A/N - This chapter is flashback heavy, but I'm rather happy with this chapter. Thank you to all of you who reviewed the last time. I really appreciate it. I think I'm finally able to get Lorelai right though. Thanks a million to Cira who does amazing beta work. Enjoy!
Leaves of Autumn
Chapter 13: Apple Crisp and Promises
"You will not marry him!"
"No, Mother! I will. I love him!"
"You will not!"
Emily's heart pounded dreadfully fast in her chest, panic flowing through her in torrents. Tears were forming and all she could do was fight and beg with all her strength. "I will! We're engaged, Mother!" She stood with fists clenched by her sides, the tautness in her shoulders showing how upset she was. She couldn't understand the sudden tirade against Richard. Her family had been supportive when she had first told them about the engagement. They liked him. Daddy loved him!
They had been happy! Why weren't they happy now?!
"You will not marry Richard. You will break the engagement with him and you will never see him again!"
"Why?! I don't understand! You were happy! Daddy was happy!" Emily cried, feeling a headache starting behind her temples. Tears slid down her cheeks and she was sure she looked like a mess, eyes red and puffy. She choked on a sob, mentally already preparing to beg if she had to.
Her mother caught her forearm and pulled it up between them, causing her sleeve to slide down slightly. In that moment, the pounding of Emily's heart rose in volume until it became a loud roar, drowning out everything around her. She tried to jerk her arm away but her mother held her with surprising strength.
"Look at this Emily! Look!" The anguished tone of her mother brought her back to focus and she stared at her half-exposed wrist. "You wouldn't tell us who did this to you and the only reason you wouldn't is because you want to protect someone! You are protecting Richard!"
Emily trembled, squeezing her eyes shut and refusing to look at the fading bruises. The memories came back in an instant, slivers of the moment imprinted in her mind deciding to show themselves.
"Please…" a whisper was all she could manage without increasing the roaring noise in her head. "It wasn't Richard. Please, Mother. Please."
"Emily, why won't you tell us the truth?" her mother answered, all but begged. "Why are you protecting him?"
"It is the truth! Richard didn't hurt me. He never did… He would never hurt me, Mother. Never."
"Stop lying Emily!"
"I am not lying! Please Mother, Richard would never do something like this. I love him!"
"If it wasn't Richard, then who was it?!"
Emily couldn't speak. It was as though her voice had deserted her and she wanted nothing more than Richard by her side right now. She yanked her arm forcefully away from her mother's grip.
"You have no idea how furious your father is!" her mother continued angrily, speaking in a frustrated tone.
"Daddy knows?" The shame overwhelmed her, the humiliation becoming a part of her. She cringed inwardly.
"Of course your father knows Emily! This isn't something I can keep from him. It's not something I want to keep from him either! He will press charges on Richard. You will not marry that boy!"
Emily jerked awake, her heart racing, her silk pajamas sticking to her damp skin. She pushed the comforter away, letting the cool night air wash over her. Her throat dry, she tried to control her breathing, taking slow, deep intakes of air.
Richard rolled over to face her, concern radiating from him. "Emily? Are you all right?"
She adjusted her position on the bed and turned so that she was lying on her side, facing him. It was relieving to know that he was by her side and even more comforting to know that it was unlikely he would be going anywhere soon. Emily sensed her husband's trepidation in reaching out to her and this time, she shifted closer to him on their large bed. "I'm okay," she said, aware of the breathlessness of her voice. She hoped it didn't apprehend him more. "I'm okay," she repeated, reaching out in the darkness to search for his hand. "Bad dream, that's all," she said, finding his hand and taking it into hers, letting the warmth of his skin comfort her.
Richard frowned into the darkness. "Okay."
His single word hung in the air between them. Richard was torn between the need to hold and comfort Emily and the need to give her space and time.
In the end, she moved closer to him and turned so that her back was to him. She pulled his hand around her, placing it against the valley between her breasts. Richard followed her actions tentatively, only doing what she wanted him to do. She settled against him and he could feel the steady beating of her heart against the back of his hand, telling him that she was right there.
