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Lorelai In Wonderland

Context: According to Lorelai Gilmore, it is January 2003. She just had her heart broken a few months before by Christopher, the father to her 18 year old daughter Rory, who left her to go back to his girlfriend Sherry, who just told him she was pregnant. Christopher hasn’t been around for most of Rory’s life, because they were 16 and stupid when Lorelai got pregnant. Rory is in her last year of high school, attending Chilton, a prestigious prep school in Hartford, which is about 30 minutes outside of Stars Hollow, the tiny and eccentric town they live in and love. Lorelai’s relationship with her parents is tenuous, but they are obligated to Friday Night Dinners at the Gilmore Manor as a condition of them paying for Rory’s private school tuition.

 

In 2005, Rory has graduated high school and is in her second year at Yale University, despite dreaming her whole life that she would go to Harvard. Lorelai recently opened her own inn, the Dragonfly, with her best friend and chef, Sookie St. James. The night before the inn opened, Luke Danes, who owns the local diner and has been interested in Lorelai for years, finally tells her how he feels. They begin a relationship, and have been happily together for 4 months at the beginning of this story.

 

I stretched languidly on the bed as fuzzy sounds, smells, and sensations entered my subconscious. As I awakened, I began to have this nagging sensation like something wasn’t quite right. My pajamas, for example, felt strange. The bed sheets were unfamiliar. I became vaguely aware of the distant smell of bacon and heard strange clinking sounds, which were not typical morning smells or sounds in our house. I opened my eyes, trying to make sense of my surroundings. Suddenly, I realized where I was. I was in Luke’s apartment. In his bed.

 

I looked down at what I was wearing and my heart started pounding like crazy. I was wearing what I could only assume was one of Luke’s flannel shirts. Only a shirt, and my underwear.

 

“Oh no!” I whispered. What happened last night? I yanked the covers off and began hunting for my clothes, but I didn’t see them anywhere. I frantically started looking around the room, searching for any evidence explaining what had happened the previous night — beer bottles or empty shot glasses — but the apartment looked relatively normal. My head felt clear and I wasn’t hung over, so I quickly ruled out a drunken hook up. How did I end up here?

 

Closing my eyes tightly, I sifted through my memories to figure it out. From what I could remember, last night had been fairly routine. Rory and I had had a movie night, mocking a couple of romantic comedies and polishing off two boxes of Mallomars and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s finest. Then, as far as I could recall, I had just gone up to bed. Maybe this is just a really vivid dream, I thought. I pinched my bare thigh as hard as possible, but the immediate pain didn’t result in me waking up in my own bed. I began to panic. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my purse on the kitchen table. Relieved to see something that was familiar, I picked it up and searched for my cell phone, flipped it open, and hit the speed dial for Rory.

 

“Hey Mom,” she answered, sounding slightly out of breath.

 

“Hey Hon!” I replied, feeling anchored just by hearing her voice. “Do you have a minute?”

 

“Sure. My next class isn’t for another 20 minutes, so I was gonna run by the coffee cart anyway.”

 

“Wait, what?” Since when does Chilton have a coffee cart?  “Why do you have such a big break between classes?”

 

“What do you mean, Mom? I only have one class on Wednesdays, and it starts at 10.”

 

“One class?…” I shook my head quickly. “Whatever. That’s not important right now. I’m having a crisis and I need your help. When are you getting home?”

 

“Um, I won’t be able to go home this weekend. I’ve got some stuff to do for the paper and Paris and I were going to go to this tutoring workshop. I’ll see you at Grandma and Grandpa’s for Friday night dinner though, maybe we can talk about it then?”

 

“You won’t be home tonight? Where are you sleeping?”

 

“Uhh, in my dorm at Yale, where I sleep every night?”  Yale? Yale? I lost the ability to speak. All I could hear was my heart pounding in my ears, and my throat went dry. I took a couple of deep breaths. “Mom? Mom, are you there?”  Rory’s voice sounded far away. I tried to concentrate on her.

 

“Uhhh, yeah. I’m here. But I think I’m losing my mind.” I quickly walked over to the bathroom, shut the door, and slid down the wall until I was sitting on the floor. The feel of the cool tile against my bare legs was welcoming, and I was relieved to feel something sturdy underneath me. “Rory, there is some crazy Twilight Zone stuff happening to me right now.”

 

“Okay, Mom. I have like 15 minutes. Can you give me the Cliff’s Notes and we’ll talk more later tonight?”

 

“Oh my goodness, Rory. So you’re at Yale?”

 

“Um, yes. Where else would I be?” I didn’t bother to answer, I was thinking out loud, trying to piece together the mystery of this morning and this absurd situation.

 

“Listen. I woke up this morning in Luke’s apartment, wearing nothing but what I’m guessing is one of his shirts.” I could hear Rory groaning on the other end of the line.

 

“Aw, Mom, you promised me that you wouldn’t give me any dirty details once you and Luke started dating.”

 

“So you know about this?” I demanded. “You’re not surprised?”

 

“You are starting to freak me out. Of course I know about this.” I glanced around the bathroom, noticing for the first time that there was a variety of my toiletries next to the sink.

 

“My stuff is in here!” I gasped. “I’m dating Luke?”

 

“Where have you been for the last 4 months? Are you okay? Did you hit your head or something?”

 

“Maybe. I don’t know. Are you sure you can’t come home soon? New Haven isn’t that far. This is an emergency, Rory, and I need you.” Rory was silent for a few minutes, probably trying to decide if whatever she had going on was able to be postponed.

 

“Yeah, I can come for a few hours tonight,” she said finally.

 

“So what do I do in the meantime? Do I tell Luke that I don’t remember anything or do I try to fake it?”

 

“Fake it. At least until we can talk it out.”

 

“Okay, okay.” I took another deep breath. “One more thing!” I said quickly, before Rory could hang up the phone. “Do you know where I might find my clothes?”

 

——

 

After finding a drawer filled with my clothes — I had my own drawer! — I dressed quickly, praying that today was my day off from the inn. Taking several deep breaths, I prepared to go downstairs into the diner and face Luke. I had never felt so nervous in my entire life. I was about to face Luke, after being reasonably certain that he had seen me naked. At the bottom of the stairs, I took another fortifying breath, fixed a smile on my face, and walked through the curtain.

 

The diner looked pretty normal for a weekday morning around 10am. There were a few tables filled, and Kirk was at the counter flipping through some papers and picking at some weird sort of sandwich. I saw no sign of Luke and began to breathe easier. I intended to walk right out the door and go home, trying to give myself some time to hole up in my house and hope that I wasn’t going completely insane. Halfway across the diner, Luke came out of the kitchen.

 

“Hey! You’re up!” he said, a huge smile on his face. Oh wow. That was an incredible smile. Had I never seen that smile before? I stopped mid-stride, speechless. A concerned look flitted across his face. “Everything okay?” he asked. I recovered, smiling brightly.

 

“Fine! Great!”

 

“What do you want to eat?” he asked, resting his palms on the counter. Eat? Shoot. He’s expecting me to stay and eat. I can’t say no, I never say no to food. I have to order something.

 

“Pancakes!” I blurted out. “With bacon.” He nodded, already turning to pour me a cup of coffee as I sat at the counter, several stools away from Kirk. The smell was heavenly, and I was glad that even though I seemed to have ended up in a relationship with Luke overnight and Rory somehow skipped her senior year at Chilton that something was still the same. “So, where’s Jess?” I asked, trying to make casual conversation. He couldn’t have spent the night if Luke and I were upstairs doing who-knows-what. He turned with my cup and arched a brow at me.

 

“Heck if I know,” he replied. “Why do you ask?”

 

“Just curious,” I said. I took a fortifying sip of the coffee.

 

“Last I saw him, he was in New York, living in a junk pile posing as an apartment.” I choked on my drink. “Hey, you okay?”

 

“Yeah, fine. Fine.”  I tried to compose myself. “Do you have a newspaper?” I asked, looking around the counter. I was starting to think that maybe I’d been in some sort of coma for who knows how long. Maybe instead of walking pneumonia, I had been in a walking coma. Or abducted by aliens. At that point, anything seemed possible. He rummaged around the back counter, and picked up a sheaf of newsprint.

 

“Yeah, here.” He handed them to me, and our fingers brushed. I felt an electric spark, and had to bite back a gasp. I looked up and smiled, my default expression for getting through this unbelievable morning. He smiled back, warmly. “I’m gonna go make your food,” he said, then he turned and disappeared into the kitchen. I squeezed my eyes shut, took a breath, and then looked at the paper.

 

There it was in black and white.

 

  1. January 5th, 2005. Oh no. Oh no. I had missed 2 years somehow. I put down the paper, and picked up my mug with two hands, staring at the No Cell Phones sign, wishing it would somehow make everything make sense again. I missed Rory’s high school graduation. I missed Jess moving away. I missed getting with Luke. I wondered what else I had missed. I would have to get Rory to take me through the last 2 years, minute by minute.

 

“So, I thought I could make you dinner tonight,” Luke said, carrying my plate out of the kitchen. He placed it in front of me, and without thinking I closed my eyes and breathed in the smell of the food. Well, at least he could still cook a fine breakfast. When I opened my eyes, Luke was looking at me, a gorgeous half smile on his face. I blushed, then picked up my fork and began to eat. How had I not known that In-A-Relationship Luke was so attractive? “What do you think?” he asked, looking at me expectantly. I froze. He was waiting on me for an answer, but I couldn’t remember the question because his smile had distracted me. Seeing the confused look on my face, he gestured with his hand. “Dinner? Tonight?” Ah! Right. Dinner.

 

“Uh, actually, I have plans with Rory tonight.” He seemed surprised by this, so apparently Rory coming home in the middle of the week was strange. I filed that away for future reference, and tried to come up with a plausible reason that didn’t involve me suddenly having lost my mind and needing my daughter to come home and sort me out. “She, uh, she can’t come home this weekend and she had some time tonight, so we decided to have an impromptu girls’ night,” I said quickly, hoping it sounded like something approximating sense. He nodded, and I relaxed, glad he was buying this excuse.

 

“Is she spending the night?” he asked then, looking at me with an expression that clearly was akin to bedroom eyes. Oh my, Luke is giving me bedroom eyes! My heart started pounding again, and I tried frantically to make words come out of my mouth.

 

“I, uh, I don’t know,” I said, which was the truth, although I assumed since Rory probably had classes the next day, she wouldn’t be. Unless over the past two years, Rory had stopped being super student. I really hoped not, but nothing else seemed normal so I wasn’t going to rule it out. “Probably not.”

 

“Well, call me later,” he said, smiling that smile again, the one that was driving me crazy.

 

“Definitely,” I replied, going back to my breakfast. The next several minutes passed in silence, as I ate my food and he moved around the diner, taking orders and refilling drinks. It was a comfortable silence, and for a moment it felt like everything was normal. Then I remembered the inn. “Hey, Luke?” I asked, as he came back to stand behind the counter. He set the coffee pot down and looked at me, waiting expectantly for me to continue. “I can’t remember if I have to be at the inn today or not,” I said, smiling sheepishly. “Do you happen to remember?”

 

The concerned look was back. “No, you took today off,” he answered, his eyes narrowing. I breathed out in relief.

 

“Ah, good!” I said, setting down my fork onto my now empty plate. “That’s what I thought, but I wanted to double check and make sure I hadn’t mixed up the days.” He was still looking at me like he wasn’t sure what to do with me. I smiled again, trying to deflect the awkwardness of the situation. I was mostly just relieved that I had at least one day to figure out what on earth was going on with me. “I need to go to Doose’s and get supplies for tonight,” I chirped, trying to distract him from my uncertainty of a few minutes ago.

 

“O-kay,” he said slowly, still watching me carefully. He picked up the plate. “See you later?”

 

“Yeah, I’ll come in later,” I answered, grabbing my purse, and then walking towards the door. “Bye!” I said over my shoulder, as I practically flew out the door, heading toward Doose’s. I didn’t look back. I didn’t want to see that confused expression on his face.

 

Once inside Doose’s, I grabbed a basket and started absently tossing junk food into it. Our girls’ night tradition was so second nature to me that I was on autopilot. My mind was racing. I couldn’t even begin to make sense of it all. Once the basket was full, I made my way to the check out, and put my items on the counter. Dean was there, bagging groceries.

 

“Hey, Dean,” I greeted him. He refused to look at me.

 

“Hi,” he mumbled. I was confused. I knew he and Rory had broken up, but I figured more than two years later, things would be less awkward. Oh well, I guess not. I tried to shake it off, paying the total, and taking my bags. While walking back towards my house, I was looking around, trying to see if anything else was different in the two years that I had been not in my body. A horrible thought occurred to me. What if I had been body-snatched and done some really terrible things? Who knows what else I might have horribly screwed up in the last 2 years? The panic began to bubble up again, and I picked up the pace.

 

I unlocked the front door, and placed the bags in the kitchen. I looked around. Things looked pretty normal. Nothing seemed weirdly out of place. I peeked inside Rory’s bedroom, and saw that our Harvard wall was now grey and blue, bedecked in Yale swag. I felt a pang of sadness, for some reason. I wondered if maybe she hadn’t gotten into Harvard, and she had chosen Yale out of grief. Filing yet another question away for later, I walked up the stairs and into my bedroom. Aside from being slightly neater than normal, it seemed pretty much the same. I guessed that if Luke was spending occasional nights here, I probably had been trying to keep it cleaner. The thought that we had been together in my room made me feel a tightening in my gut. It was against the rules that I had set up with Rory; I never brought my dating life home. But Rory was at Yale now. Wow, this was hard to take all at once. Suddenly, I felt exhausted. I curled up on my bed and shut my eyes, hoping that I would wake up and go back to the way things were, with Rory still living at home and everything making sense again.

 

———

 

“Mom! I’m home!”

 

I startled awake, looking around. Seeing that I was in my room, on my bed, filled me with a huge sense of relief. It had all been a weird, weird dream. “Upstairs, sweets!” I yelled back, shifting to a sitting position. I heard footsteps on the stairs, and then Rory came inside. Looking at her, I realized that it probably hadn’t been a dream. “Rory?” I whispered, looking at her. My daughter, looking slightly more grown up, with a shorter and more stylish haircut, and having grown at least an inch or two, stood before me. She came forward, and obviously seeing my expression, enveloped me in a hug.

 

She pulled back. “You okay?” she asked, looking into my eyes.

 

“Oh, I don’t know, kid,” I answered, looking toward the ceiling. “I feel like I’ve just woken up and my life is totally different. I’m losing my mind.”  She sat on the bed next to me, and tucked her hair behind her ears. The familiarity of that movement made me relax. I smiled at her. Even though I had somehow missed so much, she was still Rory. My Rory. She looked relieved to see me smiling. Her expression got serious, and I could tell she was shifting into journalist mode.

