Yikes. I promised myself I would get better at this, but I lied. Again. Updating is hard when your muse is on the fritz. I'm aware of the chomping at the bit some of you may have going on, and I issue a really huge apology.

Anyway, reviews are appreciated. Thanks to all who took time to read the first chapter.

Feedback is ab-fab, sweetie darling. Enjoy!

Chapter 2: Lemon Tree

"So?" Sookie demands.

"So what?" you reply.

"So…how was it? What did you have? What did he say? Are you going out again? What are you going to tell everyone? What are you going to tell Rory?"

"Whoa, slow it down, cowgirl." You pour yourself some coffee, if only to alleviate the jittery feeling in your hands. It splashes a little, and you jump back.

"You have to tell me," Sookie wails.

"We went to The Coffee Mill," you say.

"Very nice," she decides. "Comforting, great coffee, very casual."

"Yes," you say. "Exactly. Anyway, I had pancakes and bacon and French toast and -"

"Essentially the whole menu," Sookie interrupts. "Continue."

"And Luke had toast with eggs," you finish.

"And…?"

"It was fun."

"Lorelai!" she hisses. "I. Need. Info."

"Fine." You roll your eyes with a huff. "We're going out again."

"Really?" Sookie jumps up and down, squealing. Batter from her spatula goes flying, and you duck, instinctively. "Sorry."

"It's okay."

"When?"

"Uhh…Saturday," you mumble. God, is it just you, or is it unbearably warm in here? You look at your arm; a full body blush has began. It's you.

"Oh, oh, oh!" Sookie crows. "You like him."

"How old are we?" you ask.

"You like him," she repeats. "This is big. This is good. This is new."

"New how?"

"Usually, you act so…so…" Sookie makes a face and you frown.

"So what?"

"Like you're immune."

You let out a harsh laugh. "Hon, I've got to be."

"But you aren't," she says.

"I know," you say. You slurp at your coffee. A grin warms your face. "I know."

-

You know that Rory knows something is up. (The kiss in front of her wasn't exactly subtle.) She's perceptive, your little girl, and she's giving you that look. You narrow your eyes in return. "Don't you have homework to do, sweets?" you ask.

"No," she says. "It's kindergarten."

That's not what you say, you think, smiling to yourself. "Read a book or something."

"Okay." She slides off of her bed, stealing another look at you.

"Rory!" you exclaim.

"Sorry," she mumbles.

You sigh. Press your lips together, look up at the ceiling. "What is it?"

Rory rocks on her feet. "Mommy," she says, "is there something different?"

"What do you mean?"

"You said no secrets," she whispers. "But you're keeping a secret."

"Oh, Rory, I'm not." You tilt your head at her. "It's…complicated."

She chews her lip. "Okay," she repeats.

You frown. She's so calm in her acceptance. "It's a grown-up thing," Rory tells you.

"I guess," you reply.

She takes your hand. "Then you'll tell me when you want."

"You are amazing," you breathe, hugging her, kissing her forehead.

She hugs back. "Mommy?"

"Mmmm?"

"Can I go play with Lane?"

"Yes, hon."

-

Thursday, Thursday, Thursday – you set down your mug of coffee with a splash. "Damn," you say. Thursday. Three o'clock. "Damn!"

"What?" Luke asks. "You got somewhere to be?"

"Rory's teacher wanted to have a meeting about her – and I was supposed to −" you make a grab for your purse, and drop it. "And Rory was going to Lane's, so I didn't need to go get her from school, and Mia said I could take a break, so I came here because Sookie's making tiny little flower things for a bunch of conference people and she didn't have time to make coffee. And I wanted to see you, and oh, my God, I can't believe I forgot."

"The school is over there," Luke says. "You're only ten minutes late."

"That's ten minutes in which she's decided I'm the parent from hell and plots to hate Rory for life." You gulp down the coffee, and hand Luke some bills. "I'll see you later."

"Lorelai!" he calls.

"What?" you ask.

"Watch out for that," he says.

"What?" You whirl around. "Oh." Taylor is storming toward the diner, a thundercloud following him.

"Yeah."

"Thanks." You give a wave, and duck out the door. You're blown away by Hurricane Taylor. Babette and Miss Patty are starting to appear.

"Hey, sugar," Babette calls. "You hear what Luke did?"

"No-oo," you say.

"This'll be at tonight's meeting." Miss Patty sighs. "I just love –"

"I've gotta run," you say. "But, uh, I'll come chat later."

"Bye now, dear."

You run down the sidewalk. You hate these shoes; they're slowing you down. Hate. Violently hate. You have an image of yourself running into Rory's classroom, shoes in hand, being blasted by the teacher from hell's evil laser vision. A laugh escapes, and oh, you're going to fall over laughing and be later than you already are. You bite the inside of your cheek and fly in to the school, hopefully looking appropriately sheepish.

"Ms. Gilmore," the teacher says.

(You kind of forgot her name. Oops.) You smile. "Hello. I'm sorry for being late."

"Yes. Well." She purses her lips. "Have a seat."

"Is there a problem?" you ask.

"Rory is a bright girl," she says. "Extremely so. However…"

"However what?" you ask.

She glances away, and meets your eyes again.

-

"An unstable home environment might be affecting Rory," you spit out to Luke.

"Do you really believe that?" he asks, handing you a mug of coffee.

"No?" you say.

"Lorelai," he replies.

You shrug. "Maybe. Does it affect her? Yeah. Enough that she acts out? No." You hug the cup. "That sort of thing surfaces periodically. I should be used to it."

"But you aren't."

"No."

He watches you. It's the second time today you've been in there. He suspects something. Coffee is your comfort food.

A cough, and then: "Are you alright?"

You look up at Luke. "Yeah," you say. "I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" he asks.

"Yes," you say, firmly.

Surprised by your own daring again, you lean across the counter and kiss him. "I've got to go," you say, "but I'll see you tomorrow."

"Sure," he agrees.

You take light steps out the door. You turn around, see through the window, Luke bringing up a hand to brush his lips.