say..."
"And you still find me fascinating?"
"More so than before," I could tell by his tone he was dead serious about that.
"You really are a keeper."
"How was your flight?" I don't think he heard me or he wouldn't have been so quick to change the subject.
"It was good! I got a lot accomplished," I was grinning, waiting to tell him the big news I had decided on.
"Well, I decided that I'm moving to Los Angeles and I'm going to take that job offer!"
"No way! Ah, baby that's awesome!"
"You called me baby..." I commented.
"Sorry, I guess I just got a little too excited there."
"No..I like it! If that's what I am...go for it," I grinned like an idiot, as I got cozy on the couch. I turned on the TV and ended up watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith on TBS.
"It is, it is! I'm so excited for you! You're gonna be amazing out there. So many opportunities will come to you out there."
"I'm so nervous all of a sudden! When I started talking to Sheila about all the logistics of it on the plane, I really started freaking myself out. She said she'd be there for me and was like 'I'm sure if you tell Carter all about this, he'll be there for you every step of the way too.'"
"You know I will! I'll help you with the finances since I know that's not your thing. We'll find a nice apartment, I'll help you move, and it'll be great."
I let out a sigh of relief, "Thank you! I'm gonna look for some tonight and let you know if I find anything worth looking at."
"Okay. I think I'll be back in LA in a couple weeks to get ready for the Idol tour, I can check some things out..."
"I actually might be out that way too. I never know with work from day to day where I'll be."
"Then, maybe I'll get to see my favorite girl in the process."
"I hope so! But, I don't know if Hayley Williams is going to be in town that night," I teased him.
"Okay, you know who I was talking about."
"I do. But, you have to admit that it's so much more fun this way."
I could hear him give in on the other end, "Alright," he agreed.
We talked for a few more minutes, until I got an e-mail on my ipad, saying I had a new assignment.
"Babe, I've gotta go. I just got an assignment and I have a ton of stuff to catch up on before I go back to work tomorrow and give them my notice," I complained.
"You called me babe?"
"I did. Because I suppose we're at that stage now."
"I think so too! But, get to work on that and keep me posted on your job and how all that's working out."
"I will! Talk to you soon."
We hung up and I instantly felt better. I can't remember the last time I've talked on the phone with someone and felt like I was invincible.
The next morning, after talking with Giuliana Rancic on the phone about my new job I decided I was going to stride into the office confidently. I was going to tell my boss that I was taking that job in LA, meaning that I would no longer be working there. This had been where I'd gotten my big break, this was where I found myself as a person and as a writer. But, now it was time to say goodbye to that.
"Hi, Andrea, there's something I need to talk to you about," I explained as she set her coffee down at her desk.
"Good morning! How are you?" She gave a big smile and settled into her office chair.
"I'm doing good. How are you?" I asked politely, taking a seat as she motioned.
"Good, good. I hear you're dating Carter Danon from American Idol now?" She nudged for more information.
"Wow! News travels fast around here. Where'd you hear that?"
"Its been reported on a few sites..."
"Well, you of all people know you can't believe everything you read..." I pointed out.
She pulled out a few articles with pictures circled of us holding hands and even one of us kissing before he got into his limo.
"Oh...Okay then. From the minute we met, there was something there. We hung out basically everyday in LA. Things have moved pretty quickly for us."
"I think you two are adorable together. Is he doing anything right now?"
"He's getting ready to go on tour with the idols in a couple weeks. After they get back, he's going to sit down to write and record his own album."
"That's exciting! Are you guys official or just seeing how it plays out?"
"I don't know that we've actually said if we're official or not, but we've already said I love you..."
"Shut up!" She was completely shocked. "I would not expect that with you. The way you and Brad were together was so different. You were so practical and stiff with him."
"Yeah, this is different than anything I've ever felt before. I've been so much more open about this too and we've only known each other two weeks. How crazy is that?"
"Pretty crazy. But, I guess you can't really put a time span on love."
"I'm starting to find that out. I don't like not having that control."
