The Los Angeles sunshine beamed through the window of our hotel room around seven the next morning. I let out a yawn and turned to Sheila to see if she was awake; she was already putting on her make-up at the mirror, watching The Today Show.
"Wow! Feeling ambitious this morning?" I asked groggily.
"Well, we're in the City of Angels, I'm not about to waste the day away in bed. Get up and get ready, before I have to drag your butt out of bed myself," she put her hands on her hips and I knew she meant business. I think that has to be the fastest I have ever gotten ready before, especially when I didn't have a certain call time before nine.
I threw on a Hollister t-shirt, shorts, and some flip flops, and threw my hair into a flirty ponytail.
"Are you ready yet?" Sheila demanded as I turned off the bathroom light.
"YES! Let's go! What's first on the agenda, miss tour guide?"
"I'm glad you asked. I was thinking we could take a tour of WB Studios. I hear it's amazing."
"Why don't we do something that's different from the stuff we do all the time?"
"Good point...Maybe we could hit the beach for a little while..."
We headed downstairs to the lobby, throwing out possibilities of where to go before we had to be back for the finale.
"Oh, hey! Look who it is," Sheila nudged me and pointed straight ahead. There was Carter stepping off the elevator. "You shouldn't avoid him this time. Or at least say hi."
It was too late to bolt anyway, "Good morning! I didn't know you guys were staying here."
"I didn't know you were staying here either. Are all of the contestants?"
"As far as I know! I think it's pretty much the American Idol headquarters."
"Good to know. I'll have to keep my eyes open," he laughed at that.
"Are you guys doing anything today?"
"Not sure yet; we had thought about going to the beach or maybe the WB studio tour..."
"Or there's always Universal Studios..." he suggested, and both Sheila and I looked at each other.
"I think we have a winner," I announced, "Thanks for the suggestion! I don't know why I completely forgot about that one."
"And the new Transformers ride just opened, I hear it's awesome!" Sheila told me, her eyes about to pop out of her head.
"No problem, you girls have fun!" he was about to walk off, when I decided to give the whole 'moving forward' thing a try.
"Carter? Do you wanna come with us?" I asked, really hoping he would say yes.
"Are you sure? I mean I was just planning on doing some writing today and I'd hate to impose on you guys."
"Don't be silly...I'd, or we'd love to have you."
A smile lit across his face, "Alright, I'm in!"
It was decided. We drove about 20 minutes along the freeway to Universal Studios. We parked, grabbed our passes, and decided to hit the rides. The three of us went on The Mummy ride several times in a row without having to wait, dodged the creepy mummy guys stalking us outside, hit Jurassic Park, and The Simpsons ride all before lunch. There was practically no one there.
"School's in LA must not be out yet," Carter commented as we grabbed hot dogs at one of the concession stands.
"I know, it's not busy at all. I'm shocked!" I agreed.
"Well, I don't know about you guys but I am loving it," Sheila remarked, getting her hot dog and lemonade from the vendor guy behind the counter.
We walked to a table nearby and sat down to eat. Carter had been telling us all about his Idol experiences and we told him about our work as journalists. We were all on the same page as far as being in the same industry.
"Have you ever had to miss important family functions or friends' birthdays?" Carter asked.
"I've had to miss several big family occasions, like my sister's wedding rehearsal dinner and my parents' anniversary. I've always been able to make it up to them somehow, but I wasn't able to go..." I told him honestly.
"Luckily, for me, there are quite a few photographers on hand, so if I can't cover something, someone else usually can."
"I usually have no choice...for my department, I'm it..." I shrugged, suddenly feeling bad.
"I'm sure that sucks from time to time. And your family's been cool with it?"
"They know this is what I've wanted to do for as long as we can all remember, and they've always been very supportive of that. Even if it means sacrificing some of their special days."
"Wow! That's incredible. So, I take it you're pretty close with them, right?"
