"Rory? Do me a favor?"
Rory leaned out of her bedroom door, rolling her eyes. "I'm not going to kill you, Mom."
"I appreciate that," Lorelai called. "But that wasn't what I was going to ask you." She propped herself up and peered over the arm of the couch. "I just need a glass of water, if you wouldn't mind."
"I wouldn't mind," Rory told her. "Are you sure you haven't seen my collected works of Chekhov?"
Lorelai dropped back to her pillows. She pressed her hands to her abdomen, closing her eyes as she spoke. "Maybe it's up in the bathroom underneath Luke's copy of People from last week. He's so sweet, worrying about Nick and Jessica the way he does."
Rory stood over her, holding a glass of water and frowning. "Not funny," she said. "You know how I feel about Nick and Jessica jokes."
"I know, I know," she replied, reaching for the water. "Their love is so pure."
"Besides, how do I know what you and Luke bogarted from my room that whole time you were living in there?" Rory asked. "Maybe the Chekhov got mixed in with some of your stuff."
"Hon, if Chekhov got mixed in with our stuff, Chekhov probably got chucked."
"So not funny!" Rory cried. She stalked back to her bedroom, muttering. "Chucking Chekhov."
Lorelai sipped the water and sighed, listening to the sounds of the house. It was a breezy, lazy kind of day, the heat and humidity only just noticeable, a bare annoyance compared to the rest of the summer weather already gone by. She heard Rory, crashing around the bedroom and listening to some twangy, annoying chick singer that would make Lane cringe. She heard her mother, upstairs, talking on her cell phone and banging a yard stick against the floor. She took another long sip of water, tried to ignore the twinge in her temple. Ignoring the potential headache only reminded her how very, very nauseous she was, however, and she decided the twinge was the lesser of the two evils.
"Still not gonna—"
"No, I know," Lorelai called. "You won't kill me. That's fine, but could you bring one of Luke's frying pans out here?"
Rory wandered down the hallway, her flip flops flipping and flopping noisily against the hardwood. She stood with her hands on her hips and looked warily at her mother. "Frying pan?"
Lorelai struggled to sit up a little. "Yeah, go back and get one."
"For?" she asked, her brows raised.
"To hit me really hard in the head so that I'll be in so much pain, I won't be able to think about how I feel like I'm going to throw up all the time," Lorelai replied, nodding with fake enthusiasm. She waved her hands at Rory. "Now, shoo, get Mommy a frying pan and don't hold back. Put all those years of good-girl oppression to good use."
Rory dropped to sit at her mother's feet. She squeezed Lorelai's ankle, clucking sympathetically."Not feeling so great, huh?" she asked. "What can I do to help?"
Lorelai nudged her daughter's hip with the tip of her toe. "You could switch places with me and be the one with all-day morning sickness, but that would also mean that you'd be pregnant with Luke's baby, and since we don't live in Llanview or the bayou, we know that's not happening. I appreciate the offer, but it'll pass on its own."
She grinned. "Sometime in the next trimester, I hear. But I have a lifetime to get back at little baby Danes, here," she said, "so in the end it'll be a wash."
"Something to look forward to," Rory said. "Lucky LBD."
She reached for Rory's hand. "Tell me about your week."
"Well," Rory said, drawing a huge breath. "Tonight I have plans to watch that movie with Marty—"
"My daughter, dating Jesus. I'm not sure whether to be proud or concerned," Lorelai smiled.
The younger Lorelai wrinkled her nose. "Mom, you really need to stop calling him that. He hasn't gotten the part yet. And it's creepy."
"Hey, you're the one dating him."
Rory opened her mouth to respond but kept silent, her attention caught by a clanking above. She raised her eyebrows at Lorelai, amused. "Grandma?" she called.
"Mom, put the measuring tape away!" Lorelai whined. "I'm begging you! You have, like, six months to decorate that room!"
They waited a moment. "Lorelai, I am i on /i the i phone." /i
"Really, I can be so tiresome," Lorelai said, her voice affectedly high. Off Rory's look, she shrugged. "I'm just finishing the thought for her. Anyway. You and Marty, watching the Godspell tonight."
"Yes. He's got the audition on Wednesday, so he's going to be all insane, tense, hermit guy for a few days while he practices," Rory said. Her fond smile was reassuring, sweet, and made Lorelai vaguely nostalgic. "I've tried to be encouraging on this one, but I don't even know if he can sing."
"I'm sure he'll do great," Lorelai said. "But that's Marty's week, I want to know what's on tap for you."
Rory chewed her bottom lip a moment. "Nothing out of the ordinary. Classes, reading, all that. I don't have anything major due right away, since the semester's only just started. There's some stuff at the paper—I'm thinking about putting myself up as a section editor, maybe, for features."
Lorelai couldn't help the grin. "Babe, that's amazing. I think you should go for it. Be bossy. Use all that experience you got at the Globe this summer. And be bossy."
"I'll think about it—I have a week before I have to decide," she said. She leaned forward and dropped a kiss on her mother's cheek. "I have to stop by Lane's before I head back, so I'm going to skedaddle."
"Can you explain to me how Lane ended up with a copy of Godspell? Not that Lane isn't the world's leading expert on contraband cultural items, but I'm curious if this was a Mama-Kim-approved thing or not?" Lorelai asked.
Rory rose and shouldered her bag. "Contraband," she said. "Lane got it in a Yankee swap one year at school and kept it because her mom thought it was too flippant about God—she thought if her mom disapproved it must be interesting."
"Just prepare yourself. You'll never be able to look at Victor Garber the same way again. Nor," she added, sitting up, "will you wonder how he can sing so high with pants that tight. I'm going upstairs, see if I can subdue your grandmother enough to take the tape measure from her and hide it somewhere that is else and far, far away."
Rory made for the door. "I'll call you. Tomorrow?"
"I'll be here," Lorelai told her. "Or at the inn. Wish Marty luck for me, okay?"
"Bye, Mom. Love you!"
"Love you, babe."
