It still amazes me as I look back over the last several months how I ended up here. As I write, I am sitting in the back of an exceptionally long limousine with dark tinted windows. The Canadian wilderness is passing quickly by outside the windows. I, Courtney Crawley, am on my way to the set of Forever Midnight where my boyfriend, Thomas Masen, is filming. Yes, I am dating Thomas Masen. The incredulousness of this fact has not escaped me. I never would have thought that at the age of 27 I would be dating an international phenomenon. I grew up just like any other Northern California girl, spent my summers at the pool, my winters in light jackets and sweatshirts, went to a regular public school, played sports in high school, went to college and currently work for an architecture firm. He still amazes me on a daily basis with his endearing actions. There are a million girls who would trade places with me in a red hot second, another fact which has not escaped me. It's funny, now that I think about it, how they say that you will find that one person when you are least looking, what they failed to mention was how much I would not be looking. True to his style in everything he has changed for me, he showed up in the one place that means more to me than any other.
Ah New Year's, I thought to myself as I shut the door behind me and slunk against it a look of elated happiness on my face. It had been a beautiful night full of fireworks and dancing and the perfect New Year's kiss. I tipped my head back into the door remembering sitting on the bridge in Brady's arms watching the fireworks go off over the lake. I let out a little screech as I remembered Brady tilting my head up and pulling me into a hard and passionate kiss. "Happy New Year," he said with a cocky smile on his face, one that over the last several years I had come to adore. My best friend and sometimes roommate, Carly, walked out into the hall then rubbing her eyes, her hair a disheveled mess. She had on a pair of men's boxer briefs and a spaghetti strap tank top. It was thirty five degrees outside, but Carly never could stand to wear much clothing to bed, in fact, I was probably luck she had anything on at all. "I thought I heard you come in," she said through a yawn. She sunk down the door landing next to me and put her head on my shoulder. "How was your night?" I asked concerned. Her on again off again boyfriend, James, and she had had a particularly ugly break up the day after Christmas. "Eh," she answered shrugging her shoulders. "Watched the ball drop, talked to a very drunk Taryn, and went to bed shortly after midnight," she said in a sleepy tone. "How was your night?" she asked looking up at me her tone suggestive. "Fabulous," I answered with stars in my eyes. "Brady make any moves?" she asked. "None I didn't want him to make," I said bumping her with my knee and we both laughed. "Alrighty," I said getting to my feet and pulling her with me. "I think it's time to go to bed," I said swinging my heels from my fingers. "I was already there," she fake pouted as she made her way back to her room. I hung my gorgeous black New Year's dress up and began taking down my hair. As I pulled it up into a pony tail I noticed a light pink mark on the back of my neck. Light enough that it would be gone in a few days' time, but dark enough that it was there now. I touched it lightly and smiled remembering the sensation of Brady sucking on my neck as the fireworks exploded into the sky. Oh yes, it was going to be a very good year.
New Year's Day dawned bold and bright. I stretched my arms above my head and pulled my blue down comforter up a little higher to keep out the cold. I stared at my dress from the night before hanging from the door to my closet. It was long and black velvet. There were small pearl beads lining the straps that met just behind the neck and melted into one down the middle of my back. I smiled looking at it remembering the night before. It had been my third official date with Brady Avery. We both coached at the same school and I had known him for several years. He normally came off as cocky and sure of himself, but he liked to joke around and do interesting things. Our first date had been a tour of the Napa wineries and it had been beautiful. Brady coached track and wrestling and had a long, lean, muscular body. He was a little over six feet tall with well defined muscles everywhere. He had dark gray eyes and short, slightly curly, sandy blond hair. And then there was his smile. Ugh, his smile. I shivered a little more at that thought.