They both slept, just like they always had in the past – in the happier moments.
Emily had been adamant that Richard went to work the next morning. He had been uncertain, as he was bound to be, but he had done as she wished because he had learned from years of marriage that when Emily got upset, she would shut down and that was exactly what he was trying to get her not to do.
Emily spent the morning reading a book club assignment despite the fact that the deadline had been ages ago. Idly, she wondered if she should start returning to these club meetings. They were one of the more interesting meetings she had. Perhaps if she saw her friends … Her thoughts came to a screeching halt.
She didn't want to see her friends, she realized, or their cheery dispositions. Hell, half the time they weren't real anyway. It was impossible for anyone to be like that all the time. She should know. After all, half her life had been spent trying to be exactly that. Besides, she wasn't entirely sure that she could refrain from biting their heads of if they said anything that annoyed her. She wasn't in the mood to indulge them. Emily waved those thoughts away and expelled a sigh as her eyes went back to the sentences and words in her book.
The doorbell rang once, pulling her attention away from the book and she frowned.
She also wasn't in the mood to indulge guests, whoever they may be. Perhaps if she just started up the stairs now, she might be able to hide from whoever was outside. Maybe they would think she was out. Maybe they will think - "Oh, what does it matter anyway," she mumbled, putting down her book and got up to open the door since there was no sign of a maid anywhere. Perhaps it was the new gardener.
Before she could take a step, footsteps echoed down the stairs and the maid whizzed past her.
When Emily was sure that the woman was going to yank the door open in an inappropriate manner, she slowed down and then fixed a smile on her face before opening the door to greet the guest.
"Expertise from our kitchen to yours!"
Emily recognized her daughter's voice immediately and smirked. Well, well…
"Excuse me, ma'am?" the maid started hesitantly, her fixed smile faltering.
Emily's amusement somehow overrode her annoyance with the maid and she walked over to the front door. "Hello, Lorelai," she greeted, smiling warmly at her daughter.
Lorelai stood at the door, holding a paper bag in one arm, stacked with boxes of various sizes. "Hi Mom." She grinned.
The moment Lorelai entered the house, she made a beeline to the kitchen, all the while talking non-stop. Emily listened, trying to follow her daughters monologue, but as usual with Lorelai, the topics were all somehow interconnected and worlds apart at the same time. When they reached the kitchen - and it had seemed like the longest journey Emily had ever had to take to her own kitchen - Lorelai set the paper bag down on the countertop and pulled out one of the top boxes.
"Betty Crocker's Complete Desserts. Apple Crisp," Lorelai read from the box and then showed the front to her mother as she dropped her handbag on the countertop right next to the paper bag.
"I never quite knew that apple crisp could come from such a small box," Emily observed, taking the box from Lorelai and stared at the cover.
"Well, now you know," Lorelai quipped, pulling out another box from the paper bag. "I've got the Chocolate Chip muffin mix here. Made from Semi Sweet Chocolate Chunks. Hershey's."
"What are all these for Lorelai?" she finally asked, curiosity getting the better of her. She hoped Lorelai wouldn't get defensive. The last thing she wanted now was an argument.
"To make apple crisp and semi sweet chunked chocolate muffins?"
Emily shook her head slightly. It wasn't the answer she had been looking for and she knew Lorelai knew it. However, she didn't want to push, or somehow appear displeased that Lorelai was here so she didn't ask further. "Are we going to be using all of that today?" she asked instead, steering them into clearer waters - safer waters.
"If we have the time. But first, we need lunch," Lorelai said, with an arm stuck in her paper bag searching for something. Another box perhaps?
Emily nodded slightly but remained silent. This was bizarre. Lorelai coming here. And proposing they actually cook together. "What about the Inn, Lorelai?"
"Sookie and Michel's got it all under control," Lorelai mumbled, and then finally pulled her hand out of the paper bag with another box, not unlike the ones she had pulled out earlier. "Aha! Lunch."
"Lunch?" Emily echoed, eyes widening slightly. From another box?
