Disclaimer: This is an original story based upon the characters of Gilmore Girls and Judging Amy. No profit will be made from this story and no copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Thanks to all who have read and reviewed my previous stories. I really appreciate it. This is an idea I thought off. This is my first crossover story ever and I am a little apprehensive. I hope it works! This story takes place sometime after Wedding Bell Blues, dealing with the fallout between Emily and Lorelai and during the sixth season of Judging Amy, during Amy's pregnancy. Specific spoilers for the episode "Happy Borthday" for Judging Amy. Enjoy!
The first time I saw them I was wandering around the mall.
I was amused that Richard had told me to go shopping, told me to take the credit card and "spend, spend, spend," he had said. Of course I knew that he wasn't saying that just to be nice. He had cajoled me like a child, the same way he would talk to Lorelai when she would take his pen and run away with it laughing.
Of course I knew that he wanted to get me out of the house, wanted to get me out of bed, wanted to get me thinking about anything besides my baby girl.
"She's gone," he had said just that morning. "She's left and we need to accept that and move on." I knew him better than that. He wanted me to leave, so that he could go to work and bury his own pain with insurance stats. Every day I spend in bed reminded him that our daughter was gone, and so was our grandchild. And so I went, wandering around the mall aimlessly, marveling that someone could feel so lonely surrounded by so many people.
I wandered into a dress shop and the salespeople started to fawn over me, showing me the latest fashions, asking about Richard and about Lorelai.
She's gone, she's turned her back on me and everything I believe and love. She's seventeen, she's a mother. She isn't going to graduate high school, not going to go to college. She's seventeen, and she's out there somewhere. I don't know if she hurt, I don't know if she's cold or scared…"
"She's fine," I answered one of the clerks and turned my attention to an organdy ball gown to get her to change the subject. I ended up buying it. I didn't need it of course but somehow for five minutes it seemed to medicate the pain. Besides, I couldn't stand all those people faking their friendship. All they cared about was my wallet. What I wouldn't give for someone to talk to. I kept walking, past the crowds of people, people who were busily walking by doing their own thing. I had never noticed how fast the world moved. Why doesn't everybody slow down? Maybe if I had slowed down, maybe if I had stopped doing my own thing, I would be home right now, waiting for Lorelai to come home from school.
I turned around the corner and it was then I saw them. They were at a cinnamon roll shop, and were sharing a cinnamon roll. The mother looked to be somewhere in her forties, while the daughter looked to be a little older than Lorelai. I don't know what drew me to them—they just seemed happy, glad to be together…
…they were real.
I ordered a cinnamon roll myself and sat down a few seats away, trying to not look like I was staring at them. The mother had a steaming cup of coffee and the girl was slurping on an orange julius.
"Ma, it's the senior prom. I gotta have something special, really special,"
"Amy, dear, calm down. You don't know if you're even going to get asked yet," the woman had calmly replied. The girl—Amy, covered her mouth with her hands and let out a squeal. I would have died if Lorelai had done that in public.
"Guess what Ma," she said excitedly.
"I know Dear, Peter told me today that he would take you to your prom if you don't get asked."
"EEEWW!" Amy had shrieked. "No seriously, guess what."
"Jeffrey Todd asked me today to go with him!"
What came next was a shock to me. I would have first of all insisted that Lorelai keep her voice down, and then I would have given her the full interrogation about this boy who had asked her out.
"Really?" the mom had said, putting down her coffee. "Oh my goodness, I'm so excited for you! Okay, we'll go looking around for a prom dress after work tomorrow, and then we'll set up an appointment to get your hair done, and then we'll get your nails done. What kind of dress do you want? How did he ask you? What did you say?"
I was amazed. This mother was as excited as her daughter about such a trivial thing as a prom. I hadn't been very interested in Lorelai's school activities. I always came to her debates, and I always visited on parent's day, but as far as dances and things like that went—I was clueless. I never forgot that, how the mom was genuinely excited and interested in her child's life. For a moment, I had seen the life I could have had. But it was too late; it was too late for Lorelai and I.
I saw her again once—years later. I was at a book club meeting at a new members house who lived across town. She had just moved in and had been giving us a tour of the house. I was bored, looking at antique relic after antique relic. She had such a monotone voice and showed her belongings like she was a museum tour guide. She was showing us the painting in the living room when I happened to look out the window at the house across the street. There she was! She was grayer now, but even from across the street I could tell it was her. She was raking leaves and was talking with a child. I watched them, letting the monotone dialogue drain away. Suddenly, the woman put her arms across her chest and fell back into a large pile of leaves.