There was a knock at my door and Carly came in with two cups of her specialty coffee, which oddly enough tasted nothing like coffee. I had to admit that one of the perks of her living here was the fabulous food and such that she made. Awesome coffee in the morning, drinks when I got home from work, and amazing dinners. She was one heck of a cook and I knew she'd make a great wife one day, I just wish James wasn't so blind to see that. "Knock knock," she said in a cheery voice as she came in. She sat near the foot of my bed and folded her legs underneath her after handing me my coffee. I sat up and ran a hand through the mess that I knew was my hair. "So," she said excitedly patting my leg, "Tell me about Brady." "Oh Car," I said in a wistful tone, "It was so amazing. He's so amazing! He looked so gorgeous last night!" I said excitedly. "We danced and danced and danced," I said remembering, "Then we watched the fireworks from the bridge and he kissed me." "Took him long enough," she said taking a drink. "How was it?" she asked lifting her left eyebrow. "Intense," I said remembering the force of it. "Hmmm," she said thoughtful, "I always thought first kisses should be sweet or passionate," she concluded. "It kind of surprised me to be honest," I said. "He hadn't really been particularly affectionate, but oh! That kiss!" I said falling onto my side. "Just be careful," she said getting up and setting her coffee on my desk. "I know you've always thought of him as a cocky jerk, but he can be really sweet too," I said sticking up for him. "Uh huh," she nodded her head as she began rummaging through my closet, "And I know exactly why guys like him are really sweet," she said in an irritated tone.
"So, what's the plan for today?" Carly asked a couple hours later coming back into my room and plopping down on my bed. "Well, Brady wanted me to meet him for lunch at Olive Garden," I said pulling the curling iron through my hair. "Yum breadsticks," she said licking her lips. "He was supposed to text me this morning," I said turning around and looking at my iPhone sitting on my night stand practically willing it to ring. "Sounds like Brady," she said kicking her Dior sandals behind her. I gave her an annoyed glare and turned back to my hair. I finished my hair and quickly sent a text off to him while Carly was out of the room. About forty five minutes later, I finally got a response. Sorry, I forgot I had plans with my family today. You understand, right? His text read. Annoyed, but not wanting him to know, I text back. Of course, family first. :) "So," Carly said turning to me from her seat on the couch next to me, "You and me, Olive Garden?" she asked smirking. "Let me grab my shoes," I said defeated and getting up.
I scarcely heard from Brady that week until Thursday afternoon. What're you up to tonight? His text came across my phone as I was finishing up a proposal for a client. I sighed reading it. Thursday night, so not date night, I thought to myself. My want for seeing him overruled my internal judgment and I texted back asking if he wanted to come over and we could watch a movie or something. You make dinner, I'll bring the movie? He text. How about I order Chinese? I asked annoyed that he expected me to cook for him. I guess, he replied back. Whatever, I thought, at least I get to see him tonight.
Brady showed up at my apartment around seven thirty in his basketball shorts and a tee shirt. "You have practice?" I asked noting his attire. I had on a pair of dark jeans and a black sweater that accentuated my curves. "Yeah," he acknowledged following me into the kitchen. "I figured this was casual, right?" he asked looking at me. "Of course," I replied forcing a smile. "Cool," he said placing a forceful kiss on my cheek and opening the fridge. The force of his kiss had knocked me slightly off balance and I regained my footing as I turned to watch him. Been here twice and he just helps himself, I thought watching him go through my fridge.
I tried not to let myself get into a bad mood as I dished up our plates and brought them into the living room. "So what'd you bring?" I asked setting his plate down on the coffee table next to his soda. "Gone in Sixty Seconds," he said waving the DVD case at me as he returned to the couch. "I love this movie," I said with a grin. "I know," he replied looking at me sweetly, "I remembered." Okay, this is better, I thought to myself. We finished our dinner about halfway through the movie and I went get up to put the dishes away. "I got it," he said taking the plates out of my hand and heading towards the kitchen. I paused the movie with a surprised look on my face. I followed him to the kitchen and began putting the leftovers away. "Do you want to take these with you?" I offered motioning to the food. "You don't mind?" he asked. "No, its fine," I said packaging them up and putting them into a bag, "Just make sure you return my Tupper ware," I joked. I waited leaning on the counter as he finished washing our dishes and sticking them into the dishwasher. "Shall we finish the movie?" he asked taking my hand and leading me back to the couch. He put his arm around my shoulders and I leaned my head against him.
We watched the rest of the movie silently and I could feel him running his fingers over the top of my head. I smiled at the pleasant gesture. After the movie ended I got the food out of the fridge for him and handed it to him as we walked to the front door. "I had a really good time," he said earnestly kissing me lightly. "Can I see you this weekend?" he asked. "I have church with Carly on Saturday," I said, "but other than that I'm free." "I'll call you," he said kissing me longer this time before opening the door and heading out.