"Betty's sure got some good stuff. Potato Buds. Hundred percent real potatoes."
"Mashed potatoes," Lorelai informed and set the box down on the counter. "This should be enough for the two of us."
Emily stared at the box. The image of mashed potatoes on the front looked tasty enough. She fought the urge to laugh. Here she was, Emily Gilmore, with all intents and purposes to have lunch. Lunch made from ingredients from a small cardboard box her daughter had brought with her.
She couldn't wait.
"Let me put the eggs in!"
Emily frowned slightly at her little girl sitting on the countertop, legs dangling off the edge. "The eggs are one of the hardest parts, angel. Here." She gave a small spoon to the child. "You can put in the vanilla essence."
Lorelai pouted. "But Mommy, I wanna put the eggs in!" Seeing her mother's look softened, she held her hands together and opened her eyes in the way she knew her mother wouldn't be able to resist. "Pretty please, Mommy? Pretty, pretty please?"
Emily pressed her lips into a thin line as she stirred the mixture with the wooden spoon. "No, Lorelai," she said firmly, trying not to give in. Besides, she wanted the cake to be perfect. Perhaps it wasn't really the right way, baking a cake herself, but Trix wasn't here so what did it matter? Richard would love it.
She hoped he would.
"You promised I could help!"
"You are helping," Emily pointed out, looking at the small spoon her daughter held.
"But I want to help in a big way!" Lorelai exclaimed, frowning in the way so reminiscent to her mother. "So Daddy will know I helped too!"
Emily sighed as she realized that this was not an argument she was going to win. "Okay, angel. You can put the eggs in. But let me break them first."
"Why can't I break them?" Lorelai asked, scandalized at the notion. "I want to break the eggs too!"
"Here." Emily held an egg for Lorelai to take and the little girl used both her hands to cradle it.
She knew how this was going to work and if it meant breaking her little girl's heart a bit, the outcome was worth it. "Go on. Break it." She fixed her eyes on the bowl in front of her and continued to stir.
Lorelai seemed lost for a moment, realizing that she didn't know how to break it and looked down sadly at the egg cradled in the palms of her hands. "I don't know how, Mommy."
"Now see why I didn't want you to break the eggs too?" Emily asked gently, still stirring the mixture when she looked back at her daughter.
Lorelai nodded, defeated.
Stopping what she was doing, she cocked her head to the side and smiled mildly at her child. "Do you want to know how?"
Immediately, the little girl's head snapped up, eyes sparkling with excitement. "Yes!"
Emily grinned, letting the wooden spoon rest against the side of the mixing bowl "Come here."
Lorelai handed the egg she had still been holding to her mother, then scooted towards her and turned her upper body towards the mixing bowl, tucking her foot under her thigh to face it.
Waiting until her daughter had found a comfortable position Emily took an egg from the box. She made sure to have Lorelai's full attention before she knocked the eggshell slightly against the side of the bowl and then cracked it open in the middle.
"You want to try it?"
Lorelai nodded eagerly.
"Here." Emily gave Lorelai another egg and stood behind her daughter. "Go on, knock the egg. Not too hard though." Lorelai nodded and did as she was told. "Now you hold it this way," Emily said as she repositioned the little girl's fingers on the egg. "And then you break it like this." She guided Lorelai's hands slowly and smiled when her daughter giggled.
"My fingers are slimy!"
Emily chuckled. "That's because you have little fingers, angel." She kissed the crown of Lorelai's head. "We have a few more to break. Do you want to do it? Or are you afraid of slimy fingers?" she teased.
Lorelai giggled. "I'll do it all by myself this time," she announced proudly and took an egg, holding it over the bowl. Following the way her mother had shown her, she broke the egg successfully into the mixture and giggled some more when she dropped the shell into the bowl. "Uh oh…"
Emily smirked. "We don't want to leave that in there, do we?" she said as she removed the eggshells, then glanced at her watch. "Wash your hands and go take a nap."
"I don't wanna!" the little girl pouted.
"Lorelai, don't be stubborn. Go take a nap," she said sternly, dropping the eggshells into the trashcan. Looking back at her daughter, her voice got softer again. "I'll wake you up before Daddy comes home."