She mounted the stairs slowly. She couldn't remember feeling quite so physically overwhelmed when she carried Rory, but she supposed it was just that this time, she was no longer sixteen, a fact that Luke had pointed out several times in the past few weeks. She was not quite three months along, and while she knew that the fatigue and the nausea would ebb eventually to make way for other delightful conditions, she was ready to see them go. As it was now, her limbs felt heavy, hard to maneuver, and she was sore in places there was no reason to be sore. She supposed that part of this was her fault: she'd been working more at the inn this past month, trying to make up for the time in June and July that she'd left the running of the place to other people, and the long hours were starting to wear. The year was about to turn the corner into fall, and foliage season had always been big business for her at the Independence and would be now at the Dragonfly. She knew she could slow down and that Luke was on the point of telling her to. Working hard, however, and at her own inn at that, was satisfying in ways that nothing else had ever been no matter how it wore her out. She rounded the corner of the stairs and wandered down the hall to the new room, rubbing the small of her back with one hand.
Emily stood in the center of the room, her arms crossed over her chest and her lips pursed in a critical expression. She stared out the window, and as Lorelai entered, tipped her head to one side. Lorelai came to stand beside her and followed suit, tilting her head and narrowing her eyes in an effort to see what her mother was mentally berating.
"Huh," Lorelai said. "I never noticed that Babette's got that wood lattice work under the eaves. Pretty."
"Pretty?" Emily echoed, her voice rising on the latter half of the word. "No, Lorelai, not pretty. Tacky, yes, peeling, most definitely, and a horrid match to the rest of the house, absolutely."
Lorelai draped her arm across her mother's shoulders and turned her towards the door. "Mom, I'm pretty sure little baby Danes here isn't going to mind the view until he or she is at least four—that's when the faculty to criticize landscape and architecture really develops in children." She gave up trying to force her mother to walk and dropped her arm. "Mom, I love that you're so excited about this, and I appreciate your taking over the nursery decoration, but it's just a tad early to start looking at fabric samples and paint chips. We haven't even told anyone outside the family except Sookie and Michel, yet."
Emily looked around the room ,wearing a slight, nervous pout and wringing her hands fretfully. "It's just that—well, with Rory, we never really got to enjoy the pregnancy or celebrate it, you know. Francine was crying and Straub was yelling and your father was making business plans…" She sighed gustily. "As much as we loved Rory from the minute she was born, the entire time you were pregnant was just dreadful. Now, we finally get another grandchild—" She ignored Lorelai's chortle of laughter. "—it's just that I'm so excited to be excited, Lorelai, no matter how irritating that might be to you. We didn't get to have that before."
Lorelai softened. "Thank you, Mom. You have no idea—that means a lot, to hear you say that. And I understand that, I do, but I'm also going to tell you that right now? You need to slow down a little. Let me get through the first trimester. Please?"
Emily relented and let Lorelai walk her to the bedroom door. "I just want to contribute, and—"
"And I'm grateful for that," Lorelai told her. "But right now I think you should go home, take a walk with Dad, have a nice dinner, and stop thinking of ways you can blackmail Babette into getting rid of her lattice work."
Emily gave her a petulant sidelong glance. "You look terribly pale, Lorelai."
"I'm a little tired," she admitted. "I think I'm going to take a nap."
"I suppose this is my cue to leave," Emily said.
"You're only staying if you hand over the measuring tape and yard stick and promise not to tack any more swatches to the wall," Lorelai replied.
Emily headed for the stairs. "I should be going. Your father's probably gotten into some kind of trouble by now—he's begun a new hobby that I do not understand, but he seems to enjoy it, heaven knows why."
"What is it?"
The older woman wrinkled her nose. "He's trying to teach himself to cobble shoes."
Lorelai stifled the ready expletive of disbelief. "Did the world learn nothing from Daniel Day Lewis?" she asked. "Make Dad take you out. He clearly needs it as much as you do."
Emily's heels clicked loudly in the silent house as she descended the stairs and let herself out. Lorelai waited until she heard the click of the door shut downstairs. She turned, surveyed the empty room. It wasn't large by any means, but it would be a big enough nursery. There were good windows, and the one that faced out into the backyard had a seat built in beneath the sill that doubled as a toy chest. The floor was new, pristine, devoid of the scratches that marked the floors elsewhere in the house. The walls were bare (save her mother's swatches, she thought, rolling her eyes), but with the closet being so small, Luke had told her he would build and install some shelves; Lorelai had wondered aloud what sort of things Luke thought the baby would need shelving for. He'd gestured broadly with his hands as they stood together in the doorway.
"Things," he'd said.
He had looked at her darkly. "You're a knick knack person, Lorelai. You're going to need shelves for this room even if the baby doesn't."
She wandered into the room, now, running her fingertips along the wall. Luke's rocking chair was already in the corner by the window that overlooked Babette's house. Lorelai sat, slid her palms along the arms of the chair and rocked gently. It was astounding, she thought, that a chair without any upholstery or cushions could be so comfortable, so confoundedly soft. It defied any logic her brain could trick out that she could sink into this chair and immediately feel restive, feel embraced by its gentle curves and the smooth wood and the back and seat fitted so perfectly to her body. As she pushed off gently on the balls of her toes and began to rock, Lorelai closed her eyes.
When Emily arrived back home, Richard was in his office. The new television was on, tuned (as it usually was that time of day) to The Young and the Restless. The man himself sat comfortably in his armchair amid piles of books.
Emily stood in the doorway waiting to be noticed. At length, she cleared her throat. Richard dropped the book he held, starting in surprise.
"How nice," she smiled, "you remembered."
He waved her into the room. "How is Lorelai?"
"Impossible," Emily sighed. She perched on the arm of his chair as she spoke and cast a wary eye over his books. "She won't let me do anything to the baby's room yet. Richard, what is all this? What to Expect When You're Expecting? Feed Your Baby's Brain? Pregnancy after 35?"
He blinked owlishly over his glasses. "I'm afraid it's true, Emily. I'm pregnant."
"You're not half as amusing as you seem to think you are," she told him. "Did you buy every book on pregnancy that the story had?"
"Very nearly," he said. "I'm going to give them to Lorelai at this Friday's dinner, after I've had time to go through them myself and flag the most crucial information for her."
Emily reached for one of the books on the table beside Richard, flipping idly through the pages. "She will never read any of it, Richard."
"Perhaps not, but I bought two of each and I mean to read them all. I'm sure Luke will read them, as well, and between he and I, we'll educate her even against her will," he said. He seemed, Emily thought, inordinately pleased with himself. She refrained from rolling her eyes.
She set the book back on the table atop the others and remembered, not for the first time, the evening Richard locked himself in the room where she now stood, over twenty years ago, the same night Lorelai had locked herself in her bedroom. The two people Emily loved most in the world, shuttered away from each other and stubbornly silent; she had roamed the house alone that night, unable to sit or stand still. The cover of Richard's new book felt dusty beneath her finger tips, and Emily absently raised her hand to her throat, thinking of the month she'd spent in bed, disconsolate, after Lorelai took her baby and left. She thought of all the waiting, the months before her daughter first gave birth, the years lapsed and lost after.
