‘It Worked!’ Sierra blurted out with uncontained joy, ’He called and want’s to meet me today! We have to be at the River Walk fountain at two o’clock. Sierra’s hands were trembling and she could barely catch her breath.
‘You’ve got it bad girl,’ Rachael said jokingly as she poked Sierra in the arm. Rachael remarked with certain confidence that if she was this overjoyed with the thought of meeting a guy at a fountain that she had only met one time, this was a guy she just had to meet. ‘We’ll be there girl, don’t you worry about that. And we will be there on time Trisha!’ Rachael eyeballed the backseat as she threw out that sarcastic remark to Trish.
‘Well what I want to know is does he have a brother,’ Trisha commented. ‘If he can sweep you off of your feet and send you floating in the clouds, I want his brother!’ she laughed.
‘That’s the funny thing, I don’t even know!’ Sierra answered honestly.
‘So, where do you want to go first?’ Rachael enquired as she began to make plans for their day. ‘If we have to be at the fountain at two o’clock, then we need to work the rest of our day around that meeting. What if we go to the IMAX - and the aquarium first, then we can work our way toward Jackson Square, and end up at the River Walk before two o’clock,’ Rachael laid out her schedule. ‘Sounds like a plan to me,’ Sierra responded gleefully.
By the time the girls reached the IMAX it was eleven thirty. ‘We have two hours before we have to be at the fountain, Rachael commented.’ Trisha put her two cents in, ‘Why don’t we spend about an hour here, grab a bite to eat, then make our way to the fountain,’ There is a great little Cajun restaurant on the River Walk, if you guys want to go eat lunch there, we can just stay until it is time to walk over to the fountain to meet Mr. Right.’
Sierra was taken aback by the sights and smells of New Orleans. The Jazz music blaring from the intercoms, the path tiled with bricks with messages from the sponsors carved in each one, the tall buildings, the trolley cars, and the smell of beignets all made Sierra feel a sense of pride in where she was from. ‘Louisiana is truly a cultured place,’ she thought as she looked around and saw things that she had never really noticed before.
‘When you live in this culture day-in and day-out there are a lot of things you take for granted.’ she reflected. Sierra realized as she walked toward the ticket booth for the aquarium that there was not another place on earth quite like New Orleans.
Sierra enjoyed the time in the aquarium with Rachael and Trisha, but she would have to admit that her thoughts were a bit preoccupied with her two o’clock appointment. ‘I wish I had taken time to fix myself up a bit,’ she thought. ‘I hate for him to see me looking so shabby. For peat’s sake, I’m wearing a cap on my head! Well, at least I put some make-up on in the car – it can’t be that bad,’ she tried to convince herself.
Anxious with anticipation, Sierra voiced out loud, ‘Do you guys think I look too, I don’t know, frumpy to be meeting Grayson at two o’clock? Maybe I need to get something else to wear, or get my hair fixed, or something.’ Rachael and Trisha countered her notion simultaneously with a resounding, NO! ‘You are one person I know who could crawl out of a bag and look cute, he needs to see you for who you are – and more often than not – this is who you are. You look like a doll, you wear that cap well, rock it girl, just the way you are!’ Rachael showered Sierra with compliments.
‘You don’t need to even think about what you are wearing for another second. Let’s go on to the restaurant,’ Trish encouraged them, ‘We have seen these fish a million times, we need some girl time just sitting around the table, and we only have about an hour before Grayson is supposed to show up?’ Rachael and Sierra agreed. Trish put her arm around Sierra, grabbed her shoulder and pulled her close as she told her how glad she was that she could be a part of this new ‘thing’ God was doing in her life. ‘See what we would have missed if you had taken that job in Greece!’ she said.
’Yes, see what I would have missed! It’s amazing that God really had a plan for me and I could not even see it. ‘Thank you; Lord for directing my steps, even when I wasn’t asking you to. There is no telling where I would have ended up if I had made the decision to go to overseas.’ She pondered these thoughts in her mind as she visualized her possible future with Grayson.
Making their way to the River Walk, Rachael began to list off the possible restaurant choice in the area. ‘There’s fast food, but we don’t want that. There’s a little café-like place that serves sandwiches, but I know Sierra doesn’t want that. There’s that little Cajun place I was talking about, and there is an Italian place around the corner. What sounds good?’
‘Nobody cooks Cajun food like my Mother, so I hate to go pay good money to eat second best – why don’t we try the Italian place, I could use some good mozzarella sticks!’ Sierra figured it was her day; she might as well make a choice.