 

“Okay, so before this morning, what is the last thing that you remember?”

 

“Okay.” I shifted on the bed, too, getting comfortable. “I remember that we decided to do a Meg Ryan chick flick movie marathon. I think we decided to do You’ve Got Mail and… oh, what’s that other one?”

 

“There are a lot of chick flicks starring Meg Ryan, Mom, you are going to have to narrow it down for me.” I looked at her, exasperated. She motioned for me to continue.

 

“I think it was that one with Matthew Broderick?”

 

“Addicted to Love? But we haven’t watched that in years!”

 

“Yeah, two years to be exact,” I replied.

 

“You-you can’t remember the last two years?” she gasped, her eyes wide. I hung my head, looking at the seam in my jeans. “Oh wow, Mom, that’s really bad.”

 

“I know!” I groaned, throwing my hands up in the air. “This is really bad! I just woke up this morning, and suddenly my pride and joy is off to Yale – not Harvard, Yale – and I’m dating Luke! Luke!” I covered my eyes with my hands, making a noise half between a yell and a groan. “I must be going insane. I’ve finally cracked, after all these years.”

 

“Did you hit your head last night?”

 

“I don’t know! And I couldn’t ask Luke without causing him to be even more suspicious!”

 

“What did you say to him? How did it go?”

 

“Well,” I started, “I got dressed and went downstairs, and I was really nervous because I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I know Luke is a private kind of guy, but I didn’t know if Relationship Luke was suddenly all about PDA or something –“

 

“He’s not,” Rory interrupted.

 

“Thank goodness for that,” I replied. “Anyway, he was in the kitchen when I came down, so I had planned to just sneak out and come here, hopefully to try and process everything, but he came out and asked me what I wanted to eat. I couldn’t tell him I wasn’t hungry — “

 

“Yeah, that would have been a major red flag.”

 

“Definitely. So I ordered pancakes, and while he’s pouring my coffee I asked him where Jess was.”

 

“Oh, you didn’t?” Rory looked sympathetic, like she knew it was bad topic to bring up.

 

“Was that a mistake?” I asked. “He told me he was in New York, and he didn’t really say much more than that. Wait, did he break your heart?” I asked suddenly, realizing what I was saying.

 

“Yeah, but that was awhile ago,” she said, waving her hand like it was no big deal.

 

“Aw, hon,” I said, holding out my arms to hug her. She leaned into the hug, although she was smiling.

 

“It’s okay, Mom, really. It was right before I graduated from Chilton.”

 

“Yeah, I missed that,” I said, wistfully. “I missed everything.”

 

“You were there, Mom,” Rory said, still with my arms around her. She looked up at me, her smile big and happy. “You don’t remember, but you were 100% there.”

 

“Good,” I said, hugging her tighter. “Good.” We sat there in silence for a few moments. “Okay, I bought tons of junk food. Let’s go downstairs and you can fill me in on everything I’ve missed since that fateful Meg Ryan double feature.”

 

——————————————-

 

Twenty minutes later, Rory and I were ensconced on the couch. Our junk food bounty was spread on the coffee table, and we were each holding a steaming cup of coffee. I took a big drink, then looked over at her. “Okay, let’s get started,” I said.

 

“Where do you want to begin?” she asked, reaching for the Red Vines. I thought for a moment.

 

“Let’s start with Luke,” I said. “I’m going to need to see him sooner rather than later, and so I need to be prepared. You said we have been together for 4 months?”

 

“Yeah, it started on the night of the test run,” she said.

 

“Test run?”

 

“Oh yeah, you don’t remember. You and Sookie reopened the Dragonfly Inn.” I gaped at her, my jaw dropped and eyes wide.

 

“The Dragonfly? What about the Independence?” I asked.

 

“It–it, uh, it burned down,” Rory said, looking down into her mug sadly. I felt tears spring to my eyes. Our inn, our first home, I thought sadly. Burned to the ground? “Sorry, Mom,” she whispered.

 

“Oh honey, it’s not your fault. You just need to remember I’m hearing about all of this for the first time, I need to take it all in.” I took a deep breath, and then another drink of my coffee. “Okay, so the test run.”

 

“Yeah, I don’t know all the details, obviously,” she gave me a pointed look before continuing, “but there was apparently some kind of argument about Jason being there and Grandma and Grandpa and I guess Luke was frustrated that he was giving you all of these signs and you weren’t noticing. And then you kissed, and Kirk interrupted it.”

 

“Of course Kirk interrupted it. It wouldn’t be my life unless Kirk interrupted a life-changing moment.” Rory and I shared a knowing smile. “So, go on.”

 

“Okay, so Luke had to go to Maine for 7 weeks after that because Liz and TJ got into a car accident and he had to help them out.”

 

“Liz and TJ?”

 

“His sister and brother-in-law.”

 

“I didn’t know his sister was married.”

 

“Oh yeah, your technical first date with Luke was at their wedding. It was a few weeks before the test run.”

 

“So wait, did we start dating before the test run, then? I’m really confused.” Rory closed her eyes and took a deep breath. We both took a break to open a box of Oreos, and I handed her one while I took another. Rory continued after she finished chewing.

 

“So, the morning after the wedding, you told me that you thought you might be dating Luke, but you weren’t sure. I guess you went to the wedding together and you waltzed –“

 

“Luke can waltz?”

 

“Apparently so. You had that exact tone when you told me about it, too. May I continue?” She gave me an exasperated look. I stuffed another cookie in my mouth and motioned for her to go on. “So, you waltzed and you were confused because he hadn’t come out and said anything definitive, and I guess that is part of what led to the argument at the test run.” I nodded, contemplating. Something she said before came back to me.

 

“Wait, what about this Jason person?”

 

“Oh man.” Rory shook her head, apparently trying to shake the memories around or something. I looked at her, arching an eyebrow. “You were dating Jason Stiles for a few months.” I gagged on my mouthful of cookie, before using my sleeve to cover up my less than graceful manners.

 

“I did what?” She looked at me, an amused expression on her face.

 

“Oh yeah, and you hid it from Grandma and Grandpa the whole time. They were not happy when they found out.” A look came over her face suddenly, and she looked sad. “By the way, Grandma and Grandpa are separated.”

 

“This is way too much to take in all at once,” I sighed. “Let’s just get back to Luke. So we kissed the night of the test run, then he went to Maine, and obviously, we picked up from there?”

 

“Yeah, you went on a date to some tavern that he frequents a lot. He showed you this horoscope that you apparently gave him the first time you met.”

 

“I did? I don’t remember this.”

 

“Yeah, I guess you told him to give you coffee and he wouldn’t, and you wrote on this horoscope something like ‘You will meet an annoying woman, give her coffee and she’ll go away’.”

 

“And he kept it?” I stared at Rory, and she looked back at me. I wished I could remember something, anything. “Are we — Am I happy?” I asked finally.

 

“Yeah,” she said softly, taking a drink of her coffee. “Really, really happy.”

 

—–

 

I watched Rory back out of the driveway in her Prius, both unbelieving that my parents bought her a car and reeling from everything she had just told me. I sighed. We had spent a couple of hours devouring junk food and talking about the last few months. But now I needed to see Luke. I needed to know first hand all of the things that she had told me. It was only 8pm, so I knew the diner would still be open. I put on my boots and coat, grabbed my purse, locked the door, and then walked to the center of town, hands in my pockets, and looking down at my feet.

 

“Lorelai!” I heard a voice call out as I passed by the dance studio.

 

“Hey Patty!” I called out, waving.

 

“How are you doing, darling? Keeping that man of yours happy?” She gave me a bawdy wink. I blushed. Of course the entire town was invested in this relationship. I bet they had practically thrown a party when they found out.

 

“You know it,” I responded, trying to walk faster without seeming like I was trying to get away.

 

“All of the eligible ladies are dying to know details, sweetie, you shouldn’t keep it all to yourself.” Oh no. It was hard to do this playful banter thing when I was preoccupied by whatever was about to happen once I got inside the diner. Instead, I smiled brightly and tapped my forehead.

 

“Sorry, Patty. It’s like Fort Knox in here. No sharing from me.” She smiled back, and I waved her off. “Gotta go, see ya later!” I hurried the last few steps and opened the door. Luke looked up from the counter and smiled.

 

“Hey!” he said. “I wasn’t expecting you so soon.” I slid onto the stool in front of the register.

 

“Yeah, Rory had to get back.” He held up a mug and I smiled, nodding affirmatively. He poured the coffee and then leaned over the counter. I stared blankly for a few seconds, then realized he was expecting me to kiss him. I quickly leaned forward and pecked him on the lips lightly. If he thought it was strange, he didn’t react. I, however, was having a hard time not reacting to the burning sensation lingering where our lips had met. I tried to smile, hoping it didn’t look too much like a grimace.

 

“You girls have fun?” he asked, pushing the mug towards me.

 

“Yeah,” I replied, bringing the mug to my tingling lips, hoping the coffee would soothe some of the intensity, and also trying to buy myself some time. I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. Was I supposed to just play along? I felt like I was the other woman, and Luke was cheating on his girlfriend with me. Except, technically, I was the girlfriend, too. It didn’t seem right to take advantage of him just to sate my curiosity. “Hey, Luke?”

 

He looked up from his receipts, and fixed his gaze on me. “Yeah?”

 

“Can I see the horoscope?” He rolled his eyes. I guess I must have asked him this a time or two before. “Please?” I gave him a sweet, borderline flirty, smile. He reached behind and pulled his wallet from his back pocket.

 

“You need to give it a rest,” he muttered. “It’s not the big deal you are making it out to be.” He handed me the scrap of paper, carefully folded in half. I opened it, barely breathing. There it was, in black and white newsprint — just like the date I saw on this morning’s paper — except my handwriting in blue ink was scrawled over it. I stared at it, hardly believing it, despite seeing it with my own eyes.  “Yeah, yeah,” he continued, not noticing my uncharacteristic silence, “you’re my Ava Gardner, etc.” He held out his hand for me to return it to him. Wordlessly, I handed it over. It hit me then, the full enormity of this situation I had woken up to. Luke’s feelings for me were not something I could brush off. The idea of hurting this man was never appealing — our stupid fight after Rory broke her wrist was proof enough to me how awful that was — so breaking it off was not an option. He then noticed how quiet I was being. “You okay?” he asked, shoving his wallet back into its proper place.

 

I shook my head, trying to get back to some kind of equilibrium. “Fine,” I said, trying to steady my emotions. “Just hungry. Could I have a cheeseburger with onion rings?” Another bright smile. I felt a stab of guilt, both for trying to pretend and for not pretending well enough. He smiled again, that sexy half smile I remembered from earlier in the day.

 

“Glad to see your desire for early death is unabated,” he quipped, then ducked into the kitchen. I began to play with my cup, pushing it back and forth between my hands, when he immediately came out of the kitchen. “Caesar’s back there, and it’s kinda dead. Why don’t you head upstairs? I’ll bring your food up and Caesar can finish closing.” And then my heart began to pound again. Me and Luke, alone in his apartment? Oh no. But I knew I had to say yes. There was no way I could come up with a plausible excuse in a matter of seconds. Words were impossible, so I just smiled and nodded, grabbing my purse, and heading up the stairs.

 

——-

 

I left my purse on the kitchen table, and then dropped myself roughly onto the couch. I figured since I was spending nights here, I probably tended to make myself pretty comfortable, so I grabbed the remote and began channel surfing, if only to get my mind off of what Luke had intended for the evening. I didn’t want to think about what decisions I was going to be up against. How could I refuse him, after he had laid his heart so bare in front of me? And how could I say yes when I hadn’t even considered a real relationship with him until that morning? Not because he was unattractive. No, any red-blooded woman could see that. And he was a good man and a great friend. I hadn’t let myself go there mostly because I didn’t believe he wanted it. Luke wasn’t shy. I figured if he had wanted to date me, he would have taken any of the myriad opportunities that presented themselves to ask me out. I sincerely thought he was annoyed by my constant chatter and repulsed by my taste in food. But all this time, he had been saving that horoscope. And Rory had said we were happy.

 

The TV proved to be a poor distraction, because I was lost in my thoughts when Luke came upstairs, carrying a burger for me and some kind of sandwich for himself. He set the plates down on the coffee table in front of me, then grabbed two beers from the fridge. He handed one to me and I took a big drink. I needed fortifying to get through this, and coffee just wasn’t strong enough. He sat next to me, and gestured toward the TV. “Really? This?”

 

“What?” I asked defensively. “This is quality television!” It was some reality TV contest show, one that I didn’t recognize, so I assumed it was new. Well, new in the past two years that I had been mentally MIA. He gave me his patented Luke Danes exasperated look. Inwardly, I was slightly thrilled. This was the Luke I recognized. Just like hearing Rory’s voice on the phone earlier, it relaxed me. It was familiar and welcome, especially since almost everything else that day had not been. I smiled at him then, probably the first real smile he had seen from me all day. I could tell it was affecting him. He seemed relaxed too, as though he had been nervous about something. Another stab of guilt, and I turned my attention to my burger.

 

We ate in silence, watching the TV. After I ate my last onion ring, I couldn’t hold it in. “Why do you want to be with me?” I blurted out. I cringed immediately, wishing I had more carefully thought through what I wanted to say. I slowly turned my head toward him, and he was just staring at me. I couldn’t read his expression, and I began to worry. So I started babbling, like I always do when I feel out of control. “I mean, I always thought, you know, before, that you were annoyed by me and disgusted by all the junk that I eat, and my incessant talking and pop culture references, and –“

 

“Lorelai!” he said firmly. I shut up, meeting his eyes. His look had softened slightly, and a slight smile played at his lips. I waited, trying to breathe normally, but finding it increasingly difficult as the seconds ticked by. He closed his eyes briefly, and sighed. When he opened them, he set down his plate, and then reached for my hands. His touch caused my breathing to become erratic, but I tried as hard as possible to hide it. It became even harder as his thumbs softly caressed my palms, but I bit my lip in order to stifle any sounds that might burst from my mouth. It felt so unbelievably good for him to touch me like that, and I was having a really hard time not throwing myself at him. But in order to continue on with this, I needed to know. “Is this why you’ve been acting weird all day?” he asked softly, looking at me closely. I couldn’t speak, not while his hands were on mine, so I nodded. He sighed again. “Look, I’m not good at this talking thing,” he began. “So just listen until I finish, okay?” I nodded again. He glanced toward the TV then back to me, while I waited, trying to focus on his forthcoming words and not on the touching.