Emily smiled and winked. "Promised, angel."
A new gardener had been hired, the latest maid had stayed more than two weeks already, and the cleaners had come in last Sunday. Neither of that mattered to him. The only people Richard had been interested in talking to were the police. But there was no news. No bloody news from the bloody police and Richard was close to bloody go back to the damned police station he had just been to and give them a piece of his mind.
He drove home without turning on the radio; instead his mind didn't stop speaking, his heart still aching as the conversation he had just had kept repeating over and over in his head.
"The dents on Mrs. Gilmore's Mercedes were the only clues to identify the attacker's vehicle, and all we know from Mrs. Gilmore's account is that it was a dark-colored SUV," the detective told him as he flipped through the file he held in his hands. "DNA samples collected were no match to any on our database. He's not a convicted criminal. And we don't have a description of him. Not even a vague one. To be honest, sir, it's almost impossible to get this man. It's like chasing a ghost."
Richard had made a scene. Pressing. Demanding. Threatening. Had they run a search for that SUV? Had they scouted the area for any other clues? The area wasn't that large. And it damned well wasn't Emily's fault that she hadn't seen her attacker's face.
Not a convicted criminal…
Of course they had. The detective had seemed to understand his turmoil and had calmly explained the procedures they had taken. No, there were no SUVs matching the profile. Of course they had searched. Richard had pushed more then, making them recount every single detail, not trusting that they were doing all that they could.
It's like chasing a ghost…
No, he decided. It was not. A ghost couldn't hurt. And this man - this man had hurt Emily. This man could and would be found. He would make sure of that. Tomorrow, he would go down to the police station again.
It had been a long day. No, long was an understatement. It was a day which seemed to go on forever. A steady headache was beginning to build behind his eyes and the briefcase he was carrying was like a burden on his shoulders, its contents bound to give him an even heavier headache.
"Emily!" he called as he entered the house, dropping the briefcase unceremoniously on a table nearby.
"In the kitchen!"
He was too tired to even wonder what she was doing in the kitchen and all but dragged his feet there.
The sight that greeted him surprised him, euphoria flooding his senses more than anything lately. There was Emily, smiling at him with a smile so beautiful his heart gave a flutter, and his baby girl, sitting on her favorite spot on the countertop clapping her little hands together.
"Happy Birthday Daddy!" she cried excitedly and he laughed with joy. "We made you a cake!"
Richard went to his family, lifting Lorelai off the counter easily and hugging her close to him. "It looks like a very delicious cake," he praised, looking at the cake with candles adorning it.
Lorelai giggled. "I got to put the eggs in," she declared proudly and Emily nodded.
"Yes she did. Happy Birthday Richard," Emily said, moving towards him.
Richard wrapped an arm around his wife's waist and kissed her temple. "Thank you. I love you so much," he whispered, breathing in the sweet smell of her hair. "This is perfect."
Emily smiled up at her husband. "Anything for you."
Richard pulled into the driveway and sat quietly in the car after turning off the engine. So far he had not said anything to Emily about the progress of the investigation. He would not, unless she asked. It seemed unlikely that she would, seeing that all she did was trying to forget that night. A few minutes passed before he finally stepped out, only to see Lorelai's jeep parked higher up the driveway.
Saying a silent prayer, hoping that there had been no disagreements or fights while he was gone, Richard grabbed his briefcase and slammed the car door shut.
He refrained from calling out her name as he usually did in case Emily was resting but his ears picked up a laugh that clearly belonged to Lorelai. It floated from the kitchen and curious, he left his briefcase on the table by the stairs, walking towards the sound.
"Emily? Lorelai?" he called, continuing towards the kitchen. He couldn't even recall the last time he had placed foot into the kitchen.
"Dad! Come on in! You've got to taste some of these!" Lorelai's cheerful voice greeted his ears.
And just like that, Richard's day began to brighten.
To be continued…
A/N - Thanks for taking the time to read. Reviews are greatly appreciated.