"Oh, obnoxiously so. They're some of my best friends. I don't trust many people, but they are the ones I can tell pretty much anything to and I know I won't be shunned for it."
I wasn't sure how I wanted him to respond to that answer, so I quickly added, "How about you..with your family, I mean?"
"We're super close! We used to do everything together practically, sports, church, eating dinner, and whatever else the usual things are. As we got older, though, we all started doing our own things so now it's harder to find the time to always get a chance."
"And I'm sure this whole American Idol thing hasn't made that any easier, huh?"
"Not so much, which is just crazy," he said sarcastically.
Sheila wasn't saying much. I knew she was giving us a chance to find out more about one another, so she wouldn't mind.
"What do you guys want to do after this?" Carter asked, throwing our trash away.
"I was thinking maybe we could check out some of the shows!" Sheila said, giving us a run down of the times listed in the map guide.
"Yeah! Let's go to the pets from the movies show," I squealed.
"Alright, sounds like a plan..." Carter went along with us.
We spent the next couple hours hopping from pets to stunt shows to the special effects used in films. The sun was starting to set as we came out of the building for the sound effects show.
"I forgot to tell you guys, I was gonna meet up with some friends from down here in the area. We were gonna go to City Walk. You're welcome to join or you can do your own thing?" Sheila suggested.
"Uhh..." I gave her a look that said 'are you just trying to set us up'?
"What do you want to do?" Cole asked, obviously up for anything. And my heart was beating rapidly. For the first time, I was actually looking forward to being alone with him.
"We can just meet up with you a little later on whenever you're finished," I glanced at Carter who was smiling at me.
"Alright," Sheila nodded, "I'll catch up with you later."
"Bye," we went in separate directions...and I felt at ease standing next to Carter, our arms constantly bumping into each other.
"Sooo..." he started. He was quite a bit taller than me, so I had to look up a little farther than the average person.
"Sooo..." I repeated, glancing around CityWalk.
"What do you wanna do? Because I'm totally down for anything," he put his hands up.
"I haven't been here in forever, maybe we can just walk around and see what's up?"
"Alright. Can I ask you something?"
"Oh no..." My stomach turned, as I wondered what he could possibly want to know, "Really nothing good ever comes when someone says, 'Can I ask you a question'?"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to freak you out."
"It's fine, I was just giving you a hard time," I playfully hit his shoulder, "Go ahead. Ask away!"
"What happened to your fiance?"
I stopped in my tracks, not sure if I was ready to unleash that can of worms just yet, "You don't waste any time do you?"
"I'm sorry if I'm overstepping anything...See, I'm used to just being an open book, that I forget not everyone is like that."
"It's good though, it's time I start just moving on. Our relationship was the kind that made perfect sense on paper. We were high school sweethearts and that carried throughout most of college. He was a financial adviser and obviously, I'm a journalism major..." I took a deep breath, and pretty soon everything was flooding out. Things I had never told anyone else seemed to just roll off the tongue while I was with him.
"We were going to live in the perfect little house, with the 2.5 kids, and a dog named Spot; it was all so predictable. I loved him, but it was nothing like the love that I'd always heard about."
"And what kind of love is that?" Carter asked.
"The kind of love where..." I had honestly never stopped to think about the kind of love I had truly always wanted, until this point. This moment, with Carter. "The kind of love where the best part of your day is speaking to that one person that makes everything better, the person encourages you to be your absolute best, and where everything you face together whether good or bad is an adventure."
"You need excitement and love should be this wonderful adventure! It shouldn't be something that's mundane and boring. God never intended it to be like that. When you read 1 Corinthians 13, you can hear the passion behind it...the words truly jump off the page."
"Exactly! And I guess the hardest part of it all was just moving past that idea of everything I thought I'd had with him, like security. From the time I was about 18, I knew where my life was going. I knew what was going to happen. When we decided to call off the engagement and break up, I had to start over again. And for anyone that knows me, they know that I don't handle change well at all. I like to have things in order and have everything planned out."