"Oh my goodness," I breathed, amazed at this display of childhood from a grown woman. She held out her arms for the little girl and the little girl joined her in the leaves, and the woman held her rolling back and forth in the leaves, and then the two of them threw leaves up in the air and then laughed delightedly as they came down on them. The woman had such a hearty laugh that I could hear echoes of it even from so far away. It was like watching Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons at the same time. Somehow though, it wasn't sappy, it wasn't sickening. It was lovely. It was real.
"Emily?" Erica Hoffman gave me a little shake on the shoulder.
"Oh yes, I'm sorry." I replied, turning to Cissy Granger our host.
"Please forgive me Cissy," I said, trying to cover up my embarrassment. Cissy sniffed and went on with her oration.
During tea, I approached Cissy, hoping she wasn't still put out. I could care less whether or not the stuffy woman liked me; I just wanted to ask her the question that had been on my mind all afternoon.
"Cissy," I approached her, "This is such a lovely house. Thank you for showing it to us. I was wondering, I believe I've seen your next door neighbor somewhere before. What's her name?"
"Maxine Gray." Cissy calmly replied. "I don't know that much about her. She's a widow, her daughter Amy lives with her, and her granddaughter Lauren."
So—it was her granddaughter who she had been playing with in the leaves. That night I had had a dream about Rory and I playing together in the leaves. I had woken up feeling wonderful, and then had realized with the heart-breaking way real life has of breaking it to you that it was only a dream. Why couldn't I be Maxine Gray?
Over the years, Maxine Gray became something of a legend in my mind. That next year, Lorelai had showed up on our doorstep and so came about the birth of Friday night dinners. To me, Maxine Gray became the ultimate perfect mother, and when I found myself exasperated with Lorelai, I thought of Maxine Gray. When Lorelai called and told me she wanted me to be a model at the school fundraiser fashion show I'd been furious. As I was getting into my outfit I was embarrassed and terrified of making a fool of myself and then as we were waiting in the wings to go on, I had thought to myself, "What would Maxine Gray be doing right now? She'd be out there having fun" and that was what I had tried to do. Sometimes having the image of the perfect mother was frustrating, like the weekend Lorelai and I had spent at Birchgrove spa. I had sat there on the bed, trying to hold back the tears and knowing that no matter how hard I tried I would never be a Maxine Gray. I would always be Emily Gilmore, valuing my stupid pride more than my daughter. Most of the time though, the image of Maxine Gray was what willed me to try harder. I wasn't idolizing the woman, I was idolizing what she had, the kind of mother she was. I wanted that so badly with Lorelai.
Now here I am, like a buffoon sitting in my car parked across the street from the woman's house. Cissy moved out years ago, and I'm sure the new people are wondering what in the world I am doing just being parked outside their house.
I wrecked it, I wrecked everything. I had been so happy just a month ago. Richard and I had reconciled, and were getting married again. The wedding was so beautiful—I will never forget the nervous excitement I felt standing there on top of the stairs, and how proud I was of my beautiful daughter as she walked down the stairs ahead of me. I was so glad she was with me. I will always remember the picture of my family, Lorelai and Rory, and Richard waiting for me there at the alter. I felt so safe and special as Richard reached out his hand for mine and we were married again.
It had been such a perfect night that I was oblivious to the fact that Christopher was getting drunker by the minute. I never knew that Rory and Logan had sneaked off together and had been discovered by two angry fathers who had then turned their anger on each other. One had left, and one had done what I told him to do.
We were to have a family picture. Was it the last family picture we will ever have?
Because she had whispered in my ear, "You and me, we're done."
And she had absolutely meant it.
Three weeks later, Rory had come to dinner. She was angry—I knew that from the start, I wasn't stupid. I thought she was just in a mood and I could get her out of it. Instead, she was colder than she has ever been to me all night long, while fawning over Richard. Now, Richard is the favorite. Lorelai talks to him, Rory is herself with him, and it's like I'm on the outside looking in. They're a family—Lorelai, Rory and Richard and I'm…I don't know what I am.
I get out of the car and walk to the door. This is absolutely ridiculous; this woman doesn't have a clue who I am. What am I even doing here? I don't really know. Maybe I have some fantasy that Maxine Gray will take me into her house, give me a cup of coffee and listen to my problems, and then she will tell me the secret of her perfect life.