"A baby is going to be good for this family, I think," she said suddenly. "It seems a good idea, a baby."
Richard took one of Emily's hands in both of his and kissed her knuckles. "I quite agree."
"I," she began, rising, "am going upstairs to change, and then you are going to take me to the club for a nice long walk." She tipped her head to the side. "Shall we?"
He laid the book he held aside. "We shall." He paused. "You know, Emily, I also purchased a few how-to manuals dealing with how one might get one's book published, should one—"
She felt vaguely lightheaded suddenly. "Oh?"
"I did. They are quite informative." He got to his feet. "Let's go change."
"What else did you buy?" she wanted to know.
"Oh," he said, his tone studiously nonchalant, "you know. Some books on various and sundry little hobbies."
Her eyebrows rose to her hairline. "Hobbies?"
"Car restoration," he said. "Model building—planes, ships, you know."
"Car restoration? Oh, Richard. I thought you'd gone through that phase. What happened to cobbling shoes?" Even cobbling shoes, as bizarre and obnoxious as it had seemed, would be preferable to the grease.
"There just weren't any good books on cobbling shoes," he opined.
"Heaven help me," Emily sighed.
Richard draped his arm over her shoulder and steered her to the stairs. "I'm sure they do, Emily."
Rory dropped her overnight bag in her room and gathered the necessities in her book bag—textbooks, notebooks, pens, Post-It flags and notes, a bag of mini-Butterfingers and a one liter bottle of Diet Coke—and wandered down the hall to Marty's room. He answered her knock wearing jeans and a threadbare tee shirt. She kissed his cheek, sidled past him, and threw herself on his bed with a gusty sigh.
"Promise me something?" she asked. He cocked an eyebrow in response. "Promise me that you'll remember always to put a shirt on when answering the door. Now that you're an RA, you need at least to pretend to be respectable. Plus, you can't have your advisees all flirty and bribing you with sexual favors, because that's a Lifetime movie waiting to happen."
Marty grinned as he sat at his desk chair, the back turned out. He folded his arms across the top and rested his chin on his wrists, studying Rory a moment. He affected thoughtfulness as he spoke. "My girlfriend doesn't want other women checking out my goods," he told the air. "I've got a mad, obsessive girlfriend who wants me all to herself. I'm so cool."
She sat up slightly, propped up on her elbows. "I could start walking around in the buff, you know," she said.
"I have no problem with that," he deadpanned.
She closed her eyes and fell back to the pillows. "You're so sweet."
"I try. How's the fam?"
"Mom's good. Tired—she's been working insanely a lot, so probably more from that than the whole being pregnant thing."
"The whole being pregnant thing," he echoed, shaking his head.
"Well," she said, as though this in itself were obvious. "I don't think she'll be playing the invalid card any time soon. She's got enough people ready to strap her down to a bed for nine months and not let her move until she's fully dilated and ready to push."
Marty flinched. "That's a disturbing and unsettling image," he said. "Why an invalid, though? She's pregnant, not diseased."
"Some might say they aren't that different," Rory said lightly. "People are excited. My grandparents are excited. Luke is excited and eight kinds of uptight. My mom is—" She paused. "—she's very serene."
"And you?" he asked carefully.
She sat up. "Of course I'm excited," she said. "Don't I seem excited?"
"You do. You just left yourself out."
She wriggled to the edge of the bed and swung her legs over, drew a line on the floor with the toe of her shoe. "I guess I did," she said. She raised her eyes to meet his, shrugging a little in response to his questioning gaze. "It's a huge thing that's going on for her, that's all."
"For you, too," he told her.
"I know," she conceded. "I'm happy for her, for them." She smiled and rolled her eyes for his benefit, knowing she sounded all of four, baby-voiced and uncertain. "So. What are you working on that has you stripping down to the skivvies?"
"Learning the lyrics to 'God Save the People,'" he said. He rubbed his eyes. "My life is all rock and gospel right now."
"Bite your tongue, woman," he groaned. "Or else I'll do it for you."
"I'm confused, though—isn't Godspell usually done in the spring? Right around, what is it, Lent?" she asked.
"It is. Sasha always does a musical in the spring, but Godspell's not big enough for what she normally does. So, there's that, plus she wants to do a musical in the fall along with all the one-acts and stuff she normally does. She says she's always wanted to do it and this is the best time since it's small and easy to produce and… everything." Marty rose and leaned towards the mini fridge housed beneath his bed, the expression on his face sheepish as he trailed off.
"Sasha so loves you," Rory cooed. He snorted at this. "When do I get to hear you sing?"
"Never," he intoned.
"That's my Indian name." He cocked an eyebrow at her and chugged from a bottle of water.
Rory smothered a smile and tugged the videotape she'd brought from her book bag. "Lane lent me the movie so you can get all fired up with holy spirit," she said. "Mom says we'll never see Victor Garber the same—"
"How were we seeing Victor Garber before?" Marty wondered.
"—and she wants to know if you'll participate in all the skipping," she continued, ignoring him. "If you want to go ahead and watch it without me, that's fine. I've got loads to do, reading and whatall, so I'm going to hole up in the library for a bit, and then I have some paper stuff. I'll swing by after, if you'll be around?"
Marty rested his hands heavily on her shoulders and kissed the top of her head. "I'll be here. I have a book to read, too." He paused. "We're back at school again, aren't we?"
"We are," she said wistfully. "Nose to the grindstone and everything. It was a good summer, though, and it's going to be a good semester."
"If you tell me to buck up, little camper—"
She cut him off with a brief kiss. "Gotta go. See ya later, Jesus."
It had been a good summer, a strangely fluid, endless parade of different things to do and places to go—except, she reminded herself as she settled into her old library study nook, it hadn't been endless, and she was back at Yale. And that, she decided, was a decidedly good thing.
