Title: Thirty-Two Short Films About Lorelai Gilmore
Disclaimer: If I were Amy Sherman-Palladino, I'd have a better CD collection and look good in hats. But I'm not and I don't, and these characters are obviously not mine.
Thanks to everyone who's read and/or reviewed.
NOTE: This chapter is now complete.
Lorelai doesn't laugh when they start chanting, or when they try to breathe through their eyeballs. She doesn't laugh when her classmates -- Babette, Gypsy, and Rory's math teacher among them -- raise their arms and pretend to be mountains, or sink to the floor and writhe like snakes.
But then Miss Patty starts instructing them in the art of the headstand. The thin, rabbity woman to Lorelai's left -- the woman whose bones, Lorelai decides, have been replaced with Silly Putty -- glances at Lorelai's Ramones t-shirt, monkey socks and rubberband adorned with pink plastic gumballs, offering her best threat grin. Smile from the nose down, ice from the eyes up: Lorelai was raised by a past master of that smile, knows it cold.
In retrospect, everything seems clear: How the grin had set Lorelai off balance, how the monkey socks were too slippery on Patty's studio's smooth wood floors, how Lorelai hadn't consumed nearly enough caffeine to keep the om shanti shanti from provoking giggles at just the wrong instant.
But in the moment, all Lorelai knows is that up is down and down is up and things that aren't ever meant to bend are experiencing unhealthy amounts of torque. And then she hears the sickening crack and feels the blood rush from her head.
"Sweetie, you stay still," Patty says in a thin, high voice as she grabs the studio's cordless with one hand and shushes Babette with a sharp glare. "Don't move. Everything's going to be just fine."
And after she reaches the emergency room and receives her first dose of Demerol, Lorelai actually believes it.
Six hours later, she's back in her living room, arrayed on the lumpy oatmeal-colored couch with the phone, remote and a glass of water within reach. The house is strangely quiet -- Babette and Rory have run to the drug store for painkillers, trashy magazines and Twizzlers. Her leg is beginning to ache and throb against its thick plaster cast.
Lorelai picks up the phone, idly tracing patterns around the plastic chiclet buttons. Later, she'll blame this on the prescription narcotics, but for now, she just dials.
"You get to wear cute pants and learn how to put your foot behind your head," she says, only slightly defensive. "How could I resist?"
Chris laughs, low and familiar. "Everybody needs a parlor trick."
Lorelai closes her eyes, her drug-induced haze pierced by something she can't immediately identify. Nostalgia, maybe. A vivid mental image of Christopher's get-out-of-jail-free smile -- the one that charmed school secretaries and spinsterish English teachers and even Emily Gilmore, on occasion. Such a nice boy, that Christopher Hayden, that look said. Such good breeding. (And there, Lorelai thinks, is their root problem: such good breeding, and a little too much of it.)
She drifts in and out of something like sleep, lulled by tales of Christopher's latest attempt at 9-to-5 living, this time as a venture capitalist in Pasadena. They talk for nearly an hour, until Babette comes bounding through the back door, shaking Lorelai's newly procured bottle of pain pills like a maraca.
He calls the next day, and the day after that: the beginnings of a pattern that strengthens as summer turns to fall. By the time the first frost crisps the air, Chris calls almost every day and is floating a trip east for Rory's birthday.
A surprise, he says, and Lorelai agrees, ignoring the little voice telling her it'll never happen.
Instead, she focuses on the cake (chocolate layered with raspberry buttercream, baked by Sookie) and the festivities (sleepover replete with John Hughes movies and representatives of the orange-cheese food group).
A week before the main event, Chris leaves a message on her cell phone. His schedule conflicts with the trip, he says. The firm needs him. He hopes she'll understand. He'll make it up to them.
He calls that night during the late news.
"Rory's asleep," she says, picking at the hem of her sweater and trying to remember where she left her rock-star belt (black leather, chrome studs, entirely inappropriate).
"I figured. Unless she's staying up for Letterman, trying to polish her monologue."
She's not in the mood for glib -- or this conversation in any guise, for that matter. "She's twelve, Chris. She's in bed by 9:00."
Lorelai's mind supplies a stock image of sleeping Rory, curled into a ball under a thick layer of blankets, her hair braided into a shining rope. Next to her bed, they've hung a corkboard. Tacked around the Harvard pennant, the Hello Kitty poster, and the science fair ribbons are postcards: postcards of Times Square and the Mona Lisa, the Spanish Steps and the blazing neon of Toyko's Akihabara District. Their flip-sides are tattooed with slashing Xs and swooping Os and Christopher's promises to write again soon. Every so often, he adds a story, ten sentences engineered to provoke Rory's bell-like giggle.
"I'll call her tomorrow, then," he says. "If that's okay. Around six."
"She waits for your postcards, Chris. She misses you." For a long moment, Lorelai hears only white noise: the hum of the refrigerator, the barely audible hiss of the phone line.
"I miss her too," he says quietly. "I miss you both."
"But you can't come for a visit." She blinks furiously, trying to banish the sudden moisture that's blurring her view. In her head, she hears klaxons wailing, the sound of disaster -- danger, Will Robinson!
"I just -- I can't do this anymore. We can't do this." She hates this, how she talks to him and she's sixteen again, dragging her Princess phone into her closet where the dolls can't stare at her. She's too old for this John Hughes movie.
"We're just talking," he says, voice cracking.
Lorelai imagines his sad smile, the way his eyes crinkle at the corners, the way he balls up his hands when he's nervous. She takes a deep breath. "You should make it 6:30," she says slowly. Carefully. "Rory's painting sets for the eighth-grade play. She won't be home until at least 6."
After what seems an eternity, he sighs and tells her 6:30's fine with him. As she hangs up the phone, she notices movement outside: Luke, in his truck, plowing that afternoon's snow from her makeshift driveway. He gives her an embarrassed wave.
Lorelai manages a wan smile before she sinks back into the couch and closes her eyes, willing her mind to blankness. When it comes, sleep brings her neon-bright skies and honey-colored shafts of sun, endless highways and the salty smell of a nearby ocean.
When Lorelai dreams, she dreams of California.