A.N.: Strap on your skates, grab your skis and your snowboards and head down to the winter carnival in Hades; I've finally updated! To quote Lorelai: "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" For those of you who still think I deserve waterboarding, my defense is simply that I am slow—glacially slow. Sloths make fun of me. Combine that with maddening perfectionism and you've got a recipe for frustration.
Will I be forgiven if I tell you that this chapter is by far the longest? In fact, if you take the length(it's just under 30,000 words) and divide it by my usual chapter size, this is about the equivalent of 6 to 7 updates. Does that make me any less lame? :)
Okay, the angst dial officially reaches 11 in this chapter, so be warned if you're a Fluffy Mcflufferson (not that there's anything wrong with that).
This is for all of the readers (and reviewers especially) who have hung on and given me encouragement and gentle and not so gentle ;) nudges during the long wait.
One more thing: Music plays a key role in the last scene of this chapter. I provided links that you'll have to cut and paste that will allow to hear the songs. Please consider listening if you aren't already familiar with those songs.
Disclaimer: Not my characters!
Tangled Up in Subterfuge
Someday some morning
sometime, sometime I'd like to tell you you're pretty and
I'd like to hold your hand in mine
Someday some morning sometime
Your face will smile and your eyes will shine
Someday some morning sometime
I'd like to tell you you're pretty and
Wednesday, June 15, 1983, Stars Hollow, 12:03 a.m.
The house was quiet when Luke got home. He cracked open his father's bedroom door and saw him sleeping. The hallway light provided him with enough light to see the letter opened on his father's nightstand. He wondered how he took it, as he went to his own room, threw off is jeans, and sat up in his bed. He took a deep breath and opened his mother's letter:
August 9, 1973
To my dear, sweet boy,
Your father promised me he would give you this letter on the day you graduated from high school. Since he is a man of his word, I know I must imagine you as a young man as I write. It isn't hard to do, really, for you were always my little man, weren't you? You were always doing your part and looking out for others, just like your father. It's easy for me to picture you as you must now be: strong, handsome, hardworking, honest, ready to take on the world. How I wish I could be with you on this special day.
I'm sure your father has done a great job raising you, son. He's a wonderful man, and you couldn't ask for a better role model. So I know I don't need to talk to you about what it means to be a good man. I do want to talk to about something equally important though: Love. Knowing (and loving) your dad as I do, he probably hasn't shared much about his romantic side. He pretty much kept that between us. He was more reserved than I was in general but not when it came to showing his love. I want to write to you about this now before I lose the chance to tell you forever. I probably don't need to, because you have your father's heart, but I want to give you a woman's perspective now that you are a young man (and I bet a dashing one at that).
I may not be very lucky when it comes to health, but I have been most fortunate in love. I know you've heard the story of how your father and I met, and maybe you've heard that I get blamed for his low batting average (personally, I think that's unfair because the man could never hit an inside fastball). While there is some truth to the 'love at first sight' part of the story, it was so much more. The star-crossed lovers phase is nice, but it won't last if that's all there is. Your father always loved me most for who I am. No one has, or ever will, know and understand me as much as your father. He's my best friend, Luke.
Imagine knowing you are loved just for being your flawed, goofy self. That's how I feel with your father. The more I revealed, the more he loved. The trick early on was getting him to reveal himself fully to me, especially anything he perceived as weakness. I know that can be difficult for you tough guy types, but part of love is trusting a person enough to be vulnerable. When you find someone you love, put yourself out there and be your beautiful, natural self. After all, don't we all want to be loved for who we really are?
We never tried to change each other, Luke. We grew, of course, often together, a few times out of sync, but always with respect, support, love, affection, and humor. Oh how we laughed together, Luke! I hope you have memories of that because sometimes we laughed at you. You were such a wonderful little weirdo kid. Are you still running? We used to be able to get you to do anything if we promised to 'time' you. "Luke, why don't you go get the mail? We'll time you!" or "Luke, do you want to bring up the clean clothes from the dryer? We'll time you!" I hope you caught on to that eventually, my dear boy.
Your father and I had our share of arguments—every couple does, but we always fought fair, and never said the kind of hurtful comments you can't take back. We trusted that we both had good reasons for our opinions and actions and we worked things out. True love—lasting love takes work, and sweetie, it is so worth it.
Trust was another cornerstone in our relationship. We never gave each other any reason to doubt or feel insecure. Your father never looked at other women the way he looked at me, and I made it clear that I only had eyes for him. Actually, he did flirt sometimes with old ladies who came into the store, but that's just because he's sweet. He had a way of making me feel special and desirable, especially when I needed it most.
Now I am lying here in this bed, with my hair falling out in clumps. I'm skinny, exhausted, and bruised, but your father still makes me feel beautiful. He was always able to do that Luke, and that is very important in a relationship. I felt so depressed after the mastectomy and the first round of Chemo and radiation. I looked horrible and felt mutilated. I didn't feel like a woman, and there were times I wanted to give up the fight. Your father took those feelings of despair and helplessness away and made me feel whole again. He made me feel beautiful and needed. Actually, he helped me realize that I was still beautiful, whole, and needed. He gave me strength when I felt mine failing. He gave me his heart. Always.
So I thought you should know this about your father. We have a special love, my sweet, and I know now that I'm not going to be here much longer, and as you read this, I will have been gone for about ten years. Bad luck, I know, but I can't help thinking that, all things considered, I am actually very lucky. I got to have sixteen (counting the two years we dated) wonderful years with Will, and I got to have you and Lizzie. I wish I could have been with you longer, but it couldn't be helped.
You and Lizzie make us so happy, and that's what we both want for you-- simple happiness. Follow that big heart of yours, son, and develop the mind to match. Take your chances. We will always be there for you, Luke. Well, me in spirit only, but still "there" in your heart, I hope. I know how much you want to please your father, and oh how sweet it's been to watch you mimic his every move, but let me let you in on a little something, kid: You're in, Flynn. Always have been, always will be. You don't have to try so hard. You've inherited your father's intensity, which is a good thing as long as you go easy on yourself once in a while. Your father thinks you've inherited my creativity, especially for drawing and music. I hope you liked that guitar.
Well my heart, I want to give you a piece of your father's softest, romantic side. He's not exactly "Mr. Romance", especially on demand. Remember his rants about Valentine's Day? I believe he called it "Contrived Crap Day" once. He has a valid point, actually. His "off day valentines" to me were better anyway. The folded note I enclosed is a poem by E. E. Cummings that your father painstakingly copied and left on my pillow one winter morning as he later whispered in my ear, "just because it's so true." He did a lot of little things like that, but this is my favorite. It is yours now.
It is unfortunate, son, to say the least, that I will leave this world too early, but know that my time here has been one with "great advantages." I have been so lucky.
I love you now and forever (so much),
P.S. Try reading the poem aloud. Don't worry about the weird spacing and punctuation; it is supposed to be that way. It is word music.
With shaking hands and tears in his eyes, Luke peered inside the large envelope and found a smaller, folded piece of paper. He unfolded it carefully and saw his father's unmistakable, deliberate handwriting. He read aloud in a whisper:
the great advantage of being alive
(instead of undying)is not so much
that mind no more can disprove than prove
what heart may feel and soul may touch
—the great(my darling)happens to be
that love are in we,that love are in we
and here is a secret they never will share
for whom create is less than have
or one times one than when times where—
that we are in love,that we are in love:
with us they've nothing times nothing to do
(for love are in we am in i are in you)
this world (as timorous itsters all
to call their cowardice quite agree)
shall never discover our touch and feel
—for love are in we are in love are in we;
for you are and i am and we are(above
and under all possible worlds)in love
a billion brains may coax undeath
from fancied fact and spaceful time—
no heart can leap,no soul can breathe
but by the sizeless truth of a dream
whose sleep is the sky and the earth and the sea
For love are in you am in i are in we
Luke read the letter through for the fifth time, dried his eyes, and tried to sleep. He tried to imagine his mother's voice. He wanted so much to tell her about Lorelai. Lorelai… Lorelai…Lor-e-lai….he drifted into an uneasy sleep.
Luke woke up suddenly from a bad dream. His mother was trying to warn him about something, but he couldn't remember what it was. His hands were shaking, and he was covered in sweat. He got out of bed and went into the bathroom to splash cold water on his face. He went to Liz's room and put his ear to the door. Relief surged through him when he heard her snoring lightly.
He walked downstairs to get something to drink and was alarmed to find the front door open with just the screen door standing between their house and the lunatic world. Luke cautiously stuck his head out the door and nearly jumped a mile when he saw his father sitting on the porch.
"Jesus! You scared the life out of me, Dad!"
William chuckled. "Sorry," he grinned.
"So what are you doing up?" Luke asked.
"Couldn't sleep. You?"
"So, how was the big party? You're the only kid who would come home earlier from their own grad party than his little sister."
Luke laughed. "Yeah. Liz was definitely more into it than I was. It was an okay party I guess, but I was really anxious to get home and read my letter."
"You didn't read it right away?"
"No, I told Rachel I'd meet her right before you gave it to me, so I was rushed and I wanted to take my time to really read it, you know?"
"Oh, I do. I sure do."
"You read yours?"
"Only a few hundred times." William kept his eyes on his son before glancing down. "She's still surprising me," he added softly.
Luke looked at his father. "She really loved you, Dad.
"I still love her."
"We had something…," William searched for the right word, "special."
"Yeah, that was a big part of what she told me in my letter. She called herself lucky." Luke studied his father's face. For the first time in his life, he was beginning to understand the depth of his pain.
William gave a small laugh. "Well, I guess underneath the agony of the loss, we were lucky to have found each other. Very lucky."
"I used to wonder sometimes why you never dated anyone else."
"Oh, I think I did a few times, accidentally. You know, well-meaning friends who just happened to bring along a single, female friend to a dinner or by the hardware store…that kind of thing." William patted his son's knee, and looked him in the eye. "Your mother is still with me, you know? I couldn't and still can't feel anything for anyone else; I am still in love with her."
"You made her happy, Dad. She told me."
William smiled sadly. "That's all I ever wanted to do—make her and you and Lizzie—happy."
"You did, Dad…and you do."
"Thanks, son," he said sincerely. He patted Luke's knee again. "Just so you know," Will continued, "that was the last letter."
"I figured," Luke muttered as he stared ahead.
"Except for one more for Liz, which, I should tell you, is in the back of the safe—just in case I get hit by a bus or something before she graduates."
"Yeah, well just look both ways before you cross, Dad."
Bud walked into the Hardware store right on time. "Ready to go, Will?"
William came out of the storage room. "Yeah. Let's get this done." He turned toward a man at the cash register. "Thanks for covering, Charlie. I'll call you tonight about more hours."
"Okay Will. I could really use the work, so thanks."
William walked out and got into Bud's car. "Thanks for doing this, Bud."
"Of course, anytime." They fell silent as Bud started the car. "So Liz is in school, how'd you get this past Luke?"
"He's working on the Belleville farm until one, and he has practice from three to six, so I'm hoping he doesn't even notice I'm gone."
"Okay," Bud nodded. "You are going to tell them though."
"Tell them what? I don't know anything for certain, Bud."
Bud noted the slightly sharp tone in Will's voice, but pressed on. "It's just that I can see you keeping this from them. A protective instinct, if you will…" In his peripheral vision, he could see Will's jaw clench, but he continued. "Now I know Lizzie likes to avoid reality as much as possible, but Luke—"
"I think I know my own son, thank you very much," Will cut in acidly.
"Not saying you don't. What I am saying is that I know you."
William sighed in the kind of way that brought the conversation to a halt. They rode the rest of the way to the hospital in an awkward silence saved only by occasional talk of the State Championship game on Saturday. When he pulled into the parking lot, Bud could see that his old friend's irritability had been replaced by nervousness. "Hey, let me go in with you," he offered.
"Nope. I'm a big boy. I'll call you as soon as I can, though. The doctor said I should be ready to leave around four."
"Okay, and um…good luck, Will."
"Thanks friend," William said sincerely, as he walked gingerly into the hospital for his biopsies.
Thursday, June 16, 1983, 7:35 a.m. Stars Hollow
It was late. Luke had been up already for almost two hours. He cracked open the door to his father's bedroom, saw him still sleeping, and sighed. Stop being paranoid. He's just tired! He decided to make a breakfast designed to put some pounds back on his dad. Luke wondered what his mother would think about this situation. He figured she would be able to see right through any of his attempts to hide a problem. She knew him too well, and you could never get anything by her. His inner voice kicked in as he prepared the food: You know him too. You know something is wrong. He's trying to protect you.
Luke shut out those thoughts and his mind turned to Lorelai. She still hadn't called. Clearly she's moved on. What would his mother have thought of his situation? He mused on this until he heard footsteps.
Liz dragged herself into the kitchen and plopped on a stool. "I am sooooo ready for school to be over," she whimpered.
"Here. Maybe this'll help." Luke slid a plate of French toast toward his sister who perked up immediately.
"Hot damn! What did I do to deserve this?"
"Nothing," Luke said quietly. I made them for Dad."
"Oh, he's already at the store?"
"No, he's still sleeping." Luke tried to say this in his most casual, what-me-worry(?!) voice, but it didn't work.
"Wow. Dad sleeping until eight is like normal people sleeping all day."
"I guess. I didn't see him much yesterday, but he was pretty beat by dinner time." Luke stirred his oatmeal and tried to read his sister's face. "Did you see him at the store at all after school?"
"Naw, I was too busy hanging out with Jimmy."
"You're still into that jerk?"
"Yep, and he's not a jerk. Maybe he used to be, but he's really nice now, Luke."
"If you say so," Luke rolled his eyes and got swatted in the chest. He shrugged it off and started clearing the table. "Liz?"
"Do you think it's weird that Dad is still limping, getting tired, sleeping late, but after spending two nights in the hospital, the doctors have nothing to say?"
"I don't know. Maybe he's just getting old."
"Forty-four isn't old."
"Sounds old to me. Stop worrying so—"
"Hey," Luke said with more sharpness than he intended, "I'm sick of people telling me to calm down when something isn't right about him! You weren't the one who found him passed out on the floor right here! So don't sit there and tell me not to worry because the last time you did, he— " Luke stopped abruptly and turned toward the sink, away from Liz. He vigorously started scrubbing the frying pan as Liz watched in silence. She picked up her plate and tried to rinse it, but Luke took from her, doing his best to avoid eye contact. "I've got it. It's five to eight, you've got to get going."
Luke kept scrubbing.
"I didn't mean to upset you, Luke."
"It's okay," he grunted. "I'm not upset." Liz stood by watching. He thought she had finally turned to leave when he felt Liz put her arms around his middle and hug him from behind. He sighed. "It's alright. I'm alright."
"Yup. Go ahead." He gently removed her arms from around him and turned her toward the door. "Jimmy's probably waiting by your locker."
Luke gave her a sidelong glance and a tiny smile. "Maybe."
"Then I'm outta here!"
Luke let go of a breath he had been holding when he heard the door close. Damn it, he thought, as he wiped his eyes. Emotional much, Danes? Maybe after practice today you and Kirk can skip and hold hands.
Frustrated, he dried his hands and bounded upstairs. He cracked the door open to his father's room and heard him snoring lightly. It's good that he's sleeping in, he thought to himself. He tried not to think about how nervous and worn out his father seemed when he came home last night. It had been inventory day after all. He walked back downstairs and began to dial the phone.
"Hello, Mrs. Belleville? This is Luke Danes. I need to cover at the store this morning. Oh, he's fine. Charlie called in sick. Right. Could you tell Mr. Belleville for me? Okay. It may be just for a little while, so I can probably give you a few hours later on. Cornfield number four? Got it. Thank you. Bye."
Luke prepared a bowl of oatmeal and half grapefruit, and set it on the table next to a plate of French toast with a side of scrambled eggs. He tore out a piece of notebook paper and wrote: The store's covered. EAT this. Take your time. Luke placed the note next to the food and headed for the hardware store.
9:17 a.m., Hartford
"What are you thinking about?"
"Nothing? Your mind is a complete blank, a tabula rasa?
"Come on, Luke!"
"I was just thinking how happy I am to be here with you."
"Am not," he growled.
"Are too," she growled back.
"Shhhhhh…Look at those stars."
"Hmmmm…" Lorelai snuggled a little closer to Luke. She tilted her head so that it touched the side of his face. He smiled and squeezed her good hand.
"You're not looking at the stars, are you?" He asked sleepily.
"I'm looking at a star. The star of, well whaddaya know? Stars Hollow!"
"Jeez," Luke muttered, rolling his eyes to detract attention from his smile. They fell silent, and Lorelai moved down to use Luke's chest and shoulder as a pillow. He threaded his fingers through a section of her hair. His touch was gentle, and he smelled so good. She listened to his heart against the steady rise and fall of his chest and basked in the warmth and comfort of just being with him. I have found my anodyne, she thought as she tried to commit the moment to her memory.
"So…what are you thinking about?" Luke asked, his voice almost a whisper.
"Oh, you know,…fate."
"Oh, that," he chuckled.
"What?" Lorelai asked, lifting her head in mock indignation, "you don't believe in fate?" Luke shook his head, a trace of a smile on his face. "You're such a guy." Lorelai took her hand out of his, swatted him playfully on the shoulder, and returned to claim back his hand.
Luke propped himself up on an elbow. "I'm a guy...because I don't believe in fate? You really think there's some kind of celestial plan worked out for everyone and everything? Does that make sense to you? Why bother trying to achieve anything if, when you fail, you can just say, 'oh well, guess it wasn't meant to be?'…"
Lorelai studied Luke's dynamic face—his arching and falling eyebrows, his knitted brow, and his squinting eyes with fascination. She noted the different timbres of his masculine voice and tried to squelch a smile. Lorelai had been facile with words just about all of her life. Few of her friends could hold their own with her in a discussion, but here was Luke, who, despite claiming to be "bad at words" demonstrating to be anything but.