She'd been back almost two weeks, and already she knew she'd have to get used to weekends at school; Friday through Sunday of the last few months had been spent at home with Lorelai, hanging out with Lane at Luke's, watching movies at the bookstore and afternoons reading at Weston's, entire days spent at the inn helping with odd jobs and wedding details. Her evenings during the week she'd spent having dinner with her dad and Sherri and the baby, and when she wasn't reading or writing, with Marty. Days, she'd gophered at the Globe Sunday magazine. She'd sat in on meetings, fetched coffee and lunches, did minor research, and soaked in everything she possibly could. She began to understand what it meant to freelance, to write to a deadline, to conceive a theme and execute it. The entire process thrilled something in her that she hadn't expected—as a student, hell, as just being i Rory, /i she thrived on tight schedules and lists and grades, on clearly defined expectations and clear-cut results, and she was decidedly adverse to the unknown. Having grown up with Lorelai, she was used to the spontaneous, and she was used to slightly ordered chaos, but she liked her lists, she liked her schedules, and she liked to know what was coming next. But this summer had taught her that she could ride by the seat of her pants, and that it didn't have to be terrifying—the fact that it was just the tiniest bit scary actually was the best part. It made her work harder.
Certain things had marked the summer. The wedding had been first and foremost, and the week preceding with all its parties and prep and equal parts giggling and neurotic hand-wringing. There had been her weekend at the Cape and the fourth of July in Stars Hollow with Marty as well. Her father had taken her to a baseball game at Fenway, though she wasn't entirely sure he understood much more of it than she. She'd enjoyed watching him try to explain; more than that, she'd appreciated the effort.
When she had packed up her things for good at the end of the summer, her dad had told her not to be a stranger, hugging her a little harder than she'd been used to. She'd promised and meant to keep her word with phone calls and day trips to Cambridge when she could. She wondered, privately, how long it would feel like effort to include him when she'd spent so many years not thinking she'd needed to, or even that she could.
It still wasn't habit, and as she settled into her chair at the library and ran down her list of assignments in her organizer, it made her sigh just slightly to see "call Dad" among the chapters she needed to read and the school supplies she needed to buy. She circled it in purple, reached into her book bag, and pulled out her copy of To the Lighthouse to begin her work.
By the time Rory got back to her room, she was mentally exhausted—dinner had been a pointless, circular argument with Paris in front of several other students from the paper about Rory's decision to put her semester abroad off until the summer. The two girls had been talking about spring semester of junior year and their stint at Oxford since the year before, and Paris was (understandably, Rory thought but did not say) livid that Rory was backing out to spend the spring at Yale. Paris had gone on—and on, and on, and on—about the relative stupidity of sticking around stateside for four and a half months for the sake of a single day, one that wouldn't mean very much in the long run because the mewling infant wouldn't remember it anyway and they could all just lie to it until it knew better and Rory could just—
"Paris!" Rory had exploded. "Would you stop? I can't miss this! I'm sorry it messes up your plans, but I need to be around for my mom and for Luke and I want to be there to meet little baby Danes—" Paris pulled a face. "—when he or she arrives in the world, and I'm not discussing it with you. It's not up for debate, okay?"
She changed quickly in her room and brushed her teeth before shuffling to Marty's room. He lay stretched on the bed, clad in blue cotton pajama bottoms and a white tank undershirt, watching an episode of Arrested Development. One arm thrown over his forehead, he twisted his hair about his finger and hummed. Rory crawled up on the bed beside him and situated herself against his side, her legs tangled with his and her arm thrown across his chest. He stroked her hair absently as the show went on.
"Paris ran me through the ringer about the study abroad thing," she told him, when it finally came to commercial.
"Shocking," he said. "She'll get over it."
"Or she'll hold it over me until I die. I'm actually looking forward to being able to tell people that in my wayward and callow youth, I spent three summers in Europe. It'll make me sound distinguished." He grunted. "How goes the practicing, Emmanuel?"
Marty wrinkled his nose. "Okay. I think I know the song—for some reason, I just had to choose the one with the most complicated lyrics of all of the Jesus songs. I think I know it. But I am concerned."
"Why?" she asked.
"Well, I think—do you think I have messianic charisma? I feel like I need to have messianic charisma." He angled to look at her, waggling his eyebrows as if to demonstrate his charisma, or lack thereof.
Rory squeezed him. "You've made me praise the lord more than once," she told him.
"That might be the most lascivious thing you've ever said," he said, choking on laughter.
"I know, dirty," she said. "But you asked."
"That's all I'm going to think about now, when—"
She shushed him, pressing a kiss to the corner of his jaw. "Who loves you, Jesus?" she asked.
"You bet I do," she said.
Marty gathered her closer to his chest. "And would you love me even if I had a huge Victor Garber 'fro? A garbfro, if you will."
"I would not encourage it," she said slowly, "but I probably wouldn't like you any less."
"A ringing endorsement if I ever heard one," he said. "Noted, my woman prefers my hair trimmed and tamed."
Rory buried her face in his neck. "There's a dirty joke in there somewhere."
"You have been hanging out with your mom way too much, Rory," he groaned. He sighed. "Why is it that trying anything new in college bears the distinct possibility of total humiliation?"
Rory smiled and sat up, pulled Marty with her and settled herself in his lap, her arms slung over his shoulders. "I've thought about this extensively, pal."
"And?" He raised his eyebrows, his expression expectant.
She pressed her palms to his cheeks and kissed him soundly. "How else are we supposed to learn?"
When she and Marty had nearly read themselves to sleep, Rory turned off his bedside light and curled up between Marty and his dorm room wall, wriggling to find a comfortable position in the narrow space. Marty shifted, and when she protested that she was fine, he told her jovially to shut up and took her by the waist, hauling her close to him. They lay in silence, spooned against each other. Rory felt Marty sigh from deep in his belly, a sign he was close to sleep.
"I wonder if it's going to be a boy or a girl," she said, abruptly.
Marty rubbed her hip with his thumb; she could tell by the sound of his voice that he spoke with his eyes closed. "Bet if you wait long enough, you'll find out."
"You know, I was an only child for seventeen years? And now, I'm almost twenty-one and I'm going to have two younger siblings? How amazing is that?" She shook her head. "Things like that only ever happen on television."
He smiled against the curve of her shoulder. "I guess not," he said. "Since it's happening to you."
"I guess," she said vaguely.
"You okay?" he asked. She knew now his eyes were open, though she couldn't see him. He slid his hand over her hip and rested his palm heavily on her abdomen. She caught it there and held his hand fast to her skin.
"Yeah," she sighed.
"Because you seem—you seem kinda sad. Or, I don't know, not so sure about things." Marty pressed a kiss to her temple. "You keep talking about how happy everyone else is and you don't seem as jazzed as you want to sound."