"Something told me you were an extreme organizer the second I met you...You're probably the kind of girl who has everything in her planner color coded and categorized right?"
"It's like you've known me my entire life," I laughed.
"YES! I called it," he pumped his fist into the air, and turned back towards me. "If only we had known each other in high school, I probably wouldn't have struggled so much with my studying habits."
"And I would've learned to loosen up a little more..."
"Sounds like we're a perfect match!"
"At least that's what Sheila keeps telling me..."
"Yes, she keeps saying I need to give you a chance and maybe this is God's plan out of everything...like there's good in goodbye's."
"She sounds pretty insightful!"
"Don't encourage her! She already thinks she should have her own talk show like Oprah and plans on launching a self help book series," I laughed, realizing that saying everything out loud made it sound a whole lot funnier.
"Wow! She's also ambitious. Maybe she's the one I'm interested in..." Carter squinted his eyes at me, to see what I would do.
"Not funny!" I stood there, putting my hands on my hips.
"I'm sorry!" he tried to give me a hug. "How about I buy you dinner to make up for it?"
I paused for dramatic effect, "That might work. A way to my heart is a good slice of pizza..."
"Pizza huh?" he gave me a skeptical look as we kept walking.
"Indeed. It's one of my main food groups. Right up there with ice cream and hot cheetos."
"I knew there was a reason we got along so well. That is exactly my dietary plan as well."
"I think I can let you into my elite circle of close friends then, Mr. Danon!"
"I feel incredibly honored."
We dropped the heavy talk over friendship and my ex, and headed into a small pizza place along City Walk. We ate on the patio, watching people as they passed by and making up story lines for them, like where they were probably from or their professions. Carter told me all about the tour he was getting ready to embark on with the show, and all the places they were going to visit. I told him about some of my favorite places in San Francisco and he told me all about Tennessee. It was amazing how we could be from such totally different places, like some completely different things and yet it was like we were the same person.
"When do you go back to Tennessee?" I asked, as we shared a medium sized Pepperoni pizza.
"Sometime next week, I believe..." He took a piece of pepperoni off his pizza and gave it to me, "We have a few more interviews to give and there's one more meeting about the tour. I'll have a couple weeks at home to just relax which will be nice, though."
"You better take a ton of videos and pictures! Oh, you should start a blog...fans love blogs these days."
"That's not a bad idea. That way my family can stay up to date on where and what I'm up to. Having a journalist for a friend is gonna come in handy."
"What can I say? Sometimes these things just come to me."
"Keep em coming!"
Carter and I finished eating, and decided to walk a little further down the City Walk. There were vendors selling t-shirts and other items. We decided to do a charicature picture together.
"Oh my gosh, look at your hair!" I laughed, pointing to the poster.
"Whatever, look at your eyes," Carter remarked back.
"Shut up! Now you're just getting personal," we joked around with each other a few minutes.
I was about to continue, when my phone started blasting. I grabbed it out of my pocket and answered ,"hello?"
"Hey there! How are you and lover boy doing?" It was Sheila.
"Give me a break! We're having a blast," I gushed.
"I'm pretty much done here, so you can start heading over towards The Hard Rock Cafe if you want," she explained.
"Alright, we'll be over in a few!"
Carter and I walked over to the restaurant, making plans for the next week or so while we were both still in town and available to hang out.
"Are you up for spending the day in Venice tomorrow?" He started the conversation.
"You've been spending the last five minutes thinking about you would phrase that, haven't you?" I asked curiously. I had seen him scrunching his eye brows, like he was thinking intently.
"How did you..." He gave me a skeptical glance.
"Maybe I just know you? But yeah, I'm in for that. I've been wanting to go to the beach."
"There you guys are," Sheila exclaimed, walking out of Hard Rock. "You had a good time I take it?"
"We did." Both Carter and I looked at each other and nodded. There was so much more than just a friendship blossoming and now we both knew it.