"…And are you sure you want to categorize skepticism as a male trait?"
"Well now that you've put it that way, no." Lorelai sat up. "I was just—"
Luke sat up. "And this whole 'meant to be' thing' is always getting tossed around unquestioned—usually just to fill an uncomfortable silence with useless words, but does anyone bother to think about it? I mean, I can't tell you have many people told me at my mother's funeral that it was 'meant to be' or part of 'God's mysterious plan', like that was supposed to trick me into feeling better somehow." Luke suddenly realized he was ranting at Lorelai and stopped suddenly. "Sorry," he said, gently raising Casty and kissing her finger tips, "I didn't mean to jump down your throat like that."
"It's okay. I like your rants."
"Yeah. I like seeing you get all flustered. Besides, you made some good points. Maybe fate isn't the right word to use. Plus you were so…" She wanted to say 'sexy,' but it was too early for that. "You were so animated and cute."
"Cute? Oh goody, I'm cute."
"Luke! I was giving you a compliment."
"A compliment? It's a compliment to be put in the same category as a smurf?"
Lorelai giggled. "No. I didn't say you were smurf cute. You're more of a Butch Cassidy kind of cute. You know, as in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Surely, you've seen that movie."
"I have. Wouldn't call it cute, though."
"Aw come on, when Butch and Sundance were bantering about Bolivia? That was totally cute."
"So does that make you Sundance, then?" Luke teased.
"No, silly! I'd be Etta, the Katherine Ross character."
Luke smiled at that. She'd totally be Etta, he thought.
"But then," Lorelai continued, "you should be Sundance. Etta was with him, not Butch. Besides, your personality is more like his." Lorelai noticed a grin forming on Luke's handsome face. "What?" she asked.
"So you're with me then?"
It was her turn to smile. "Guess so."
"Good. Now where were we?" Lorelai smiled.
"Miss Gilmore?...Miss Gilmore?...Miss Gilmore!"
Lorelai snapped up her head. "What? Yes?"
"If you are so confident that you do not feel the need to pay attention, perhaps I should give you the final exam right now."
"No, that won't be necessary, Mr. Parsons. I'm sorry. I just have a lot on my mind."
The rest of class snickered, but Lorelai couldn't help but notice Christopher staring ahead blankly.
"I suggest you refocus."
"I will." Lorelai stared at Luke's name on her cast as her history teacher droned on about The Buck v. Bell case.
9:23 a.m., Stars Hollow
Luke looked up as the sound of the bells announced his father's presence. William looked perturbed.
"Hey," Luke said as nonchalantly as possible, "I left you breakfast. Did you eat it?"
"Couldn't. I was already late since someone decided to let me sleep in. What the hell were you thinking?"
"Thought you could use it," Luke mumbled. "And you're welcome."
"Touché, son. I deserved that. Don't mind me, I'm just…I don't know. But anyhow, you left enough food for three people."
"Just trying to fatten you up."
"Who says I need fattening?"
"Me, as well as anyone else with functioning vision. Dad, you need to eat more, for God's sake."
"You think so, huh? Listen kid, I can still take you!" William tried to lighten the mood by faking a punch to Luke's stomach.
Luke didn't flinch. "Oh, well maybe I can find a feather to defend myself," he said sarcastically. "But seriously, Dad, way to evade the subject, skillful execution once again."
"You think? Well all credit should go to Lizzie. I learned it from her," he joked.
"Dad," Luke sighed. "Avoid all you want, but you're not fooling me. You've lost a ton of weight, you're oversleeping, you've still got that limp. What's wrong?"
Luke shook his head. "Why do I even bother?" He spoke with undisguised bitterness. "You always say the same thing." He looked at his father and saw emotion on his face that he couldn't pinpoint, but he was in no mood to play mind reader. "Well, okay, I'm just going to head out to the Belleville's, then. See you later."
"See you…and thanks for covering!" Will called to his son's retreating figure. Luke kept walking, but he raised his hand meekly in a half wave.
"Damn it!" Will shouted to the empty store.
12:15 p.m., Hartford
Lorelai and Jen met in the courtyard for lunch as usual to fine tune what Jen was now referring to as, "Operation Love Connection." And, as usual, Chris was sitting behind the shelter of bushes conducting "Operation What-The-Hell-Are-They-Planning?"
He finally put the pieces of what he overheard together. Lorelai was going to pretend to study all day at Jen's but really take a bus (!) to New Haven. It was that pitcher. That Goddamned pitcher was stealing his girl.
"Okay," Lorelai summarized. "Tonight I ask as casually as possible to study at your house."
"To complete our experimentation and lab report on learning and Memory in Planaria," Jen finished.
"I like it. Where'd you come up with that anyway?"
"I was my sister's A.P. Bio project this year."
"So do you think this is going to work?"
"Well it only has to work long enough to get me to New Haven. I'll face whatever comes my way after that, I don't care. All I know is I just have to see Luke again. If we can just get a few minutes together we can figure something out."
"You know, I thought part of the thrill of this was evading your parents, but now I know that this is all about the guy for you isn't it, Lorelai?"
"Are you going to call him again?"
"I don't think so. I think I should wait for him to call me or at least try. I don't want to come off as obsessed or anything, even though, I clearly am," she laughed. Seriously though, I know I'll be able to tell where we stand the minute we see each other."
"Wow," Jen sighed. "That sounds so romantic."
1:00 p.m., Woodbridge
Luke checked his watch and saw that it was one o'clock. Finally. His pent-up frustration kept him moving at a steady pace for three hours as he alternately scouted and weeded the cornfield under the relentless sun. He hated it when he let his emotions get the best of him, especially in front of Liz. If she hadn't been worried before, now maybe she was. Nice going, Danes.
He knew his father was also probably brooding all day for sniping at him, but they would be okay; they always were. Throughout the morning, Luke had tried to convince himself that maybe his father's odd behavior was just a matter of getting older. It wasn't like he knew how it felt to be in your forties. His father had plenty of old injuries from his sports days that could be acting up. Hell, he had been a catcher, after all. These thoughts calmed him for a bit, but by noontime, his optimism had evaporated in the sun.
Luke sighed, pulled off his sweaty t-shirt, and doused his head and chest with water. The work had given him time to think, but it did nothing to allay the fears that nagged his mind or soothe the ache in his heart. He put the wet shirt back on and took off on his bike. He had a pilgrimage to make.
The tracks from where he parked the truck Saturday night were still visible, and Luke found this oddly comforting. He smiled to himself when he thought of his impromptu dance with Lorelai. I can't believe she got me to waltz. He propped his bike against the barbed wire and went through the fence in exactly the same place as he had with Lorelai. He walked to the hill and stood in the clearing looking down on the empty drive-in. He sat against the rocks, the same rocks as before, their rocks, and imagined taking Lorelai to the drive-in. She would love it, of course. She would embrace the whole experience with her infectious enthusiasm and want to start out sitting on the hood of the truck—just as he had with his parents.
Of course, he imagined the kissing. He wondered if he had truly put her at ease about the age and experience (for lack of a better word) gap between them. Maybe she had decided that pursuing something with a college bound graduate wasn't worth it. Had he made it clear enough to her that he would never pressure her? He tried to think back…
"Come on, Luuuke!" Lorelai pleaded. The petulance in her voice and the way she drew out his name stirred him. She was so damned cute.
"No way am I getting roped into this crazy discussion."
"Roped?" she giggled.
"Okay, what was the question again?" He asked quickly, preferring the lesser of two embarrassments.
"Are you a Ginger or a Mary Ann?"
"Neither. I'm a guy, Lorelai."
"No, no, no, you've misunderstood. That's pop culture for 'is Ginger or Mary Ann more of your type,' although we could interpret it your way if you want to, I mean, it is the eighties after all, and I am nothing if not open-minded, so—"
Luke sighed. "I mean, I'm not a Ginger or a Mary Ann, I am a Lorelai." Luke looked at Lorelai and saw her grinning devilishly, her eyes lighting the darkness. "And now I am completely humiliated."
Lorelai kissed him. "Don't be…," she whispered as she got ready to kiss him again. "…Skipper."
Luke pulled back about a millimeter, their noses still touching. "What?"
"Sorry, would you prefer Gilligan?"
"You're crazy," he sighed as he started to return her kiss.
"How could you say such a thing…Professor!" she volleyed back, recoiling in mock horror.
They kissed sweetly and without interruption for a few minutes until Lorelai stopped to catch her breath. Luke smiled and squeezed her hand.
"But Luke who do I remind you of more? I mean, I have dark hair like Mary Ann, but Ginger is more—"
"Remember the kissing?" Luke asked as he pulled her closer. "Let's get back to that."
"Well if you're comfortable with all of these unanswered questions," Lorelai proclaimed dramatically, "I guess we can continue."
"Sure thing… Mrs. Howell."
"Luke!" Lorelai said in mock anger. "It's Lovey!"
A rustling in the tall grass broke Luke out of his reverie. It was a rabbit, yet another reminder of Lorelai. Jeez, I've got it bad, he thought as he watched it hop out of his view. Follow your heart, his mother had written. Luke knew he couldn't give up yet. Tomorrow he would pay Emily Gilmore a visit.
7:03 p.m., Gilmore Mansion
"So Lorelai," Richard began as the first course of dinner was served, "are you preparing for your exams?"
It was time. "Yes, Dad…I have English tomorrow and History on Monday, then I'm done…sort of."
"Well, I'm having a few problems with my science project."
"Well, I need access to equipment to complete it. Normally, I would stay after school with my partner to use the lab, but you and Mom want me to come right home."
"That's your doing, Lorelai," Emily countered stiffly.
"No, I know it's my fault, but I don't want my Biology grade to suffer." Lorelai watched her parents share a meaningful look. "Do you think it would be alright if Jen and I finish our project together at her house on Saturday?"
"Why Jennifer's house? Tell her to come over here."
"I would, Mom, but she has the planaria, the training tray, the microscope, everything we need. I'm pretty sure her mother will be home the whole time."
"I didn't hear 'anvil' on that specialized list, Lorelai. Jennifer can bring everything here. I will even pick her up and bring her home."
"The microscope is her sister's, and it's very expensive and fragile. There's no way Jen's sister would let her take it. We're lucky she's letting us use it in the first place."
Richard and Emily regarded each other from across the table. Richard gave a subtle nod.
"Well maybe I'll give her mother a call," Emily spoke with her eyes still on her husband, but unless she gives me her word that she will be home the entire you're there, it's not going to happen."
7:12 p.m. Sniffy's Tavern, Washington Depot, CT
William sat in a booth staring at his beer, his second in quick succession. The buzz helped him smile in greeting as Buddy and Maizie came out from the kitchen. They sat together across from William wordlessly.
"So how much time do you have?" William asked, glancing around to check how busy things were.
"Plenty," Maizie answered without hesitation. Buddy nodded in agreement.
"Well, then," William said nervously before plunging right in. "It's been confirmed. I have Cancer."
"Shit," Buddy blurted. Maizie kept quiet but quickly grabbed a napkin to dab her eyes.
"They're sure?" she asked tearfully.
"Yes, Non-Hodgkin, but that's about all I remember from the phone call other than," William adopted a frantic, officious tone, 'we need to see you tomorrow as early as possible.' All the "fun" details are forthcoming, but the Doctor didn't have a hopeful tone, let's put it that way."
"Yup. Christ, indeed."
"Do the kids know yet?" Maizie asked softly.
"Um, no…not yet." William looked at Buddy. "I will tell them of course, but not until after the game. I want Luke to have his moment."
"Is he working tomorrow?"
"No. Charlie's covering…" William stopped, trying to recall something. "Oh man, I agreed to give Luke the truck tomorrow morning. He uh, needs to see about a girl."
All three friends smiled sweetly at that for a fleeting moment, but the gravity of the present situation yanked them back quickly. "He's going to take this so hard. How do I tell him this when everything is going so well? How?" William put his head in his hands sick with heartbreak.
Maizie jumped up and sat by William, rubbing his back reassuringly. "Will," was all she could think to say.
William ran his hands through his hair. "He got robbed of his childhood, you know? Kid can't catch a break. And Lizzie…she's been so lost without her mother. At least knows how to have fun, but a little too much…but she's getting better. Don't you think she's getting better?"
"Yes," was all Buddy and Maizie could say.
"This is going put her right back in shaky territory."
William looked up to see Buddy and Maizie fighting through their tears. Maize took William's hand. Buddy reached over and covered hers with his.
William looked at their hands in the middle of the table and let loose a small, sad laugh. "What's this? All for one and one for all? What are we, musketeers now?"
"Hell yes," Buddy proclaimed.
"We love you, Will—you and the kids. We're here for you, starting right now." Nobody could circle the wagons faster than Maizie. "We're going with you tomorrow whether you like it or not…"
William looked at Buddy with raised eyebrows. "Don't even try to fight it, Will, you'll just be wasting your time. I ought to know."
"And I know you don't want to go public with this, but I'm calling Mia tonight. She'll be great at taking notes for you and asking questions. She's mentioned giving Lizzie some hours to work at the inn, and now's a good time, don't you think?"
"Thank you," was all William could think to say.
7:30 p.m., Gilmore Mansion
Lorelai opened her Algebra book and tried to concentrate while her parents discussed her situation in the study. She knew that if the plan went through, there was a good chance she would get caught. Jen's mother wasn't vigilant, but she wouldn't completely ignore Emily's request. But what did it matter? Things were already bad enough, and it's not like her parents trusted her. Lorelai replayed her mother's words: "I shudder to think about what you were doing until four in the morning. Should we be taking you to a doctor?" Clearly her mother has no respect for her anyway. What did she have to lose?
"After speaking with Mrs. Quinn, your mother and I have decided to let you study at Jennifer's on Saturday."
"Thank you." Lorelai decided it was best to keep it at that. "Well, I'm going upstairs now to finish studying."
Friday, June 17, 1983, 11:12 a.m., Hartford
Luke stared nervously at the Gilmore house. More like a mansion, actually, he thought as stared at the gate. He had driven around the posh neighborhood for about fifteen minutes before finding it. He recognized the hillside leading up to the pool house where he had tripped, but everything else looked different in the plain light of day. Luke gazed up the long driveway as he put on his one and only sport coat. He studied the sharp points of the wrought iron fence and the peaked windows and other ornate details of the house. This is why peasants revolt; this is how heads end up on pikes. Luke could hardly picture Lorelai living in there. What was he getting himself into? For a minute, he actually considered turning around. What was the point of coming here? What good would it do? But he had to do something. He thought of his mother's advice. Take your chances, she had written. Maybe Lorelai's mother would be relieved to find out he wasn't a bad guy. But first, he had to convince her.
The security booth was empty. Luke figured it was probably only used at night. He looked at the intercom outside the gate and pressed the button. He let it buzz for a few seconds before taking his finger away.
"Gilmore Residence. Please state your name and business."
"Ah…my name is Luke Danes. I'm a friend of Lorelai's, and I would like to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Gilmore please."
"Just a moment." Luke heard a slight click of disconnection and stared at his shoes. A minute passed and he shifted uncomfortably in his jacket. It was a little too small for him, but it was the only one he had. He had considered wearing his father's suit jacket or "Bank wear" as his father called it, but he didn't want to seem as if he was trying too hard. Maybe I should have worn a tie he thought nervously as he heard the intercom speaker click back to life.
"This is Emily Gilmore. To whom am I speaking?"
"Mrs. Gilmore? This is, um, Luke Danes. We met briefly last weekend…I'm a friend of Lorelai's." Luke waited a few seconds to give her a chance to respond, but there was only silence. "I was hoping that I could speak with you for a moment…under better circumstances," he joked lamely.
"You are speaking to me now, Mr. Danes," Emily responded coldly.
"Yes I am, M'aam…" Luke cringed. Was this suddenly Alabama? "But if I could just have a—"
"Let me explain something to you Mr. Danes. My name is Emily Gilmore, Mrs. Gilmore to you, by the way, and I have seen and heard all of you that is necessary. I happen to be an extremely busy woman, and I do not have time for nonsense."
Luke stepped it up. "Mrs. Gilmore, I am so sorry to interrupt your day like this. I would just like a few minutes to speak with you in person, and I will be on my way. Please."
Emily peered out the window at the lone figure at the end of the gate. He was polite enough, she'd give him that. Her natural curiosity along with her need to set people straight kicked in, and she relented. "Alright. You caught me in a charitable mood, Mr. Danes. Stay where you are. I'll come out."
"Okay, thanks Mrs. Gilmore. It really means—"
The intercom clicked off. Guess she really is busy, Luke innocently thought. He nervously wiped his hands on his jeans—his newest, darkest pair— and checked to see if his shirt was tucked in properly. He looked up when he heard a door opening and closing and saw Mrs. Gilmore strutting down the driveway in black pumps and a blue and black power pantsuit. Her brown hair was swept back so it was flawless and motionless. To Luke, she looked like a combination of Nancy Reagan and Elizabeth Taylor, but she carried herself like the Korean antiques dealer who recently moved into Stars Hollow. She was terrifying.
Though she hated to admit it, Emily had to admire the gumption of this young man. As she neared the gate, she slowed her approach to give her time to size him up. In the frenzy and darkness of their last meeting, she hadn't had the chance. She immediately noticed his pathetic attempt to impress her with his ill-fitting and off-the-rack sport coat. His white shirt looked like it had been pressed by someone who couldn't tell an iron from a chainsaw. And was that pickup truck his? He was definitely from a working class background; she was sure of it.
There was a problem, however. This kid was handsome; there was no doubt about that. His big shoulders and square jaw made him look strong, and he was tall—not tall like her husband, but tall enough to earn the descriptor. There was a sturdiness about him that would make him seem like a tough guy were it not for a gentleness in his eyes. He was beautiful and he was trouble…big trouble. He was going to capture her daughter's heart and steer her off course before she had a chance to realize it for herself.