Friday night Brady and I went out to a club downtown and met up with some of his friends. We danced and had a couple drinks. It was a great night and Brady walked me to my door telling me what a great time he'd had. He kissed me softly several times and ran his thumb across my bare shoulder still warm from all the heat inside the club. "I'll see you Monday?" he asked. Monday was the first day back from winter break and we both had practice. I nodded smiling a shy smile and he kissed me again before heading down the stairs to his truck.
Carly and I were having brunch at one of our favorite local restaurants on Sunday morning. "Oh!" Carly exclaimed through a mouthful of eggs benedict patting my hand quickly. "I have the best news!" she said finishing her bite. "You and James are getting back together?" I asked eyeing her suspiciously. "No," she said shaking her head. "You'll be really excited about this one too," she said continuing on. I motioned for her to continue. "So my parents went to this dinner the other night," she began, "and my mom won the silent raffle." "What'd she get?" I asked taking a bite of my French toast. "An all expenses paid trip for two to Disneyland!" she squealed. "I'm sure she and your dad will have a great time," I said trying to figure out why I would be excited by this; I mean I loved Disneyland, but still. She started shaking her head, "That's the thing," she paused taking a drink, "They can't go. Mom has a barrel race jackpot that weekend. So she said we could go!" she finished. I started bouncing up and down in my seat. All expenses paid to Disneyland? Hell yes, I am so there! "When are we going?" I asked my voice high with excitement. "We fly out Saturday morning and back Thursday afternoon," she said. My face fell. "I can't get time off that fast," I said crestfallen. Her smile got even brighter, "I already called your boss," she said her face glowing. "When'd you call him?" I asked perplexed. "Friday," she said digging back into her breakfast. "You've known about this for two whole days and you haven't said anything?!" I shrieked at her. "I wanted it to be a surprise," she said smiling evilly. Luckily I didn't have any games during that time period so I'd only have to cancel a couple practices. I was so excited! See, I told myself, I knew this would be a good year!
Carly and I pulled our suitcases through the entrance of the airport and lugged them to the check in counter. We received our boarding passes from the clerk and made our way up the escalators. We glanced in a couple shops seeing if anything held our interest, but it was mostly just novelty items with the city's name on them. We made our way to our boarding gate and I pulled out one of my Disney guide books. "Really?" Carly asked incredulously glancing at the book in my hands, "Is there anything about Disneyland that you don't already know?" "I like to remind myself about stuff," I said turning slightly away from her pretending to be hurt. She laughed not buying my act.
"What's on the agenda?" she asked sighing and closing the magazine she had been flipping through. "Well, we can start in Adventure Land with the Jungle Cruise and continue on to Indiana Jones, or fast pass it," I said giving her options, "or we can start with Space Mountain and then head through the Tomorrowland shops to the Matterhorn." I looked at her waiting for a response and a smile crept on her face, "Matterhorn," we both replied at the same time giggling. Our flight was called shortly after that and we boarded the plane.
"Where are we staying?" I asked realizing that I hadn't asked. A huge grin crept across her face, "Disneyland hotel," she said grinning at me. "No shit?!" I exclaimed jumping in my seat. "No shit," she replied looking at me pleased that her response had had this kind of reaction on me. I was so excited that I could barely sit still in my seat.
"How was practice this week?" Carly asked me a little while later. I knew she wasn't really asking about practice, but about whether I had seen Brady while I was at practice. "Odd," I said honestly looking perplexed. "How so?" she asked. "Well, I had to go through the gym a couple times and he barely registered my presence," I confided. "Maybe he was really busy with the boys," she suggested. "Yeah, that's what I was thinking," I said in an uncertain tone, "but they looked like they were just doing basic drills and stuff. Then after practice, he helped carry the stereo and stuff to my car and kissed me," I said. "Weird," she said slightly shaking her head. "Well this week is about us," she said changing paths. "Yes it is," I agreed nodding. "In the spirit of the girls' weekend," she began, "I made us a reservation for Tuesday night at the sushi place in the Paradise Pier." "Awesomeness!" I enthused. I had wanted to eat there for quite some time, but it had been years since she and I had gone to Disneyland together and Tate hated sushi.