Rory turned her head, her chin on her shoulder, to offer her cheek up to him. "I'm happy. I just feel like—this year has gone by and so many things have happened and so much has changed."
"Right," Marty replied, his tone cautious.
She took a breath and continued. "My mom got married to this guy she loves so much, and she's having a baby, and she opened this amazing inn and really, finally made up with her parents, and her whole life has changed in this huge, epic way. It's the sort of thing they make movies about, you know, like a kind of up-by-your-bootstraps Victorian, Dickensian novel. And my grandma—she's become this whole new, softer person, and she's still my grandma. It's like she's the same person, she's just got all these new interests and she knows herself so well now. She went through this huge emotional Oprah journey over the last year, she and my grandpa. And Paris is seriously close to unseating the valedictorian, Lane's band is playing gigs all over Connecticut and starting to break into New York, and you, you've got this whole budding thespian thing going on that's so huge. You're going on stage and you're becoming new people, and you're singing, and it's so amazing and so different for you." Her voice was high and thin to her own ears, shaky with anxiety. "I just feel like everyone's doing things and getting better and being more, and I'm still me."
Marty sat up and rubbed his eyes. Rory watched him as he ran his fingers through his hair, rumpling his curls and standing them on end. After a moment of staring thoughtfully at the wall behind Rory, at the broad circle of orange light from the outside streetlamp, he spoke. "You know what I thought when I first met you? I thought, 'you're so beautiful. Sometimes, you're so beautiful, it just gags me. Maybe you're not real, maybe you're a phantom or something. I keep expecting you to vanish.'" He paused. "Well, I'd have thought it if I'd read You Can't Take It With You then, which I hadn't, but that's how I felt, that you were so beautiful, you couldn't have been real. And it wasn't just how you looked, even though, you know, you're this impossibly beautiful person. You gave me your robe. You were just so good at everything. You tried so hard at everything, and you were so intense about school and your mom and reading and the paper." He shrugged. "I just thought, someone this perfect can't be in the world; she's just too good. And you know, sometimes you're still so beautiful, it just gags me, but lately, it's like I know you're never going to vanish—you let yourself make mistakes now. You try new things. You stopped thinking that you had to do everything a certain way, follow a certain order—you got a whole new major. You're a writer, you've been writing these incredible essays. You stopped hiding behind the plan, Rory."
"Well, it sounds better when you say it that way," she said, her voice choked with teary laughter. She lay on her back and looked up at him. His face, she thought, was sincere. "I don't know—"
"I do. You're not a phantom anymore, you know, you're a real—you're becoming this even more amazing person because it doesn't matter so much anymore if you're perfect for everyone else as long as you make yourself happy." He spread his hands. "I think that's pretty huge, myself."
Rory was still a moment, silent as she considered what he said. "Thanks," she said at length. "That's some good perspective."
"You think?" he asked, and he smiled.
"I do. And I love you, you know." She reached up and traced the line of his jaw with her fingertips. "You big dork."
He laughed. "I know that. I think you're all right, too."
Rory pulled him towards her, her hand firm on the back of his neck. "Come here, Jesus. I got something to show ya."
It was the staring that woke Lorelai, not the slight twinge in her back. She shifted in the rocking chair, aware that her ass was asleep but unwilling to open her eyes. For all the softness and comfort Luke had designed into the thing, it was still a wooden chair and perhaps not made for hours of sleeping, she had to concede. She wrinkled her nose, and even with her eyes closed, she knew Luke mirrored her slight look of confusion.
"Stop staring at me," she said.
"I like staring at you," he replied.
She opened one eye, felt herself flush with an irrational delight to see him right where she thought he'd be, standing just as she thought he would: one shoulder against the doorframe, his feet crossed over each other and his arms folded over his chest, his head cocked to one side as he regarded her.
"Well, that's just creepy, then. How long have you been standing there?" she asked.
He tilted his chin up, pretending to consider. "Not long."
Not long for Luke meant anything from a few minutes to an hour, she knew, but she smothered the smile and held out her hands. "C'mere and help me out of this chair, Ricky Fitts, before my ass is permanently welded to the seat."
He grasped her hands and pulled her up, angling to look over her shoulder even as he let her slump against his chest. "Something wrong with the chair?" he asked.
Lorelai shook her head, making a soft noise of appreciation as Luke slid his hands beneath the hem of her shirt and pressed his palms to the heated skin of her back. "Chair good," she said, "sitting too long bad." He rubbed at the small of her back. "Do me a favor, keep doing that?"
"Would that I could, love," he said. "I'm just here on break—I have to get back pretty soon."
"Back?" She tipped her head slightly to look at him. "Why back?"
"Miss Patty's having her end of summer recital, and there are about fifteen classes on the program—"
Lorelai nodded. "You're swamped, then."
"Like a frog," he sighed, rolling his eyes. "I had to get out of there for a few minutes, come home, clear my head—I'll be able to leave for the night in a couple of hours, once the recital crowd has cleared out."
Lorelai reached behind her and took Luke's hands, turning in his arms to lead him out of the room. She affected lightness as she spoke, but it still made the tiny winged creatures stir in her ribs to hear Luke call the house home—for years, she'd heard him call the rooms or buildings people lived places—impermanent, impersonal. She ignored the tingle in her fingers and pulled him towards their own bedroom. "They're a tough one, that recital crowd. Come lie down with me for a second?"
"I lie down for a second and I won't be able to get up again," he told her.
Lorelai dropped his hands and sat on the edge of the bed. "I promise not to try anything dirty."
Luke pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm serious."
She smoothed the comforter with the palm of her hand. "Just sit for a second, then," she said.
"I can sit," he conceded.
She waited as Luke arranged himself with his back to the wall; he was rigid and determinedly tense as he shoved pillows out of the way and stretched his legs out before him. When he was settled, she curled up among the pillows he'd discarded, rested her head against his hip, and draped her hand over his thigh. She tapped her fingertips along the inseam of his jeans.
"So, you came home to be alone?" she asked, breaking a long moment of quiet.
Luke had been playing with a lock of her hair, and he tugged it gently. "In a way."
"This is like your Fortress of Solitude, then," she said.
He grunted. "It's my Fortress of Solitude."
"Can I be in the Fortress of Solitude?"
"You already are," he pointed out. "And if I said you couldn't be, you'd probably find your way in anyway."
She smacked him with the flat of her hand. "And be heartily welcome, right?"
"Of course," he drawled.
"What about Rory? Can she be in the Fortress of Solitude?"