 

“When I first met you, I wasn’t a very happy person. Rachel was on her way out and the death of my dad was kind of fresh, you know? The diner was just getting off the ground. And then, you burst in, and you were like no one else. At first, yeah, you made me crazy. I hated it when you called me Duke.” I looked down, slightly embarrassed for a moment, suddenly hating how petty I had been. He squeezed my hands and I returned my gaze to his. “But I got to know you better, and I saw more of what made you, you. You were working your way up from nothing, you left a comfortable lifestyle to make your own way for yourself and Rory, and that really made an impression. You were — are — so full of life and joy and I guess you brought some of that to my life.” He cleared his throat, and looked somewhat bashful. Luke, being bashful? I never would have believed it. “So yeah, you make me a little crazy. But I kind of like it.” He shrugged then, and looked at me with a playful leer. “And you look amazing in those tight jeans.” A laugh burst out of me then. It was so strange to hear Luke admit to something like that, but I had to admit, I really liked it, too. He pulled me closer to him then, his arm wrapped around me and the other hand still holding one of mine. “Does that help?”

 

“You have no idea,” I replied, snuggling into him slightly. I felt his fingers in my hair, gently tugging and weaving, like we sat on this couch just like this all the time. And maybe we did. I was so comfortable in that moment, I wanted to live in it forever. Then the tension in the room began to shift, as I felt his breath near my temples. My heartbeat quickened. He pressed his lips to the side of my head, and I knew it was time to make a decision. I looked up at him, and his lips were on mine. After that, all sense of logical reasoning left me.

 

His body turned toward me, one hand on the small of my back pulling me closer, and the other cradling my head, his fingers still twisted into my hair. His tongue gently teased my bottom lip, and, unthinking, I parted my lips in invitation. I felt consumed by his desire, my body throbbing in response to his hands and his tongue. My eyes were closed and I surrendered to him. It wasn’t only raw desire — I could feel genuine adoration in his caress, in the gentle way he was exploring my body and the soft, unhurried manner in which he was kissing me. It was like there was no expectations for more, like he was perfectly happy holding me against him and pressing his lips to mine. I pushed his hat off his head, sweeping my fingers through his hair.

 

“I still can’t believe it sometimes,” he whispered reverently.

 

“What?” I whispered back.

 

“That you’re here. That I get to do this. Be with you. After all this time.” For a moment, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. If I hadn’t already been convinced to keep my faulty memory a secret before, this sealed it. There was no way I could backtrack now.

 

We held each other for a few moments, my hands weaving through his hair and his lips placing soft kisses on my cheek and jaw. “Do you think you can still be you,” I began, not exactly sure where I was going with this, “without your memories?”

 

“Hmm?” he answered, sounding sleepy. I figured I only had a few minutes to make my point before losing him to sleep, so I tried to think fast.

 

“How much of your personality is built on your memories, and how much is just how you are?”

 

“Why do you ask?”

 

“I saw this thing on TV the other day about someone who got clobbered on the head and didn’t remember things,” I fibbed, trying not to sound nervous. “It got me thinking about personality and memory, and how much we are made of our memories. And how it changes the paths our lives take.”

 

“Oh.” We fell into silence again. I began to think he was asleep when he continued, “I think a lot of what happened to me in the past made me how I am now,” he said. “But I’d like to think I’d still end up here, with you.” I smiled. Good answer, I thought. I began to relax, letting sleep overtake me. Then he snorted, and said, “I wish I could forget that whole being married to Nicole thing, though.”  My eyes snapped open and sleep suddenly seemed far away. What?

 

-0-0-0-0-

 

“Hey, Mom! How was talking with Luke?”

 

“Thanks for giving me the heads up that he was married, Rory! That would have been an important tidbit to know!” It was the next morning, and after a quick breakfast and a perfunctory kiss goodbye, I was heading back to my house to get ready for work. I was feeling both buzzed from my new-to-me relationship high and panic from still feeling like there was so much that I just didn’t know.

 

“Oh yeah, he was married, wasn’t he?”

 

“Gah! Rory!”

 

“Sorry, sorry, sorry! I’m going to need to write down some stuff.” I heard rustling on the other end of the line. “But other than that, did everything go okay?”

 

“Yeah, he has no idea. I don’t think. I managed to play it pretty cool.” I paused, unlocking my front door and going inside. “He showed me the horoscope. I can’t believe he was pining for me all those years!”

 

“We tried to tell you, Mom.”

 

“I know, I know.” I dropped my purse on the table by the door and went upstairs. “So I’m heading to the Dragonfly soon. Please tell me Sookie hasn’t changed.”

 

“I don’t think so. She and Jackson are still married. They seem pretty happy.” There was a pause, then, “Oh! Sookie is pregnant again!”

 

“Again?”

 

“Oh, you missed Davey. Their son. He just turned one last November.”

 

“Yikes. What else?”

 

“Um, I don’t know, Mom, I kind of feel put on the spot. Just try to lay low.”

 

“Today is going to be a mess. Maybe I should just tell Sookie I don’t remember anything.”

 

“Do you think that’s wise?”

 

I threw open my closet. I saw lots of things I didn’t recognize. “Wow, I have good taste,” I said, running my hands through a swath of beautiful fabrics.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Looking through my closet now,” I said, bending down to look at my shoes. “Gorgeous!” I breathed, fingering some soft leather boots. The body-snatching theory was losing steam; everything in here was exactly my taste.

 

“Mom! We need to focus on the bigger issues and not your love affair with your clothes. Besides, I have studying I need to get back to.” I dropped the boots and turned around. Laying down on the bed, I closed my eyes and tried to figure out the problem at hand.

 

“Well, I don’t see any way around telling Sookie,” I said. “I’m assuming there are new employees. And I’m going to have no idea what paperwork I was in the middle of; not that Sookie could help me with that. But if I have questions, I don’t see any other option.”

 

“But what if she tells Luke? I mean, you’ve decided to not tell him, right?” I groaned. This situation was getting to be so complicated. Then Rory said the most unlikely thing I would have ever expected. “What about Michel?”

 

“What about him?” I answered suspiciously.

 

“He can be your guide to all things Dragonfly in this strange new world of yours.”

 

“He’ll just tell me to go to the hospital and get an MRI.”

 

“Not a bad idea,” she shot back. I paused.

 

“Do you think I should?” Another bubble of panic started in my stomach. “What if I’m not recreating my own personal Memento but instead I have terminal brain cancer? Oh no!” My breaths started to come out in anxious puffs.

 

“Oh, Mom…” Rory breathed. I could tell the thought hadn’t even crossed her mind that there was actually something wrong with me. Maybe she still thought it was some kind of elaborate prank.

 

“Okay.” I took a deep breath, trying to stave off the panic. “One thing at a time. Although I guess my next day off will be spent at Hartford Memorial Oncology.”

 

“I’ll come with you,” Rory said instantly. “Just tell me when, and I’ll be there.”

 

“Oh, kid.” Tears stung at my eyes, and I felt a surge of love towards my daughter. Not only was she taking the time to talk me off my many ledges, but she was going to hold my hand while I potentially got the worst news of my life. “I’ll let you know,” I replied softly. I cleared my throat. “But let’s tackle that later. I need to solve my Dragonfly problem first.”

 

-0-0-0-

 

I parked the Jeep in the place Rory told me was my usual spot and got out of the car. I was wearing the beautiful leather boots and, underneath my coat, a cute new blazer on top of an older dress. Once again, I was a nervous wreck, but hoped that Rory wasn’t steering me wrong with attempting to bring Michel into this ridiculous mess. I had to admit her reasoning was sound. If anyone would be able to help me with the paperwork, it would be Michel. He would also be painfully honest with me about the true state of things, while Sookie would either try to sugarcoat it or just be blissfully unaware. I hoped he wouldn’t rat me out.

 

Michel was at the front desk when I walked in. “Good morning!” I called cheerfully. He barely looked up from what he was doing.

 

“Morning,” he mumbled, twisting the words around in his thick accent.

 

“Sookie in the kitchen?”

 

“Most likely.”

 

I stopped by the desk and waited until he looked up. When he did, I smiled brightly, in an attempt to cover up my nervousness. “In about ten minutes, would you mind coming into my office? I have a task I need your help with and I think Sookie might be a little too, uh, disorganized, to be much help.” He looked somewhat surprised, but still annoyed, in the way that only Michel can look.

 

“Fine. But after that I’m taking my ten.” I walked past the desk, and found myself in my office. I rustled through some papers, pretending I had intended to go in there, and grabbed a notebook. After I walked past the desk again, I circled around to the hallway. I followed it to the kitchen, and stopped short. I looked around, finally getting a moment to take in everything that we had accomplished without me remembering it. It was breathtaking.

 

“Lorelai!” Sookie chirped, her arms and half of her face dusted with flour. She was kneading some sort of dough and it smelled amazing. “Coffee is ready!”

 

“Great!” I replied, trying to look around discreetly for the coffee machine and cups. Thankfully, it wasn’t difficult to spot, and the cups were stacked on a shelf above it. I poured myself a cup and inhaled deeply. “Everything going well so far this morning?” I asked.

 

“Everything’s dandy!” she said. “I’m just making some bread for the soup course for tonight’s dinner. I was thinking something rich and hearty, especially since it’s supposed to dip below freezing tonight.”

 

“Good thinking,” I said. Despite the unfamiliar setting, I was happy that our rhythm seemed to be unchanged. “I’m going to get some paperwork done in my office, but I’ll be around in a bit.” She waved me off, flour swirling around her in a puff.

 

I made my way back to my office, trying to act like the path I was taking was intentional. I walked around, taking in the decor. Cozy, I thought. Yet another reminder that although I didn’t remember it, I had still been me, with the same tastes. I plopped into my desk chair and tapped my keyboard.

 

“Password?” I groaned. Ugh! I was going to have to start guessing. Just as I was about to start trying a variety of Rory’s and my birth dates, Michel walked in. “Shut the door, please,” I said, forgetting the password conundrum for now.

 

He gave me a look. “Am I about to be canned?” he asked flatly, pushing the door closed.

 

“No! No, not at all,” I said quickly, smiling in a way I hoped was reassuring. “I have a huge problem and I need your help. But it sounds completely ridiculous, and no one else can know about this.” He sat down in the chair on the other side of my desk, folded his hands in his lap, and waited impatiently for me to continue. “Okay, so I’m suffering from some weird sort of memory issues,” I began. Off his raised eyebrow, I took a deep breath and continued. “I don’t know if it’s temporary or what. I’m going to go to a — uh, a specialist, on my next day off. It just started happening yesterday. Now, I don’t want anyone to worry, so besides Rory, you are the only person that knows.” I narrowed my eyes at him, hoping I looked like I meant business. “That means no one else can know, especially not Sookie. Or Luke.”

 

“You are going to be hiding this from flannel man, who you are supposedly dating?”

 

“There’s no supposedly about it, we are dating,” I said firmly. “I just don’t want him to worry until I know what’s going on.” He rolled his eyes.

 

“So what do you need? What can’t you remember? Can you not just keep a date book?”

 

“So here’s the really crazy part.” I paused. Man, I hated this part the most. “I can’t remember the last, uh… the last two…” I shut my eyes then just went for it in a rush. “I can’t remember the last two years.” When I opened them, Michel was indeed looking at me like I was a crazy person. “I’m going to see that specialist soon, just to rule out any medical issues,” I said quickly, “I just need someone to help me get through the day-to-day stuff until then. Stuff like employee’s names and where I keep all of our important papers. And,” I said, glancing at my computer, “maybe my password? If you know it.”

 

“If this is some kind of twisted joke,” he started, when I cut him off.

 

“No! No joke. Very serious. I probably just hit my head or something. I’m sure it will all come back to me soon enough.” He huffed a minute, thinking it over.

 

“Fine,” he said. I started to bounce excitedly in my chair with happiness, but he held up a hand. “But! I have conditions.”

 

“Of course you do,” I sighed. I leaned back in my chair. “Go ahead, hit me with it.”

 

“First, I need a raise.”

 

“Michel! I –“

 

“Hold on, hold on,” he interrupted. “Not a huge one, just a little something extra. It isn’t cheap to look this good, you know.” It was my turn to roll my eyes, but I let him continue. “And I also want more responsibility.” Now, that surprised me. My expression must have conveyed my surprise because he smirked. “I’m not an imbecile, you know. I can handle more work than what you give me.”

 

“But you always seem so resistant to actually doing that work,” I said, slightly flustered.

 

“Because I am bored out of my skull,” he replied slowly, enunciating the syllables carefully.

 

I considered his request for a minute or two. Then I nodded decisively. “Fine. You, me, and Sookie will get together next week after I’ve had time to consider what responsibilities I can shift over to you. This might be good,” I mused. “I mean, I have no idea what the workload has been like, but if it’s anything like the Independence, maybe this will free me up to other things that can help the Dragonfly.”

 

“Can I take my break now?”

 

“Help me figure out this password and then I’ll cover you at the desk,” I countered.

 

-0-0-0-

 

“Inde — uh, Dragonfly Inn, Lorelai speaking.”

 

“Hey,” said a gruff voice. I would recognize that voice anywhere.

 

“Luke! Hi!” I felt a flush of pleasure that he called me. The friendship I remembered didn’t involve a lot of phone calls, so this was another new and different side to him that I was learning about.

 

“When do you finish up tonight?”

 

I checked my watch. “I can probably leave whenever Michel gets back from his dinner break. He wants more responsibility, so he can handle the desk until the night manager gets here.”

 

“Michel wants more responsibility?”

 

“I know, huh? Maybe he’s been body-snatched, t–” I winced when I almost finished my sentence with “too”. I was going to have to more vigilant about potential slip ups. Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice.

 

“I thought maybe we could do something.”

 

“Ooh, like what?”

 

“How do you feel about roller skating?”  My eyes widened and I almost dropped the phone.

 

“Uh, I’m for it, but I’m trying to scrape my jaw off the floor from you suggesting it.”

 

“Well, I was just passing by this place in Litchfield that also plays terrible 80s movies on screens and it seemed like something you might enjoy.”

 

“Oh, really? Interesting concept.”

 

“Hang on, let me check the hours.” I heard something that sounded like a turn signal. “Looks like they are open until 10pm during the week, so we should have plenty of time.”

 

“Wait, where are you?”

 

“I just told you, in Litchfield.” Suddenly it dawned on me.

 

“You have a cell phone,” I said dumbly.

 

“Yes, I do,” he replied warily. Luke Danes with a cell phone. Well, that was yet another sure sign that the apocalypse was nigh. I tried to change the subject.

 

“So what time are you picking me up?”

 

“6:30 work for you?”