"I'll bet..." She turned to her paperwork, "Alright, let's get down to business. You wanted to talk to me about something?"
I paused and thought about how to phrase what was coming next, "I've had the time of my life here at The Chronicle. I've found out who I am as a person, as a writer and as a reporter. In fact, that's how I met Carter. I'm so thankful for the opportunities I've had here and all that you've entrusted to me. But, I got a job offer at E! News and that's something I've been striving for since I was at least 13 years old," I explained. She nodded and smiled graciously as I talked.
"So what do you think?" I asked, after I had finished.
"I think that's why you started working here...to get to that place where you wanted to be. I knew this wouldn't be forever when you started interning here. We'll sure miss you here, because you bring so much joy and charisma to the office, but you were destined for bigger and better things. Plus, if you move out to LA you'll be closer to your new boyfriend," she joked.
"Thank you so much for understanding!" I gushed.
"It's no problem at all. You've earned this. When are you going to be leaving?"
"In less than a month!" I said, my heart racing again at the thought of all these changes that would be happening.
"Okay, I'll start getting together a list of possible replacements and we can go over them together. Are you all caught up on your blogging assignments?"
"Yeah, I just finished the last one today and everything from LA has been posted."
"Why don't you take off now? You've put in your time and I'm sure you have plenty to do before you leave. I'll just call you in some days when I need extra help. How does that sound?"
"That sounds perfect. Thank you so much again!"
"Good luck with your future endeavors."
That night, I called Carter to fill him in on the conversation I'd had with Andrea. We brainstormed ideas of financial issues, I looked at houses in LA, and Cole talked about the possibility of also moving out to LA soon. We ran numbers, went through cases by case scenario of what's to come, and trying to come up with a possible date that we can see each other next.
"I'll be free the night of June 13th," Carter said, flipping through his calendar.
"I'll be in LA and I won't start my job until the 16th...," I said clearing some dates and re-writing events on my ipad schedule.
"Well, I think we've found our winner. I'll be there that night too!"
"I can't wait." My heart fluttered with excitement at the thought of him holding me in his arms again very soon.
Those weeks flew by faster than one of our longest talks over the phone. We were both busy with last minute details on packing; Carter had decided to rent an apartment in LA not too far away from my place and we were getting job situations figured out. Every night in between on the phone, we'd pray with each other and talk about where we were at with God, and talk about our daily devotions. I was falling more in love with God and Carter for encouraging me with my walk.
"It's amazing how much closer I've gotten with God, after meeting you. You've inspired me with my faith in ways I never imagined," I explained to him over the phone one night. I had just packed up the last of my things and was ready to make the drive to LA. The Uhaul would be coming in the morning to pick up a majority of everything else.
"I was thinking the very same thing about you the other day. It's like you've brought on these entirely different points and angles on issues I had never even given a second glance. Like about His grace the other day; us being sinners and us being born with it. God hates us because sin is in us, but loves us because of His mercy..."
"It was at that conference I went to a few months ago. We'll have to watch it together sometime, the way he put it just made total sense. I had never heard it explained like that before."
Carter and I talked a couple more hours about the Bible and plans for what we'd do when we finally made it out to LA.
"I really wanted to take you to a couple places I heard about from some of the Idol people backstage," He told me, naming off a couple beaches and restaurants.
"We don't have to do anything fancy," I told him softly, "I don't care what we do. Just as long as we're in the same city will be good enough for me."
"That'll be nice…just the two of us…But I still have something planned…"
"I figured you wouldn't take no for an answer! I guess I'll just have to learn not to ask so many questions and trust you."
"You're catching on quickly."
The day arrived. I was pulling into LA on the 101 Freeway, and into the next chapter of my life. I'd said goodbye to all of my friends at The Chronicle and that I'd made around San Francisco while I was there. Sheila was driving out to Los Angeles with me to help me unpack and get settled and would head back Monday morning. Now, I looked forward to meeting up with friends that I've made over the years at events and making new ones. My mind was replaying the last conversation Carter and I had in my head.