Lorelai was smart, but her grades were hard-earned. She needed absolute dedication if she was going to go to an Ivy League university. There was simply no way Emily Gilmore was going to stand by and let this boy rob Lorelai of her focus. Not on her watch.
Luke nodded at Emily and tried to muster a small smile as she neared the gate. She opened it and motioned for him to step in—just in—but at least in.
"Thank you for seeing me Mrs. Gilmore." Should I put out my hand? Luke made a motion to shake Emily's hand, but he withdrew it quickly when she simply stared at him. "Like I said on the intercom, I am Luke Danes."
"I know who you are."
"What do you want, Mr. Danes?"
"Yes…okay…I want…first of all, to apologize for last Saturday—"
"Sunday," Emily interrupted. "I seem to recall it being nearly four in the morning when my daughter came home."
"You're right, um, and I want to apologize for that. It was all my fault, Mrs. Gilmore, but we really did just fall asleep looking at the stars. Nothing happened."
"Nothing? My daughter seemed to feel quite comfortable attaching herself to your face in my presence and despite the circumstances."
"Okay…yes, we did, um," God this is embarrassing "kiss, but that's it, I promise. I have nothing but respect for Lorelai and I never meant to show disrespect to you and Mr. Gilmore by not honoring her curfew, but it was truly an accident." Luke stopped to give her a chance to respond but all her got was Emily's unfathomable expression. "By the way," he added nervously, "Lorelai has no idea that I'm doing this. Coming to you was all my idea."
"I believe you," Emily said quietly.
"You do?" Luke could barely hide the surprise in his voice. "About Lorelai not knowing about me coming here or about the…other stuff?"
"Both. I find you to be a credible and decent young man," Emily said calmly, a plan forming in her mind.
"Good." Luke eyed Emily warily. "That's a relief. So then you accept my apology?" It couldn't be this easy, could it? Luke thought.
Emily sighed. "Look, I know Richard and I were quite harsh to you last weekend, but we were distraught. I accept your apology and assure you that, as I go, so goes my husband."
Luke sighed in relief. "Well that's good to hear, Mrs. Gilmore beca—"
"Glad to be of service. Now if you will excuse me, I need to get on with my day." Emily turned on her heel to leave, fully expecting Luke to take the bait and spring the trap she had just set.
"Mrs. Gilmore?" Luke asked shyly.
"Yes?" Emily sighed, secretly pleased her plan was underway.
"I was hoping to get you and Mr. Gilmore's permission to see Lorelai again. I know that at 17, I am a little bit older than her, but I promise to prove to you all that I am trustworthy…if you give me another chance, that is."
"Luke, Lorelai is, and has been, free to see whomever she pleases— within reason of course—and upon our approval…which you now have."
"Oh," was all Luke could say. He was clearly confused.
"Something wrong?" Emily asked. This is almost too easy, she thought. Not for naught did Emily Gilmore receive a sterling college education. She had read The Art of War. She had read The Prince, and they had more than prepared her for the role of cut-throat corporate wife and high society mom.
"Oh no, Mrs. Gilmore…it's just that Lorelai said she would call me and she hasn't. I was assuming she was grounded and not allowed to contact me," he said sheepishly.
"We did no such thing. She was grounded of course, and still is. For the rest of the summer she needs to home by 9:30 and T.V. and phone calls have been limited to an hour a day. I am sure Lorelai has painted us as utter Draconians, but I think the punishment is fair and reasonable." Luke's face fell, and Emily knew she had hit the bulls-eye. "You mean, she hasn't called you?"
"No, Ma'a…Mrs. Gilmore," he admitted miserably.
Emily moved in for the kill: "I am sorry to hear that, Luke. My daughter is beautiful, intelligent, and charming, but when it comes to boys, I am afraid she has the attention span of a hummingbird. You are not the first boy she's hurt, and I fear you won't be the last."
Luke nodded weakly, and Emily felt a twinge of pity. She could tell he sincerely liked Lorelai, and she did not enjoy breaking his heart. She was no monster, but parenting meant making hard decisions, and if it took a little duplicity to keep her daughter on the right path then so be it. Sometimes innocent people got caught in the crossfire. Emily was quite certain this boy would recover, and he would never fit into their world anyway. Besides, she rationalized, he and Lorelai were too young for real love.
Luke looked down at his feet. It was clear he didn't know what to say. Emily broke the silence: "You're off to college soon?"
"Yes. I'm going to B.U. this fall."
"Good for you. Now Luke, if this relationship was meant to be, my daughter would have called you. It may not seem like it now, but it's all for the best. I am sure you will find a more mature girl in college. Now, I really must get going."
Luke nodded silently trying to find some words. "Thanks…thanks for your time," he croaked as he turned to leave.
Emily nodded and quickly turned away, not wanting to see any more of the pain in his eyes. Someday, Lorelai better appreciate all that I've done for her.
Hartford Memorial Hospital Oncology Center, 11:15 a.m.
William sat down in a small conference room flanked by Mia, Bud, and Maizie and opposite Dr. Julie Myers, oncologist, Dr. John Wazlowski, pathologist, and Dr. Samuel Lowry, hematologist. A team, he thought forlornly. I now have my very own medical team. Goody.
After making all of the introductions, Dr. Harlow patted Will on the shoulder as he made to leave. "Good luck, William," he said sincerely. You are in good hands with this crew. They're the best I've seen."
"Thanks," Will said, as he watched Dr. Harlow close the door behind him. He shifted nervously in his seat and Mia gave him a sympathetic smile.
"Well," Dr. Myers spoke, "I guess we should get started. Mr. Danes—"
"William. Please call me William."
"William, diagnosis of lymphoma is best looked upon as a process. There are many different types of NHL, but after careful analysis of your lab tests, scans, and biopsies, we can now say with certainty that you have a form of cancer called Mantle Cell Lymphoma. It's relatively rare, but all three of us have seen it before, and we are confident with our diagnosis.
William liked to believe he was as honest with himself as he was with others, but at that point he realized that he had been in denial since first hearing he had cancer. He had been keeping alive a flicker of hope that somehow this was all a mistake. Hearing the specific name of his disease extinguished that feeble wish and brought with it a heavy sense of dread.
"Um…okay, so how bad is it?"
"MCL is usually considered an intermediate grade of cancer, but yours has been acting more like a high grade, unfortunately." Dr. Myers deftly read the question on everyone's mind. "However, it is treatable, but we need to respond quickly and aggressively."
"What is the stage and prognosis, Dr.?" William asked.
"We cannot be exactly sure yet. We need to do another procedure and a few more tests to rule out other possibilities," Dr. Myers looked at William and his friends carefully
before she continued, "but, given the fact that you have an enlarged spleen as well as cancerous nodes on both sides of the diaphragm, we are considering it a Stage III."
William exhaled as the scene of Luke and Lizzie happily posing for graduation pictures flashed through his mind.
"Stage III?" Mia repeated. "Out of how many?"
"Four," William answered for her as the doctors nodded their agreement.
"But what's the worst, I or IV?"
William answered again. "Four," he sighed. "Cancers are usually considered terminal at that stage. Right, doctors?"
"Well…yes, that is often the case." Dr. Myers confirmed, "but there is good news. The cancer has not spread to your bone marrow—something we feared given your leg pain. As it turns out, the pain is due to an enlarged node pressing up against your femoral artery. You should feel less pain after we remove the tumor." Bud, Maizie, and Mia shifted closer to William.
"And these other tests," William continued, "are not to see if it's Stage II, but rather, confirm that it's not Stage IV, right?" William felt Mia's hand on his shoulder. He watched Bud and Maizie clasp hands.
Dr. Myers hesitated for a second. "William, we need to make sure the disease hasn't spread to your central nervous system. If it has, then that would be a significant event for sure, but that's not what we are thinking at this point, William. We just have to rule it out right away with a lumbar puncture."
"Wait," William asked, "you mean a spinal tap?"
"Today, as soon as possible."
"I don't know if I can do that, Dr. Myers, not today anyway." William looked at his friends in a plea of support before continuing. "Tomorrow is a big day for my son. He's pitching in the State finals, and I need to be there, alert and…strong. I can't miss it, Doctor. I won't miss it."
"William, you're bound to get tired of me saying this, but I cannot over emphasize the importance of starting your treatment as soon as possible. Luckily, this procedure, while uncomfortable, will not incapacitate you or require an overnight stay. The most likely side effect is a headache, so I suggest you lie down on your back, with your head raised for a few hours at least, and drink plenty of water. You will probably be a little sore tomorrow, but otherwise no different than you're feeling right now."
"You're sure about this?" Buddy cut in.
"Yes, barring any rare, unforeseen complications, of course. We can put a rush on the lab results and get you in tomorrow evening or Sunday for a full prognosis and discussion of treatment options." Dr. Myers looked down at her paperwork. "So you have two teenaged children, then?"
"I have a 17 year old son and a 16 year old daughter who lost their mother to cancer ten years ago."
"I am sorry to hear that," Dr. Myers said gently. "How much do they know about your situation?"
"Um…nothing, actually. I mean, I just found out myself only a few days ago, and I didn't want to say anything without details. But my son is pretty worried. He kind of has a sixth sense about these things, but it's been a big week in his life, and I want him to enjoy it…and…just be happy, you know?" William felt his eyes watering, and watched his friends brush away their own tears. "I hear what you're saying about the need to move quickly, Doc, I really do, but I need some time with my kids."
"Four days…maybe five should do it," William choked. He looked at his friends. "I'm going to talk to Luke first, alone…maybe take him to the cabin after the game and just spend some time with him. I'm going to want him with me when I tell Lizzie, and he will need to be prepared."
"That's a good idea, Will," Maizie sniffed.
"Yup," Bud added. "Sounds right."
"I know this is difficult, William. Peter Newman, an excellent social worker, is here today as well as Mondays and Wednesdays. He is available to help with advice for how to talk to your kids about this as well as other issues related to this disease."
"You go get your test done, Will," Mia tearfully suggested. "We'll figure out the logistics okay?"
Hartford, 11:35 a.m.
Lorelai sat in the hallway, waiting patiently for Jennifer to finish her English exam. Regular classes were over, and all she had left was her History test on Monday. She opened her notes, but all she could think of was "Operation Love Connection." She tried not to dwell on the possible consequences of getting caught, but as the day neared she couldn't help being a little nervous. Lorelai had challenged her parents many a time in her life, but she knew that this level of transgression could lead to full out parent/child warfare, and everything hinged upon Mrs. Quinn's ditziness and naïve trust of her teenaged daughter.
She pushed away the negative thoughts and tried to imagine Luke's face the first time he saw her. Should she lay low until the game was over? She didn't want to distract him or anything. What if he didn't react at all? God, that would really suck. What was with the negativity all of a sudden? Luke was for real, she knew it.
Her thoughts were broken by the opening of the classroom door. Christopher stepped out, their eyes met awkwardly, and Lorelai quickly dropped hers to her notebook, feigning concentration.
"Lorelai," he said quietly.
"In the flesh," she curtly replied, keeping her eyes on her notebook.
"I have a feeling Jen's going to be awhile. I think she was only on the second essay." Lorelai didn't respond, so he tried again. "That was a pretty tough exam. The only reason I finished early was because I know Mrs. Moriarty is going to go easy on me."
Lorelai knew exactly what he was doing. He was trying to draw her into a civil conversation through their old shared joke about Mrs. Moriarty's "crush" on him. She wasn't taking the bait. "Well no one gets so much out of doing so little as you, Chris."
"Ouch!" He laughed.
Lorelai remained silent.
"So…is this how it's going to be between us for now on?" Chris asked sharply. "I mean, I said I was sorry."
"And I heard you."
"I wrote you note."
"Did you read it?"
Lorelai sighed. "Yes, I did. It was very well-written. Mrs. Moriarty would be proud."
"Come on, Lorelai!" Chris cried, clearly exasperated. "I don't know what more I can do. For the hundredth time, I'm sorry if I screwed things up for you and Romeo, but I didn't mean it and y—"
"Oh yes you did," Lorelai muttered.
"Okay. Maybe there's some truth to that…" Lorelai scoffed. "Okay maybe there's a lot of truth to that, Lorelai, but I was jealous, okay? There, you got me to admit it; are you happy now?"
"No…but my spirits will lift dramatically when you leave."
"Fine, I'm going!"
"See you around, Lor!"
It's Lorelai, you dolt! She thought as she watched Chris storm down the hallway.
11:38 a.m., Hartford
When Luke was seven years old, he broke his arm trying to jump from one tree to another while playing Planet of the Apes. He broke his collarbone trying to skateboard down a railing at age nine. During his hockey phase, ten year old Luke broke his nose crashing into a tree. At twelve, he got kicked in the balls by Vince Williams during the infamous schoolyard "doody-head" fight. He took a baseball in the eye-socket when a hard hit grounder took a vicious bounce, resulting in a black eye and blurred vision that lasted for three weeks when he was fifteen.
But all of those painful moments paled in comparison to what he felt now. It was as if Muhammad Ali had just delivered a blow to his solar plexus. He had tried to prepare himself in case things went poorly with Mrs. Gilmore. He had known there was a possibility of making things worse. He knew the Gilmore's might not forgive him. He had tried to consider every contingency except for the worst one: Lorelai's indifference. He hadn't seen that coming, and he cursed himself for being overconfident. He must have been crazy to think a guy like him could hold the interest of a girl like her. But still, it was impossible for him to write off the specialness of their night together.
He knew his feelings for Lorelai were real. He was crazy about her. She was silly in such a random, endearing way, but she was also smart and sensitive. He loved how her eyes and whole face lit up when she teased him. He liked that she knew that he liked it. She put him at ease immediately, and his gut told him he could trust her with stories he hadn't even told Rachel. Just holding her hand sent shivers coursing through his body. He could love this girl. Hell, he probably already did.
How could he be so wrong about her feelings for him? Was he really that clueless? There had been moments—countless moments between them that felt so genuine. Maybe they were real but Lorelai was as fickle as her mother claimed. He knew people like that from school and he didn't get it. There were guys on the baseball and track team who would float from girl to girl every other week it seemed. There were also plenty of girls who acted as though it was more important to just be seen with someone—anyone—rather than be seen alone. It was pathetic. Lorelai isn't like them, the inner Luke broke in; she couldn't be. But it was outside the range of his honest guy's intuition to believe that Emily Gilmore would outright lie.
As Luke drove away from the hilly streets of the posh west side, he realized he had no idea where he was going. He wasn't thinking clearly, and he knew he probably shouldn't be driving. He pulled over when he saw signs for Elizabeth Park. He needed to clear his head. He had to get himself together in time for practice—the last practice of his high school baseball career. The whole team—no, the whole town was depending on him tomorrow.
He aimlessly wandered through the park. He wanted to run; he wanted to just take off sprinting and keep going until he thought his lungs would burst, but he cast off that idea because he'd look like a maniac running through the park in his jeans and work boots. He saw a small playground and walked over to the swing set and sat down on the larger of the two swings. Luke stared ahead, confused, hurt, and depressed.
Luke looked up and over at the direction of the voice and saw a boy staring at him from the top of the monkey bars. He looked to be about seven or eight years old.
"Hey," he said gruffly. Luke watched in alarm as the boy climbed down to get closer. He was in no mood for this.
"I've never seen you here before," he said matter of factly.
So much for not talking to strangers. "That's because I've never been here before."
"Oh." The boy took a seat on the next swing and twisted it to get a better look at Luke. "So then, what playgrounds do you usually go to?"
Luke had to suppress a smile. "Playgrounds outside of Hartford, I guess. I don't live around here."
"Is that your truck over there?"
"Um, yes…well actually it's my father's."
"It's really cool."
"I'm going to get one like that, but I don't drive yet."
"Really?" This kid is a trip. Luke twisted his swing so he was facing the boy.
The boy smiled at Luke and he couldn't help but smile back a tiny bit. "My name is Henry."
"That's a nice name, Henry. Kind of a throwback."
"A throwback…like a name from an earlier time."
"I hate my name."
"Some kids call me Henhouse."
"Ah…well…some people are jerks, you know? Don't let 'em get to you, Henry."
"I won't. What's your name?"
"Luke." Luke offered his hand to the kid and they shook.
"Does anyone ever call you 'Puke'?"
"No…and they had better not." Luke stared down at Henry with mock sternness and held it until the boy grinned at him. Luke supposed that he could be thankful Lorelai wasn't around to hear that. Stop thinking about her!
"So are you going to get off that swing sometime soon?" Henry asked hopefully. "You're not really using it."
"Yes I am. And you're not exactly using yours either, big guy."
"But that's only because the chain is screwed up. I like this swing better, usually, 'cause I can touch the ground with my feet. See?" Henry demonstrated for Luke. "But now it's crooked, so I'd rather use yours."
"So you're going to try to sweet talk me into giving up my swing?"
"Yeah," he grinned.
Luke narrowed his eyes at Henry in his best don't even think about it expression and slowly rose from his swing to examine the chains of the other. Henry quickly took over the other swing the minute Luke took his eye off him. "Nice move kid," Luke chuckled.
"Just kidding," Henry laughed.
"Good thing," Luke growled as he ran his hands up the chain for closer inspection. "I can fix this."
"Yup. I'll be right back." Luke jogged over to the truck and got the small toolbox his father kept under the seat. Henry's eyes lit up when Luke opened the tool box and searched around until he found the right sized pliers for the job.
"What are those?" Henry asked.
"These are pliers. They're good for pulling metal apart and clamping it together." Luke took down the chain, found the place when it was kinked, and easily straightened it out. "There you go, Henry."
"Thanks Luke," Henry said looking at the array of cool objects on display in the open toolbox.