Tate, I thought to myself pushing my head into the headrest of the seat. I am so glad to be done with that part of my life. That portion of my life held a superfluous amount of unhappiness for me. I remember how unhappy I was all the time and it made me cringe to think about it. Being able to live my life just for myself was such a new and enjoyable experience for me that I could not believe it had taken me so long to move on. My life with Tate had consisted of pandering to his moods and hiding the majority of who I was. His moods would go from one extreme to the other and to be honest, I had a hard time keeping up. He constantly talked down to me and accused me of doing things that I so was not. To be truthful, we were just two very different people on two very different paths.
The lobby of the Disneyland hotel was enchanting. Everything was still decorated for Christmas in beautiful reds and greens and golds. A large tree stood in the corner decorated in all Disney ornaments with Christmas dressed Tinkerbelle on top of the tree. My breath caught in my throat as I took it all in. "Wow," Carly agreed with me. "I've never seen it like this," she admitted taking it all in. "Even when you went to Disney World all those times?" I asked surprised. "We always went in June," she reminded me shrugging. "Hello ladies, how can I help you?" the perky desk attendant greeted us as we moved towards the check in desk. "Two under Hamilton," Carly told the girl setting her Coach bag on the counter. The girl busied herself behind the desk pulling together all of our information. "Here are your six day hopper passes and your room keys," the attendant handed the items to us. "If you take the elevators over here to your right," she said pointing to the elevators in front of the tree, "and go up to the twenty second floor, your room is about mid way down to the left on the right hand side. You should have a beautiful view of the park," she informed us. "Thanks so much," I said picking up our keys and readjusting the bags I held.
"Ugh! This bed is so comfortable!" Carly said collapsing backwards onto the bed closest to the window. I dropped my stuff on the first bed and wondered over to the huge bay window. Pulling open the curtains, my breath caught for the second time that day. "The desk attendant was so wrong," I said in a subdued tone. "What, the view sucks?" Carly asked propping herself up on her elbows and looking annoyed. She had a thing about her room having a great view. "No," I said correcting her, "The view's not beautiful, it's amazing!" I threw open the curtains and the late afternoon sunlight flooded our room and revealing the amazing view of Splash Mountain that we had. If we looked hard enough, we could actually see the logs going down the final drop and the bursts of water that accompanied it. "I bet it'll look even prettier tonight when everything is lit up," Carly said joining me.
"So, should we unpack first, or just change and get to the park?" Carly asked opening up her suitcase on her bed. I tossed my pillows to the top of the bed and then began pulling out my jeans and stuff. "Well, it won't take me long to unpack," I said already putting my clothes in the dresser. "Well I'm just going to live out of my suitcase as usual," she admitted setting her lap top up on the table next to her bed. "Let's just get changed real quick and we'll take off," she said pulling a change of clothes out of her suitcase.
"What's the weather supposed to be like tonight?" I asked pulling my pink Disneyland hat on and testing my curling iron to see if it was hot yet. "Pretty warm actually," she said consulting her iPhone, "Mid to upper sixties." So long sleeved and take the jacket?" I asked and she nodded as I curled my first pigtail around the barrel of the curling iron. "No rain though, just light cloud coverage," she continued looking up from her iPhone. "Give me that," she ordered taking my curling iron out of my hand. "You always curl them funny when you do them yourself." She sprayed and curled each one three times before shutting off the curling iron satisfied. "So we're doing hats tonight?" she asked taking in mine. "I just figured it would be easier since we've been traveling all day," I admitted and pulled on my warm light pink knee socks under my light blue jeans. "True," she said standing in front of her suitcase and tapping her finger to her lips. She pulled on a pair of black jeans with a soft pale blue long sleeved shirt with Cinderella's coach on it. She put on her navy windbreaker but left it open and pulled on her black hat she had gotten on one of our previous trips to Disneyland. "Cute cute," I said shoving my black Disney windbreaker into my bag. "Pins?" she asked holding mine out to me. "But of course!" I said sliding my lanyard on over my head being careful to not mess up my curls. "Let's go!" she said linking her arm with mine and pulling the door shut behind us.