"I can't wait to see you, beautiful girl," Carter had said.
I didn't say anything in response to him, but I felt my heart beating faster, "I'm pretty excited to see you too!"
It had been over a month since we'd seen each other in person. We had done plenty of Skyping and FaceTime sessions, but part of me wondered if being next to each other would somehow be weird.
We arrived at my new house, which was not too far from the Santa Monica area. It had a beachy, organic vibe and instantly made me feel creative. This was going to be an adventure.
"Hi beautiful, are you ready for company?" I answered my phone to hear Carter's voice on the other line.
"Absolutely! Sheila just went out for some Chinese food, and I'm unpacking...but it's too quiet around here," I said, adjusting some frames on the mantle above the fireplace.
Just then, I heard a knock at the door. I opened it to see Carter standing in front wearing a white v-neck t shirt, gray hoodie and dark jeans with converse.
"Ah! I've missed you!" I threw my arms around him and let out a shrill scream. As he held me tightly against his chest, all the fears and worries I'd had about starting over just seemed to go away.
"Oh, you have no idea..." he nestled his head into my shoulder and kissed my cheek.
"Well, you can come in," I offered as we finally let go of one another.
"Don't mind if I do," I held his hand and led him inside to give the grand tour.
"This is amazing!"
"I still have a long way to go, but I'm supposed to get the furniture for the office and dining room tomorrow. I just have to finish unpacking my room and straighten up out here tonight."
The couch was placed against the window, the TV was in the corner, and my coffee table was in the center of the room. I had placed a vase with daisies and some magazines on top. The walls had been painted a sea foam greenish blue color and there was white trim around the bottom.
"Thank you. It's my first real house, so I figured I'd go all out for it," I shrugged.
"You deserve it! You've worked hard and you've been saving up."
I sat on the couch and Carter joined me, "I've really missed you and needed you the past month. I never thought I would say that," I found myself tearing up. "Gosh, I feel like such a girl."
"Hey, it's cool. It's just me..." He smiled, trying to cheer me up, rubbing my back.
"I don't like needing people, you know that. But, I'm not afraid to admit that I'm okay with needing you. My relationship with God is starting to be where it should've been all along and that has made all the difference. I let Him take a backseat for so long and I guess that's why everything else in my life was so out of line."
"Crazy how that happens right?"
"You're telling me!"
Sheila came back with the food; we watched Mad Men on Netflix and ate. After awhile, Sheila decided to crash in my room and it was just Carter and I.
"How have you been?" Carter whispered as I lay across him on the couch.
"I've been good. I've text you or talked to you about all my drama, so there's really nothing new to report," I shrugged.
"But, it's different in person. I can see your face when you're talking about it and I can tell more of whether you're faking it or not," he gave me a suggestive look.
"What are you saying? You think I'm faking the fact that I'm okay?"
"No, I don't think you're faking it. I think you're trying to be brave for me and I'm telling you that you don't need to be. That's what I'm here for."
I gave a guilty nod. He caught me.
"You're right...Its been really tough. I know God has a plan in all of this, bringing me out here, meeting you out here, and everything I'm going to experience at E!, but it's really scary."
"I know. I'm scared to death too! But, you know what my thinking is?"
"No, what are you thinking?" The way he was smiling and looking at me made the butterflies in my stomach start flapping again.
"I'm thinking that if nothing else, maybe all of this craziness of Hollywood brought us together. We have each other to hold onto when things get a little shaky."
I took a deep breath; I didn't realize I had needed to hear that. He knew me better than anyone ever could have.
"At least I think we do...I'm not really sure where we're going right now...Because I know how I feel. But I wonder where you're at or what you're hoping for in the future?" He looked down, awkward for even asking about the whole thing. I could tell he was nervous about what I was going to say.
"I'm in love with you, Carter. You're one of my best friends and I am looking forward to the future for as long as you'll have me! You inspire me and you break me out of this mold; this rut that I've gotten myself into...I can't explain it, I just really love you," He wrapped his arms around me and kissed my head.