"Not interested in the swing anymore, huh?" Luke muttered. "Go ahead," he sighed, gesturing for Henry to examine the tools. Henry enthusiastically dug in, pulled out a hammer, and pretended to bang on imaginary nails. "Hand it here," Luke said. "That's not how you hold a hammer. Let me show you."
Luke proceeded to patiently show Henry proper hammer technique and let him hit some nails into the dirt. It was clear the boy had little experience with tools. "Don't your parents have tools at home?" he asked gently.
"I guess…but my mom never uses them, and my dad left."
"He moved to Florida last year. My mom said he's trying to find himself, but how can you lose your own self? How come he doesn't just look in a mirror? I don't get it."
"I don't blame you," Luke said softly, wishing he could personally punch the asshole for abandoning his kid.
"I don't think he even misses me," Henry said quietly. "He never calls. Maybe he forgot about me."
"I'm sure he remembers and misses you."
"How do know."
"I just know." Luke looked at Henry's widened eyes and felt a pang. "Really," he added. "You're a good kid, Henry. Your father would be crazy not to miss you."
"No problem," he said. "Now…do you know the names of any of these other tools?" Henry shook his head and sat on the grass next to Luke. Luke took out a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver and placed them in Henry's hands. "Okay," he sighed. "Let's get started."
By the time Luke explained all the tools to Henry, it was nearly one in the afternoon. He had to get back. He packed up the toolbox and walked it over to the truck while Henry followed. "Well, kid, I have to get going."
"Okay," Henry said sadly.
Luke didn't know what came over him, but he reached down and ruffled the boy's brown hair. It was a gesture his father did to him all the time. "See ya, Henry." Luke started to get in his truck but stopped and looked over at the boy once more. "And thanks," he added.
"You're welcome," Henry replied automatically. "But wait…I didn't do anything."
"Sure you did, Henry. Take it easy."
1:35 p.m., Hartford
Christopher was angry—thoroughly pissed off, in fact. Sure, Lorelai had a right to be a little upset with him, but now she was just being ridiculous. He had had it, and he was done apologizing. They had been friends since preschool, yet now she was willing to throw all of that away for some dumb jock? He could hardly believe it. I could probably get any girl in the school, and I've wasted my time on her. She should consider herself lucky to be with me, he inwardly scoffed.
But Lorelai didn't even want to talk to him much less be with him, and it was driving him crazy. Chris had had a crush on Lorelai since the 4th grade. He believed that they were meant to be together. It was fate. But fate wasn't looking too good as long as that other guy stood in the way. I just need to be patient. There was no way a relationship between Lorelai Gilmore and Mr. Big Man from the Boondocks was going to last, so why should he bother getting upset? All he needed to do was let it run its inevitable course. Then he could be the one turning a cold shoulder when Lorelai came running back to him.
Trouble was, Christopher Hayden, though many things, was not a patient guy. He eyed the pay phone in the school's foyer. Sometimes destiny needs a push…
5:09 p.m., Stars Hollow
Not wanting to tire out his players before the biggest game of their lives, Coach Barrows kept the final practice short. He ran through infield drills, did some situational work, held batting practice, and that was all. Even the dugout meeting was only five minutes, but Luke was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. All he wanted to do was get home, close his eyes, and just stop thinking. He tried to get home quickly but was stopped several times by enthusiastic well-wishers about the game tomorrow. Even Taylor Doose slapped him on the back as he passed the market.
Luke sighed with relief when he walked into a quiet house. For once, it was not filled with the noise of Liz and Carrie and their shrieking gossip. He kicked off his shoes and let his body sink into the couch. He closed his eyes and tried to expunge Lorelai from his thoughts.
He had but seven or eight minutes of peace before he heard the screen door burst open. "But here's the thing, Liz, Laurie always looks for me before sitting down in the cafeteria, and now for two days straight she's been over at Brenda's table."
Oh God…Carrie…Again. Luke pulled his feet off the arm of the couch and tried to make himself invisible. Please just let them go upstairs. Luke slammed his eyes shut as he heard stifled laughter come closer. He could feel their stares. Damn it!
"Trying to rest here," he said grouchily with his eyes still closed.
"Hmmmm, and here I thought I had just stumbled upon Sleeping Beauty." Carrie cooed.
"Jeez," Luke muttered with supreme annoyance.
"Come on, Carrie, let's go upstairs," Liz pleaded.
"Sounds like a good idea to me," Luke mumbled.
"Aw, you wanna come upstairs with me, Butch? Well okay, I aim to please…"
Luke's eyes flew open and he shot Liz his hardest look. She gave him a sympathetic shrug before dragging her obsessed friend up to her room. Luke kept his eyes open long enough to ensure that they were upstairs. "Good God," he groaned as Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" blasted from upstairs. Journey freaked him out.
William had spent the afternoon at the Independence Inn convalescing in an empty room. He didn't want to take the risk that one of his kids would find him sleeping in the middle of the day.
Mia loaded him down with dinner from the inn's kitchen and insisted on driving him home.
"Mia, I can walk. I'm not dead yet."
"Stop it Will."
"I'm just saying…"
"William, I insist. You're still sore from the procedure. Come on."
"Okay Mia, but seriously…I'm still the same person. I don't want to be treated differently unless it's absolutely necessary."
"I get that, Will, I really do, but you want to be rested for tomorrow, right?" William nodded. "Then let's not push it."
Now he faced the door to his house and tried to steel himself before going inside. He needed to be normal or Luke especially would notice. He pushed open the screen door with his foot and carried two bags of food into the house. He dropped the bags onto the kitchen counter and took a deep breath before walking deeper into the house. A bittersweet wave of emotion moved through him as he took in the scene. As usual, he heard the sounds of music blaring from upstairs complemented with the laughter and singing of Liz and a friend (probably the Duncan girl, he figured). He looked to the living room and saw Luke's feet hanging over the arm of the sofa. He got closer to see him with a pillow covering his eyes. He watched his son trying to snooze through the racket and was hit with another surge of sadness. Would things ever be this "normal" again?
William walked around to the front of the couch and gently moved the pillow away from Luke's face. He bolted upright in alarm. "What the…oh…hey Dad," he said, clearly relieved.
William chuckled. "Did I scare you?"
"Hell yes, I thought you were Carrie."
"And she scares you that much, eh?" He lifted Luke's legs, sat down and let them rest against his lap.
"Are you kidding? She's worst than the girl from The Exorcist."
"Shhhh," William laughed tilting his head towards the upstairs.
"Somehow Dad, I don't think they're going to hear us through all that screaming."
"I know, son. It's just that…don't forget what that poor girl goes through."
As everyone in Stars Hollow knew, Carrie's parents were alcoholics, and her father, though estranged from her mother, still found time to show up for loud and occasionally violent arguments. Carrie had an older brother who had dropped out of high school five years earlier and 'managed' by doing odd jobs and leeching off their mother. He treated his little sister with indifference at best, outright cruelty at worst. William always went out of his way to be kind to the troubled girl.
"I haven't, and I won't. Don't worry Dad. Believe me, I do have compassion for her situation and everything, but it isn't easy being her prime target, you know. She's relentless."
"Well who could blame her? You're almost as handsome and charming as your father," Will deadpanned.
"Yeah right. I'm a real catch," Luke scoffed.
William patted Luke on the legs. "What's wrong? How did your trip to the Gilmore's go?"
"I should have stayed home."
"Oh really?" Luke nodded. "Did you see Lorelai?"
"No, she was at school. I talked to her mother and… let's just say it didn't go well."
"She didn't like you?"
"No, she liked me I guess, but…I…don't really want to talk about it."
"Alright, son…You okay?"
"I don't know…I…just want to put it out of my mind right now."
"Okay, kid," Will said gently as he patted Luke's legs.
"So Liz," Carrie said as she flipped through the records, "is Luke still broken up with Rachel? They looked pretty chummy at the party, but they didn't leave together."
"As far as I know, they are just friends, but Luke doesn't exactly share details of his love life with me."
"So you have no idea about Rachel or… anybody else?"
"Anybody else? What, do you know something that I don't?"
"No!" Carrie said a little too hastily. "I mean, it's just that it's hard to imagine he will stay single for very long."
"Well then you don't know my brother as well as you think, Carrie. He's not the type to just end one relationship and move right on to another, you know. He's focusing on pitching and college right now anyway."
Hmmm, Carrie thought to herself. Maybe that Lorelai chick was just some random girl and not serious competition."Well I think it's a waste. He's in his prime, for God's sake!"
They were silent for a minute as Liz put Boston on the turntable.
"Don't get mad, 'cause I'm just trying to be a friend here…but I think you should let go of this obsession with my brother." Liz cautiously tried to gauge her friend's reaction, but Carrie just pretended to stare at the album covers. "I mean, if Luke was interested in you, you would know by now."
Carrie continued to stare at the records with no response, which was weird for Liz. Carrie was never at a loss for words. She was loud and brassy—a good cover for her sadness and insecurity. She finally looked up at Liz with tears in her eyes.
"It's just that…and you HAVE to swear you'll keep this between us and us only…"
"It's just that I really like him."
"That's not exactly a secret, Carrie."
"No…I mean…it's like the song, it's 'more than a feeling' you know? I think I…love your brother, Lizzie. I think I have since the third grade."
"Wow that long? I thought this was all just some big physical attraction and…well…part of your usual game, Carrie."
"That's how I try to play it off, but it's more than that. It always has been."
"How did it start?"
"Well he was always cute, of course, but one day after school when I was in the third grade, a bunch of boys stole my new Snoopy lunchbox and started playing keep away with it. I don't even remember all of them, but Jake Banyon started it."
"Of course," Liz agreed.
"Anyway, from out of nowhere, Luke intercepted it, chased the other boys away, and gave it back to me."
"You must have been scared."
"No, I wasn't really. I was really, really pissed, but not scared. It was nothing compared to what I dealt with at home."
"Well that does sound like my brother all right," Liz sighed. "Luke hates bullies. Always has and always will." Liz looked at Carrie thoughtfully. "So, he was your hero, then?"
"I guess…but no, it wasn't just that." Carrie looked at her friend with uncharacteristic seriousness. "It was that no one had ever stood up for me before. Ever. For one brief moment I felt special, and when he gave me back my lunchbox, he asked if I was okay. I still remember it so clearly. No one had ever asked me that, either. But it wasn't just what he said, but the way he said it. He looked me right in the eyes, Liz, and from that day on…I just haven't been able to take my eyes off him, and…wish that he was…mine." Carrie dropped her eyes in embarrassment before continuing. "He's just so…um…so…"
"So…what?" Liz asked.
"So…oh, never mind," Carrie said. Gentle, she thought to herself.
"So dinner's already made, courtesy of Mia. You hungry?"
"Son, you have to eat."
"Big game tomorrow."
William grabbed the pillow and hit Luke. He was rewarded with a tiny smile. "There's lots of carbs for you in the form of fresh bread."
"You nervous about the game, kid?"
"A little, I guess. New Haven has two of the best hitters in the state."
"Sure, but they've never faced you before. How's your arm feel?"
"Do you have a game plan?"
"Yeah…don't screw up."
William laughed. "You'll be great." He studied his son's pensive face for a moment. "So I was thinking that after our celebration dinner tomorrow—"
"Dad, don't jump to conclusions. Seriously, this game is not 'in the bag' by any means. They are really good."
"I wasn't jumping anywhere, kid. It's just that we're celebrating no matter what. It's been a great season, and we're all proud of you."
"But to get back to my point, what do you think about getting out of Dodge tomorrow night?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean me, you, and hopefully a lot of fish."
"Yeah, for the weekend at least. Maybe Monday too if I can swing it with Charlie."
Luke sat up. "Definitely! We haven't been in ages."
"I know, and I'm sorry about that."
"No, Dad, it's not your fault. I've had games and Liz…wait, what about Liz? She won't want to go."
"So…you're trusting her alone?" Luke couldn't hide the incredulity from his tone.
"Not exactly. She's been bugging Mia for a job, and now she's got one. Mia will train her in the afternoons because she's working the 11 to 7 shift for a few days starting Sunday."
"Wow, that's genius, Dad."
"I thought so. How much trouble can she get it in with those hours? She'll probably sleep at the inn too. Of course, she'll have to go directly to school on Monday, but her exams are over, and it's the last day. She'll manage."
"You know what? For once, I don't care. We're long overdue for some fishing time right?"
"But Carrie, if you give up on this dream of Luke, maybe you'll have a better chance at getting a nice boyfriend for a change. If guys think you're just using them, they're just going to use you."
"And where is this wisdom coming from, Lizzie? Your experience? You've never even had a steady boyfriend." Carrie saw a flash of hurt in Liz's eyes. "I'm sorry. That came out harsher than I meant it to."
"It's okay. Besides, that's all about to change anyway."
"Jimmy?" Carrie asked.
Liz beamed. "Yep, he asked me out at lunch today."
"And you waited until now to tell me? Are you high?"
"Nope, but I will be this weekend. Hayward just got back from visiting his cousin…"
"And we know what that means!" they shouted together.
"Yeah, so anyway, Jimmy asked me to a party this weekend."
"When? Where? I haven't heard anything!"
"That's because we don't know the where or the when right now. Jimmy said they're trying to keep it low key. Last time word got out about Hayward's supplies, everything was gone within the weekend."
"Look at you with all the inside info now that you're Jimmy Mariano's girl," Carrie squealed.
Saturday, June 18, 1983 Gilmore Mansion, Hartford 9:15 a.m.
Lorelai nervously came downstairs with her book bag packed. She found her parents calmly drinking coffee and reading the newspaper on the back terrace. Her pulse quickened when she caught part of a sports headline on the back page of her father's paper that read, "David vs. Goliath High School Showdown…" She had to resist the urge to snatch the paper out of her father's hands.
"Are you ready to go, Lorelai?" her mother asked with barely a glance.
"It's rather late, don't you think? It would seem to me that it you were so concerned about finishing this project, you would have planned an earlier start."
"Well…Jen's not really a morning person."
"Hmm…sounds like someone I know," Richard broke in. Emily chuckled in agreement.
"Alright then, let's go. I'll take her, Richard. I have errands to run.
"So Lorelai, how long do you think you'll be at Jennifer's?"
Lorelai was ready. "Oh, all day, probably. The project is due Monday, and we have to finish the trials, analyze the results, and write up the report. We may not finish until around nine or ten."
"And how about your other schoolwork?"
"I just have my History exam on Monday. I'm all caught up in that class, though. I can study on Sunday."
"And that's it for the year?"
"Why what, Lorelai?"
"Why are you suddenly so interested in the minutiae of my schoolwork?"
"I am a concerned and competent parent."
"Oh, that." Lorelai mentally kicked herself. She needed to end this conversation, and she needed to keep her sarcasm in check. Lorelai managed to maintain a reasonable silence for the rest of the way to Jen's. I just need this to work. She tried to think about what she missed most about Luke. She could feel her whole body ache at just the idea of seeing his face.
Lorelai was so lost in her thoughts, she hardly noticed when her mother pulled to a stop in front of Jennifer's house.
"Thanks Mom," Lorelai quickly got out of the car and shut the door.
She turned around slowly. "Yes?"
Emily studied her daughter's face. "Good luck on your project."
Emily waited until she saw Lorelai welcomed inside by the Mrs. Quinn. She waved, sighed, and drove away.
"Okay," Jennifer said as soon as they closed her bedroom door. "According to the paper, the game starts at one o'clock." Lorelai nodded nervously. "Now did you happen to see the sports page? There's a picture of your man in there," Jennifer sang teasingly as she started to hold the newspaper out of reach.
Lorelai laughed and grabbed it. There was a picture of Luke, in mid windup, under the headline, "David vs. Goliath High school Showdown Moved to Yale Field." The caption read, "Senior Luke Danes hopes to lead Stars Hollow to its First-Ever State Championship." Lorelai lightly ran her finger over the image.
"I guess they had to move the game from New Haven High School to Yale in order to accommodate the crowds. But don't worry; it should be easier for you to find a connecting bus to Yale."
"Yeah," Lorelai sighed, eyes still on Luke's picture. "Can I keep this?"
"Of course! Now I have the Hartford/New Haven schedules and fares for Greyhound and Peter Pan bus lines right here."
"Have I told you lately that I love you?" Lorelai quipped.
"No, but you can save that for Mr. Luke today," she smiled and raised her eyebrows up and down.
Lorelai actually felt herself blush. She was a mess. "God Jen, it doesn't even feel real to me yet."
"Well, it will soon enough! There's a bus at 10:20 and another one at 12:05. The next one doesn't leave until 1:15, and the game starts at 1:00, right?" Lorelai nodded. "It should take you about 50 minutes to get there. So hopefully, my mother will get involved with one of her projects, probably the garden, before you have time to get to the station before 12:05." Jennifer took in Lorelai's nervous expression and patted her on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Lorelai. It's going to work, I can feel it, and hey, if it doesn't, you only live once, right?"
"Yup. And if ever a guy was worth taking a chance for, he's it, Jen. He really is."
"Awww girl, you've got it so bad." They laughed together.
"Jen, I don't know how to thank you."
"Details, girlfriend, details. That's how. I can't wait to hear all about it."
Just as Jennifer had predicted, her mother got involved in her gardening allowing Lorelai time to slip out unnoticed. She had only to walk a couple of blocks to find the right bus stop to get to the main station. Lorelai had never been to a large bus station before. As she threaded her way up a concrete stairwell, her nose twitched as it detected a smell of urine. It gradually weakened as she got into the waiting area.
Union Station was loud and crowded. It felt and looked seedy. There were people from all walks of life milling around, waiting, or just loitering. A couple of rough looking men bumped her, and she was a bundle of nerves by the time she found the ticket counter. She clutched her bag to her chest as she stood in line.
"Spare change, Miss?"
"Oh…um…yeah…sure." She fumbled awkwardly to find some coins in her pocket. She dropped them into the tobacco stained hand of a ragged man whose age seemed impossible to identify.