"Rory can be in the Fortress of Solitude." Lorelai could almost hear him rolling his eyes again.
"Can Lane be in the Fortress—"
She looked up at him, mouth agape. "But we love Lane!"
Luke heaved a deep breath. "First of all, it's the Fortress of Solitude, so it's supposed to be, you know, solitary, and second of all, if I'm there, I need Lane at the diner." He paused. "Sookie can't come, either."
He held up a hand. "You, me, and Rory, that's it. The Fortress of Solitude is closed to Stars Hollow visitors."
"It is so proclaimed," she said, laughing.
Luke folded her hand into his. "LBD can come, too."
Lorelai opened her mouth to reply in sarcastic gratitude and found herself stopped short at a slight movement she saw Luke make with his left hand. She dropped her eyes and watched for the briefest moment, and he did it again: with his ball of his thumb resting on his wedding band and a sharp downwards thrust of his ring finger, he twisted his ring.
She'd been noticing it a lot recently, this tiny gesture that had rapidly developed into habit. When his hands were idle, when he was listening to someone he was in conversation with, even when he was cooking, he flipped the wedding band on his finger with the same gesture. The ball of his thumb slid to the left, twisting the ring as his ring finger bent inward to the center of his palm; after a brief pause, the whole process would repeat itself several times. It was a swift, fluid movement less obvious than just fiddling with the ring with his other hand would be, but she found it strange and distracting nonetheless.
The sudden silence made her feel pinned down and restless, and she began to speak without any clear idea of what she was saying. "We should think of LB names," she said. "How cute would that be?"
"Too cute," Luke winced. He paused. "Well, like what?"
She squinted, mock-thoughtful. "Like… Lyndon Baines. Or Lady Bird."
The rumble in his chest shook her. "No way," he said firmly.
"Lloyd Bridges," she said. "Laura Branigan—no!" she exclaimed, amused with the new game. "Lauren Bacall. Lucille Ball—"
"Larry Bird?" Luke offered.
He stared at her. "Seriously?"
"Never mind. Lionel Barrymore," she said.
"Mr. Potter," she said. "Seriously." She paused. "Lord Byron?"
Luke furrowed his brow. "What?"
"It's a movie—" He groaned. "—where Keanu Reeves plays a—"
"The phone booth guy?" he asked. "Oh, absolutely not."
Lorelai leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Don't worry, I'm in no way seriously suggesting we name our kid after a movie starring the phone booth guy. But it is a cute idea, the LB names. Maybe too cute," she conceded, seeing he was ready to protest. "But when has that ever stopped me?"
He kissed her quickly and checked his watch. "Too soon to be picking names, anyway, if you ask me. I should be going. Dinner, when I get back? You want me to bring something?"
She shook her head. "I'm feeling like a pizza."
Luke pushed himself to his feet. "Funny," he said, bending to kiss her goodbye, "you look like my wife."
"Ba dum bum," she said, rolling her eyes. "Get out of here, Punny McPunster."
She listened to him leave, lazing for a moment after the front door had shut behind him. She wanted nothing more than to stay where she was, curled among the pillows, a cold cloth for her forehead and her belly, perhaps, to fend off the returning headache and the constant sensation of being about to vomit. Nothing would fall apart if she stayed where she was, she reasoned, but she knew wouldn't sleep that night for the hours of napping in the afternoon. She swallowed over the heaviness at the back of her tongue and struggled to her feet. A few moments later, she adjusted the pillows behind her back on the sofa and took a long sip of iced tea. Luke had just barely managed to figure out how to use the TiVo, and there were hours of programs to scroll through—Iron Chef Americas, reruns of Veronica Mars and Project Runway and about thirteen hundred hours of baseball and sports news shows. She bypassed the food shows—the possibility of seeing anything fishy flipped her stomach just so—and the last few episodes of too-tense mystery in favor of catty, verbally inventive judges and oddly-coiffed designers. And, with a slightly wistful sigh, she reached for the instructional book, the ball of yarn she'd chosen, and the crochet needle she'd hidden in a bag beneath the sofa.
"I hope you appreciate the years and years of prejudice I'm attempting to overcome in order to make you your first binkie, little baby mine," she said, lowering her chin to her chest and speaking in the direction of her navel. "I have an actual yarn ball here."
As she looped the yarn over the crochet needle and squinted one eye at the square of practice stitches, she decided it had been a strange, lovely kind of month, and, like Rory, she was slightly regretful to see the summer end. The wedding had been—she paused, smiling as she thought of it—the wedding had been everything she could have wanted it to be, as well as the lazy day after, alone with Luke and holed up in the house. They'd gone to the doctor the next day, which she'd counted as a waste of time and a lost opportunity to sleep in and have newlywed morning sex, as all she'd done was wee on another stick, see another positive result, and been told to start taking her prenatal vitamins and come back in a few weeks. It had been made slightly more worth it to see how utterly embarrassed Luke could get in the presence of an OB/GYN who had no qualms asking Lorelai about her menstrual cycle and who was possibly the only woman he'd ever met who could say intercourse without giggling, as she was neither named Lorelai nor from Stars Hollow.
And then, Lorelai and Luke had had their hazy, yellow week at the lake. They were both of them so in awe of the fact of their marriage and baby and the rings on their fingers that she knew it would always seem a surreal sort of memory, with colors and scents and the recollection of touches too vivid to have been real. She had thought at the time that it was like living in a series of paintings: "Man and Woman on Beach," "Man and Woman in Canoe," "Husband and Wife Sleep In."
At home, they'd gone back to work and things felt very much as they had been, but different. She wasn't sure how to articulate it when, one evening, she casually remarked to Luke as they lazed on the porch swing listening to a baseball game on the radio, that being married was nice.
"I like it," he'd said absently, sleepy and warm at the very end of dusk. He tucked her head under his chin and rocked them in the swing, an implicit shush as Ortiz came to bat.
She settled her head into the hollow of his shoulder more comfortably. "It has a kind of more-ness to it," she said.
"Yes," she said. "That's what it feels like."
He'd said what Luke said when something hadn't occurred to him but seemed right when he heard it: "Huh."
She didn't know how else to put it—there was a slight quality of difference that had more to it than living together in the renovated house and more to it than the smaller, mundane changes, like joint checking accounts and a new driver's license with a new last name—it was an ineffable, unutterable change, everything old about her life, just a month ago or even two or three or six, just a little different. A little more.