"I was hoping you'd say something like that, because I'm really in love with you too. People think I'm crazy when I tell them about you...One, because they don't think you really exist yet and two, because I've fallen so quickly." He didn't wait for me to say anything, he kept going. "My parents never told me or made me believe that love happens in a certain time frame or in a certain way. They know what it's like to fall in love in an unconventional way...that's what it is, isn't it?"
"It most certainly is!"
The sun came up the next morning beaming through the window of my house for the first time. I felt a rush of excitement run through me as I hopped out of bed and ran to the kitchen. Sheila was already making a breakfast that consisted of pancakes, eggs, toast and fresh orange juice.
"Wow! What is all of this?" I asked, completely surprised.
"Well, your future husband went to the store for you this morning and got stuff for breakfast. I thought I'd go ahead and make it since you've been working so hard lately. You deserve a break to enjoy this moment of being in your new house and getting focused to starting your new job!"
She scrambled some eggs and turned the pancakes over. She looked like a real pro flipping pancakes and acting like she was walking around the kitchen on a mission.
"Were you a chef in another life? Because you sure seem to know what you're doing," I sat down at the dining room table that had been delivered before I woke, staring in amazement.
"I don't think I was, but my mom and grandma used to cook all the time, so I'd help them out when I was really young."
"That's so cool! I wish I had acquired some traits like that from my relatives. I had to be the odd child and do my own thing..." I shrugged.
"We're all different," Sheila put a plate full of food in front of me and my stomach grumbled.
"I am so hungry," I dove right in with a fork, when Cole walked through the front door.
"Good morning, ladies," he cheerfully said walking straight towards me. He kissed me on the lips, even with my mouth completely full.
"Sorry," I said, mumbling through bites.
"Don't be...mmm, maple syrup," he said licking his lips and sitting down across from me at the table.
"Gross," I playfully told him, making a face.
"It looks like you're in good hands," Sheila said as she finished cleaning the kitchen. It still smelled of eggs and the sweetness of pancakes, "I should probably go pretty soon," she sighed.
"I hate to see you go," I got up to give her a hug. Carter followed my lead and did the same.
"Thank you for helping her get out here, I really appreciate it! You're an incredible friend to her and I'm glad you're in my life now by association," he gave her a heartfelt hug.
"You're one of the good ones, Carter. I have no doubt that you're going to take good care of her out here," she told him, "And she's a lot more fragile than she looks..." I heard her whisper in his ear.
I swallowed hard, wondering what he thought about that. A few minutes later, we helped Sheila with her luggage and walked her out to her car.
"Bye girl! I'll miss you so much!" I gave her another hug, before she got in the car and closed the door.
"I'll miss you too. But, you're meant to be out here where all the action is. Be sure to call me or text me whenever something exciting happens."
"I most definitely will."
"And don't forget I'm really not that far away; we're in the same state at least. If you ever need anything, I'll be out here in a heartbeat...Or however long it takes to get out here, but you know what I mean."
"I love you!" I tapped her car on the roof.
"I love you too," and she drove off. Carter and I were standing on the curb in front of my new house. In LA. So many changes and I wasn't quite sure of what to do next. I had never been in this position before.
"You okay?" Carter asked, putting his arm around my back.
"Yeah, sure...I guess?" I questioned. "To be honest, I'm not really sure what I'm doing out here."
"You're out here to follow a dream that God placed in your heart. A dream that he opened the door for just in the nick of time."
I nodded, because he was right. I had a way of jumping ahead of myself, instead of just taking it all one step at a time.
"This is why we make such a good match. I freak out, and you always seem to be able to calm me back down again. Thank you," I stood on my tiptoes to kiss him.
"You're welcome. It's what I'm here for. But, enough talk about the future, why don't we go out and explore today. I haven't spent much time in Santa Monica. Maybe you could show me the hot spots?"
"I think I can pull that off. Let me just get ready and then we can go."
Part Seven coming SOON! :)