‘That sounds like a plan to me, but if we go there we just need to watch the time a little bit closer because we can’t see the fountain area from the restaurant.’ Rachael clarified. ‘Okay then, let’s do it, Rachael, just set your phone on the table so we can watch the time. As long as we head to the fountain by about a quarter till we should be good, that gives us a good forty five minutes to chat, and eat.’ Trish calculated.
The Italian restaurant was perfect, the lunch rush was just about over, the setting was quiet and quaint with candles on the tables, and the hostess directed the girls to a corner table away from the hustle and bustle in the entrance. Rachael stuck with what she was familiar with and ordered Lasagna, Trisha tried the lobster ravioli, and Sierra went with her all-time favorite, shrimp Alfredo, and of course, an order of cheese sticks.
Sierra changed the subject, ‘So, enough about me already, tell me what’s going on with you guys. You are both getting ready to graduate soon – how exciting. I am so proud of you.’ Rachael was finishing out her last semester, and Trish had one more to go before she had her degree. Sierra fought the temptation to covet what they had accomplished. Rachael seemed so happy with the family life, and had accomplished so much in the middle of it all. Trisha was following her dream to become a nurse and was already considering jobs at the largest hospital in Baton Rouge.
Sierra felt a little bit inadequate, as if she had not done much worth bragging on in her own life. She was a proud veteran, had completed the police academy, and was considering the possibility of love, but her accomplishments paled in comparison to her friends, or at least that was how she felt.
‘So, tell me about Presley, what’s it like being a mom?’ Sierra directed her attention to Rachael. ’Well, our plan was for me to finish my degree before we started having children, but God had other plans. It has been a challenge at times to keep pressing on in school, especially during the first six months after Presley was born, but I would not trade her for the world. She is such a miracle blessing that I stand in awe of every day of my life.
Jason has been a blessing too, I have had to take some night classes since Presley was born so that we didn’t have to leave her in a daycare. I keep her during the day while Jason works, and he keeps her in the evenings so I can go to class. It has not always been the best thing for our marriage, but we know it is a temporary situation, six more weeks – woo-hoo! Rachael expressed from her heart.
‘She is a great mom,’ Trish interjected. ‘I love it when I get to babysit, but I don’t think I will ever be as good of a mom as Rachael is. Presley practically worships her.’ Trish said. ‘Now, Trish, all babies cling to their moms at this age, that is just normal.’ Rachael said humbly. ‘Trish thinks that Presley worships me because every time I call her to babysit, Presley cries when I leave. I have tried to tell Trish not to take that personal, but she just can’t seem to let go of it. Presley loves Trish, but I am just her mama. That’s all.’
‘Ok we have mozzarella sticks, and three sweet teas with no lemon,’ the waiter read from his order to ensure he was at the correct table. ‘Yes, that’s us, thank you very much,’ Trish said as she slid the cheese sticks in Sierra’s direction. ‘Your orders will be up shortly, in the meantime, if you need anything feel free to ask, my name is Charles,’ he said cordially.
’Ohhhh, these look amazing, Sierra said as she cut into the first cheese stick. ‘Well I think that Charles the waiter guy looks pretty amazing too, and he is not wearing a wedding ring,’ Trish expressed her opinion without regard to the cheese sticks. ‘If you can meet a guy and fall in love in one day, why can’t I,’ she prodded.
The girls looked at Charles a bit differently when he brought out the Caesar salads. They noticed his blond hair that was combed back perfectly to one side, his tan skin that made them think he must spend a lot of time outdoors, and his neatly pressed uniform which suggested he took pride in the way he looked. He was tall and slim, but not too slim. ‘Not bad, Trish, I have to agree with you he is pretty cute,’ Sierra nodded. Growing more nervous as the clock on the table ticked, she was glad things were running smoothly and the time was not getting away with them. By the time Charles brought the food to the table, it was only twenty after one.
‘Perfect timing,’ she thought. After eating as much as she could with her nerves in a jumble, Sierra asked for a box, excused herself, and went to the restroom. She wanted to make one last check in the mirror before her accidentally purposed meeting took place by the fountain. When she felt confident that things were as good as they were going to get, she went back to the table. By the time the checks were cleared and they were headed to the fountain it was ten till two.
‘Now listen, you know this is supposed to seem like a surprise. I am not supposed to know Grayson is here. So; act natural, don’t embarrass me, okay!’ Sierra could feel her stomach in her throat, she half regretted what little she did eat. ‘You will be fine, let’s just go walk around the fountain, and then we will sit down on one of the benches so that we can watch the area. You let us know when you see Grayson and we will try to act natural,’ Rachael said in an attempt to control the situation.
As the girls rounded the corner on their way to the fountain, Sierra stopped in her tracks. ’Oh my goodness, he is already here!” Sierra exclaimed. ‘Where, where is he,’ Trish questioned anxiously.