I ring the doorbell and then suddenly I freeze. I pray she isn't home and part of me wants to turn around and run. How stupid can I be?
Okay, I'll count to three, and then I'll make a break for the car…1…2…
"Hello?" the woman at the door said. "Can I help you?" It was a blonde woman, in her forties—it couldn't have been the daughter I had seen so long ago. Another daughter maybe?
"Hello?" the woman said again.
"Um yes," I stammered, cursing myself for being such an idiot. I didn't know if she even still lived here anymore.
"Yes, does Maxine Gray live here?"
"Yes, she does," the woman said. "Just a minute I'll get her for you."
I almost stopped her, told her I'd come back another time, but she was gone around the corner before I could say anything.
And then there she was, walking around the corner, smiling and wiping her hands on an apron.
"Yes," she starts, "I'm Maxine Gray. Can I help you?"
For a minute I just stand there, feeling so embarrassed I want to die.
"Hello," I finally stammer. "Um…my name is Emily…uh Mrs. Gilmore."
Maxine just watched me as if waiting for the rest of it.
Finally I swallowed my pride. "You don't know me, and I don't really know you. Years ago, I saw you and your daughter Amy sharing a cinnamon roll at the mall. I sat across from you and watched you. You see, my daughter Lorelai had just left home. She was seventeen and had a baby. I felt like such a failure and was so lonely for my daughter and it was so nice to watch you with yours. A friend of mine, Cissy Granger used to live across the street from you and one day I was at her house and I saw you playing in the leaves with your granddaughter and I just watched you." I paused for a moment, and Maxine continued just to look at me.
"I promise I'm not crazy, and I'm not a stalker, I just wanted to come and see you. My daughter isn't speaking to me right now and my granddaughter hates me too. My whole world feels like it's caving in and I just wanted to come and tell you thank you. Thank you for helping me remember that the world is still good and showing me the kind of mother I could have been."
I was sure she was going to start laughing but she didn't. In fact she reached up and brushed away a tear.
"Thank you," she said. "I needed that today." A moment of silence past between us and then she said, "What did you say your name was?"
"Emily," I replied, "Emily Gilmore."
"Would you like a cup of coffee?"
"Yes, I would," I replied.
She showed me to her living room and then disappeared into the kitchen. It was such a warm and cozy living room, with a fireplace and pictures all over the mantelpiece. Just like Lorelai's house. I looked at some of the pictures, from what I could tell there were three children, two boys and the girl. The woman who answered the door was in a wedding picture with one of the boys. There were school portraits of a girl throughout the years—the granddaughter I was assuming. There were pictures of two other children, an African-American little boy and a blonde little boy.
"Here we are," Maxine said coming into the room.
"You have a lovely family." I said, taking the cup of coffee and beginning to sip it.
"Thank you," she replied and gestured for me to sit down. It was so strange, the two of us sitting together, like we had been friends all of our lives. She asked me to tell her more about my family. I started to talk about Richard and his business, Lorelai and her inn, Rory and her accomplishments but then I found her warm house so inviting, and her pleasant mannerisms so friendly and open, I had never felt such a genuine offer of friendship. Suddenly I began to tell her my story, of the regret I felt from going over to Christopher's that night, of the long years of estrangement and my terrible fear that was going to happen again. She listened intently, as if we were the oldest and dearest of friends and it felt so good just to let it all out, feelings I hadn't told anybody.
"You know for years I thought of you as the perfect mother," I said to her, after we had finished our second cup of coffee. "I thought you had the picture perfect life." I looked down at my hands realizing how silly I felt. "When I watched you that day with your daughter, I felt so jealous. I wanted that so badly. I would have traded places with you in a second."
She was quiet for a minute, and looked away
"I remember that day," she said. "Amy did find the perfect prom dress and she went to the prom and had a wonderful time." She smiled at the memory and then turned back to face me.