 

“I’ll be ready to embarrass myself with my unathletic clumsiness!” He chuckled.

 

After we hung up, I felt a slight thrill. I had a date with Luke! I knew that it wasn’t actually our first date, but it was the first date that I was aware of. I felt giddy with happiness, and knew only one way to celebrate — with a cup of coffee. After making sure we weren’t expecting any check-ins, I ducked into the kitchen.

 

As I poured myself a cup, I realized Sookie was staring at me. “What?” I asked, suddenly self-conscious.

 

“You look happy,” she observed.

 

“I have a date with Luke tonight,” I said, smiling broadly. “Believe it or not, he’s taking me roller skating.”

 

“Luke? Roller skating?” Her eyebrows couldn’t get any closer to her hairline, she looked so surprised.

 

“I know! I was surprised, too!” I leaned forward onto the island, grasping my warm mug between my hands, no doubt a dreamy smile on my face.

 

“You look like you are still recovering from last night,” she said pointedly. I felt a blush creep up my neck.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“All day long, you’ve had that look.”

 

“What look?”

 

“That same look you had right after he came back from Maine. Dreamy, far away, and distracted. Rainbows and puppies.” Sookie turned back to the stove and stirred something. I shrugged.

 

“I don’t know, it’s still pretty new. And Luke is pretty amazing. We had a really great talk last night.”

 

“Talk? So that’s what the kids are calling it these days.” She gave me a knowing look over her shoulder.

 

“Sookie!” I blushed again, this time feeling my cheeks burn. “It’s not just that, you know.”

 

“One of these days you’ll have to give me more than the PG details. I’ll crack you yet.” I was both relieved and disappointed that I hadn’t been sharing all the details with Sookie. Relieved because it would be weird for her to have more knowledge of my personal life than I did, but also disappointing because that meant that it was only between me and Luke, and I definitely couldn’t ask him to fill me in.

 

“Luke’s a private person,” I said, hoping my tone sounded apologetic. “I’m trying to respect that.”

 

Michel poked his head into the kitchen to announce his return from dinner. I said a quick goodbye to Sookie and happily walked to my Jeep. I had some primping to do.

 

-0-0-0-

 

I leaned my head back against the edge of the bathtub, raising my leg and watching the bubbles slip back into the water. I replayed the last day and a half in my head. It was pretty amazing how easily I had slipped into this role as the girlfriend of Luke Danes. We had always fit into each others’ lives pretty well, but I had tried not to imagine how much more we could be. Even aside from how I thought he was more annoyed than enamored by me, taking that next step from friendship to more than friends was terrifying. I hadn’t wanted to lose that friendship. But now, after that amazing night, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. Luke in a relationship was still Luke — gruff, yet caring; surly, yet sweet — but dialed up to 11. He was also tender, loving, and unbelievably attractive. I woke up that morning to sweet kisses at my temple, with his voice whispering in my ear that he had to get up to open the diner, but he would see me for breakfast, and to go back to sleep. I had melted into a puddle of sappy goo. Just the memories alone were having an effect on me.

 

I glanced at the wall clock and then rinsed off. I had 45 minutes to pick the perfect roller skating date outfit. I settled on a flared denim skirt and long sleeved v-neck tee shirt, with some cute Converse sneakers. I was just applying the last of my makeup when I heard his voice from downstairs. At first, I was a little surprised that he didn’t knock. Luke always knocked. Shaking my head slightly, I tried to remember that we had been dating for 4 months now, and he was probably getting to be much more comfortable.

 

I came down the stairs after grabbing my purse, and saw him standing in the living room. “You really should lock your door,” he said in greeting.

 

“Good evening to you, too,” I quipped.

 

“I’m serious,” he said.

 

“Well, wouldn’t you rather come right in rather than wait for me to open the door?”

 

“I can use my key,” he said dryly. I stared at him a moment too long, and that concerned look flitted across his face again. “Something wrong?” he asked. I pressed my hand to my forehead, made an excuse about forgetting if I left my curling iron on, and hurried upstairs.

 

I walked into the bathroom, and looked at myself in the mirror. Stay cool, Gilmore. I squared my shoulders and nodded at my reflection. I needed to keep it together. I was probably going to have random tidbits thrown at me often in the coming days, so I needed to practice my poker face and roll with the punches. When I made it back downstairs, I smiled happily at Luke and asked, “Ready?”

 

“You bet,” he replied, smiling back, as I shrugged into my coat. Outside, he ushered me to the passenger side of the truck and opened the door for me. I couldn’t help but blush at his gentlemanly behavior. I was learning so much about Luke. As he started the car, he glanced at me quickly. “I’m not going to ask if you’ve eaten because I assume that even if you have, you’ll still be hungry.”

 

“You’d guess right,” I said cheerfully. “Are we stopping on the way?”

 

“Nah,” he said, shaking his head. “There’s plenty of crap food at this place.”

 

“Now you’re speaking my language!” He chuckled, pulling the truck out of the driveway and on our way.

 

-0-0-0-0-

 

“Well, that was a lot of fun,” I giggled, as Luke walked me back up to my door. The breeze was crisp and cold, and I hugged my coat tightly against myself. He reached over and pulled me to him, giving me a lingering kiss.

 

“I’m glad you had a good time,” he said in a low voice. We stood facing each other on my front porch, grinning at each other.

 

“Do you — do you want to come in?” I asked. I felt a little unsure about it, despite having already slept together. It still seemed weird to invite a man into my home.

 

“I have an early bank meeting in Woodbridge tomorrow,” he said, looking disappointed.

 

“What time is it? I should get up early tomorrow, too.” I didn’t want him to go. I wanted those arms around me all night, every night. He looked pensive as he mulled it over.

 

“It’s at 8:30. I guess I could stay…” I didn’t give him a chance to change his mind. I unlocked the door and pulled him inside. He couldn’t help but laugh a little at my eagerness. Once the door was closed, I flung my arms around his neck and tugged him closer for a kiss.

 

“As much as I would like to continue this,” he said between kisses, “I should probably get some sleep.”

 

“Mmm,” I mumbled, our lips still connected in a slow, languid dance. He gave one final kiss, then gently pushed me back. His forehead rested against mine.

 

“Sleep now,” he whispered. “We’ll pick this up tomorrow.”

 

“I have Friday Night Dinner tomorrow,” I reminded him.

 

“I’ll be waiting here with pie,” he promised.

 

My eyes lit up. “Pie! Why didn’t you say so?” I grinned flirtatiously. I turned toward the stairs, sashaying a little as I went up. “I’m gonna jump in the shower first,” I said as we entered the bedroom. He nodded, stopping at the dresser. I guess he had his own drawer at my place, too. So weird. I stepped into the bathroom, and closed the door.

 

I finished dressing and then flicked on my bedside lamp before turning out the overhead lights. We both climbed into bed. I reached behind me to turn off the light. As the room fell into darkness, I snuggled closer to him and he wrapped an arm around me. I breathed in the smell of him, enjoying the moment. He kissed my temple tenderly. I smiled to myself, feeling even more safe, wrapped in his arms. I listened to the sound of his breathing gradually grow deeper, lulling me into a deep and restful sleep.

 

When I woke up, I moved to my side and watched Luke, still sleeping soundly. I knew it was still early because the room was in the shadowy light before the sun is above the horizon. As right as it felt for Luke and I to be more than friends, it was still a little strange to have a man in my room. He looked so peaceful and relaxed as he slept. While I watched him, my mind began ticking through the list of to-dos for the day. I needed to call some kind of medical professional to get myself checked out, which I was dreading. Michel and I had stuff to go over today for some event that he had mentioned yesterday. And then, tonight, was the big one: Friday Night Dinner. I assumed nothing much had really changed there, despite the separation. My parents didn’t change. Rory and I hadn’t gotten into too much of the details about why since I was trying to focus on one part of my life at a time, so I hoped that I could get through it without alerting my mother to any problems.

 

While I was considering that, Luke’s eyes blinked open, and he smiled sleepily. He reached his arms around me and pulled me to him, and I snuggled into his chest. “Morning,” he said gruffly. “Been awake long?”

 

“Just a few minutes,” I replied. “Thinking about how much I don’t want to go to dinner tonight.”

 

“You’ll get to see Rory,” he reminded me.

 

“She is the silver lining.” I looked up at him. “Were you serious about the pie?”

 

-0-0-0-

 

I practically skipped into the kitchen of the Dragonfly later that morning. It was hard to play it cool when I was so ridiculously happy. Sookie was eyeing me with an amused look.

 

“Good date?” she asked. I watched her move around the kitchen, weaving around the rest of the staff in a practiced dance.

 

“Great date,” I confirmed, grinning like an idiot. “I don’t know why I was so surprised, but he can skate pretty well.”

 

“He used to play hockey so I’m not surprised.” She poured me a cup of coffee and pushed it across the island toward me. “Hungry?” she asked and I nodded.

 

“How do you know that?” I asked. I knew that Sookie and Luke had known each other when they were teens but only as acquaintances; plus, there was a slight age difference.

 

“I had a crush on one of the guys that he used to play with,” Sookie explained, plating a flaky looking pastry and setting it next to my cup.

 

“Mmm,” I hummed after taking a bite. “Well, he held his own. Although, I think he enjoyed testing my movie knowledge the best.” After taking a big gulp of the coffee to wash down my breakfast, I continued, “This roller skating place has these huge screens mounted on the walls. I guess most of the time they just play music videos but this week is their ‘Tribute to the 80s’ or something, so they played clips from famous 80s movies. He kept asking me to name the movie.” I started to laugh. “They showed a clip from Porky’s and I thought he was going to die from embarrassment right there. You know, for someone so free in the –” I stopped abruptly. Sookie looked at me with a wicked grin.

 

“Free in the where, Lorelai?” she asked, her face lit up gleefully.

 

I tried to backpedal. “Uh, in the kitchen. You know. The man just refuses to use a recipe! Always needs to improvise!”

 

Sookie rolled her eyes. “I guess he was showing you his kitchen skills last night.” She pointed a vegetable peeler at me, an eyebrow raised suggestively. “You’re glowing.”

 

I blushed. “And this morning,” I confessed. Sookie giggled. I cleared my throat. “I wanted to run something by you,” I said, changing the subject before I got myself in deeper. “Michel recently suggested that we give him more responsibilities. After I was revived with smelling salts, I decided to talk it over with you and see what you think.”

 

Sookie paused in the middle of what she was doing. “But Michel hates to work,” she said, puzzled.

 

“That’s what I said!” I laughed. “He says he’s bored. He wants to be challenged.” Sookie resumed her prep work, dumping her vegetables in a metal bowl, which her sous chef — Manuel? Manny? — artfully grabbed as he walked by.

 

“Well, give him a challenge,” she said, shrugging.

 

“He also wants a slight pay increase,” I added, watching her reaction. She was shaking her head before I even finished the sentence.

 

“And the shoe drops,” she sighed. “Whatever, let him prove his mettle and we’ll figure something out.”

 

“Thanks, Sook,” I said, smiling.

 

“No, thank you,” she giggled. “I’m going to be musing on your description of Luke’s kitchen skills all day!”

 

-0-0-0-

 

Michel and I finished up the planning for the Meyers’ wedding anniversary party fairly quickly. Books with sample linens and photos of centerpieces were spread over my desk, and I began closing them and arranging them into piles in preparation to be stored once again. Michel slid the completed order forms into a file folder, then pulled something out of his jacket pocket.

 

“We received a call for an 80th birthday party,” he said, looking over the piece of paper. “It is in two weeks. Should we start planning that one, as well?” I looked at him for a moment, mulling over what I was about to say.

 

“Why don’t you spearhead this one?” I suggested. “It could be a trial run for you maybe taking over all the events. If the event planning gets to be too much, we can either split it evenly between us or hire another desk manager. What do you say?”

 

“I say let me get started,” he said, trying to hide his smile. He left the room, already musing aloud about what type of flowers the guest of honor would like.

 

After Michel was gone, I closed the door quietly and started typing into the search engine on my computer screen. I started with the phrase ‘memory loss’, since that was what I had, but quickly realized that wasn’t exactly the problem. I could remember everything just fine, except for the two years between January 5, 2003 and January 5, 2005. So I typed amnesia, even though it sounded too much like a plot for a bad Lifetime movie.

 

“Retrograde amnesia,” I murmured, my eyes flicking over pages of text. An advertisement popped up on my screen for a neurologist that specialized in memory disorders based in Hartford. “Perfect.” I dialed the number, listening to the ringing on the other line apprehensively.

 

“Dr. Finley’s office,” the woman answered in a bored tone.

 

“Hi, I’m interested in making an appointment with Dr. Finley at his earliest possible availability.” I heard fingers tapping on a keyboard.

 

“New or established patient?”

 

“New.”

 

“Reason for being seen?”

 

“I recently experienced some unexplained memory loss consisting of a large chunk of time.”

 

“How large?”

 

“Several days.” I paused. “Actually, I’ll be honest. Two years.”

 

“Two years?” the woman exclaimed, her tone bordering on shrill.

 

“Yes,” I replied through gritted teeth.

 

“Oh, well that’s… different,” she said. I heard more clacking. “Dr. Finley has a cancellation Monday morning at 9. He can fit you in then. I would eat a very light breakfast. I imagine he will be ordering some lab tests.”

 

“Of course,” I replied. She transferred me to a nurse to take down a medical history after giving me directions to the doctor’s office. I answered the best I could, despite having a complete blank on anything recent.

 

After I hung up, I took a few moments to breathe deeply before dialing Rory. I informed her of the appointment time and location, and she promised to meet me.

 

“See you at dinner tonight,” she said before we hung up.

 

“Yes, you will,” I replied grimly.

 

-0-0-0-

 

“So, Rory, how is Mr. Huntzberger doing?” My eyes snapped up, looking at Rory. She had the decency to look embarrassed as she met my gaze across the table.

 

“I don’t really know,” she mumbled. “I haven’t seen him since before winter break.”

 

“Well, you really should keep in touch,” my mother continued. “Don’t forget what an excellent contact he could be for you! And he’s very handsome,” she added, spearing a bite of her salad. I was fighting an internal battle with myself to ask a multitude of questions, not knowing if I knew about this guy or not.

 

“Logan is just a friend,” Rory said firmly, her voice gaining some strength. “We work together on the paper and we’re pleasant to each other, and that’s it.”

 

“If you say so,” my mother said in a sing-song voice. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. “What’s the matter, Lorelai, don’t you think Logan Huntzberger is a fine young man?”

 

“Have I even met him?” I asked, not really directing my question to anyone in particular.

 

“You haven’t,” Rory said quickly.