"Next," spoke the voice of a man behind the ticket booth. "May I help you?"
"Um, yes, could I buy a ticket to New Haven please?"
"For the 12:05 express?"
"One way or round trip?"
"Ummm…" Lorelai hadn't thought of this. Maybe Luke could take her back to Jen's.
"Personally, I would go with the one-way. You never know what could happen," spoke the unmistakable voice of Emily Gilmore.
Lorelai whipped around, startled. "Mom! What are you—"
"What am I doing here? You have some nerve, young lady." Emily looked at the ticket vendor. "No purchase will be necessary, sir. Come on, Lorelai. It's a wonder you haven't already been mugged."
Lorelai felt every part of her body breaking inside. She had feared this for sure, but she hadn't allowed herself to consider the possibility of getting caught before seeing Luke. She desperately but briefly considered running off, but she knew it was no use.
Emily grabbed her arm and led her away from the line and out of the station. Thoroughly surprised and defeated, Lorelai kept her head down and silently stared at the ground as she walked. When they got to the car, she sat down and held her face in her hands vowing silently not to let her mother see her cry.
"How could you, Lorelai? I trusted you."
"How could I?" Lorelai sniffed. "I needed to see Luke, and you wouldn't have let me. You never care about what's important to me!"
"Oh yes, that's right. Here we go again with the horrible mother mantra. I know what's best for you, whether you care to admit it or not."
"Mother, I will accept any punishment I have coming, but please just take me to the game in New Haven. We don't have to stay. Just give me ten minutes. Please."
"Are you on drugs, Lorelai? This boy is nothing but trouble. We're going home."
"You don't know him, mother…and you don't know me."
"Now that might be true, young lady. After all, I thought I could trust you."
"Oh, so what's with the stakeout, then? I'd hate to see how you deal with people you don't trust," Lorelai snapped back, her anger gathering steam.
"Don't you dare make this about me! You scared the life out of your father and I last weekend with your little adventure with this…this…Luke person—who is too old for you anyhow."
"He's a good person, Mom. If you would just—"
"ENOUGH!" Emily shouted. "I don't want to hear any more. I need to think about how I am going to break the news to your father that once again, you have violated our trust. Until I have had time alone with him to discuss this unfortunate turn of events, I don't want to hear you."
New Haven, 12:41 p.m.
Yale Field was buzzing with excitement. It seemed like the entire population of Stars Hollow had come out in full force, with banners, signs, and lots of energy. New Haven, with its hometown advantage, had even more fans who were eager to do everything they could to rattle the upstart, small town rubes. They'd never live it down if they lost the championship to a division three team.
In addition to the raucous fans from both sides there were baseball devotees, reporters, and photographers from all over the state, drawn in by the improbable match up, and curious to see if the so-called pitching phenom lived up to the hype.
Luke had been to States three times for Track, but he had never performed in front of such a large crowd as he would today. He wasn't fazed by this; his ability to tune out noise and stay focused was as critical to his success as his fastball, but prior to getting into "his zone" he was embarrassed by some of the attention. Spanning the top row of one section of bleachers was a group Stars Hollow girls who had made a banner calling themselves "The Butch Brigade." That was horrifying of course, but he was able to push it out of his mind and reduce the distractions to nothing but white noise.
Until he made a mistake.
He was warming up about fifteen minutes before game time. His arm felt great. He was hitting every target be it high, low, inside, or outside. His curve was breaking, his sinker sinking. He had, according to baseball vernacular, "brought his good stuff." This was especially evident when his catcher signaled for a fastball. The "pop" of the catcher's mitt could be heard from the stands. Luke couldn't help but steal a glance at his father in the front row. William grinned and raised his eyebrows approvingly. Luke got ready to throw another.
"Hey Luke, hold up a second," his catcher called.
"What's up, Rob?"
"Your speed," Rob joked. "Man, I need to beef up the padding in my glove or my hand won't last the whole game." Rob trotted over to the dugout to dig around the first aid kit for extra foam.
Luke kept himself loose by stretching, but he became acutely aware of people watching him. He stood up suddenly when he heard a laugh. Not just any laugh, but Lorelai's. He listened with a safecracker's ears, but he couldn't hear it again. He scanned the bleachers and stands knowing he'd find her just by her smile if she was there, but she wasn't. He looked carefully at the stands on both sides of the diamond. She wasn't anywhere. Who are you kidding, anyway? He realized at that moment how much he was hoping Lorelai would come to the game. In his heart, he hadn't completely believed she stopped caring, and he had been holding out hope that the reason she didn't call was that she wanted to surprise him at the game. It fit her playful nature.
But it hit him with unexpected, sudden force that not only was he not going to see her, but that her mother had been telling the truth. Lorelai was a girl who lived in the moment, and while she had enjoyed their night together, she had moved on. Luke felt a tightness in his chest at that thought. It was at that exact moment he realized how much he wanted—even needed to see her again, and it hurt like fucking hell.
"Got it," Rob said cheerfully. "Ready?" Luke didn't respond, and Rob noticed the faraway look in his eyes. "Luke? Hey man, you okay?"
"Uh, yeah," Luke responded lamely. "Let's finish up." Luke lobbed a pitch to Rob.
"I'm ready, Luke. Let it rip." Luke nodded and threw the next pitch way over Rob's outstretched glove.
"No problemo. Here you go," Rob gave him a target right down the middle. Luke threw it into the dirt, with the ball getting past the catcher again and rolling to the fence.
Aww shit, Luke thought. He needed to get his concentration back, and he had less than ten minutes before game time.
"Something wrong, boys?" Coach Barrows asked.
"Sorry Coach, my arm feels great, I just…um…need a moment to refocus. Can I just…?"
"Yup. Do what you need to do, Luke, but we have less than eight minutes. Why don't you take a moment in the dugout?"
Coach Barrows eyed Luke nervously as he watched him walk to the end of the bench and sit down. This was not the time for his star player to come down with his first case of nerves. Rob stood in front of the dugout, blocking the view so Luke could have some privacy. "Good idea, son," the coach whispered to Rob. "Keep the others out of the dugout, okay?" He told Rob as he spied William chatting amiably in the stands. He jogged over. "Hey William," he called.
"Hey there, Coach! You ready for this?"
"I am, but there's something going on with Luke."
The smile left William's face. "What's wrong? Where is he?"
"I think it's pre-game jitters. He's in the dugout right now."
"You want me to check on him?"
"If you could, Will. I've never seen him get nervous before."
"I'll see what I can do."
12:48 p.m., Gilmore Mansion
Lorelai ran up the stairs to her room, slammed her door, and flopped down on her bed. She was inconsolable about losing her chance to see Luke. She tried to recall exactly what she had said in the rambling message she left on his machine earlier in the week. Her heart wrenched as she remembered that she had told him she was going to his game. What would he think?
Now the situation with her parents was going to be unbearable for the whole summer. Maybe longer. She doubted they would ever trust her again, but they couldn't keep her from the phones forever. It would be impossible. At any rate, she would call Luke from School on Monday the first chance she got. They could lock her in the house, but at least she still had one more day of school, and if they thought they could keep her from talking to Luke, well, they had another thing coming.
12:48 p.m., Yale Field
William didn't bother announcing his presence. He just quietly sat down next to his son and patted him gently on the back. "You okay?"
Luke had his elbows resting against his knees and his head bent down, staring at the dirt. "Yeah," he sighed. "I just lost my focus back there, and I'm trying to get back in the zone. I'm not nervous, Dad."
"Didn't say you were, but it would be okay if that was the case. Happens to everyone from time to time."
"She's not here, Dad. She's not coming," Luke said so softly, William had to bend forward to hear it.
"Who's not com—…oh, you mean, Lorelai?"
Luke nodded slightly. "I thought she would, and I thought I heard her…God, I sound pathetic…I am pathetic."
"No you're not. You sound like a young man who has his priorities in order as far as I'm concerned." William laughed and patted his son on the back. Luke was surprised by this, but he didn't show it; he continued to fix his gaze on the ground. William continued. "Here's the thing, though: You don't know why she's not here."
"Oh, I think I do."
"You don't know, son, and there's nothing you can do about it at this moment. Meanwhile, I do know that you want to do your best in this game."
"Well, then let's concentrate on what's in front of us, eh?"
"That's what I'm trying to do."
"May I help?"
"You can try."
"Okay first off, we have all weekend to figure out the first problem. You can tell me anything, everything, or even nothing, but we can hash it out. Now, you just happen to be very hard on yourself, and I'm sure you are assuming the worst, so I'll do my best to talk you off the ledge---while we fish. Okay?"
"Clear your mind, son." William waited until Luke nodded. "Got it? Good. Now, tell me what you know about their 3 and 4 hitters."
"Well, supposedly they're both good fastball hitters. Wheelock has the better average and the highest on base percentage in the league, but Ahearn leads the state in homeruns and RBI's."
"What's your plan?"
"With Ahearn, I'll probably start low and inside and then change his eye level with something up and in or up and down the middle if I'm behind. Wheelock will probably be a tougher out. I heard he's pretty disciplined at the plate."
William continued to get Luke focused on his game plan with his Socratic questions. Within five minutes, Luke was fully back in his "zone."
"You batting third again?"
"Yup," Luke nodded.
"What kind of hitter will you be today?"
"I'll be a tough out—make him waste some pitches and foul off anything I don't like that's in the strike zone." William nodded his approval. "Oh, and I'll keep my hands quick," Luke added.
"You sound ready to me, kid. Get in there and instill some fear at the plate and on the mound. Paint the corners and blow 'em away if necessary, but most importantly, throw…"
"What I intend to throw," Luke finished. That was chapter and verse from the gospel of Sandy Koufax.
Luke watched his father leave the dugout and give his coach the "thumbs up" sign. Okay, Dad, this one is for you and Mom.
1:40 p.m., Hartford
"Why Luke Danes, you have officially achieved the impossible."
"Oh yeah? And what is that?"
"You've actually made me interested in baseball."
"Well…at least interested in watching you play baseball. You have one more game left, right?"
"Yup," Luke looked down at Lorelai through his eyelashes, making her feel faint. "So…does that mean you're going to go?" he asked hopefully. "I mean…I'd like you to go…if you want."
Lorelai smiled at him, his shyness making her melt. "When and where is it?"
"New Haven, next Saturday at one o'clock," he smiled back. He couldn't help himself.
"If I can find a way around Adolf and Eva, I will be there."
"Adolf and Eva?"
"Pet names for my parents."
Loud knocking on the door broke Lorelai out of her reverie.
"Lorelai, wake up."
Uugh…my mother. Lorelai sat up on her bed and rubbed her eyes."What?"
Emily dropped a pile of books and notebooks on the end of her bed. "Are these all of your history materials?"
Lorelai looked through them. "Yeah, that's everything."
"You should begin studying, Lorelai. I just confirmed with the Dean that you do, in fact, have one more exam in American History."
"You called the Dean? Why?"
"Do I really need to answer that?"
"Never mind," Lorelai said quietly.
"You may as well get to work, Lorelai. You will have no time for anything else this weekend."
Lorelai bit the inside of her cheek to keep quiet.
1:52 p.m., Bottom of the 4th Inning; Yale Field
The New Haven fans collectively groaned. With that out, Luke had retired the side with three strikeouts. Again. He was dominating the New Haven Warriors. Their batters had barely made contact with his pitches. Luke had given up two outs to foul ball pop ups and one to a grounder to the second baseman, but all nine other batters he had faced were strikeout victims.
Meanwhile, the Stars Hollow Minutemen had scored twice. Luke doubled in the first inning, stole third, and scored on a sacrifice fly from Jake Banyon. In the fourth inning, Billy Coogan hit a single, Ken Kaleeda walked, and Pat Gleason drove Billy in with a another single. A two-run lead rarely feels comfortable in baseball, but with the way Luke was pitching, it felt like they were ahead by ten.
Not due up for a while, Luke sat on the bench and cheered Rob as he got ready to hit. Ken Kaleeda took a seat next to Luke. "Hey Luke, what do—ow!" Before Luke had a chance to respond, Coach Barrows pulled Ken out of the dugout by his ear.
"What the hell are you doing, Kaleeda!"
"Nothin' Coach! I was just talking to Luke and you attacked me."
Coach Barrows sighed and silently looked skyward for patience. "Kenny, you NEVER disrupt a pitcher who's in a zone like Luke is right now. You should know that."
"But Coach, Luke always pitches awesome, and I always talk to him."
"Not," the coach interrupted, "when he's pitching a perfect game, for Christ's sake!"
"What's a perfect game?"
"Are you kidding? How long have you playing ball, kid? Are you brain damaged?"
"Well now that you mention it, Coach, Luke accidentally hit me in the head with a golf club just last summer."
Coach Barrows rolled his eyes and sighed loudly. "A perfect game is when a pitcher allows no one to reach base for any reason be it a hit, a walk, a hit batter, or an error for a complete or extra inning win. In our league that's 21 batters up and 21 down."
"So it's like a no-hitter then?"
"It's better than that, obviously, and it's very rare. Haven't you noticed everyone else avoiding Luke?"
"Um, not really, Coach. I mean, Luke's kinda grumpy sometimes so I just figured—"
"Kaleeda, do us all a favor and don't try to figure out anything. Just stop thinking altogether, kid. Make the world a better place. Meanwhile, do not talk to Luke until the game is over, capiche?"
2:24 p.m., Top of the 6th Inning
While Luke waited on deck to bat, Jake Banyon and Billy Coogan gathered the rest of the team together in a tight circle, out of Luke's hearing range. "Listen up," Jake said with authority, "we've got something to say. Go for it Billy."
"Well, we all here know that we're a wicked awesome team, right? But we also have to admit that we wouldn't have made the playoffs, gone to States—"
"And be six fucking outs away from winning it all," Jake added.
"If," Billy continued, "it weren't for Luke. Right, guys?" Billy looked around at his teammates and watched them nod in agreement. "Okay, I don't know how many of you realize this, but Luke's got more going than a no-hitter. He's pitched a perfect game so far."
"Anyone need me to explain what that is?" Ken asked hopefully.
"Kaleeda," Jake growled, "everybody knows what that is, for fuck's sake."
"Sorry," he mumbled.
"What Jake and I are trying to say is that we only need six more outs, and we don't want any errors to blow this for Luke. We need to keep our heads in the game down to final pitch. We need to be willing to sacrifice our bodies to get to a ball, you hear me? Nothing gets through!"
Billy put his hand out in the center of the group and everyone followed suit. "On three, let's just say, 'nothing.' Ready? One, two, three…"
"Luke's up!" Maizie squealed with excitement. "Say Will, you don't think they'll try to hit him like they did last game, do you?"
"I hope not, Maizie, but I'm sure Luke is expecting a brush back at least."
"So can we talk about 'it' yet?" asked Buddy. It referred to Luke's perfect game.
"Hell no, we could jinx it, Bud."
"Ooookay," Buddy sighed, giving an amused wink to Mia and Maizie.
The New Haven fans greeted Luke with hisses and boos that were loud enough to drown the cheers from the Stars Hollow contingent as he stepped into the batter's box. Sure would be nice to shut them up, he thought as he took a few practice swings. He looked over at his teammate Kevin who had reached first on a throwing error.
"C'mon, Cool Hand, there's a duck on the pond for ya!" screamed Babette. "Hit 'em in, Handsome!"
Luke dug in and looked the pitcher in the eye. The first pitch was a wild, inside fastball in the dirt. Kevin thought about going to second, but he played it safe when the catcher blocked it.
"Ball one," announced the umpire.
Luke stepped out of the box, adjusted his helmet, and took three and a half practice swings. He stepped in the box and stared down the pitcher again. He smirked at Luke before going into his windup.
The ball sailed right at Luke's shoulder. Luke had to jump back to avoid getting hit, and the ball got past the catcher and rolled to the backstop. Kevin made it easily to second. All of the Stars Hollow players and fans stood up and oohed at the near miss. They shouted their encouragement:
"Hang tough in there, Cool Hand!"
"They're just afraid of ya, Butch!"
"Knock 'em dead, Luke!"
Luke figured he'd get a strike next, probably near the outside corner. Jake, the Minutemen's most powerful bat, was on deck. If Luke walked, Jake could put the game out of reach. Luke also knew that he could be wrong, so he also prepared for a pitch near his head.
The pitcher was ready, but Luke stepped out of the batter's box at the last moment, hoping to throw off his rhythm. "Time out!" the umpire called.
Luke stepped back in the box and tuned out the noise. He concentrated on trying to see the ball come out of the pitcher's hand. The pitcher fired away. Luke watched it leave and had a split second to decide whether to swing. He swung and crushed the ball. Homerun. Luke didn't stop and watch as the ball sailed over the left field fence; he wasn't that kind of player. Instead, he went into a brisk trot around the bases. He could see the crowd reacting but not hear it—at least not exactly. It was like listening to a pool party from the bottom of the deep end. Luke kept his head down until he was about to cross the plate, then he allowed himself to smile when his saw his father celebrating with the rest of the townies.
2:46 p.m., Bottom of the 7th (last) Inning; Minutemen: 4 Warriors: 0
"Okay men, this is it. We all know what's on the line here. I want to see airtight defense out there. Keep your heads in the game and play all the way to the final out."
"You got it, Coach."
"We've got this!"
"Let's go Minutemen!"
Photographers and reporters from newspapers and local television stations jockeyed for position along the field. Everyone in the stands stood up in anticipation.
The boys nervously started to take the field.
"Hold up!" Coach Barrows called. They stopped and crowded around their coach. "It's been a hell of a season boys. I'm proud of all of you." The boys looked at their normally stoic coach in wonder as he struggled to stay composed. "Now, get going!" he shouted, swiping at their butts as they hustled out to the field.