It was comforting, even being home alone. Lorelai shifted on the couch, punching at the pillows she'd wedged behind her back, and set aside the crocheting—she'd done a few respectable, though mangled, rows, but once she'd hit week twelve, she could tell Babette (and therefore the rest of Stars Hollow) and finally get some lessons that would result in something more than lumpy stitches and knotty-looking patterns. Her throat felt tight from the nausea, the almost-but-not-quite-ready-to-hurl feeling; she moved the pillows to the end of the couch and curled on her side, nestled among them. She reached for the phone.
"I love Tim Gunn. What do you think it would take to get him to come live with me?"
Sookie clucked her tongue. "Honey, how many times are you going to watch those Project Runway reruns?" she asked.
Lorelai narrowed her eyes at the screen as she watched Kara Saun drape a dress form with fabric. "As many times as it takes to hallucinate—successfully—that Tim Gunn and possibly Heidi Klum live with me."
"You want Heidi to live with you?"
She stretched her leg and wiggled her toes, grinning. "Well, I think Mrs. Seal really needs to learn a little something about the proper way to pout."
"And who better to school her than you?" Sookie asked cautiously.
"I did grow up with Emily Gilmore as my mother," Lorelai said. "I have practice." She sighed. "Is it weird that I have this overwhelming need to go upstairs and try on all my lingerie?"
"When I was pregnant with Davy, I took a picture of my feet every single day as long as I could do it without bending over at the waist," Sookie replied.
Lorelai hit the power button on the remote and sat up. "So you're saying it's normal."
"I'm saying try it on while you still can."
She smiled. "You know, being pregnant is weird."
"Really weird." Sookie paused. "You ever think about what would happen if we were pregnant at the same time?"
"Sook. Are you…?"
She answered quickly, and Lorelai could practically see her shaking her head. "No, I was just, you know, wondering."
Lorelai rubbed her eyes. "Well, it would be hard, with the business to run, but if we had to, we could figure out a way to make it work. Why, are you and Jackson trying?" she asked.
Sookie made a humming noise for a moment. "We're not not trying," she said. "But if you think it would be better—"
She rose and trudged towards the stairs, her crocheting bundled in one hand. "Sookie. Please. I would never—could never, should never, and absolutely would never ask you to do something like that. If you and Jackson want another baby, and it happens, I would be nothing less than ecstatic for you, and if it happens in the next nine months, you and Michel and I will have a plan and we will keep the Dragonfly open and functioning and as well as it is right now. Okay?" She paused on the landing. "And think of how much fun it'll be if we are ever pregnant at the same time."
"Our babies will be friends just like us!" Sookie cried.
"It will transcend generations, Sook. And—oh," she exclaimed, "oh, if I have a girl and you have a boy, or you know, the other way around—"
"They can get married!" Sookie howled.
"And go to prom together!"
"It'll be like a movie!"
"And Tim Gunn will be the costume director," Lorelai said.
"Honey, you have to let Tim Gunn go."
"Tim Gunn would not want me to let it go, Sookie," she insisted. "Tim Gunn would want me to make it work." Sookie said nothing, and Lorelai grinned into the phone as she padded into the bedroom. "Stop mocking me," she told Sookie. "Your silence, it speaks volumes."
"Oh, go on and try on your lingerie, you pregnant freak," Sookie laughed.
"Be nice to the pregnant lady!"
"Talk to you later, sweetie."
Lorelai stood in the hall between the nursery and the bedroom, the phone still in her hand. She studied both rooms from where she stood, the warm, inviting new bedroom and the bare nursery flooded with late afternoon sunlight. She set the portable on the floor and wandered back into the baby's room, the bare wood floor warm beneath her feet. She settled once again into the rocking chair. She curved her back to the shape of the chair, rested her cheek against the smooth headrest, and stared out the window, letting her thoughts wander as she gently rocked herself with a tap of her toes on the floor. The yarn and hook lay forgotten in her lap.
She'd been thinking only a moment when she heard the front door bang open. She immediately busied herself with untangling the knot she'd made in the skein of yarn, not wanting to be caught woolgathering twice in one afternoon. Luke would tell her she should be exercising, or laying down, or taking her blood pressure.
"Up here," she called. "Baby's room." She smiled as she said it.
Luke loped up the stairs and paused again to lean against the nursery door. "You really like that chair."
"I really love this chair," she told him. "I thought you had to work? Lots of little ballerinas to be fed before they start developing body dysmorphic syndromes and eating disorders?"
He rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "I decided I could skip out for an afternoon."
"Everything okay?" she asked, working at a particularly convoluted knot of yarn.
"Just felt like a return to the Fortress of Solitude," he said. "Too many people at the diner. What're you doing?"
Lorelai looked askance at her crochet hook. "Theoretically? I'm making a baby blanket."
"Theoretically?" he echoed. "What about practically?"
"Practically, I'm making a lot of knots in the yarn while I try to figure out how to make the blanket," she said. She wrinkled her nose and conceded defeat, rose and put the yarn on the window seat nearby. One hand at the small of her back, rubbing at the knot of tension she'd been nursing for weeks, she turned to face him. "So, a whole afternoon ahead of us. How should we waste it?"
Luke extended his hand, beckoning her. When she was within arm's reach, he grabbed her roughly about her waist and hoisted her into his arms. "Had a thought," he said, cradling her against his chest. "Not so much of a waste, though."
She laughed as he closed the bedroom door behind them and set her gently on the bed. She tossed her hair out of her eyes, watching him as he kneeled at the end of the bed and kissed the inside of her ankle, as he ran his palm slowly, almost reverently, up her calf, pausing to tickle the soft, thin skin behind her knee. They undressed between long, heated kisses, sliding hands under hems and exploring familiar, hidden, favorite expanses of skin, of warm muscle, prolonging the moment when they lay skin-to-skin, his face in her neck, her hand in his hair. Lorelai arched against him, hooking her legs about his, pulling Luke to her again and again for kisses that bruised and burned, begging him to continue, never to stop, to fill her over and over and again. He savored every inch of her beneath his hands, the curve of her hips, the soft edges of her shoulder blades, the smooth slope of her back and the firm warmth of her thighs. When he found release, she shuddered and shook around him, her nails leaving white ridges in his upper arms.
Luke held Lorelai loosely with one arm and gathered a sheet over them with the other. Lorelai nestled against his shoulder, tucked against his side though they were both slick with perspiration and heat. She nipped gently at his neck and exhaled through her nose.
