The potted avocado plant was an unobtrusive addition to the once-empty living room in the once-empty house on 424 Seneca Street, Palo Alto.
It seemed natural to place it there, next to the navy blue couch and white-paneled window, where it could bask in the sunlight that brightened up the room every morning. Where either of them would see it on their way out and remember to water it. (The problem, in fact, is it had been overwatered many a time.) It seemed natural to keep it—there was no need for discussion—even with the larger, fruit-bearing avocado tree already in the backyard. It was as natural and right, in fact, as her moving in, books, boxes, frozen dinners, and all. There was no need for discussion about that either. It was meant to be—and to him, always has been—their house after all. Their tree. (And now, their potted plant.)
Like a sentry, green and true, it quietly observed their comings and goings.
The morning ritual of coffee, cereal, and the Chronicle (unless they overslept, in which case there's the shared shower and the mad rush to the commute). She gets dibs on the editorial and entertainment sections; he on the front and business. There's a lot of debate here over politics and election hubbub, over just how critical or funny is the latest Judd Apatow movie. At times, there's a lot of shush-ing. She's prone to reading out loud when she's particulary psyched, and it annoys him sometimes. And there are days when they do manage to read the same page over each other's shoulders (with no untoward casualties).
It favored the late afternoons or evenings, when the cooler air was like a balm on its leaves. When he comes home, leaning against the doorway in wonder, warming at the sight of her curled up with her laptop on their couch with books scattered at her feet. She greets him with her open smile and open arms; hello, work dork!, she says. And the tired work dork happily burrows his nose in her hair, dragging the work dork lover to their futon unmindful of her feeble protests. Other nights, she arrives from her evening class to the smell of him cooking or reheating some amazing thing he had picked up from a Thai or Meditteranean restaurant on the way home. (He hardly cooked, of course, before her. She still didn't, period.) She rants about her evil professor, tearful over the scathing comments on her paper (was she not the once-editor of the YDN? an OJA nominee?), but unfailingly soothed by his foot massage, his indulgent sympathy, the absent-minded kiss on her cheek as he takes out the garbage. And still on other nights, awake and cramming for an article, she whiles away her time studying him as he sleeps (studying how the fine blonde hair on his arms glints under her lamplight), content in knowing that she can sleep to him, awaken to him, and make love to him, whether at 1 or 5 in the morning.
But they had their moments; it wasn't always so sunny. Like that weekend she spent sulking over some Julia and Sherry on his voicemail, incensed that there were women who failed to "get the memo" that he is no longer available for any dinner or any movie on any night. Or that botched birthday dinner, when he became unreasonably enraged over a Jeff who had called her during the appetizers (He went out with you long enough to know your birthday?, he demanded to know). Only to creep back in the other's arms that night, learning to forgive however way they tried to assuage their loneliness in the absence of the other. (There is something particularly satisfying about make-up sex, moreover). Every now and then, he still finds himself feeling apologetic. Surreptitiously watching her as she reads the Times online, he tries to decipher any hint of regret in the blue of her eye. And wonders whether she could be happier.
But to the people who came and went and saw their avocado tree, it was apparent that she—and he—couldn't be any happier. Lorelai and Luke (who had gotten over the initial awkwardness after eating his lobster); Honor and Josh and Charlotte (who loved to play in the shade of the tree as her mother shopped at the Stanford Mall); Brian Shanahan (who mowed their lawn for free, for her); grad school cohorts and Helix friends (who appreciated his collection of California wines, if not her take-out ordering skills). Full of love and her, the house on 424 Seneca Street was empty no more.
So it went. And the houseplant thrived.
There they were. Shading my eyes against the glare of summer sun, I frantically waved to the sea of faces on the Main Quad. Logan's head was bright; he looked serious, but blew me a kiss. Grandma was seated next to him, fanning herself with her programme and no doubt complaining about the California weather. Then Dad, Mom, and Luke. I couldn't help but laugh—I couldn't wait to hear from Lorelai the exquisite torture of being squashed between her ex-husband and now-husband.
A breeze blew through the line of graduates, making the shadowy arches of the Inner Quad awash in the fluttering red and black and gold of our academic regalia. Only two years in Stanford, compared to four in Yale, yet my heart was bursting with sentimentality and anticipation. Maybe it was because—unlike my Yale graduation—this time I knew what I wanted, and felt right about the narrowed-down (rather than wide-open) path ahead of me. The Communications Department had accepted my application to teach; The San Francisco Chronicle had published my Master's project and was considering me as a freelance contributor.
Or maybe it was because—unlike my Yale graduation—there wasn't that sense of shakiness or uncertainty about my relationship with Logan. Whatever happens next, I felt that he and I were in a safe place, as certain as any Pro in a pro-con list (not that I still made any). I looked out to him again in the Quad. He was looking away, looking distracted. Probably sensing my own nerves about walking up on stage.
The familiar strains of the graduation march chimed in, and my line began to inch forward. Adjusting my cap and hood, it occurred to me that another reason for my nostalgia was the fact that a Garrity, and not a Gellar, stood in front of me. Struggling medical student that she still is, Paris has nothing on my two diplomas. (And though not in the Ivy League, Stanford ain't bad at all). I would have appreciated the opportunity to gloat.
"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" Lorelai exclaimed, engulfing Rory in a hug and jumping up and down a little. "I have no idea what that means—this internship thingy—but everyone had stood up and cheered and everything when your name was announced and I figured that it must be another feather to add to the Rory cap! It's so full of feathers you're about to cluck like a chicken!"