Luke walked slowly to the mound with his head down. The crowed roared their encouragement as he threw his warm-up pitches. Just three more, he told himself. Don't blow it. He couldn't help but look over at his father. Will gave him an encouraging smile and yelled out, "Stay on it, son. You can do it!"
Buddy watched William nervously cross his arms across his chest and take a deep breath. "Can we talk about it yet?" he teased.
William bumped him with his shoulder. "No."
"Oh, hogwash!" Maizie exclaimed. "You and your superstitions, Will!"
"Only for baseball," Will defended.
"And fishing," Buddy cut in.
"Shush, guys! The inning has started!" Mia chided.
Luke stared down the leadoff batter as he came to the plate. He took a signal from his pitcher and fired a blazing fastball on the upper inside corner of the strike zone. The batter tried to swing but was ridiculously late with it.
"Strike one!" yelled the ump.
Patrick Gleason shifted nervously in right field. If this guy managed to get of piece of the ball, it would probably come his way. He put himself in the best position to run down a ball hit over his head but still give him a chance to catch something shallow. Best of all would be if he didn't hit it anywhere near me. He exhaled in relief when the next pitch was a ball, but the third pitch was hit hard into the stands on his side of the field. Shit.
Patrick was the older brother of Kirk, the town nerd, and he felt the vulnerability of "geekness by association." The last thing he needed was to lose any of his coolness by making an error and blowing Luke's perfect game. Please, please, don't hit to me, he thought asLuke went into his wind-up. Suddenly, he heard a crack and saw the ball heading off the bat in the air towards right field. It was shallow. Shit, it's going to drop, he thought as he charged in. He burst forward with every ounce of energy and speed he possessed. He outstretched his gloved hand and dove for the ball.
He tasted dirt and grass as his face made contact with the field. The crowd was roaring. He shook off his disorientation and tried to find the ball. It was in his glove. He did it! He caught it and preserved the no-hitter and the perfect game. Holy shit. He picked himself up and took a moment to revel in the glory. The place was going wild, and Luke pointed at him with a grin as he threw the ball back in.
The Stars Hollow cheering section was insane with anticipation. Liz had been so busy flirting with Jimmy, she didn't know about the perfect game situation until Carrie and Jimmy had explained it to her at the top of the inning. "Oh my God, guys, do you think Luke is going to do it?" she asked.
"I didn't think so at first, but after that play, I think it's going to happen, Liz," Jimmy answered.
"I always knew he could do it, and I'm behind him one hundred percent," Carrie said suggestively.
"You never stop, do you?" Liz sighed.
"You should know that by now."
"Yes, of course, Carrie. How could I forget your raison d'etre? Hey guys," Liz said looking carefully at Jimmy, I'm going to go watch the end with my father. I feel like we should be together for this."
"No problem Lizzie," Jimmy said, "we'll catch up later though, right?"
Liz smiled widely. "You bet," she said as she made her way through the stands.
William felt arms wrap around him and turned around. "Well hey there, darling! Gonna squeeze in with us?"
"Yep. I want to be with you for this, Dad."
William pulled her in for a hug and kissed the top of her head. "How'd you know?"
"Clairvoyance," she shrugged.
"Well you tell ol' 'Claire' that I think she's smart and sweet, okay?" He hugged her again.
"Here we go," Bud announced as Luke got set to face the next batter.
Luke struck him out in just four pitches, bringing his strikeout total to 14. The crowd erupted again and stamped their feet. Patrick Gleason made a silent promise never to miss Sunday mass again if the ball stayed away from him. Photographers surged forward. Rachel was standing by the dugout gate with her camera ready. Mark Wheelock walked up to the plate, his face contorted in determination. The crowd noise rose even more in excitement as the best hitter in the state stepped into the box to face the best pitcher for the final out.
"We're talking about it now, Will," Buddy teased.
"Yeah okay," Will sighed nervously. "This is tricky because all the pressure's on Luke."
"How so, Dad? We're winning and they're down to their final out."
"That's true, Sweetheart, but at this point everyone is thinking about Luke preserving the perfect game or at least, the no-hitter. Wheelock has nothing to lose. He just wants to be the spoiler right now."
"Think he'll try to draw a walk?" Buddy asked.
Luke stepped off the mound and faced the outfield. He took off his cap, wiped his brow, and slicked his sweaty hair back. He replaced his cap, took a deep breath, and turned back around. Rob asked for a time-out and trotted out to the mound. The crowd was so loud he had to speak to Luke in a raised voice.
"Think he's hoping for a walk?" Rob asked his battery mate.
"No…I don't. He's pretty pissed off right now and he'd do anything to get a hit or at least make contact and try to force an error."
"Nope," Will answered. "This kid's too cocky. Plus, he knows Luke has great control. He will get called out on strikes if he tries to wait him out."
"What do you think Luke should do? You think he'll try to blow him away with his fastball?
"He could. Wheelock hasn't been able to get around it yet, and I don't think he will, but he's already had two chances to get used to Luke's speed, so you never know."
"Luke, let's just go after him with high heat. Come on, just blow him away and let the party begin."
"Easy, Robbie. Don't count Wheelock out. He's already faced me twice and I'm pretty sure he's expecting the fastball."
"What do you wanna do, then?"
Buddy cocked his head toward Luke and Rob on the pitching mound. "You'd kill to be part of that conference, wouldn't you?" he teased.
Will laughed. "Probably, but Luke doesn't need me anymore." Hearing those words made Will fall into a sudden hush. He dropped his head for a second to regain his composure. "I uh, think he's going to try to keep Wheelock off balance."
Luke looked at his catcher and grinned. "I'm going to mess with him—throw his timing off and then get him to chase."
"Changeup middle out. I'm pretty sure he's not expecting it. I'll follow up with a fastball high and in. If I get two strikes, I'll get him to chase a sinker low and away."
"And if you fall behind?"
"Hell if I know."
Rob looked at Luke and they shared a tiny, nervous laugh. Rob slapped Luke on the arm. "Let's get this done." He trotted back.
Mia, Maizie, Buddy, Will, and Liz all grabbed each other's arms to brace themselves.
William took a deep breath, "Here we go."
Luke kicked at the dirt a little bit near the rubber and looked up to see Wheelock staring him down. Luke stared back emotionless. Not gonna happen buddy, he thought. Luke focused on the catcher as he confirmed the pitch with his signal. Not many high school pitchers could throw a decent changeup. They wanted to show off and impress with their fastball so they rarely mastered the art of the off-speed pitch. Luke was not like most high schoolers, however. He practiced the mechanics and delivery of his main pitches for years in the backyard with his father. It was his father, not any of his coaches, who taught him how to throw his deceptive, 'circle changeup.'
Wheelock saw the pitch come out of Luke's hand and guessed 'fastball.' He tried to pull back on his swing when he realized he was ahead of it but couldn't stop his motion.
The crowd roared. Luke took his next signal. He'd make Wheelock have to adjust for speed and location. He fired. Wheelock recognized it too late; he couldn't pull the trigger fast enough to make a swing. The bat stayed on his shoulder.
"Strike two!" Now the crowd noise was deafening. Wheelock was irate. He knew that it looked to the New Haven fans that he didn't want to swing, and plenty of fans let him know with comments such as "Come on, Wheelock!", "Get in the game!", "What're you? A spectator?", and "Be a hitter!" It pissed him off. He stepped out of the box to gather himself. He took three vicious swings and stepped back in with a snarl on his face.
Luke could tell Wheelock was frustrated and anxious. He was winning this battle of wills. He stared right back at Wheelock fearlessly. He was pretty sure he could get him to swing at just about anything. He bent down in his pre-windup stance with his left arm just above his knee and his throwing arm behind his back, rotating the ball in his hand. He had tuned out the roars and heard his father's voice in his head, "You don't know." Alright, Lorelai, he thought to himself. This is for you, too. He accepted Rob's sign with a nod and straightened up. Focus on what's ahead of you. He wound up and fired a sinker that looked like a fastball headed for the outside corner of the plate. Wheelock timed his swing perfectly, then, as if the ball suddenly found an invisible trap door, it fell out of the zone and into the dirt. He missed. Badly.
Luke pumped an arm and placed his hands on his head as he watched Rob charging at him. The Stars Hollow fans erupted and poured out onto the field to celebrate with the team. Rachel's camera snapped repeatedly as she tried to capture the jubilance of the moment. Rob was the first person to reach Luke and he jumped in his arms. The rest of the players joined the mob and somehow managed to hoist Luke up in the air and carry him for about 15 feet.
William, Liz, Bud, Maizie, and Mia embraced each other and were soon joined by Patty, Babette, and Morey. Kirk leaped off the top of the bleacher with tears in his eyes, desperately looking for someone, anyone to hug. Carrie found Liz and yanked her away from her father's embrace. "Come on, Lizzie! Let's go on the field."
Luke was now barely visible in the middle of the ecstatic, jumping throng of players. Rob found him again and got his attention. "Take this," he yelled over the noise as he handed Luke the baseball he caught on the final pitch. "You should have this, not me."
"Luuuuuuukkkkeee!" screamed Liz.
"Over here," he laughed.
Liz jumped into his arms. "Way to go, big brother!"
Luke hugged her and set her down. "Thanks, Li—whoa!" he shouted when Carrie materialized out of nowhere and wrapped him in a bear hug.
"You're something else, you know that?" she whispered in his ear.
"Um…thanks. You too," he responded as he peeled her arms from around his middle and tried to step away. "Hey Liz, where's Dad?"
"I think he's near the dugout gate."
"Thanks, sis. Carrie, let go. I need to find my father."
Carrie reluctantly released him. "Catch you later, Butch!"
Oh no you won't, he thought as he weaved his way closer to the stands. His father saw him first.
"Luke! Over here, son!" he called. Luke smiled widely and ran over. William met him halfway and wrapped his arms around his son. "That was one hell of a performance, kid. Perfect game! I can't believe it!"
Luke pulled back and looked at his father. "I did it for you, Dad. And Mom."
William held his son's face in his hands. "You trying to embarrass me by making me cry in front of all these people?" he joked softly.
"No, but that's a nice bonus. Oh, here," Luke pulled back again and took the baseball out of his back pocket. "This is for you," he handed the ball to his father who took it wordlessly. "It's from the last pitch."
William pulled Luke back into an embrace. "Aw gee, son. You should keep it, though. You earned it."
"Never would have without you, Dad. You know you've always been my best coach. I want you to have it."
William returned his hands to each side of Luke's face, and kissed his forehead. "I feel honored," he said sincerely.
"Well, you are, Dad."
6:45 p.m., Lorenzo's Ristorante, West Haven
Patty, Taylor, Babette, Mia, and other members of the town council had reserved an entire local restaurant for post game celebrating (win or lose). After hours of eating, toasting, singing, and dancing, people were starting to pay their tabs and head for their cars or the bus.
"So Patty," William said as he polished off his last bit of wine, "Taylor told me I have you to thank for arranging all of this."
"It was my pleasure, William, and I mean that literally. Lorenzo and I go back a ways."
"Oh my indeed," Patty laughed as she watched William's cheeks redden. She looked across the room to see Taylor waving her over. "Got to go, Taylor beckons. Oh, and Will?"
"That is one fine boy you've raised. We may like to tease him about his good looks, but he has a good heart, too. Kathy would be so proud."
William squeezed her hand, touched by her words. "Thanks Patty." She walked off, leaving William alone at the table. He chuckled when he saw Kirk awkwardly trying to dance near one of girls. He looked across the room at Maizie and Buddy dancing and felt a pang in his heart. He sighedwith longing. Kathy. They had had such a great time at Maizie and Bud's wedding so long ago. He cast his eyes over to the bar area and watched in interest as he saw Rachel pull Luke away from a game of darts with the boys. They walked outside.
"So…my parents are ready to get going now, so I guess this is good-bye for a while."
"Oh man…you're leaving for California tomorrow, right?"
"Yeah," Rachel said softly, "but I sure am glad I got see you win the big game. You were amazing out there, Luke. I think I got a couple of good shots. I'm going to develop those tonight, but in the meantime, here you go." She handed Luke a picture frame.
He took it and turned it over. It was a picture of him, Liz, and his father on his graduation night. They had their arms around Liz, who looked tiny in between the two big men. She had a Cheshire cat grin and looked like she was on the verge of bursting into laughter. He was also trying to suppress a laugh as his father, the instigator, had his head turned toward him saying something goofy he was sure. "Thank you Rachel, it's really nice."
"You're welcome," she said softly as she leaned into him to see the picture. "I had a few to choose from, but I liked this one the best because no one is looking right at the camera."
"Yeah," Luke agreed as he continued to study it. "It's a great picture of Liz. She looks so happy."
"Well why wouldn't she be? She's with her two best guys."
Luke looked down in embarrassment. "Rachel, I wish I had thought to bring something for you, but I guess I've been a little preoccupied and…"
"Hey," she cut in, "don't worry about it. It's not for you. It's for your dad. I've always liked him better, anyway."
Luke smiled. "Figures. Everybody does."
Rachel laughed and took an envelope out of her bag. "Now this," she said as she handed it to Luke, "is just for you." Luke raised his eyebrows in surprise. "You don't need to open it now; it's just a picture of us at graduation."
Luke gave her a smile that made her knees weaken. "Thanks."
"Well since you're a big-time superstar now, I thought you better have something to remember me by," she flirted.
Luke rolled his eyes. "Maybe after you win a Pulitzer, you can have your people call my people." Their eyes met and lingered. "I could never forget you, Rachel," he said sincerely. Rachel brushed away a tear she suddenly felt on her cheek. "Come here," he said gently, holding his arms out.
Rachel fell into him and hugged him tightly. She pulled back slightly and moved her mouth to his ear. "I love you Luke," she whispered.
Luke was taken aback. She had never said those words to him before. "Rachel, I…" he hesitated.
"Shhh," she whispered and touched her lips to his in a soft kiss. "I don't know what would be harder to hear at this point—rejection or reciprocation. Let's…let's just keep it in the wind for now, shall we?"
Rachel squeezed him once more then pulled away abruptly. "I should go," she said sadly.
"Good-bye, Rachel," Luke said as he watched her walk toward her parents' car.
She stopped and turned around before getting in and smiled. "A perfect game…Hot damn, Danes!"
It took a while for Luke to make his way back into the restaurant. Everyone coming out took the time to congratulate him again on the game. Nearly everyone was gone when he got back in and spied his father deep in conversation with Buddy, Maizie, and Mia. They stopped talking suddenly when he came up to them.
"Sorry…am I interrupting anything?"
"Gosh no, Lucas!" Mia protested. I was just telling your father about Liz's training and work schedule for the week. "You just surprised us, that's all."
"If it doesn't work out, Buddy and I could always use an extra dishwasher," Maizie said.
Mia stood up. "Where is Lizzie anyway? I'm ready to get going." She scanned the room. She batted Luke on the arm. "Looks like Kirk finally got to her," she laughed. Liz was seated at a table across from Kirk who appeared to chattering nonstop.
"I'll go rescue her," Luke offered.
"Some people aren't creative enough to design their own adventures and just follow a prefabricated module, but I like to—"
"Kirk, sorry to interrupt. Mia's ready to go, Liz." Liz sprang up from her seat.
"Yes!...I mean, yes, Luke. It's getting late." She turned to Kirk and took his hand. "Thanks for telling me all about Dungeons and Dragons…," Liz said sweetly. "Oops I mean, D&D."
Kirk beamed. "Anytime. If you want, I can tell you about my PC. He's an elf with an awesome ability score, but his alignment is what really—"
Luke couldn't take it another second. "Say goodnight, Kirk!"
"Goodnight, Liz. It was a pleasure and an honor to…"
Luke swung an arm around Liz's shoulder and pulled her away before Kirk could finish. "Now you know what it's like for me with Carrie," he whispered to his sister.
"Oh bite your tongue! She's not that bad."
"Yes she is, and I think it's time you had a little talk with her about backing off a bit."
"Funny you should mention that, because I actually did try to talk to her the other night."
"Well it didn't work, Liz. She tried to play footsie with me under the table tonight!"
Liz cackled. "Oh you must have loved that." Luke rolled his eyes in response. "Luke, in all seriousness, she really likes you. Apparently it goes back to when she was in the third grade and you defended her against some bullies."
"I have no recollection of that at all," Luke said seriously.
"Yeah but she does. I hate to tell you this, but I don't see her crush wearing away any time soon."
"But Liz, you and I both know it's never going to happen. Isn't there some way you could get her to accept that?"
"I've tried, Luke; I really have."
"Jeez. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess."
"Ready to go, superstar?"
"Please don't call me that, Dad." Luke took in his father's exhausted appearance. "Hey," he said gently, "you sure you're up for this? I don't want you to go just for me."
"Are you kidding? You know how much I love the cabin."
"I know, Dad; you just look…wiped out."
"Well, being the father of a celebrity isn't easy you know," he joked. "Besides, it's nothing that can't be cured by sleeping on a lumpy cabin mattress."
"Alright, but I'm driving…wino."
"You kids drove me to it."
8:48 p.m., North Spectacle Lake, CT
Luke got the beds ready while William moved two Adirondack chairs onto the dock and set a small cooler in between. He sat down heavy of heart and exhausted of energy, but it had been a magical day. There were moments when he was even able to forget that he had to break his son's heart sometime within the next forty-eight hours. Monday, he thought with his eyes closed. I'll tell him on Monday and let us have tomorrow to just be.
Luke's heavy footsteps announced his presence. "You asleep?" he asked.
"Naw, just listening to the frogs and the crickets."
"Yeah," Luke said as he sat down, "that's one of things I like about this place."
"Yup. Can't beat the soundtrack, that's for sure." William reached into the cooler and took out a couple of beers.
Luke looked at his father wide-eyed as he took a bottle. "Really?" He asked.
"You planning on getting tanked and going for a joyride later on?"
"No," Luke laughed.