 

“Well, then I guess I have no opinion.” I busied myself in my salad. The evening had been just as insufferable as I had imagined it would be. After stilted and awkward pre-dinner drinks in the pool house with my father, we were now having stilted and awkward dinner with my mother. Although the drinks portion hadn’t resulted in an inquisition of our respective love lives.

 

“It’s not too soon to get back out there, Rory,” my mother went on, seemingly oblivious to how tense the atmosphere in the room had become. “I know that Dean didn’t work out — again — but there’s no need to become a nun. Find a nice Yale boy, someone who can keep up with you.”

 

“Dean,” I stated, staring across the table, willing Rory to look up. She was now inordinately interested in her dinner. “How long has that been over, again?”

 

“Two months,” she replied, still absorbed in her food. I took a large drink from my wine glass. No wonder Dean wouldn’t look me in the eye at Doose’s the other day.

 

My mother was still unaware of the tension between us. She turned to me. “And how is your diner owner?” she asked, with more than a hint of disdain.

 

Luke is great, Mom,” I said, willing the evening to end. I could tell from her expression that she was not impressed with the fact that Luke and I were together. I knew she could be condescending and snobbish, and I cringed inwardly thinking about what would happen if he came for one of these dinners. No doubt she would passively aggressively humiliate him at every turn. I started trying to visualize the pie that had been promised in order to ward off the bad vibes I was getting from the head of the table.

 

“Well, that’s wonderful,” she replied, in a tone that meant it was anything but.

 

“Oh, Rory,” I said suddenly, remembering my date the night before. “You’ll never guess where Luke took me on our date last night.”

 

“Where?” she asked. She looked relieved for the subject change.

 

“To a roller skating rink,” I said, eagerly anticipating her answer.

 

“Luke? Luke roller skated?” she asked in disbelief. I nodded emphatically.

 

“He wasn’t super jazzed about it, but he did. He refused to touch my nachos though.”

 

“Well, at least some things don’t change.”

 

My mother looked back and forth at us as if watching a tennis tournament. “He took you roller skating?” she asked, her lip almost curling in disgust.

 

“Yeah,” I said, setting down my fork beside my plate. “It was fun.”

 

“The things that amuse you two,” she muttered. She leaned back in her chair, head turned toward the kitchen. “Patricia! We’re ready for the next course!” She wiped the corner of her mouth with a napkin. “Honestly, I don’t understand the difficulty in having the meal served in a timely manner.” Rory and I shared an amused look as the harried maid quickly rushed into the room with warm plates of braised lamb.

 

-0-0-0-

 

After we were finally ushered into the cold night, I grabbed Rory’s arm. “Dean?”

 

“Dean,” she sighed.

 

“Spill.”

 

“Well, I hadn’t been seeing anyone for awhile, and Dean and I were talking again, and…”

 

“And?” She rolled her eyes, and looked away, and I could tell she really didn’t want to tell me the story. “Out with it,” I demanded.

 

“He was in a relationship with another girl, and we, uh — kissed — the night of the test run.”

 

“Oh, Rory,” I said.

 

“I know, I know, it was really bad.” The words burst out of her in a rush. “And she found out and it was awful and we decided to try it anyway, but he just couldn’t do the long distance and he saw me with Logan and got the wrong idea. He just bailed. And I realized that things between us would never be the same again, so I just let him go.”

 

“And this Logan guy, there’s nothing going on there?”

 

She kicked the ground with her feet, still looking down. “There is an attraction there, I won’t lie. But I’m not his type.”

 

“What type are you?”

 

“The relationship type.”

 

“Ah, a rich playboy,” I said knowingly. “Knew a lot of those guys growing up. And apparently he runs in the same social circles as the Gilmores.”

 

“Yep,” she said. She finally looked up, and I noticed a strange look on her face.

 

“So that’s it, with you and Dean? Nothing else happened?”

 

“No, that’s it.”

 

I nodded. “Okay, well, I guess I’ll see you on Monday.”

 

“Yep, see you on Monday.” We hugged, and went to our respective cars. She pulled out of the driveway first, while I sat in the Jeep waiting for the heater to warm a little. I had this nagging feeling like there was more to the story, either with Logan or with Dean, but I decided not to pursue it right now. Besides, I had Luke and pie to get home to. With a smile, I put the Jeep in drive and started for home.

 

-0-0-0-

 

I could see the light of the TV through the front window when I pulled up to the house. I felt lighter just knowing that I was about to see Luke after being harangued by my mother for two hours. He looked up after I stepped inside the front door. I hung up my coat and scarf, and went into the living room.

 

“Whatcha watching?” I asked, propping my head with my arm, leaning my back against the armrest.

 

“Sports Center,” he replied.

 

“Who’s winning?” I joked. He rolled his eyes.

 

“Pie’s on the kitchen table,” he said, not looking away from the TV.

 

I got up from the couch and walked over to the kitchen. Just as he said, the pie was on the table, a layer of plastic wrap loosely draped over it. I lifted the covering and inhaled. Boysenberry, of course. “Perfect, perfect man,” I murmured. I carried the pie upstairs while he shut off the TV and locked the door. I snuggled into him with my pie, offering him a bite with the fork, which he declined.

 

I looked at him sprawled on my bed and my appetite for pie vanished. I set it on the bedside table, brushing the crumbs off the covers. I scooted down to lay next to him, and he wrapped his arm around me. “We’re so good at this,” I whispered.

 

“Good at what?” he asked, lazily stroking my arm with his finger tips.

 

“Being together.”

 

“Hrmm,” he murmured in agreement, brushing his lips against my hair. “Didn’t think we would be?”

 

“I tried not to think about it.”

 

“Me neither,” he admitted. His arms went around me, holding me tightly.

 

When I woke up some time later, Luke was snoring and the bedside lamp was still on. I eased myself off of him carefully, and went to the bathroom. I quickly washed the makeup off my face and brushed my teeth. When I came back to the bedroom, he hadn’t even shifted. I stared at him, watching as his chest went up and down with each deep breath. He was beautiful. The blankets were shoved to the end of the bed and I took the time to admire him, muscled legs and chest, strong arms and long fingers. His hair was a little on the longish side, curling in the back. He had a few days’ accumulation of stubble, giving him a rugged look. I couldn’t really name what I was feeling. There was an ache in my chest that I couldn’t describe. I stood there, staring at his sleeping body for what felt like hours but was only minutes.

 

Eventually, I shook my head, clearing my tumbling thoughts. The air was cold and I had a slight shiver. I switched off the lamp and got back in bed, snuggling into his warm body.

 

-0-0-0-

 

The next morning, I woke alone in the bed. I rubbed my eyes groggily, looking around. His watch and wallet were still on the bedside table, so I assumed he was still here. I was wrapping the blanket around myself when I heard footsteps on the stairs and smelled the spicy aroma of coffee.

 

Luke stepped inside, a steaming mug in his hand. He had put on his sweatpants, evidently too shy to wander my house naked. “Morning,” he said, handing me the cup. I took it with both hands, inhaling deeply before taking that first delicious sip.

 

“Morning,” I replied, my voice still hoarse from sleep. He kissed my forehead and sat on the edge of the bed.

 

“I have to get to the diner,” he said, brushing some hair behind my ear. “Caesar needed tonight off so it’s just me and Lane.” Lane worked at the diner?

 

“How is Lane?” I asked.

 

He shrugged. “Things with her mom aren’t so great. She’s still not happy about the living arrangement.” I nodded, pretending I had a single clue what he was talking about. “Will you come by the diner after closing?”

 

I nodded, taking another drink from my mug. “Sure, I’ll be there. I might check in at the inn later.”

 

“Are you off tomorrow?” he asked, getting up and sorting through his discarded clothes on the floor.

 

“No, I switched my day off for Monday. Got errands to run,” I said. I watched as he dressed in yesterday’s clothes, wrapping his watch around his wrist and stuffing his wallet in his pocket.

 

“I’ll see you tonight,” he said, bending down for a kiss.

 

“Tonight,” I repeated, watching him leave the room. I listened until I heard him close the front door, then leaned back against my pillows. I couldn’t get my thoughts away from how I had been feeling the night before. Being here without him was leaving me feeling empty, and I didn’t understand why.

 

The phone rang downstairs, jolting me from my thoughts. I set the half empty mug on the bedside table and went downstairs, grabbing my robe and throwing it around my body as I descended the stairs. “Hello?” I said breathlessly.

 

“Hey sleepyhead!” chirped Sookie. “Did you forget we were going shopping today?”

 

“No, of course not,” I lied. “I’ll be ready in ten minutes.”

 

-0-0-0-

 

Several hours later, Sookie and I each had dozens of shopping bags, filled to bursting with maternity and baby items. She collapsed on a bench outside the store we had just come out of, excitedly chattering about something, but I was still thinking about the strange feelings I was experiencing.

 

“Lorelai?” I heard her say. I snapped my focus to my friend.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Are you okay? You’ve been pretty quiet all day.”

 

I sighed. “I’ve just been thinking, you know, about my relationship with Luke.”

 

A funny look crossed over her face. “Thinking what?” she asked, her tone sounding sharp. I recognized the tone and where the conversation was headed.

 

“No!” I said emphatically. “No! This is not what you’re thinking.” I shook my head. “This is not the get away dance!” She narrowed her eyes. “No,” I repeated firmly.

 

“So what is it, then?” she asked. “Please don’t hurt Luke, he loves you. You know he does.”

 

“Okay, see, that’s part of it,” I said, twisting the handle of the bag I was holding in my hand. “He’s been so patient with me, especially with that whole… part.”

 

“I’m lost,” she said, pulling the bag out my hands before I could damage it any further.

 

“We haven’t said ‘I love you’,” I said. “At least, I don’t think.”

 

“You don’t think?”

 

“I know,” I said quickly. He would have said it at least once in the last several days if that’s something we said, right? “I mean, he’s made it clear that he feels deeply. We just haven’t said those exact words.”

 

“So, what are you getting at?” she asked.

 

I stared at my hands, clasped in my lap. “I think I do. Love him, I mean.”

 

Sookie clapped excitedly, garnering a few strange looks from other shoppers who were walking by. “Oh, this is so great! Lorelai!” She grabbed my hands and bounced, grinning from ear to ear. “So are you going to tell him tonight?”

 

“Don’t you think it’s too soon?” I asked nervously.

 

“Soon? Oh sweetie, I’ve been waiting for this for years! And so has he! You need to tell him. He’ll be overjoyed.”

 

“You think so?”

 

“Oh, I know so. I’ve told you before, you can see it all over his face. It’s been there. It’s even more obvious now. He is crazy about you. The only reason he hasn’t said anything is probably because he’s waiting for you to say it first.” She smiled encouragingly.

 

Sookie and I sat on the bench, watching people pass by. I went back to my thoughts. It seemed impossible to be in love with him after only being aware of our relationship and his feelings for me since Wednesday. Only 3 full days! But I didn’t know how else to categorize my feelings.

 

Sookie jumped up abruptly. “We need the perfect ‘I love you’ seduction outfit for you!” she squealed, grabbing her bags and pulling me up with her. I let her lead me, trying to push my confusion aside to enjoy this time with my friend.

 

-0-0-0-

 

I walked into the diner after dropping off Sookie at her house that evening. My brain was overloaded with everything that we had discussed. Luke walked into the dining area from the store room.

 

“Hey,” he called, dropping a box onto the counter.

 

“Hey,” I replied tiredly.

 

“How was your day?” he asked, opening the box and taking out sugar packets. I slumped onto a stool and set my meager two shopping bags on the counter.

 

“Sookie decided she needed to buy every pregnancy and baby related thing in the mall,” I groaned. “I’m wiped.”

 

He smiled. “You hungry?”

 

“Nah, just tired,” I said. “We ate not that long ago.” He set aside the box, and came over to where I was perched.

 

“If you want to stay, you can go on upstairs,” he suggested quietly, out of earshot of the few stragglers still finishing their meals.

 

“Okay,” I said easily. I stood, grabbing my bags and purse, and gave him a quick kiss before slipping past the curtain and going up to the apartment.

 

Looking around the quiet apartment, only lit by a lamp near the couch, I noticed the flannel shirt I had woken up in that fateful morning. Quietly, I undressed and slipped it on, then snuggled deep under the covers. Between the heavy conversation that Sookie and I had had and the physical effort of chasing her around the mall, I couldn’t keep myself awake. I stirred when I felt Luke climb into bed, wrapping an arm around my waist and kissing my hair. Moments later, I was sound asleep again. Any declarations of love would have to wait.

 

-0-0-0-

 

Later the next day, the cold afternoon air swirled around me, as I shut the door of the Jeep and started walking toward the house, anxious to get out of my dressy work clothes and into something warmer and more comfortable. I sniffed the air appreciatively. No snow yet, I thought.

 

“Hey, sugah!” I heard Babette’s husky voice call out. She was curled up with a mug and a heavy blanket on her front porch.

 

“A little cold to be sitting outside!” I called back.

 

“Morey’s coming back from his gig in New York today,” she replied. I walked closer to her, pulling my coat tight. “He’s due back any minute, and I wanted to see him the second he got back.”

 

“That’s sweet,” I said, smiling.

 

“We’re going to the Carnival after. Are ya going?” Ooh, a carnival. I loved those! I wondered if I was able to drag Luke to one of those now that we were together.

 

“Of course! I’m going to change into something warmer and go check in with Luke. He’s off today, but I bet he’s working anyway.”

 

“Been spending an awful lot of nights together lately, huh? Honeymoon period ain’t over yet!” I looked away, embarrassed. “Aw, it’s okay, sugah. You two are so good together. You both seem so happy.”

 

“We are, Babette,” I replied cheerfully, “We really are.”

 

After I said goodbye to Babette, I quickly went upstairs, pulling a warm sweater and corduroy pants on. Spying the beautiful leather boots again, I pulled them on and headed out the door. I waved at Babette again as I made my way toward the Carnival. I walked through the town square, peeking into all the different booths on my way to the diner.

 

“You!” I heard a hoarse voice call out. My head whipped around. I saw an older woman, hunched over a table. Madam Zrak, read the sign overhead. She had tarot cards spread out over her table, and she was staring at me. Or, right through me. Her gaze was more chilling than the wind.

 

“Me?” I asked, pointing to my chest. Her eyes narrowed.

 

“You’re not supposed to be here,” she snarled. My eyes widened and my heart began to pound.

 

“What?” I gasped. Before she could respond, I felt a strong arm around my waist.

 

“Thought I’d find you here,” Luke said, giving me a quick one-armed hug. He pulled away and looked over Madam Crankypants’ booth. “Taylor went all out this year,” he observed. I pulled Luke away from the woman’s piercing stare.