"Emily, just a few years later her Dad was diagnosed with cancer. It was a long and painful sickness and he passed away. I had three children, one still in high school and I had never felt so alone in my life. Peter, my oldest son, had to take on the family business. He is married to Gillian," she said, pointing to the wedding picture, "He and Gillian were told they couldn't have children and they adopted Ned. When Ned was a baby, the birth mother came back and said she wanted him back. They gave him up but were able to get him back. Later on we found out that Gillian was pregnant with Walt, and that joy was overshadowed when we found out that there might have been something genetically wrong with the baby. The baby was born perfect but Gillian was in a coma for eight weeks. They have been separated for awhile but are recently getting back together. Amy is now a juvenile court judge, divorced and living here with her daughter Lauren who is going through the teens with a fire. Amy is constantly worried about if she is a good mother, if she is there enough for Lauren. Last year a boy came into her courtroom, who showed some violent tendencies and she ordered him to anger management. That night he shot and killed his parents and eight year old sister later that night.
My son Vincent is a writer, he met and married the girl of his dreams who then was diagnosed with breast cancer. He went through all of that with her and then she left him for her oncologist. He has been shot, nearly blown up, and beaten up on more than one occasion. I have a job everyday where I see kids that have been terribly, terribly, abused. It has driven me to the edge on more than one occasion. Earlier this year I was sure I was going to have a nervous breakdown—I had a heart attack instead. Then while at a cardiologist appointment, I had another one. I was engaged to be married a few years ago, and two days before we were supposed to be married my fiancé died of a heart attack. Today is Amy's birthday party, two days ago she called and told me…" she paused for a minute and put her hand over her eyes, trying to get control of her emotions. "…she had had a miscarriage. I was devastated for her and I was devastated for me. I wanted that baby. She won't talk to me, she won't tell me what she is feeling. My granddaughter is in the kitchen right now, crying because she wrote 'Happy Borthday' on her mother's cake and also because she feels responsible for the miscarriage because she never wanted the baby and had wished something would happen and then it did."
Strangely, I had been crying and I didn't know it. As comforting as it had been for me to talk about my problems to someone else, it had been as pleasant for someone else to confide in me. Maxine Gray was a real person. She had problems and worries too
She leaned forward and patted my hand. "Emily, you told me that you lie awake at night, and wonder if you've been a good mother, wonder if you're a failure, if you've done enough. I have those feelings all the time. That's part of the job. This is life, it isn't perfect, and your children are going to have problems and will be disappointed. But you just do the best you can."
Still wanting more, I leaned in closer. "So, you and Amy fight too?" I asked.
She chuckled. "Um…yes, we've fought on several occasions."
"What do you do?" I asked.
She simply shrugged as if it were the simplest thing in the world, "We say we're sorry and we get past it."
The doorbell rang and a taller man with a beard—Peter, I recognized him from his picture, answered. A tall black man, and a shorter heavy set woman walked in carrying birthday presents.
"She's not here yet," Peter told the two. They wandered into the living room and Maxine stood up to greet them. "Bruce, Donna, this is a friend of mine Emily Gilmore. Emily, this is two members of our adopted family. Bruce, Amy's court services officer and Donna, who used to be Amy's court clerk. I rose and extended my hand.
"Pleasure to meet you," I said smiling. "I should go, you are having a party." Bruce, Donna and Peter walked into the other room.
"Thank you for coming Emily. I needed a friend tonight." Maxine said smiling and as we looked at each other, suddenly we were hugging each other goodbye.
"Thank you Maxine. I've needed a friend for a very long time." I said back.
"Come into the kitchen, and write down your telephone number won't you?" Maxine said. "Maybe we could do lunch sometime."
I smiled and came into the kitchen with her. She took one of the birthday hats and placed it on her head.
"So, what do you do when your child is hurt or disappointed? How can you protect them from something like a miscarriage on their birthday?" I asked. I looked up and saw that Maxine's full attention was focused on a woman who was standing outside the doorway watching the festivities go on inside. She turned back to face me.
"I can't" she replied. "All I can do is love them. Excuse me." With that she walked outside. I watched for a minute as she put her arms around her daughter and Amy rested her head on her mother's shoulder. Slowly, I turned and walked out the door. Before I had gotten to my car I'd taken my cell phone out of my bag. I got in the car and dialed her number. There were a few rings and the answering machine picked up. I knew she wouldn't answer whether she was home or not. She had caller ID. The beep sounded and I hesitated for a minute.
"Hi Lorelai, its Mom. I just…I just called to say I'm sorry about everything. I know that won't make it right, but I wanted you to know. When you want to talk, give me a call. I want to do better. I just…I love you Lorelai."
I clicked the cell phone off and turning to take one last look at the Gray family through the window, I started the car and started home.