"You plan on EVER getting behind the wheel of a car if you're compromised?"
"Of course not. You know that, Dad."
"I do. That's why I feel okay sharing a beer with you. You may not be a legal adult yet, but you're all grown up," William sighed. "You grew up too fast," he added regrettably.
"You keep saying that lately. It's okay, Dad. It wasn't your fault."
They fell into a comfortable silence that lasted five or six minutes. They were always able to do that.
"That was a great pitch sequence you threw to Wheelock."
"Thanks. I agonized about it a little. Robbie wanted me to go with pure smoke."
William laughed. "Well, it's hard not to call for a fastball when you have a pitcher who hits ninety plus."
"Believe me, there was a part of me that wanted to reach back and throw full speed right down the middle. You don't know how much I wanted to discuss it with you, but something tells me it wouldn't have gone over well if I asked the umpire for a time-out so I could talk to my daddy."
"Yup. Good call, son,"
They laughed and fell into another quiet spell. Luke broke it first.
"Thanks for helping me before the game. I don't think I would have gotten it together without you."
"Oh, I don't know about that, son, but you're welcome. I was in a position to help, having experience with the same problem myself," Will laughed. He studied Luke's profile for a moment. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not right now. I need to sleep on it."
"Speaking of sleep," William stood up and stretched. "I'm going to turn in early. You coming?"
"Naw, not yet. See you in the morning."
William put his hand on top of Luke's head and ruffled his hair. "Hey," he said quietly.
"I am so proud of you…I…don't have the words."
Luke looked up from his chair and patted his father's hand affectionately. He didn't have the words either.
Sunday, June 19, 1983, Gilmore Mansion 6:55 a.m.
"Get up, Lorelai," Emily ordered.
"What the hell…?"
"I said get up and get ready. You have a test to take."
"What? No I don't, Mom. It's Sunday—very early on Sunday."
"This isn't a joke, Lorelai." Emily walked over and opened the curtains, bathing the room in bright sunlight.
Lorelai sat up in bed. "What are you talking about?"
"Your father and I arranged for you to take your final exam this morning. Dean Harrington is going to proctor it himself."
"How? What?" Lorelai said confusedly. It was much too early for this shit.
"Money talks, Lorelai. When we spoke to the Dean yesterday, we explained that we needed this favor, and, since we are largely responsible for financing the new library wing, he was quite receptive."
"But why today? Why can't I just take it on Monday?"
"Because we will be busy."
"We? Mother, what the hell is going on?"
"Just get in the shower Lorelai, and be ready for breakfast by eight."
Sunday, June 19, 1983, North Spectacle Lake, CT 7:03 a.m.
Luke slept later than usual and got up to find a note on the bathroom door that read: Went to pick up bait and other supplies. Will return with breakfast. Get the boat ready, Lazybones. ~Dad
It wasn't easy, but Luke managed to move the rowboat from the shed to the water, sore muscles and all. He had just started bringing the fishing gear from the porch to the dock when he heard the truck pull up.
William got out of the truck and held up a box of cornflakes. "Breakfast is served."
"Good morning," Luke said. He noticed his father struggling to carry three large bags at once. "Hold up," he said rushing over to help. Let me help." Luke grabbed two of the bags and saw his father going back for more. "Jeez Dad, how much did you get?"
"Oh just wait and see," William chuckled as they made their way into the cabin.
William set his bag down, pulled out a newspaper and opened it with a flourish. "Let's check the sports page for the New Haven Register, shall we?" He picked it up and read, "Cinderella Story: Stars Hollow Defeats New Haven with Perfect Game."
Luke blushed and looked at the floor. "This one's from the Hartford Courant," William said enthusiastically. 'The Little Town That Could; Perfect Game Victory for Stars Hollow.' And look at this great picture of you!" Luke's embarrassment only added to William's glee. "This one is my favorite—it's from the Waterbury Republican American: 'Great Danes: Senior leads Stars Hollow to Championship with Perfect Game.' There's more, by the way, and I bought four copies of each. The guys at the general store thought I was nuts until I explained that I was your father. Then they thought I was pretty cool."
"Jeez," was all Luke could think to say.
"Better get used to it, kid."
"I'm just glad we're in the middle of nowhere right now. Think you could get Charlie to cover the store for the next month?"
Hartford, 8:55 a.m.
"Thank you for accommodating us, Dean Harrington."
"It is my pleasure, Mrs. Gilmore, and please, call me Phillip." He looked at Lorelai shifting nervously on her feet. "Are you ready Lorelai? You may take the exam right here in my conference room."
"Great," Lorelai said sarcastically.
"How long will this take, Phillip?" Emily asked.
"Lorelai will have up to three hours to complete the exam. Mr. Parsons told me most of his students take between two to two and a half hours to finish."
"Alright then, Phillip. If you don't mind, I have a few errands to run, but I will be back at eleven o'clock sharp."
"That would be just fine, Mrs. Gilmore."
"Please, call me Emily," she smiled as she turned to go. She had lots of work to do.
11:05 a.m., North Spectacle Lake
Luke baited his hook and cast into the lake. He loved the sound and feel of the line sailing through the air in its arc. Usually he could spend all day casting and waiting, casting and waiting. Just being in the tranquil, natural setting was enough to put him at ease, but today he just couldn't shake Lorelai from the corner of his mind. William knew it, too. They had discussed every aspect of the game to the smallest detail, but the subject of the pre-game girl trouble had yet to be broached. Until now.
"So…," William said as nonchalantly as possible, do you want to talk about it?"
"It?" Luke asked even though he knew full well what "it" was.
"Yes, the elephant that's been sitting in the boat with us day."
Luke laughed slightly. He should have known he'd get called out sooner or later. "Hey, if you ever got around to finishing the new boat, it would probably fit comfortably," Luke teased. "But okay, I guess we can talk about it, I just don't know what to say."
"What happened at the Gilmore's?"
Luke sighed heavily. "Well, I went while Lorelai was at school because I didn't want to risk getting her in any more trouble than she probably all ready was, you know? Plus, she hadn't called, and it had been five days."
"And you couldn't call her, right?"
"Yeah. In the frenzy of the moment, we didn't have time to write anything down, and they're unlisted. So I was assuming that she hadn't called because of her punishment, and I just wanted to explain to her mother that it wasn't her fault."
"And win her over, right?"
"I guess, but I wasn't banking on that because she was so angry the night I brought Lorelai home, she could barely look at me."
"Well I can't say as if I blame her, son. If it had been Lizzie—especially a fifteen year old Lizzie, I would have blown a gasket. And if she had been out that late with high school senior while she was just a freshman, I probably would have gone thermo-nuclear."
"I know. So I wanted to try to get Mrs. Gilmore to see that she could trust me—that I respect Lorelai—and that I would never pressure her in any way."
"Good idea, son. So what happened?"
"Oh, she was really cold to me at first and condescending too. I had to practically beg to get her to listen to me, but then she did, and she suddenly changed. I don't know how to explain it; it was weird."
"Try," William leaned forward until he caught Luke's eye and gave him an encouraging smile.
"Well, she said she did believe me and that I seemed like a nice young man. I was so relieved, but then she told me that Lorelai was punished but was allowed to use the phone. She also said that she would be okay with me seeing her again when she's no longer grounded, but that it was too bad because she had moved on. I guess I must have looked pretty shocked at that because she started going on and on about Lorelai being like a bee or something…no wait—a hummingbird, and that she has broken a lot of hearts. She seemed kind of sorry for me Dad, which was appropriate since I felt like I just got sucker-punched in the jaw."
William scoffed, "Maybe that's because you were."
"What do you mean, by Lorelai?"
"No, by Mrs. Gilmore."
"Look son, I am hardly objective, but I find it hard to believe that Lorelai would lose interest in you in a matter of days. I have a feeling you 'got to' her as much as she 'got to' you. I can see it in your eyes, kid. You're a goner."
"That obvious, huh?" Luke looked down in embarrassment.
"Maybe not to everybody, but to me, yeah." He looked at his blushing son tenderly. "You had a great relationship with Rachel, right?"
Luke nodded, wondering where this was going.
"But after spending that day with Lorelai, you felt something new, yeah? Tell me how it was different."
"Well…she's beautiful, obviously, but so is Rachel. I don't know how to put it, but I felt in my gut right away that she got something about me, and it put me at ease. I felt so natural. I felt like I could say anything to her; and I found myself saying more than I ever do…and I felt so…so…," Luke struggled to complete his thought.
"So…alive?" William helped.
"Yes. That's it exactly."
"Gee, I wonder how I knew that?" William facetiously questioned. "Look, I don't think you get to that level of comfort and so quickly unless the other person feels it too."
"I want to believe that, I really do, but—"
"Now Mrs. Gilmore meets you and can tell that you're sincere. She has eyes and sees that you're a 'handsome fella' as Babette likes to describe you; she knows you are going to college in the fall, and she sees…trouble. She doesn't want her daughter to fall for an older, college boy, so she…you know."
"She lies to you—tries to throw you off the trail."
"It didn't seem like she was lying, and I don't think Mrs. Gilmore would lie."
"Luke, you are wise and mature beyond your years in many respects, but you're also guileless."
"Guileless? Like naïve? Gee thanks, Dad."
"I didn't say naïve. You're not naïve about most things, but you are sincere and honest almost to a fault. It would never occur to you to manipulate or exploit other people. It's not in your nature."
"Dad, I don't know what you're—"
"I'm just saying that I'm not surprised you didn't even entertain the possibility that Mrs. Gilmore might be lying."
"No, it hadn't."
"And don't get me wrong, son. I am not saying she did lie, I am just saying that she could have lied. You also told me that their house was in the west end of Hartford, right?"
"So I gather it was more mansion than house, right?"
"Definitely a mansion. Yes, the Gilmore's are very wealthy, if that's what you're getting at, Dad, but Lorelai isn't a snob—not at all."
"I'm sure she's not, but her parents may be. You never got to know your Grandma and Grandpa Spencer very well, but they were both from wealthy families in Boston. You ever hear the saying, 'Boston: the land of the bean and the cod; where Lowell's speak only to Cabot's, and Cabot's speak only to God'?"
Luke laughed, "No."
"Well your mother's side of the family probably would have looked down on the Cabot's. Thankfully, your mother rejected that kind thinking, but I sure was not well-received the first time she brought me home to meet her parents."
"What did you do?"
"We endured it at first, then we ignored it, and eventually we just became amused by it. But it was easier for us because we were older. I was 19 and your mother was 20 when we met."
"Yeah," Luke said quietly. "I don't know what to do; I don't know if I should do anything. I mean, she knows where I live. Our number is in the book, so the ball's in her court."
"So it seems," William said softly, wishing he had better advice. "Just try not to be too hard on yourself or Lorelai for that matter. She could be up against more pressure than you realize."
11:23 a.m., Hartford
Lorelai exited the conference room to find her mother and Dean Harrington discussing their favorite restaurants in Paris.
"You simply must go to Lasserre, Phillip, and insist on getting a table in the second story dining room."
"I am far too wise a man to ignore your advice, Emily," the Dean assured as Lorelai walked opened the door. "Have you finished the exam, Lorelai?"
"Very good. Your final grades should arrive in the mail by the end of next week."
"Thanks, Dean Harrington."
"Well, I wish you both the best for the summer. Enjoy your travels."
"What travels?" Lorelai asked.
"Let's go, Lorelai. I promised your father we would join him for lunch."
Richard was talking on the phone when Lorelai and Emily got home. "Hold on, she just walked in the door," Richard motioned with his head for Emily to come closer. "You can tell her the good news yourself. Here she is."
Emily took the phone. "Hello…Uh huh…Really?…Well good for you!...And the hotel?...Excellent!...Thank you Ralphie, we won't forget this. We will be home all afternoon to accept delivery."
She hung up the phone and grinned at her husband. Lorelai slunk down in the sitting room, waiting for the next shoe to drop, and knowing she didn't have much of a defense against whatever punishment her parents had in mind. She spied the Sunday paper on the coffee table and snatched it up, eager to find something about the game. She found the sports page and her breath hitched when she saw Luke's picture and the headline: "The Little Town That Could; Perfect Game Victory for Stars Hollow.' There he was: her Luke, or at least, she hoped he was hers.
"Lunch is ready to be served, Mrs. Gilmore."
"Thank you, Rita. Come to the table, Lorelai."
An icy silence hung in the air as the Gilmore's received the first lunch course. Richard, as usual, was the first to try to break the tension.
"How did you do on your exam, Lorelai?"
"Okay," Lorelai muttered. "I would have done better if I had taken it on Monday as scheduled."
"I told you to study yesterday," Emily reminded.
"Would have been nice to know I was going to be forced to take it early."
"I'm sure you did just fine, Lorelai," Richard assured. "It was for your American History class, right? What were your essay topics?"
"Our long essay was on the rise, decline, influence and ramifications of Eugenics in the early twentieth century," Lorelai said as she fixed her gaze at her mother across the table. "I thought of you the entire time I was writing it."
"That is uncalled for, young Lady," Emily returned with barely controlled anger.
"It is?" Lorelai shrugged. "Just calling it as I see it."
"Very well, then. You know what I see? I see an ungrateful, belligerent child incapable of looking beyond herself."
"Oh that's rich, Mother, just ri—"
"Do me a favor, Lorelai, and try to tone down the dramatics for once. It's been a difficult weekend."
"I'm being dramatic? I get in a little bit of trouble and suddenly I'm a protagonist in a Kafka story!"
"A little bit of trouble?" Richard broke in, his voice raised in anger. "I think you've lost all sense of scale, miss. Your calculated, deceitful plan to sneak away to meet with a boy we forbade you to see is hardly a minor infraction."
"You don't understand, Dad…I had to see Luke and I knew you wouldn't let me…"
"You lied to us directly, Lorelai," Emily asserted, "and acted irresponsibly. The sight of you wandering around that filthy bus station bent on traveling to a strange and dangerous city on your own was intolerable."
Lorelai interrupted, "I know how it looks, Mom and Dad. I do! But you won't give me a chance to explain! You never do."
It was Richard's turn. "We are shocked that you have so little regard for us that you would betray our trust and put yourself in harm's way over a boy you've known for mere hours."
"Which is why we are leaving for Europe," Emily disclosed.
"We as in you and Dad?"
"No, as in you and I," Emily stated firmly. She watched her daughter's jaw come dangerously close to hitting the table.
"What? When…are…Why?" Lorelai sputtered. "I'm not going anywhere," she proclaimed.
"Yes, in fact you are. Every young lady should see Europe the proper way at least once in her life. I had planned to take you in one or two years, but it seems that you are in dire need of some refinement right now."
Lorelai scoffed. "Oh please, Mom. What am I, the new Daisy Miller?"
"Just calling it as I see it, Lorelai," Emily smiled, pleased for the opportunity to throw Lorelai's earlier words back at her. "We leave for Paris tonight. I suggest you start packing now."
12:21 p.m., North Spectacle Lake
"How you doing, son? You okay? You've been quiet even for you."
"I'm fine, Dad. I'm just trying to process everything you said and come to a decision."
"About whether or not I should try to go back to the Gilmore's to see Lorelai."
"Yup. I've already said enough; I've probably done more harm than good."
"No, you didn't…I liked getting your thoughts on the situation, Dad, really."
William and Luke locked eyes for a minute, and Luke suddenly laughed.
"What?" William asked.
"Oh, I was just thinking about something Mom mentioned in her letter."
"Oh yeah?" William raised his eyebrows in interest.
"Yeah, she wrote that she got unfairly blamed for your low batting average when the truth was, you could never hit an inside fastball."
William laughed heartily. "Oh, man, she called me out, didn't she?"
"Yup," Luke laughed back.
"Well, she's right, but she did make me even worse, you know. I wasn't as good at focusing as you are, and her presence at my games…well…let's just say I got distracted. It was damn near impossible to think about anything but kissing her when she was around."
Luke recast his line and stared at the water, deep in thought. "I actually thought you were going to be disappointed with me when you came into the dugout to see what was wrong. I was so embarrassed, I almost made up a story."
"Well like I said, son, I've been there." William pulled back on his line when he felt a tug, but it came to nothing. "A man's got to have his priorities in order, and nothing can trump true love. If you're lucky to find it, you've got to hold on. It's the great advantage of being alive."
"E. E. Cummings, right?"
William looked at his son in shock. "How did you know—"
Luke gave his father a knowing look.
"Your mother," William deduced.
"Of course. I know all your secrets now," Luke teased.
"God help me."
12:26 p.m., Hartford
Lorelai pushed back from the table and crossed her arms. "I'm not going," Lorelai said quietly. She thought she best make her stance on the issue as clear as possible.
Emily laughed. "Did you hear that, Richard? Your 15 year old daughter thinks she has veto power in this house."
"It's very important to me to stay here this summer," Lorelai insisted through gritted teeth.
"Yes, Lorelai, we know," her father replied. "We know that you need to stay here and wait for one of us to relax or blink, so you can disobey us again to run off with this…boy you're suddenly so fond of."
Lorelai waved the paper in her father's face. "I know all you and Mom care about is money and status, but for your information, Luke is extremely talented. He's going places, Dad. Look," Lorelai showed her father the picture and the article.
Richard tried hard to conceal his surprise.
"And," Lorelai continued, "not that it matters to either of you, but he happens to be a very nice person who comes from a loving family. But what does that matter?" she sneered, "it's all about breeding and pedigree, right mother?"
Emily rolled her eyes and sighed loudly, "There you go again. Here you are, getting punished with a trip to Europe, yet you can't avoid the histrionics." Emily changed to a jeering tone, "Oh please, Mom don't be cruel and take me to the most exquisitely beautiful city in the world! Please don't expose me to high culture and force me to sleep in world class hotels," she mocked.
"What about my hand?" Lorelai asked pointedly holding up her casted left hand.