 

“Yeah, this lady is really committed to the whole fortune teller mystique,” I quipped. “Let’s get something to warm me up.” He gave me an amused look and I gave him a playful shove. “I meant hot cocoa,” I teased. He chuckled, and led me toward the booth in question.

 

-0-0-0-

 

Several hours and many snacks later, Luke walked me to my door, and gave me a kiss. “I can’t stay tonight,” he said regretfully, preempting any requests.

 

“Yeah, I have a doctor’s appointment in Hartford tomorrow,” I agreed.

 

“An appointment?”

 

“Yeah,” I waved my hand nonchalantly. “Just a routine visit, no big deal.” He nodded. “Hey, Luke?”

 

“Mm?”

 

My conversation with Babette had been playing in the back of my mind all night, and the question nagged at me. “Do we spend too many nights together?” Surprise colored his face.

 

“Do you think we spend too many nights together?” he asked, his brows knitting together.

 

“No, I love it,” I assured him. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay with it. I mean, you are pretty used to being on your own.”

 

“Trust me,” he replied, pulling me in for a hug. “Being with you is preferable to being alone.”

 

“Good,” I smiled up at him, and we kissed softly. “Goodnight,” I said, grinning, as he backed away.

 

“Goodnight,” he replied. He held up his hand in a half wave, and walked to his truck. I waited until he got inside the cab, then opened my door and went inside, still smiling to myself. Suddenly, the memory of the creepy tarot card woman came back to me. I dropped my purse and shed my coat, then reached for the phone.

 

“Rory? Wait until you hear what happened to me tonight!”

 

“This sounds interesting.”

 

“I went to the Winter Carnival after work today, and I was just going along, checking out the booths, minding my own business, and then this really bizarre tarot card lady practically cursed me out!”

 

“Cursed you out? What did she say?”

 

I sat down on the couch, holding the phone between my shoulder and ear as I examined my cuticles absently. “I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it sounded like I don’t belong here or I’m not supposed to be here, or something like that.”

 

“That’s weird.”

 

“I know! I’m actually kind of curious about what she meant. Maybe I should go see her again. Maybe it will be the missing piece to this whole farce.

 

“You can’t be serious.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Let’s see what the doctor says tomorrow, first.”

 

“Always the sensible one,” I sighed. “Okay, I guess I should get to bed.”

 

“See you tomorrow, Mom,” Rory said, laughing. We hung up, and I went up the stairs to my room. I slipped into my pajamas and crawled under the covers. I could still smell Luke on the pillowcase. I curled up with it, and fell asleep still tasting his kiss on my lips.

 

-0-0-0-

 

Rory was waiting me for outside the entrance of Hartford Memorial’s neurology wing. At my approach, she tipped her coffee back for a last big gulp, then tossed the paper cup in a nearby trash can.

 

“Here we are,” I said grimly.

 

“Here we are,” she agreed. We both stood outside the doors in silence. By unspoken agreement, we started forward. The automatic doors whooshed open and our shoes clicked against the linoleum as we walked down the hallway. We stopped inside an archway, where I scribbled my name down on the sign-in sheet by the receptionist, and then followed Rory to some chairs. She flipped through a magazine while I stared at my hands clasped in my lap. I felt like time had stopped, and my heart was pounding wildly. All the worst case scenarios were running through my head. Brain cancer, Alzheimer’s, some unknown tropical forest brain eating disease — anything I could think of.

 

“Lorelai Gilmore?” My head snapped up, and I saw a short woman in nurse’s scrubs with her hair pulled back in a messy bun looking around the room expectantly. I shouldered my purse and Rory and I walked toward her. She whisked us behind the heavy door and motioned for us to sit down in the exam room. She proceeded to take vitals and ask questions, which I answered the best I could despite feeling overwhelmed and fuzzy with anxiety. Rory chipped in whenever she could. I reached over and grabbed her hand tightly, and she gave me a small smile. The nurse looked down at her clipboard and nodded briskly. “Okay, I think Dr. Finley is going to want us to do some routine tests, just to get a bigger picture. I’ll have a tech come by to get you shortly.” She swept out of the door, closing it firmly behind her.

 

“How are you doing?” Rory asked softly.

 

I sighed. “I hate this, but we need to know if something is really wrong.”

 

“Yeah,” she whispered. I squeezed the hand I was still holding, and she squeezed back.

 

-0-0-0-

 

After so many tests and questions that I lost count, we were finally ushered into the office of Dr. Andrew Finley. He seemed friendly enough, a wide smile on his face and wearing a pressed but unpretentious suit. Rory and I sat in the plush leather chairs across from him, and waited.

 

“So, I just got to look over all of your tests, and you should feel very relieved.” There was an audible whoosh of breath from both me and Rory, and we looked at each other with relieved smiles. “But,” he continued, and our faces fell, “I still can’t account for the strange memory loss that you are experiencing. My advice would be to see a psychologist. Perhaps your life has just been very stressful lately?”

 

I considered that. “It’s definitely possible,” I mused. “I just started a new business, a new relationship, and my parents are separated. Plus my pride and joy,” I grinned over at Rory, “started college.”

 

“That was over a year ago,” she reminded me.

 

“The stress may have compounded over time,” Dr. Finley said agreeably. He scribbled down a phone number on a post-it note from his desk. “My colleague, Dr. Bates, may be helpful in your situation. She frequently deals with family counseling and drug related issues, but that isn’t so different from stress-related memory loss.” I must have given him a perplexed look, because he added, “A lot of patients struggling with drug use also have spotty memories.” He stood up, handing me the note. Carolyn Bates 447-3339, was scribbled on it. Rory and I stood, too, shaking his hand.

 

As we walked back down the hallways, I clutched the note in my hand. “What do you think is worse?” Rory said suddenly, startling me out of my thoughts.

 

“Huh?”

 

“What’s worse,” she repeated, “being crazy, or being sick? Because I’m having a hard time deciding.”

 

“Oh, sweetie,” I sighed. I glanced over at her, and saw her staring at the floor as we neared the door. I tried to lighten the mood. “Well, you always knew I was a few bricks short. Now we just have confirmation.” She shot me a look that let me know she was clearly not amused. “It’s probably just stress, baby. I’ll talk to this Dr. Bates and I’m sure she has some kind of hypnosis powers to make me all better.” I linked my arm with hers as the door whooshed again, ushering us out into the cold Hartford air. “What do you say we grab a cup of coffee before you go back to Yale?”

 

We stepped into the closest coffee shop, a little doughnut place a few blocks from the hospital. Rory found us a table and I got our drinks. When we sat down, I looked over at her. “Are you okay?” I asked gently.

 

She looked up in surprise. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” she asked, puzzled.

 

I laughed. “I’m just relieved that I’m not dying from African brain eating disease.” She snorted a little bit, holding her cup in her hands, staring at the shop’s logo emblazoned on it. “Really, I’m okay,” I assured her.

 

“Are you going to tell Luke, now?”

 

I sighed. “I’ll take any other topic for $1000, Alex.”

 

“Mom!”

 

“What? He’s going to be devastated. Pining, remember? Ava Gardner.”

 

“Ava Gardner?”

 

“Yeah, when he showed the horoscope to me on Wednesday, he said something about me being his Ava Gardner. Now, that was kind of a strange reference to come from Luke, so I’m assuming I said it to him.”

 

“Who pined after her?”

 

“Ol’ Blue Eyes.” I shook my head as I took another sip of my coffee. Not as good as Luke’s, I thought absently. “The point is, he kept all those feelings to himself because he was afraid of risking it. I can’t just say ‘whoops, forget everything, I don’t remember it!’ I can’t stand the idea of hurting him.”

 

“Would you break up with him?”

 

“What?” I was confused. “Why would I do that? Luke is great. He’s sweet and caring and actually pretty fun. And he has many other talents that I won’t burden your delicate sensibilities with.”

 

“I appreciate that,” she said wryly. “But I don’t understand the big deal. Nothing changes, except you aren’t hiding this huge secret from him.” We stared at each other for a minute. I could see her point, but I didn’t know how on earth I would ever tell him. A thought came to me.

 

“I was joking earlier,” I said, staring at my cup, “but maybe this psychologist actually does do hypnosis.” Rory jerked back in her chair. “Hear me out!” I said quickly, preventing her from speaking. “So maybe we can recover some of those memories or something.” When I looked at her, she was shaking her head in disbelief.

 

“Why don’t we just go find that tarot woman or something, it would probably have the same effectiveness.”

 

“Hey, Miss Cleo, the brief research I did on the web showed that some people who suffer from memory loss actually do benefit from hypnosis. So there!” I stuck my tongue out at her. She rolled her eyes.

 

“I’m going to do my own research,” she said, opening the lid to her cup and swirling the contents. “I’ve got some time tonight, I’ll stop by the library and see what they have.”

 

“Okay, babe,” I said, standing up. We both grabbed our bags and coats.

 

“You need to tell Luke something,” she said, as we tossed our cups in the garbage can.

 

“Fine, I’ll let him know I’m stressed out and overloaded.” She shot me a frustrated look. “It’s the best I can do right now,” I said defensively. “We’ll see what Dr. Bates has to say.”

 

-0-0-0-

 

The bell signaled my return to the diner after I arrived back in Stars Hollow. Luke was busy with the table by the window, so I sat down on a stool and waited patiently.

 

“Hey, you’re back,” he said, his hand on my shoulder. I smiled at him as he made his way back around the counter. He stuck the order ticket in the kitchen and turned toward me again.

 

“Hey,” I said nervously. “Can we talk?”

 

“What’s wrong?” he asked immediately.

 

“No, no. I just have a — a thing I need to tell you. You know, something you should know.”

 

“Did you have lunch with Christopher again?” he asked, a sour look crossing his face. Christopher? I hadn’t even thought about him since he went back to Sherry. Guess I had yet another thing I needed to bring up with Rory.

 

“No, Chris isn’t involved. Just me.”

 

“Well, okay then.” He wiped his hands on a towel. “Should we, uh — upstairs?” I nodded, and after Luke shouted to Caesar that he would be right back, we went upstairs.

 

“You should sit down,” I said, wringing my hands once we entered the apartment.

 

“Lorelai,” he said sternly. “Are you dying or something? You’re scaring the hell out of me!”

 

“Just sit, it’s fine. I just need to tell you, you know, because we’re together.” He sat down, but I could tell he was getting upset with me. I just needed to get it out as quickly as possible.

 

“I’ve been having this weird problem with my memory lately, so I went to see a neurologist — but I’m fine!” I said in a rush.

 

“What?” Luke asked, clearly not having anticipated those words coming out of my mouth.

 

“Yeah, I’m just having this weird thing where I can’t always remember things.”

 

Realization dawned on him. “Like the other morning when you didn’t remember if you had the day off or not.”

 

“Yes, exactly! Little things like that. I didn’t want to worry you, so I made an appointment and I saw the doctor today. They ran some tests and said I’m totally fine. He thinks it’s stress.”

 

“Stress?” His tone was unbelieving.

 

“Yeah, he thinks it’s just mental overload or something. Which is good, because I was starting to worry I had a brain tumor or something.”

 

“Lorelai,” he said gently, getting up and putting his arms around me. “I wish you had told me. I hate knowing that you were worried and upset and I couldn’t be there for you.”

 

“I know,” I said, my voice muffled into his flannel shirt as I clung to him. “This thing between us is just so new, and…”

 

“Is there anything you don’t remember — about us?” he asked, sounding slightly strained.

 

“I remember us,” I lied. I was glad he couldn’t see my face. He hugged me tighter. “I was given a referral to a psychologist. So I’ll try that out and see how it goes.”

 

“Do you need me to come with you?” he asked softly. I shook my head.

 

“Nah, I think it’ll be slightly less embarrassing if I go by myself.” He squeezed me tightly again, then let go. We stepped apart, and he nodded his head toward the apartment door.

 

“Let me make you some food,” he said.

 

“I’ll be down in a minute, I want to call Rory,” I said. He nodded, then went downstairs, shutting the door softly after him.

 

I dropped onto the couch, flipping open my phone. Rory answered on the first ring.

 

“What’s wrong?” she asked frantically.

 

“Well, nothing health wise,” I said, “but I think I need some background into what Chris has been up to and why Luke immediately assumed my news had something to do with him.”

 

“Oh wow,” she breathed. “You scared me mom!”

 

“Sorry,” I apologized. “I just need to know. He said something about a lunch?”

 

“Okay, hang on,” I heard movement on the other line. While I waited, I curled up into the side of the couch, drawing my knees up to my chin. “Sorry about that, just had to get into my room. I don’t need Paris’ input on this.”

 

“No problem. Now, Christopher.”

 

“Ugh,” she groaned. “Just listen all the way through before you get mad at me all over again.”

 

“Rory,” I said warningly. “What did you do?”

 

“I was trying to help!” she exclaimed. “Now just listen.” I waited silently. “Dad called you a few months ago because Sherry left him and Gigi to go to Paris for some job opportunity.” My eyes bugged out in shock, but true to my word, I stayed quiet. “He needed help because he didn’t really know how to handle a baby. And this was right after I had talked to you and I realized how happy you and Luke were and I didn’t want him to get in the way and mess things up.”

 

“Rory,” I murmured, this time softly.

 

“Anyway, he did what I said. He stayed away. But you thought he was avoiding you or mad at you or something, so you invited him and Gigi to have lunch at the Dragonfly. And you invited me too, but you planned it as a surprise, so Dad and I didn’t know we would see each other. We had a huge fight about it. You told me that Luke was fine with the lunch, but if he’s bringing it up again, then he apparently wasn’t.”

 

I picked at a loose thread on my sweater. “There’s a good chance that I didn’t tell him until after,” I said morosely. “Sounds like something stupid that I would do.”

 

“Like not telling him about your two year blackout?”

 

“That’s different, Rory,” I insisted. “This could be temporary, and if that’s the case, why hurt him more than I have to? I told him that I was experiencing memory issues and the doctor thinks it’s just stress. I’m going to wait until I talk to the psychologist before I decide how to proceed.” We both sighed in unison. “I’m glad that I have you, kid,” I said warmly. “That despite how much has changed, our relationship hasn’t. I still have you.”

 

“Yeah,” she said quietly. “You do.”

 

-0-0-0-

 

The following afternoon, I was back in Hartford, walking into a sleek two-story professional building not far from the neighborhood that my parents lived in. Dr. Bates was in suite 207, so I climbed the stairs and went through the large oak door emblazoned with Carolyn Bates Family and Individual Counseling Services on the heavy glass. The waiting area was small, with a coffee machine in the corner and a giant grandfather clock against the opposing wall. Pouring myself some coffee, I had barely sat down in a chair to wait when a woman peeked around a door.