"I don't think Superman ever did that in the Fortress of Solitude," she told him. She closed her eyes, rubbed her nose into his shoulder. "Come home more often in the afternoon, will you?" When he began to chuckle, she slapped him lightly on the stomach. "That's not dirty! Even though it is!"
He rested his chin on the crown of Lorelai's head. "I've been thinking about names," he said. He began to comb his fingers through her curls.
"I thought you said it was too soon for names," she mumbled. She hitched herself higher in the bed and hugged him more tightly.
"It is. But you got me going with all the talk," he told her.
"Mm. As I so often do."
He tugged gently on her hair. "Don't fall asleep."
"Not," she said, pressing a kiss to his jaw.
"I like the name Leah," he said. "Leah Katherine Emily."
Lorelai smiled, her eyes closed. "After her grandmothers, that's nice. I like the name Leah, too. You think it's a girl?"
Luke snorted, as he often did when he was thinking, scoffing. Lorelai felt him flip his ring several times in succession. "You'd know better than I would," he said.
"Do you want it to be a girl?" she asked, raising her head.
"I just want it to be…" He paused.
"Happy, healthy, preferably with your sense of direction and my sense of fashion?" she suggested.
"Yeah," he said. "Have all its parts in the right places and stuff."
Lorelai covered her mouth with one hand, studying her husband a moment. "Have all its parts in the right places and stuff," she repeated. "Luke, are you afraid our child is going to have an arm coming out of its head like a bad SNL sketch?"
"You do drink a lot of coffee," he reasoned, catching her hand in his. He kissed her knuckles. "You never know."
"I know," she said darkly. "So, would you like a girl?"
Luke sighed. "I'd just like it to arrive in one piece and figure everything out from there."
She kissed him soundly. "I promise to do my utmost to incubate this kid to proper part-having wholeness," she said. "You're going to be a ticking time bomb of worry for the entire pregnancy, aren't you?" Luke shrugged, his eyes cast down. "You realize it doesn't end at birth, right? That then we take the baby home and raise it to be a flannel-wearing, coffee-drinking hybrid in high heels and baseball hats?" She saw him actually pale, the color drain from his face. "Luke, I'm kidding!" she cried. "Everyone knows you can't wear heels with flannel! I'm sure our kid will, too."
"Ah, geez," he groaned. He looked down at his hands, and Lorelai thought how silly and vulnerable and sickeningly sweet he looked sitting there in their bed, naked and covered with a sheet, his hair mussed and his eyes wide. "I'm going to be a ticking time bomb of worry for the rest of my life," he said.
Lorelai cupped his face in her hands, and she kissed his eyes and nose and cheeks and chin, speaking with her lips to his. "Relax, my life. It's got its perks. What's good about the whole married thing is the part of the deal where you don't have to worry all by yourself. The Fortress of Solitude admits more than one superhero."
"We need to stop talking about the Fortress of Solitude before you go out and buy me a costume or Superman underwear or something like that," he said, smiling a little.
"Oh, I like that idea," she whispered. She stroked his cheek with her thumb and tipped his head to look at her. She held his eyes a long moment. "I did it alone once, you know. And while I think I did pretty good on my own, it's—having you here? And us together? We have to enjoy this, Luke, this is like—this is like the best possible thing, better than—" She paused, searching for the right words. At length, she shrugged. "I can't tell you what it means to be able to do it again, with you, and like this. I can't even begin to tell you."
Luke ducked his head, abashed, and enfolded her in a loose hug. "Yeah," he said softly. "Yeah. Okay." He pulled back a little, and as he fluffed the pillows around her, Lorelai felt him flip his ring again on his finger.
Lorelai furrowed her brow, poked her lower lip out, and after a moment of silence, heard herself exclaim, "Okay, so why the heck do you do that all the time?"
"Do what?" Luke asked, his face set in a question mark. "What did I do?"
She bit her lips together, thinking about her reply before she spoke. "You fiddle with your ring. Your wedding ring. You're always playing with it, all the time. Even in your sleep sometimes, you know—well, I don't know if you know, maybe it's some sort of subconscious thing…" She trailed off. "I just see you doing it all the time, and I was wondering why. If it's because it's jewelry and you feel like an extra from i The Sopranos /i with even the tiniest bit of—pardon the expression—bling, that's okay, you don't have to wear it. I know plenty of men who don't wear wedding rings because they don't like the way it feels, and it's not like they're doing it to be shady or because they don't want people to know they're married or they're serial killers trying to lure young innocents to the pit in their basements, or anything—" She stopped. "You fiddle with your ring, and you were doing it just now. I've just been wondering why."
Luke spread his left hand and looked at the ring on his finger, and Lorelai could see him considering it anew. "I know I do it," he said. "Didn't realize you noticed."
"I'm serious, Luke," she said gently. "You don't have to wear it for my sake—"
"I like wearing it!" he protested. "I actually kinda—I really like wearing it. I like knowing it's there. I like that you have one, too. I just—I play with it sometimes."
"Yes," she said slowly, and her face flooded with heat. "Because…?"
He lifted one shoulder and flipped the ring again. "I just like to remember it's there."
"You like to remember it's there?" she echoed.
"Yeah," he said. He swallowed thickly and squeezed her hand. "I just like to check, sometimes. You know. That it's really there. That it happened. That this is happening," he said, laying his ring hand against her abdomen. "I just like knowing it's there."
"Like pinching yourself," she said, and he nodded. "Oh, Luke," she sighed. She leaned close and kissed him. "Love you."
He rested his forehead to hers. "Love you back. Now, c'mere." He arranged them both against the pillows, the sheet draped over them. When Lorelai was resting comfortably, her head on his chest, he reached past her for the book on the bedside table. Rory's copy of Persuasion was well-worn, the pages edged in yellow, thin, the text blurry in some place. "You want to read?"
"Mm, where were we?" she asked, thumbing the edges. "Louisa just fell off the wall, right?"
"Serves her right, you ask me," Luke grumped. "That chick is annoying."
Lorelai peered down at her navel. "Leah, don't listen to him. Girls should never suffer broken heads, no matter how silly they are."
"We're calling her Leah, now?"
She nodded emphatically. "I think we are."
"Sounds good, love," Luke said. "Sounds good."
They stayed there together in bed long past dusk, reading, and eventually, they fell silent. The evening cooled and the two curled into each other, limbs entwined, breathing, each listening to the sounds of the other, heartbeat, pulse, the sigh of exhalation. They were loathe to move, to speak, to end the quiet, perfect afternoon.