"You'll be surprised to find out, that in addition to indoor plumbing and paved roads, there are actually doctors in Europe," Emily countered sarcastically.
Lorelai rolled her eyes. "Maybe I'll get lucky and contract a terminal case of Roman Fever," she groused.
"I think if you are lucky, you'll leave as a heedless, coarse, petulant child and return as a charming, cultured, and well-mannered young lady."
"I doubt it."
"Well, a mother can dream."
Lorelai huffed and stomped up the stairs. Richard waited until he heard her door slam before speaking. "You know," he said to his wife, that boy is quite a talented athlete. I've been following the story over the past week and I didn't know he was the same Luke who spent time with Lorelai."
"Richard! Surely you are not suggesting that we allow this boy to see Lorelai simply because he can throw a ball!"
"No, Emily, not at all. I'm just saying that this kid, barring injury or some other kind of disaster probably has the talent to make it in the big leagues. Ironically, he could very well amass a fortune more than ours some day."
"Well in that case," Emily said sarcastically, "let me go forward with the wedding plans. Think of it, Richard…he can regal our friends and relatives with stories of jock itch and spitting for years to come."
"Oh brother," Richard sighed rolling his eyes. "Sorry I mentioned it."
7:15 p.m., Bradley International Airport
"Now Richard, we plan to be in Florence in a week. I left the Rezoscos' phone number in the top drawer of your desk, don't forget—"
"Emily," Richard interrupted, "you've told me five times already. I think I've got it," he chuckled. "And," he kissed her right cheek, "I'll remember to call the Gunderson's in Zurich," he kissed her left cheek, "the Egerholm's in Denmark," he kissed her forehead, "the Talbot's in London," he kissed her lips, "and try to make some arrangements for us."
Emily smiled. "Well, I can't help it if I'm used to looking after you."
Richard pulled her in for a hug and whispered, "I wouldn't have it any other way, either. It's going to be a long week for me you know."
Emily smiled and squeezed him back. "I hope we're doing the right thing," she confided.
"We are," he whispered.
Lorelai watched her parents from a safe distance. She wondered how they could be so affectionate with each other, but never to her.
Richard kissed his wife once more and pulled back so he could address Lorelai as well. "I want you both to remember to take care around those European men. They are a roguish lot, and I am sure they will do their best to try to charm you two beauties."
"Oh Richard," Emily laughed.
Lorelai rolled her eyes. "Bye Dad," she said coldly.
Richard looked at his daughter sadly. He wanted to tell her he loved her and that he just wanted what was best for her, but they had never figured out how to do that together. He settled for a chaste pat on her shoulder. "Take care, Lorelai," was all he could think to say.
7:18 p.m., Stars Hollow, Danes Residence
"Oh my God, Hayward this is good shit," Carrie proclaimed. "Where'd you get it again?"
Hayward Donnelly was caught mid-puff. "Vermont," he coughed. "From my older cousin."
"Well your cousin rules, dude," Jimmy declared.
"Yeah I know. I'm trying to set up something more regular with him. He said he'd meet me halfway once I get a car."
"How's that going?" Jimmy asked.
"Not good, man. I need the sales to get the car, and I can't get the sales without the car."
"Wow, that was like, kinda deep," Carrie giggled.
They were gathered in the Danes living room, taking advantage of the empty house. Liz had spent the morning and part of the afternoon training with Mia at the inn.
Jimmy reached out and pulled Liz closer to him on the sofa. "Here you go, Lizzie," he flirted, handing her the joint.
"Thanks," Liz said giddily, thrilled that Jimmy had his arm around her. "I can't get too baked, though. I'm starting my new job tonight."
"I'm working the 11 to 7 shift, but Mia expects me there by nine for more training."
"She won't know if you're a little stoned. Besides," Jimmy rasped, as he pulled her close and whispered in her ear, "you have time."
Not enough, Liz thought as she kissed him and took a drag.
7:21 p.m., Bradley International Airport (beyond the security gates)
Emily was tired of the silence. "You know, Lorelai, we are actually quite lucky. If it wasn't for Ralphie, we would have had to either fly out of Logan or endure Economy Class seating. Fortunately, he was able to bump a couple from a church group to get us First Class seats. Guess we can thank God for that, can't we?"
"Yes," Lorelai said woodenly, "we can. Hey Mom, may I have some money? I need to um, get some tampons."
"How could you forget something like that?"
"I don't know! You didn't exactly give me a lot of time to prepare."
Emily shook her head, but opened her purse and handed Lorelai a five dollar bill. "Here. I hope they have what you need," she sighed as she looked at the airport shop.
Lorelai took the money, nodded, and walked to the shop. To keep up the pretense, she grabbed a travel sized pack of tampons and took them to the register. "Could you give me my change back in quarters, please?" she asked the clerk.
Lorelai walked out of the shop and saw her mother watching her from her seat in the waiting area. She held up her bag and indicated that she was headed for the bathrooms, knowing full well from an earlier trip that there was a row of pay phone just around the corner, and thankfully, out of view from her vigilant mother.
Quickly she went to one of the phones and dialed the number she had committed to memory earlier that day. "Please deposit seventy-five cents," came forth the robotic, pre-recorded message. She dropped in the correct change and nervously held her breath.
7:32 p.m., Stars Hollow
Liz and Jimmy were trying to suppress their laughter as they watched Hayward try to put the moves on Carrie.
"So I was thinking," he said as coolly as he could, "maybe later on we could give these two lovebirds their space and maybe take a walk by the lake."
"Really? And just what would you like to do with me at the lake?" Carrie asked with mock innocence.
From across the room, Liz and Jimmy choked back their laughter as a flustered Hayward, tried to respond, but the sudden ringing of the telephone gave him a temporary reprieve.
Carrie jumped up to answer since she was the closest, and she was as high as a kite.
"Wait, Carrie!" Liz yelled, stopping her in her tracks. "That could be my dad. Everybody be quiet and act normal."
Carrie picked up the phone. "Danes residence."
"Hello, um, could I speak to Luke please?" Carrie raised her eyebrows at Liz, but whispered, "It's not your dad," before returning her attention to the caller.
"Luke, huh? You want to speak to Luke?"
"Um, yes," Lorelai answered, confused.
"You know," Carrie said conspiratorially, "those of us in the know call him Butch."
"Oh, okay…is he there?"
Liz grabbed the phone away from Carrie and gave her a dirty look. "Hello?"
"Hello?" Lorelai asked, even more confused.
"Hi, this is Liz, Luke's sister. Sorry about the confusion," Liz gave Carrie a pointed look, and Carrie shrugged her shoulders in response, "but Luke isn't here right now. He's on a fishing trip, but he should get back sometime tomorrow."
Lorelai closed her eyes in frustration. "Okay. I'm going away myself for a bit," she sighed. "Actually, it's more than a bit…"
"Could I take a message?" Liz prompted.
"Hold on, let me just get a paper and pen." Liz tore off a sheet of paper from the message pad and rifled through the junk drawer for a pen. "Okay I'm ready."
"Well, this is Lorelai calling, and I'm going away for at least a month and probably more, but he can still call and leave a message with my friend Jennifer. Am I going too fast?"
Liz hesitated as she scribbled, "gone", "month+", and "Jennifer" on the paper. "Nope, I've got it; keep going."
The operator's voice came on again. "Please deposit fifty cents for one additional minute." Lorelai quickly dug in her pockets for more change and dropped in two more quarters.
"Hello?" Lorelai asked, afraid she was cut off.
"Still here," Liz said patiently.
"Okay, Jennifer's number is 203-275-1958. He will probably understand why he can't call my house." Lorelai waited while Liz read back the number.
"Anything else?" Liz asked.
"Yeah. Could you, um, tell him that I am real sorry I missed his game, but I couldn't get there? Oh, and could you congratulate him for me too?"
"Okay…well thank you…thank you so much." Lorelai stayed on the line until she heard it click shut. Luke was going to think she was crazy, and probably not worth the trouble, but she had to try.
Liz hung up the phone and looked at Carrie. "I can't believe you."
"What?" Carrie asked.
"Damn it!" Jimmy yelled from the other side of the room.
"What's wrong, Jimmy?" Liz asked.
"Hayward ran out of rolling papers!" he cried. "Dude, that is so uncool!"
"Whaddaya expect, man? I'm a stoner!" Hayward joked.
Carrie snatched the message out of Liz's hands, and ran it over to Hayward. "Just use this, boys."
"Cool," Hayward said, and immediately folded it in half.
"Carrie!" Liz exclaimed. "What the hell? Luke is going to kill me!"
"Not if he doesn't know!" Carrie shouted back.
"But that's not even the point! I want to give him the message because we look out for each other. Luke has my back, and I should have his."
"Yeah, right," Carrie said sarcastically.
"Hey, just because you hate your brother doesn't mean I hate mine!" Liz yelled, but she felt instant regret. She had broken one of their unspoken rules: never mention her family unless she herself brought it up. She saw the fleeting look of pain on her troubled friend's face. "Sorry, I didn't mean…I just can't lie to Luke." Liz looked over at Hayward. He had finished rolling the paper and was licking its edge to seal it shut. Liz grimaced. "Forget about it, Carrie. It's too late now."
8:18 p.m., North Spectacle Lake
William and Luke sat together at the picnic table and looked at the leftovers from their feast. "God, I am stuffed," Luke said.
"Me too. You really know how to put together a nice meal, kid. The rice and the salad were very good, but the grilled bass? That was perfect."
"Good thing one of us was able to provide for the meal," William joked. Much to Luke's consternation, it was his father who provided the bulk of the meal by catching an eight- pound bass. Luke had managed to catch a medium sized perch, but he promptly released it.
"That's okay, Dad. I'll outfish you tomorrow."
"I'll believe it when I see it."
Luke looked at the grill and toward the kitchen and sighed. "I made a huge mess in there. It's hard to keep it under control in such a small space."
"Yeah, but we better get it cleaned up soon, or we will be smelling fish all night."
Luke and William had a system at the cabin. William cleaned the fish, Luke cooked it, and they both cleaned up. Kitchen clean up was a family activity in the Danes world, and it always involved music and singing—a tradition started by Kathy Danes and carried on by William. As they returned the dirty dishes back to the cabin, Luke immediately went to check the boom box.
"What do we have for music?" William asked.
Luke ejected the cassette and held it in the light to read the label. "We have Cabin Mix for Daddy #5 Love Liz," Luke read.
"Oh that should be good. Put it on, son. Lizzie always makes me the best tapes."
"Yeah she does," Luke had to agree as he pressed 'play.' The sounds of "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd filled the room.
"See what I mean?"
"Yeah. Too bad she never plays this kind of music at home anymore. Hey, you want me to rewind to the beginning of the song?"
"Naw, let it play. This one is good all the way through."
Luke nodded as he cranked up the volume. William filled a big plastic tub with soapy, warm water, and started singing along. He always seemed to know all the words.
William looked at Luke with a grin and handed him a dish to dry as he belted out the final verse as a mock serenade:
Boy, don't you
worry... you'll find yourself.
Follow your heart and nothing else.
And you can do this if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.
Luke grinned at his father and couldn't help joining in on the final chorus:
And be a simple kind
Be something you love and understand.
Be a simple kind of man.
Won't you do this for me son,
If you can?
William could feel himself getting choked up, but he hid it with his over-the-top vocals. He put the rice pot in the water and began to scrub as the next song came on. William recognized the opening music immediately as "Son of a Son of a Sailor."
"Oh man, this a great one, Luke. You've got to help me out on this song."
"I'll try, but I don't the words as well as you do, Dad."
William sang along with Jimmy Buffet:
As the son of a son
of a sailor As a dreamer of dreams and a travelin' man
I went out on the sea for adventure,
Expanding the view of the captain and crew
Like a man just released from indenture.
I have chalked up many a mile.
Read dozens of books about heroes and crooks
And I learned much from both of their styles.
As a dreamer of dreams and a travelin' man
Luke was ready to join in on the chorus, and his voice blended perfectly with his father's:
Son of a son, son of
Son of a son of a sailor,
Son of a gun, load the last ton,
One step ahead of the jailer.
The two men grinned at each other and laughed. William took over lead vocal brandishing a wooden spoon as a microphone. Luke dueted with his father on the last two lines of the next verses:
Now away in the near
future And the lady she
hails from Trinidad,
Southeast of disorder,
You can shake the hand of the mango man
As he greets you at the border.
Island of the spices,.
Salt for your meat, and cinnamon sweet,
And the rum is for all your good vices!
And the lady she
hails from Trinidad,
Luke cracked up on the last line, and grabbed a pair of tongs for his own microphone as he sang the next verse with his dad:
Haul the sheet in as we
ride on the wind
That our forefathers harnessed before us,
Hear the bells ring as the tight rigging sings
It's a son of a gun of a chorus.
Luke let his father take the next verse alone. William looked transported by the moment. He was singing with all that he had, and Luke had to admit, his dad had a great voice:
Where it all ends I can't fathom my friends
If I knew I might toss out my anchor,
So I cruise along always searchin' for songs,
Not a lawyer a thief or a banker!
Luke stepped closer to his father and bumped him with his shoulder as they sang the last two verses together:
But a son of a son,
son of a son I'm just a son of
a son, son of a son
Son of a son of a sailor,
Son of a gun, load the last ton
One step ahead of the jailer.
Son of a son of a sailor,
The sea's in my veins, my tradition remains
I'm just glad I don't live in a trailer.
I'm just a son of
a son, son of a son
Luke smiled broadly as the song ended. He couldn't help it; they actually sounded pretty good. He swung his arm around his father's shoulders. "Good song," he said to his dad.
"Good son," William said simply.
"Aw, Dad," Luke said softly, touched by his sentimentality. He ran his hand up and down his father's back and was relieved to feel him shaking with laughter. "What's so funny?"
William didn't answer. Luke recognized "Good Times, Bad Times" by Led Zeppelin start to play on the boom box. He patted his father on the back again and realized suddenly that he wasn't laughing; he was trembling.
William's only response was to draw in a long and audible breath. He knew he couldn't keep his emotions in any longer if he spoke.
"Dad…what…what's wrong?" Luke pressed his ear closer to hear his father speak, but he couldn't hear him. He quickly turned off the stereo. The sudden silence was deafening. He returned to face his father. "Dad?" he asked in a near-whisper. William kept his head down, and waves of fear radiated through Luke's body. Finally, William looked up and gently cupped the side of Luke's face with his right hand. He held it for a brief moment before trailing down and squeezing his shoulder. He took another deep breath and walked out of the cabin toward the lake.
Luke followed his father and watched in bewilderment as William stopped on the dock, shoved his hands in his pockets, and gazed at the sunset. The fear gripping Luke's heart propelled him forward. He stood facing his father, unsure of what to do.
"Such a beautiful day," William said quietly.
Luke tried again. "Dad?" he tried to keep the panic out of his voice when he saw his father's eyes glistening.
"I'm sick, Luke."
No! Luke internally screamed, his stomach flipping violently. God dammit, Dad and his jokes! Well, he has gone too far this time; this isn't funny; this isn't funny at all.
"I have Cancer, son."
Luke felt dizzy. His throat was constricting, and his hands balled into tight fists at his sides. He slammed his eyes shut as if somehow keeping the worst possible news out of his system could render it untrue, but he couldn't stop his thoughts. You knew something was wrong.
"I'm sorry, son," Luke heard his father say. He felt arms pulling him into an embrace.
"Not funny Dad," he murmured into his shoulder, keeping his eyes squeezed shut and his fists tight at his sides. Please, please, please, let this be a joke... or a nightmare…Please God, please.
"Luke…son, look at me," William implored. He felt his strength returning because his son needed him. He grasped Luke by the shoulders and backed up enough to look him in the eyes. They were still shut. "Hey," William said gently. He brushed Luke's long hair off of his face. "Come sit down with me." William guided him down to one of the deck chairs then moved his own so they sat facing each other, their knees touching.
"Please tell me this is a joke," Luke muttered, his eyes now open but cast downward.
"I wish it was, son. I wish it was." William reached over again and put strands of Luke's hair behind his ears. He studied his pained face and felt like a corkscrew was twisting in his chest.
Luke took a deep breath and finally looked up to meet his father's gaze. "Cancer," was all he said.
Luke reminded himself to breathe. "How long have you…" he trailed off, unable to complete the sentence.
"Had it? Known about it?"
"I have known since Thursday, but a lot of the details were confirmed on Friday."
"I should have known. I should have been with you."
"I know that's how you feel, son, but I wanted you to be happy this week. I wanted you to have your moment. Buddy, Maizie, and Mia know. They went to the hospital with me on Friday."
"Did they catch it early…early enough?" Just asking that question made Luke wince.
Early enough. William knew immediately the depth of pain and history behind those words. The late detection of his wife's breast cancer was a huge factor in its severity and her death. "Oh son…I don't know…it's complicated."
Luke rested his elbows on his knees and held his face in his hands. He stared down at the dock. "I need you tell me everything, okay?" He watched the weather-beaten wooden plank under his feet absorb a single teardrop. "Please don't keep me in the dark."
"I wouldn't do that, Luke," William assured softly. "And I couldn't do that anyway. You've always had my number, kid, and I know you've been worried. I just needed to be sure." He reached out and brought down Luke's arms so he could get a better look at his face. Luke looked heartbroken and miserable. Everything changed so fast. William grabbed hold of Luke by the forearms. "Look at me, son." Luke did as he was told. "It's going to be alright; I'm going to beat this."
Luke nodded his agreement and said, "I know," but in his mind, No you don't echoed with more authority. He gently withdrew his arms from his father's grasp and wiped his eyes. He tried to pull himself together. "Okay Dad, start from the beginning."
If you want to hear the songs, copy these urls. The second one shows the lyrics but you can find a link to an audio stream on the page.
If you review, I'll tattoo your name on my butt. If you need any "1980's or baseball 101" notes, ask and shall receive.