 

“Ms. Gilmore?” she asked, stepping out fully. She was slender and dark blonde, with shoulder-length ringlets and a friendly smile.

 

“That’s me,” I replied cheerfully, clutching my bag.

 

“Follow me,” she said, opening the door wider and leading me down a short hallway into her office. There was a large plush couch and several armchairs. The room was decorated in a variety of blues and greens, and I heard a whooshing sound like ocean waves coming from a small stereo. She motioned for me to sit on the couch, so I did, my posture tense and still holding my bag and cup apprehensively.

 

Carolyn Bates grabbed a yellow legal pad and sat opposite me in one of the armchairs. She settled some glasses on her face, and leaned back, taking me in. “So, Dr. Finley was kind enough to fill me in on some of your situation, but I’d rather hear the story from you. Can you take me through it, from the first time you noticed the memory loss?”

 

“Well, Dr. Bates,” I started.

 

“Carolyn, please,” she said, smiling.

 

“Carolyn,” I amended. “Last Wednesday, I woke up and didn’t know where I was. After a few minutes, I realized that I was in my good friend Luke’s apartment, wearing his clothes. I assumed that I must have gotten drunk the night before and maybe we had, uh, you know, but I didn’t see any evidence that we’d been drinking.” Carolyn made a few notes on her paper, and looked up with an encouraging smile. “So, I called my daughter first thing. I mean, Luke has been an important person in both of our lives, so I needed her input. But when I talked to her, I realized she wasn’t at school — that is, her high school — but at Yale. And she mentioned something about me dating Luke for the past 4 months. I started panicking.”

 

“So, what did you do next?” she asked, making another note.

 

“Well, I tried to sneak out the door of the diner — Luke’s apartment is above the diner he owns — but he stopped me. He was acting so differently, so much like we were together, that even though I didn’t really believe Rory, I was starting to think she was right.”

 

“Okay, so he was acting like you were in a relationship, instead of just being friends?”

 

“Yes, definitely. He was being really flirty and sweet. I mean, we always were kind of flirty before, but this was really obvious. So I asked for a newspaper, and then I saw the date and realized it was 2 years later than I thought it was.”

 

“So, last Wednesday, this was –” she consulted the calendar on the wall, “the 5th. And you thought it was…?”

 

“The 5th, except in 2003.”

 

Carolyn scribbled another note. “Interesting, so exactly 2 years to the day.” She looked at me, her lips pursed thoughtfully. “Tell me about the stress in your life.” I began to describe all of the things that I had been told had happened in the past two years. The fire at the Independence Inn and opening the Dragonfly, Rory going off to Yale instead of Harvard, and the separation of my parents.

 

“And of course, my new relationship with Luke,” I finished.

 

“Is that stressful for you?” she asked. I contemplated it, taking a drink of my coffee.

 

“Yes and no,” I replied truthfully. “It’s stressful because we have an incredible friendship. And bringing sex into it complicates things.”

 

“And you are afraid of losing that friendship?”

 

“Oh yes,” I said, nodding emphatically. “I mean, he has been a constant presence in our lives for 6 — no, 8! — years. He is practically the male figure in my daughter’s life. I mean, my goodness, he’s been around a lot more than her father has.”

 

“What makes you think you are going to lose him?”

 

I bit my lip, trying to think over my answer carefully. “I’m kind of a train wreck when it comes to relationships,” I began hesitantly. “I was engaged for a few months to one of my daughter’s teachers, but that crashed and burned. I didn’t have a lot of long term relationships because I was afraid of bringing instability to her life. And the one time I decided to let someone in, it completely blew up.”

 

“Why do you think that relationship didn’t work out?”

 

I dropped my face into my palms. “Ugh, the whole thing was a mess from the start. We kept getting into these ridiculous fights. I mean, he ended up proposing because he was threatened by –” I cut myself off, remembering. Luke. Max had been threatened by Luke’s presence in my life. I looked up, suddenly feeling oddly at peace. “There was something there,” I whispered. Carolyn looked at me with a questioning expression. I shook myself out of my reverie. “Max proposed because he was threatened by Luke. Like I said, Luke has been in our lives for awhile. And obviously, he was jealous of Max, I just didn’t know. It all makes sense now,” I said. Carolyn smiled. She was about to say something when I beat her to the punch. “Can you hypnotize me?” I blurted.

 

“Uh,” she started, dropping her pen on the floor. She bent to pick it up, and frowned slightly as she straightened. “What are you hoping to gain with hypnotism?” she asked.

 

“I want to know if those memories are trapped in my head and if you can get them out,” I explained.

 

Carolyn sighed heavily. “Hypnotism doesn’t really work like it does in the movies,” she said carefully. “There is a chance that you may be able to recall events, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll remember it outside of the hypnotic state or if they are even real. It’s really difficult to extract real suppressed memories from a patient.” She paused thoughtfully. “But if stress is the cause of your memory loss, then maybe hypnosis will help you get into a relaxed state.”

 

“I’m game!” I said excitedly. “I’ve always wanted to be hypnotized! Although, I was hoping it would be as part of a night of Vegas-style fun, but I’ll take what I can get.”

 

Carolyn got me settled and ready, leaning against the couch with my feet up. She began to speak in low, comforting tones, and before long I felt like I was floating. It seemed like no time at all had passed, when I heard her ask me clearly, “How are you feeling?”

 

“Fine,” I yawned. “Relaxed. Are we starting soon?”

 

She laughed softly. “It’s over.” I sat up straighter. I looked at her, hoping for a sign that we had been successful, but she only had a sad smile. My shoulders slumped again. “Sorry,” she said gently.

 

“Nothing?” I asked.

 

“I walked you through your memories of the last week, and once we got to Wednesday morning, you jumped back to 2003.” I threw myself back onto the couch, dejectedly. I wanted to remember so badly it hurt.

 

“Listen,” she continued, “I’m going to give you some tapes for self-guided relaxation. I’m hoping that once we can get a handle on your stress level, maybe your memories will start to resurface. There something preventing you from being able to access them right now, but I hope that we can chip away at the stress and figure this out.” I nodded, collecting my things and standing up. She shook my hand firmly.

 

“Are you related to Emily Gilmore, by any chance?” she asked, leading me back toward the waiting room. I stopped short.

 

“Yes,” I said, turning to face her. “That’s my mother.” She laughed, nodding. “How do you know Emily?”

 

“Our mothers were roommates in college,” she said, a twinkling expression in her eyes.

 

“My condolences,” I muttered under my breath, leaving through the heavy door.

 

My phone started ringing almost immediately after I made it back to the Jeep. I checked it, and seeing Rory on the call display, flipped it open. “Loin fruit!” I greeted her.

 

“Hey, Mom, how did the appointment go?”

 

“Bust,” I groused. “She tried to hypnotize me, but my unconscious does not want those memories to come forward.”

 

“What the game plan now, then?”

 

“She gave me some relaxation tapes, like I’m some kind of hippie flower child.” I sighed. “It’s worth a try, though, right?”

 

“Right,” she said, also sounding dejected. “I just got back from the library. Yale has a pretty great psychology faculty, so they had lots of great stuff.”

 

“Oh yeah?” I stuck the key in the ignition of the Jeep but didn’t turn it yet. I flipped through the stack of CDs that Carolyn Bates had given me, reading the titles. Creating Calm Within. I rolled my eyes.

 

“Yeah, I still have some reading to do, but I did find this great list of movies that you should check out. It’s about people who have suffered from amnesia or other memory loss.”

 

“Like Memento?” I asked.

 

“That one is on there, but there are some classics, too.”

 

“Hit me,” I said, shuffling around in my console for a pen and paper. She listed off the movies and I wrote them down, intending to swing by the video store on my way home. Some movies would be the perfect way to cap off the day.

 

-0-0-0-

 

I was entranced by one of the movies when I heard the front door open. “Hey,” I called out. I smelled the food before Luke came into my line of vision. “You are the perfect man,” I cooed, as he placed the bags in front of me on the coffee table.

 

“Still better than Grammar?” he said, easing down on the couch beside me.

 

“Undoubtedly,” I confirmed.

 

“What are you watching?” he asked, pulling his own food out of one of the bags. I looked over. A salad. I looked at him, quirking my eyebrow. “What?” he asked.

 

I nodded toward his food. “Rabbit food,” I said, then turned my attention back to the TV. “Rory sent me a list of movies with other amnesiacs so I thought it would be fun to check some of them out. This one has Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. It’s really good.”

 

He set his food down on his lap. “Do you have amnesia?” he asked worriedly. I glanced over at him, that familiar guilty feeling settling in my stomach.

 

“I–I don’t know,” I stammered. “The doctor didn’t give me an official diagnosis. He just said there was nothing medically wrong with me.”

 

“Well, how much have you forgotten?” he pressed. “Can you give me a percentage?”

 

“Not really,” I said, trying to remain calm. “It sort of comes and goes, I mean, I don’t really know what I’ve forgotten until I can’t remember it.” Luke looked carefully into my eyes. I tried to smile reassuringly. “Don’t worry about it, babe. I’m taking it as it comes, it doesn’t change anything.” He nodded, turning back to the food.

 

“So, tell me about the movie,” he said, picking up his fork and spearing some of his salad.

 

“This is great,” I began excitedly. “So Gregory Peck is this doctor at an asylum but he’s not what he seems..”

 

-0-0-0-

 

After the movie, Luke stretched back on the couch. “Ingrid Bergman, she was in Casablanca, right?”

 

“Yep,” I said, taking a long pull from my beer. “You’ve seen it?”

 

He stared at me a moment, in disbelief. “Of course I have, it’s a classic,” he said finally.

 

I nodded in agreement. “Are you spending the night?” I asked.

 

“I have early deliveries tomorrow, remember?” He paused. “Maybe you don’t.” He looked sad.

 

“No, Wednesdays, early deliveries,” I said quickly. “Of course. I mean, I usually spend the night on Tuesdays.”

 

“Right,” he said. He began to pick up our empty food containers, cleaning up. I stood up to help, collecting the trash and following him into the kitchen. We cleaned up silently, then we put on our coats and I locked the door. He opened the truck door and I climbed in. As he began driving toward town, he cleared his throat. “I was thinking we should go back to Silvano’s sometime,” he said hesitantly. “You know, since that was where we had our first date.”

 

“Sure,” I agreed. “I like Silvano’s.” He looked over at me and smiled, although I noticed it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

 

I scooted over toward him on the bench seat and nudged him with my shoulder. “You okay?” I asked softly.

 

“Fine,” he answered gruffly. “Just a little worried about you, that’s all.”

 

“Well, try not to,” I said lightly. “I’m going to be just fine.” I reached over and squeezed his hand, and he squeezed back, pulling into his parking spot behind the diner.

 

We walked inside, and I sat on a stool. The diner was pretty empty, a man and woman chatting over coffee by the window, and the ever present Kirk on a stool farther down the counter. Luke ducked into the kitchen to talk to Caesar for a minute. When he came out, he leaned on the counter across from where I was seated. “There’s some leftover cherry pie in the back, you want it?”

 

“Yes, please!” I answered enthusiastically. He disappeared again.

 

While waiting for my dessert, I looked to my right and did a double take. There was a giant window in between the diner and Taylor’s ice cream store. “Has that –” I pointed to it, nudging Kirk with my elbow. He followed my gaze.

 

“Has what?” he asked.

 

“How long has that been there?” I asked. He gave me a confused look.

 

“Taylor finished construction on the Ice Cream Shoppe while you and Rory were in Europe,” he said, still looking confused.

 

“We went to Europe…” I said, trailing off. I looked up and saw Luke staring at me, holding my plate. He set it down with a clatter.

 

“Upstairs,” he barked. He took off toward the stairs, not waiting for me to follow him. If only he was thinking amorous thoughts, I thought ruefully.

 

When I got upstairs, he was glaring at me, his face livid. “I can explain!” I said, walking toward him.

 

“Sit down,” he commanded. I sat at the kitchen table, buzzing with nervousness. “I’ve been testing you,” he said, gritting his teeth. I could see him working his jaw, like he was struggling to maintain control. “I’ve been throwing fake memories at you, stuff that never happened, and you went along with all of it, just like the things that actually happened. Now, I need to know.” He stopped talking, his hands tightened into fists by his side.

 

“My last memory of you and me before last Wednesday,” I said quietly, swallowing past the lump in my throat, “was New Years’ Eve, 2002.”

 

“Damn it, Lorelai!” he shouted. He gestured wildly. “You’ve been lying! You don’t remember!” I slumped into the chair, tears stinging my eyes. I shook my head. “Unbelievable,” he muttered, starting to pace around the apartment. “Were you planning to tell me the truth at any point?”

 

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” I whispered. He stopped in his pacing, hands on his hips, glaring at me. That familiar stirring of panic came back. “Don’t break up with me,” I cried, jumping up and standing in front of him.

 

“What?” he asked, looking surprised.

 

“Don’t leave me,” I whimpered. “I couldn’t handle it.” I grabbed his hands. “I– I’m falling for you,” I said, a tear escaping and trickling down my cheek.

 

“What?” he asked again, his voice softer.

 

“I’m falling in love with you,” I repeated, my voice wobbling. We stared at each other for a moment, then he dropped his chin to his chest. I waited, still holding his hands, hoping that he wouldn’t call it off. “It’s like you said,” I babbled, “the other morning. It doesn’t matter how we got here, but we did. Right?” I waited, the silence tense and heavy.

 

“I need some time,” he said, not looking up.

 

“Time,” I breathed. “Are you–?”

 

“No, not breaking up. I just need some time to think.”

 

“H-how much time?”

 

“I don’t know, maybe a couple of days. A week. I don’t know.”

 

I sniffled, then dropped his hands. He stood there, still looking at the floor, his hands hanging limply at his sides after I let him go. “Okay,” I whispered. I took some steps toward the door. “I’m gonna go,” I said, then slowly went through the door, down the stairs, and numbly walked out of the diner, not responding to Kirk as he called my name questioningly.

 

I was glad that it was dark, and the Stars Hollow streets seemed to be empty. I didn’t know what would have happened if anyone had pulled me aside to chat in the state that I was in. When I got back home, I cried myself to sleep, wrapped in one of the tee shirts he had left behind.

 

-0-0-0-

 

The next morning, I called the Dragonfly and told Sookie I wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be in. She sounded worried, but I made up an excuse about a headache and told her not to worry. I laid in the bed, staring at the ceiling. What was I going to do? I was terrified. I didn’t want to push Luke but I hated the idea of waiting. Maybe he would realize that I was way too screwed up to bother pursuing a relationship with. He got a taste of the true Lorelai, and now he was going to realize that the fantasy was way better than the reality. I decided I couldn’t just stay in my house and hide all day. I would make myself nuts.