"You're the one clucking like some mother hen," Emily said disapprovingly. "Really, some dignity, Lorelai." She turned to Rory who now enthusiastically embraced her. "Your grandfather is proud of you, so proud."
"I hope so, Grandma," Rory croaked. She looked meaningfully at Logan, who smiled and stood patiently aside while her family took turns congratulating her.
"So, Ror, what is this internship about? The name sounds familiar—" Christopher said, squeezing his daughter's shoulder.
"Daniel Pearl is the Wall Street Journalist who was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan," Luke clarified, clearing his throat. "Apparently a Stanford alumnus."
"Oh. Who knew you kept up with the news. Is the WSJ now available at your diner?" Christopher said lightly.
"Oh yeah, who knew?" Lorelai interrupted, intercepting the daggers being hurled from Luke's eyes. "I only know from watching Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart. Most depressing. And the curly wig, very unbecoming."
"The Daniel Pearl Journalism Internship means that Rory will be writing for the Wall Street Journal for a year," Logan said, finally coming to Rory and placing his arm around her waist. "She didn't even want to apply for it, but I thought she was a shoo-in so I convinced her. And see, I'm right as always," he said, pecking her cheek with a kiss.
"My daughter is much too modest. She gets it from me you know," Lorelai said.
"But…but does this mean Rory will be going to Pakistan? Where this Mr. Pearl was beheaded?" Emily looked slightly horrified.
"No, Grandma!" Rory reassured, laughing. "I would be based in New York, and then uh…I'm not sure…" her voice trailed off uncertainly as she looked at Logan with worried eyes.
"Er, I think I see the refreshments over there," Luke said, motioning to the other side of the lawn. "Emily, Lorelai, didn't you want a drink?" With Christopher, he herded the two women away from Rory and Logan, who looked like they needed a moment to themselves.
Logan took Rory's hand and led her to a quiet alcove, away from the clusters of families posing for photographs, from the caps still being thrown up in the air, here and there.
"Congratulations, Ace," he said simply, holding her tightly and kissing her soundly. Rory clutched the lapels of his jacket, the rowdy cacophony of voices fading, as he swept his tongue inside her opened mouth.
"Oh, wow," Rory murmured dazedly, moments later. "Maybe later…maybe there's more where that came from?" Damn these thick academic robes, she thought, pressing against him.
"Are you happy?" Logan suddenly asked her. Seriously, unexpectedly. Rory once again caught the uneasy look in his eye. And she thought she knew what it was about.
She put her hand to his cheek. "Yes. But when I agreed to apply for the internship, we also agreed that we would talk about it if I was accepted. You know I wouldn't go to New York, or anywhere else if you couldn't find—"
"Rory," Logan interrupted. "You go, and I'll go. It's my turn to make the move, follow you this time. And the good thing about working in a place like Helix is that it's so flexible. We work in a virtual world, you know."
"Yeah, yeah, but what if I'm assigned to—"
"To the Middle East, or China, or Timbuktu, there's no place left in the world which the Internet hasn't touched. Mike would appreciate my efforts to expand; we're not quite the fledgling start-up anymore." He embraced her again, and said against her ear, "And it's a good time for you to be out there again, be in WSJ. You could always teach later."
"I do want to be out there. But our house, and...Logan, it's a huge move. Are you sure you're okay with it?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. It's time to get out of the salt mines of Silicon Valley. I'm kinda looking forward to the change. I'll--we'll--figure it out," he reassured, kissing her temple.
"I love you so much," Rory said, almost unnecessarily. Logan said nothing, but Rory could feel his heart still thudding against her chest. This internship wasn't what was getting him so anxious.
"Logan?" she asked, pulling away a fraction. "What's wrong?"
Logan blew out air, stuffed his hands in his pockets. He looked out to the distance, as if trying to remember something, some rehearsed speech he had forgotten. Or perhaps some other graduation he had attended, three-and-a-half years ago. He didn't think he would feel so petrified, but he was.
"Rory," he began, his brown eyes looking at her blue. "I haven't got any grand gestures or speeches this time. But even so, I wanted to give it another go." He wordlessly took his right hand out of his pocket, and held his palm open to reveal a diamond ring. "Please say you'll spend the rest of your life with me."
Rory was stunned; she was caught off guard. She stared at the ring. It was different from the last one. She sorted out her feelings. They were different from before. And as Logan's words began to sink in, she found herself crying.
He seemed to have made her upset, and he panicked, closing his fist again around the ring. "Rory, I'm sorry if this isn't the right time, it's too much—"
"You thought you'd give it 'another go'?" Rory repeated incredulously, half-laughing through her tears. She took his fist and placed her hand possessively over it, placing their joined hands over her heart. "I have been waiting all this time; two years I've been wondering and hoping. And I thought you'd never ask me again!"
Logan felt a wave of relief, smiling at her indignation. He stepped closer to her, touched his forehead to hers. "Because your answer would have been…?"
"Yes, many times, yes. Wherever in the world we find ourselves, I want to be with you. I'll be happiest spending my life with you."
He placed the ring on her finger, then they kissed fervently, crazily, Logan giving out a loud whoop and lifting her off the ground with the force of his elation. From a distance, from Hoover Tower, the carillon bells began to ring their traditional commencement program. And from an even farther distance, the avocado tree seemed to shake its leaves and resonate with their joy.
T H E E N D