Sierra felt exactly the same way she had felt the first time she saw Grayson in the church fellowship hall when she had to go back outside and catch her breath. She scooted back around the corner, pressed her back against the wall, and took a deep breath in an effort to calm her nerves.
‘Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37: 4.’ God brought this verse to her remembrance as she stood against the wall. ‘It’s that voice, that voice behind me telling me which way to go,’ she thought. ‘Be anxious for nothing,’ she thought.
‘He is wearing a white polo shirt and a pair of red shorts. If you look around the corner you will see him standing by the fountain.’ Sierra said as she breathed slowly trying to bring her blood pressure down a notch before walking in his direction. ‘You are kidding me – right,’ Trish said in an exasperated whisper. ‘He looks like a model.’ “I told you guys he was way out of my league, but God must not think so,’ she explained. ‘He looks like that, AND he is a Christian – there is hope for me after all,’ Trish recounted. ‘And anyway, he is not out of your league, quit being so hard on yourself Sierra!’ Rachael verified.
’So what should I do, just walk up and act like I don’t see him and hope he sees me, or should I just bravely walk over and say, ‘fancy meeting you here’ what a coincidence?’ Sierra sincerely inquired of them. ‘What do I do?’ She almost cried.
Rachael was obviously the level headed one of the bunch so she took control. ‘Let’s just casually walk toward the fountain. We will talk about beignets, and the River Boat, the aquarium and we will stop over by the saxophone player. We will just act like we don’t see him. Remember, Trish and I have never met him, he will not be suspecting us so we can watch him with no problem. We will walk in the other direction on purpose so you don’t have to be looking right at him. That will give him a chance to approach you rather than you approaching him.’ ‘Sounds like a plan to me,’ Sierra said shyly.
Grayson was leaning against the fountain with his back to them, as if he expected Sierra to come from the other direction. He was watching the roadside thinking that was where she would make her entrance. ‘He is just as nervous as you are,’ Trish said as she witnessed Grayson fixing his shirt, straightening his belt, and running his fingers through his wavy hair. ’He has changed his ‘pose’ three times since we walked this way, and he just took a drink of water. I think it is amusing. Boy if he is half as nice as he looks you hit a jackpot!’ Trish maintained.
‘Let’s go listen to the guy on the sax.’ Sierra said as she pulled her friends in his direction. He was on the other side of the fountain from Grayson, so she figured if they made their way over there he would see her from across the courtyard. ‘I cannot breathe,’ Sierra admitted, ‘I feel like I would do well to find a seat.’ They found a bench near the saxophone player that was positioned perfectly for Grayson to see them if he would just look that way. Rachael and Trisha kept a watchful eye on him as Sierra tried not to look in his direction. She was afraid of making eye contact. She didn’t want him to suspect that she knew he was coming.
It didn’t take but a minute or two before she heard his voice from across the courtyard, ’Oh – hey! There you are! Sierra, Pastor Allen told me you were going to be here this afternoon, so I thought I would come over and say, ‘Welcome to New Orleans.’ Grayson shouted as he made his way over to the bench where she was sitting.
Watching him walk sent chills up and down Sierra’s spine. She wondered what she had done to deserve a chance with a guy like him. ‘He is perfect, and his eyes are like diamonds,’ whispered Trish as she tried to compose herself. Standing up from the bench, Sierra yelled back at him, ‘Oh my goodness, what are you doing here,’ feeling a little fake since she knew full well what he was doing there. She wondered if she should shake his hand, or hug him, or just do nothing.
‘I was talking to Pastor Allen this morning. Your Mom told him you were going to be in New Orleans today and that you were going to be near this area at about two o’clock, so I thought I would drive over and take a chance on running into you.’ He finished his sentence just as he reached their vicinity. Sierra was thankful he broke through the awkward ice and reached right over and gave her an innocent hug. She breathed in his cologne as he pulled her close, and it was all she could do to back away.
’Oh, um – Grayson, these are my best friends Rachael and Trisha, Trisha and Rachael, this is Grayson. I met him this past Sunday. He is the youth pastor at Flowing Creek Church, where I was asked to sing,’ Sierra introduced them as if it were the first time the girls had heard of him. ‘It is really nice to meet you,’ they said in unison. ‘Oh my goodness, now what do I do, he looks so stunning, and I look like…well, I am not going to go there,’ Sierra’s thoughts were racing. ‘We were just thinking about going for some beignets, do you have time to walk with us?’ she gave the invitation as if that were the plan all along.
‘Sure,’ he said while looking down at his watch, ‘I have a class at four o’clock, but other than that, I don’t have anything else to do.’