 

I threw on some clothes and hopped in the Jeep, driving aimlessly down the highway. After an hour, I realized that I really did feel a headache coming, probably from the lack of caffeine. I turned down the next exit, and pulled into a small diner. I felt an ache that I wasn’t at Luke’s, but tried to set those thoughts aside. I ordered a coffee and muffin to go, then started walking down the street. The town reminded me a little bit of Stars Hollow, with quaint streets and people walking around purposefully. I found myself in a small shopping district, and peeked inside the windows, trying to keep myself distracted.

 

I turned a corner and started in surprise. Madam Zrak, read the faded storefront sign. “You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered. I squared my shoulders, and pushed the door open. What did I have to lose?

 

The lady’s head snapped up when I entered, and she sneered at me. “This isn’t right,” she hissed at me. “This isn’t your time!”

 

“I need to know what is going on with me!” I cried, tossing my bag onto the floor. She pointed to the chair opposite hers. There was a table between us, covered in a grimy white cloth. She began to shuffle the tarot cards that I didn’t even realize she was holding. As I sat down, she placed three of the cards down on the table.

 

“The Lovers,” she said, her voice rough and threatening. I swallowed, staring at the picture that was face up on the table. The next card flipped down. “Ten of Swords.” Another card. “King of Pentacles.” Her piercing stare lifted and I met her gaze. We stared at each other.

 

“What does that mean?” I whispered.

 

She pointed to the Lovers. “You need to make a difficult choice.” Her hand moved to the Ten of Swords. “There is disaster imminent, but if you can make the right choice, you can bring something beautiful from its ashes.” Then she held up the final card, the King of Pentacles. “This represents maturity, and the people in your life you can depend on. Take wise counsel from them.” She swept the cards back up from the table. “Whatever decision you make will change the path of your life. Make it wisely.”

 

I sat back, startled. I felt a shiver go up my spine. “But why can’t I remember anything?” I asked plaintively.

 

The woman got up, and moved to the back of the room. She paused right outside the curtain separating the main room from whatever was in back. “Make the right choice,” she said brusquely, and then disappeared. I sat in that chair for several minutes, my mind whirring and trying to make sense of what she had said. Eventually, I got up and walked back to my Jeep, heading for home.

 

-0-0-0-

 

I was watching 50 First Dates, the final movie on the list from Rory, when I heard knocking at the door. “Who could that be?” I asked aloud to the empty room, walking over the the front door. I opened it to see Luke standing there.

 

“Can I come in?” he asked gruffly. I stepped aside, and he followed me into the house. After I closed the door, we stood in the entry way, staring at each other. “Here’s the thing,” he started, hands in his back pockets, looking at me with an unreadable expression. “I’m angry that you kept this from me.” Tears stung my eyes instantly, and when he realized it, he reached for me. He held my hands, and a look of tenderness came over his face. “Don’t cry, Lorelai,” he said gently. “I’m in love with you, too.”

 

“You are?” I gulped, trying to blink back the tears.

 

“I don’t know how not to be,” he said, pulling me to him. I flung my arms around his neck and held on, the sobs that I’d been holding in bursting out of me like a dam had broken. “Shh,” he whispered, cradling me. “You just just can’t keep this stuff from me,” he continued, “like that damn lunch with Christopher. You probably don’t even remember it, but you only told me after and you can’t do that. I need to know; I have a right to know.”

 

“Rory told me,” I said, hiccuping, tears still rolling down my cheeks and being absorbed by his soft flannel. “I’m so sorry, I’m sure I didn’t even think it would be a big deal.” He leaned back to look at me, wiping away tears using his thumb. He kissed me softly on the lips. I snuffled in a very unladylike fashion, and chuckled knowing I must look like a mess.

 

“Did you really fall in love with me over the course of a week?” he asked, looking me in the eye.

 

“Maybe I’ve been in love with you for years,” I answered, shrugging, my arms still wrapped around his neck. “I just never let myself go there until I woke up in your bed.”

 

“Lorelai,” he murmured, bending down to kiss me again. I responded eagerly, brushing my lips against his, relishing the feeling of being back in his arms after being afraid it would never happen again.

 

I looked up at him, and reached up to cup his cheek. “I choose you,” I breathed. “No more secrets. No matter how much I want to avoid the hard conversations.”

 

“No more secrets,” he agreed huskily, capturing my lips with his. “I’m yours,” he said quietly. “I love you, Lorelai.”

 

“I love you, too,” I said.

 

Luke pulled me to him. “New Year’s Eve, 2002,” he murmured into my hair.

 

“Yeah?” I said, my eyes closed and basking in the feel of his warm body flush against mine.

 

“You looked so beautiful that night. I wanted to kiss you at midnight.”

 

I turned my head to face him. “You should have,” I whispered.

 

I was still smiling the next morning when I woke up. The feeling of Luke’s arms wrapped around me lingered and his soft declarations of love vibrated through my body. I wanted to cling to that feeling, even though I could tell he had already left to open the diner. I was content to lie there in that feeling of complete contentment for a few more minutes, eyes shut tightly.

 

“Mom! Wake up!” Suddenly I could feel two hands violently shaking me.

 

“Whu–?” I asked groggily. I blinked my eyes open. Taking in the sight of Rory wearing her Chilton uniform startled me awake quicker than a bucket of cold water. “Rory!” I gasped.

 

“I have to get to school! Get up, get up!” I reached out, looking at my alarm clock. I was still trying to hang on to those feelings but they were quickly dissipating.

 

“What’s today’s date?” I croaked, dreading the answer that I knew was coming. Rory looked at me, her face growing more exasperated as time went on.

 

“The 6th.”

 

“The whole date, please!”

 

“January 6, 2003, common era, and if this morning’s pop quiz is over, I would like to go to school now.”

 

I pulled off the blankets and stumbled to my closet, trying to blink back tears. “No,” I murmured. “No, no, no.” It had been a dream after all. A wonderful, beautiful dream. Blindly, I grabbed the first thing I could find that didn’t clash and dressed silently. Rory had already run back downstairs, and I followed her a few minutes later, pulling my hair back into an elastic. She shoved a Pop Tart and a thermos of coffee into my hands and headed out the front door.

 

Rory finally noticed that something was up with me after we drove past the Stars Hollow town limits. “Feeling okay this morning?”

 

“Yeah,” I sighed. “Just a little bummed, is all.” She looked at me, urging me to elaborate with a hand gesture. “I just had a really great dream last night, and it was so real. I felt like I finally had my life figured out. It was just a shock to wake up and have it not be real.”

 

“Sorry, Mom,” she said, giving my shoulder a squeeze. I smiled at her, and tried to shake it off, reaching over to turn on the radio.

 

-0-0-0-

 

After dropping Rory off at school, I drove to the same town where I had had my second meeting with Madam Zrak. But when I got there, the storefront wasn’t hers; it was just a shoe store. Dejectedly, I walked inside, figuring some retail therapy might lift my spirits. I hadn’t taken more than two steps inside when I saw them — those beautiful leather boots. I froze.

 

“Can I help you, ma’am?” asked the saleswoman, looking at me with concern.

 

“Those boots,” I said, pointing. “I want those.”

 

After I paid for them, I clutched my bag with the shoe box and sat down heavily on a bench outside the store. For a moment I just sat there, trying to reconcile everything. Had the dream been prophetic? Had I seen those boots before, and they’d just been featured in my dream? I opened the bag and pulled out the left boot. I examined it, turning it over. Something fell out from inside the shoe and fluttered to my feet. When I picked it up, I gasped. It was the tarot card for The Lovers.

 

-0-0-0-

 

The bells jingled as I walked into Luke’s. I went straight for the counter and sat down. Luke’s back was facing me, and he was busy making a fresh pot of coffee.

 

“I’ll take some of that, please,” I said, trying to keep my voice light, although all I wanted was to leap over the counter and tackle him. It had seemed so real.

 

“Keep your pants on,” he said, still not turning around. I tapped my fingers, waiting impatiently. He finally turned, pouring some coffee into a mug. Pushing it toward me, I met his eyes. There was no playful look, and no knowing smile. Just the same look as always. I took a gulp of coffee, trying to swallow past the lump in my throat. I had still been hanging on to some kind of hope that there was maybe a glimmer of truth to my dream, especially after seeing the boots. And that card. “You want anything to eat?” he asked gruffly.

 

“Can I see your wallet?” I asked abruptly.

 

He gave me a strange look. “Why?”

 

“My dad’s birthday is coming up and I wanted to see what kind you had. Bifold, trifold, leather, synthetic. So many types. It might help to hold a well-loved one in my hands, just to get an idea of how it would withstand a lot of use.” I held my breath. He rolled his eyes. After what seemed like an eternity, he reached back and removed it from his back pocket. He slid it across the counter.

 

“Don’t take my credit cards,” he said, then took the coffee pot around the diner. Barely breathing, I opened the wallet and looked inside, skimming over business cards and dollar bills. Then, I saw it. The carefully folded piece of newsprint.

 

You will meet an annoying woman. Give her coffee and she’ll go away. I could feel the smile taking over my face. A laugh bubbled up and escaped through my lips. I didn’t know whether to laugh from joy or cry from relief. I folded the paper back into the wallet, and set it on the counter. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face if I’d tried. Luke looked at me suspiciously as he came back around the counter. He grabbed the wallet and stuffed it back in its place, still eyeing me.

 

“What?” he growled. I smiled even more, if that was possible.

 

Playfully, I leaned forward. “Feeling lucky?” I asked flirtatiously. He looked at me curiously. I felt a surge of confidence after seeing the horoscope. “I’ll be upstairs,” I said, grabbing my cup. “You should come upstairs in a minute. I want to tell you something.”

 

I wasn’t up there for even five minutes before I heard him pounding up the stairs. He seemed a little breathless. “What’s going on?” he demanded.

 

“Sit down,” I said magnanimously, gesturing to one of his kitchen chairs. He was still giving me a look like he wasn’t in the mood for my games. I grinned, hoping he was going to like this game. He sat, folding his arms across his chest, and glared at me.

 

“I have a diner to run, so get on with it,” he said, scowling.

 

“Okay.” I took a deep breath. “So, I’ve had some time to think lately –“

 

“That’s never good,” he interrupted.

 

“Let me finish?” He nodded. “Anyway, so I’ve been thinking about us.”

 

“Us?”

 

“Are you going to let me talk or not?” I was getting exasperated.

 

“Fine, fine.” He waved his hand toward me.

 

“So I’ve been thinking about how great we are together, and how I am so comfortable with you. You know, I can be myself with you, craziness and all. And I’ve always felt like I was a disappointment in everything. Until you.” Luke was staring at me now, looking shocked and completely taken aback at the direction this conversation was going. “So, I told you before, that I only have a few people in my life. It’s really hard to let people in, and take a risk, because I’m terrified that when people really get to know me they’ll realize that I’m just a big screw-up.”

 

“Lorelai…” Luke said softly, leaning forward, hands on his knees. I held up my hand.

 

“Wait, wait — not done yet. Like I was saying, it’s hard for me to take that chance. Before, when Rory was little, I used her as an excuse, but you know, she’s grown up now. Soon she’ll be off to Yale — I mean, Harvard, or wherever — and I won’t have her at home. Not that I just don’t want to be alone, but I don’t need to protect her from those risks anymore, either.” I paused. “I’m not saying this right,” I muttered.

 

“What are you saying?” he asked. I could see it in his eyes. He was hopeful. That small confirmation spurred me on.

 

“I’m saying that I’m in love with you.” My eyes fell to my feet. I waited for a response, but none came. Oh no. What if I had misread this situation completely? It would be pretty embarrassing if I had been wrong, if the horoscope and all the moments preceding this one had been mere coincidences. When I finally looked up, he had an unreadable expression on his face. My heart sank. “It’s okay, you know, if you don’t feel the same,” I said, starting toward the door. “We can just forget this even happened.” I hadn’t even made it halfway to the door when I felt him grab my arm. I looked at him, and there it was: the sexy half smile.

 

And then he kissed me.

 

The kiss started slow and sensual, but I quickly escalated it, falling into the familiar pattern that I had grown accustomed to. I began to unbutton his flannel shirt, but he pulled back slightly, covering my hands with his own.

 

“Lorelai,” he mumbled softly, our lips still connected.

 

“Don’t think,” I whispered.

 

“I want to take you on a date first,” he said, closing his eyes. I could tell he was trying to maintain control.

 

“You’ve cooked for me every day for last 6 years,” I said, stepping forward. “You’ve fixed probably 90% of my house. You took care of my daughter when she was sick.” I leaned my body into his, reaching my arms around his neck. “We’ve been on a 6 year long first date, since the day I gave you that horoscope.”

 

“You remember that?” he asked, surprised. His hands went to my hips and he pushed me back a little. “Wait, you saw the horoscope just a few minutes ago, didn’t you? Is that what this is about?”

 

“Only in that it gave me the confidence to tell you how I feel,” I said truthfully. “I choose you, Luke. I want a life with you. I love you.”

 

He looked down, a broad grin spreading across his face. “I love you, too,” he said.

 

-0-0-0-

 

2 years later – the real January 5th, 2005

 

“Luke!” I yelled, rushing into the diner like a bat out of hell. I skidded to a stop in front of the cash register. He looked up, eyes widened in surprise.

 

“Lorelai? What’s wrong?” he asked, stepping around the counter to come directly in front of me.

 

“I’ve got news!” I crowed.

 

His eyebrows knitted in confusion. “And it was so important you couldn’t wait until I saw you later at home?”

 

“I couldn’t keep it to myself all day! And I have to tell you first, so there’s no way I could keep quiet in front of Sookie and then I’d want to call Rory, so I just ran here so I could tell you first because I’m about to burst!” I cried out.

 

“What is it, then?” he asked, reaching for my hands. I grasped them tightly, and bounced up and down excitedly. I couldn’t help it! I was so happy!

 

“I’m pregnant!” I shouted. The sound of plates and silverware clattering came from all over the diner, but all I saw was the look of disbelief and wonder on Luke’s face.

 

“You’re serious?” he asked. I nodded, and he let out a very uncharacteristic ‘whoop!’ sound. He picked me up, hugging me tightly, both of us sporting matching idiotic grins.

 

“You’re going to be a daddy, Mr. Danes,” I said, my cheeks hurting from how widely I was smiling.

 

“I love you, Mrs. Danes,” he said, and he pulled me closer and kissed me, paying no mind to our audience, who were already talking excitedly and making plans for the newest addition to Stars Hollow.

 

END