Lorelai Gilmore frowned at her reflection in the mirror. She was wearing her favorite dress; it was red with spaghetti straps and covered in sparkles that, naturally, her mother hated. Of course, her mother's dislike only made the dress more beautiful in Lorelai's eyes. Unfortunately, the dress did not fit Lorelai as it had five months ago. It was too small around the hips, too tight at her waist, and her breasts were falling out. Of course, many things had changed in the past five months. Five months before, she was not being forced to marry a man she did not love. She was graduating from high school, going to Yale, starting a career. She was certainly not struggling to pass a series of tests to earn her GED. She was not fighting with her parents (well, she was always fighting with her parents, but the fights were less heated before).

But then, everything changed with a single color. Pink. Lorelai had always liked the color pink. She certainly had nothing against Pink Floyd or Pretty in Pink. Yet that pale pink which stared at her four months before had something sinister lurking beneath its seemingly innocent surface. It was laughing at Lorelai, mocking her for the mistake she had made and the dreams she had ruined. Pink hated her.

Lorelai had thrown the pregnancy test away, refusing to look at the horrid color. She would not—could not—believe she was pregnant. Okay, her period had been late. So what? She could be stressed. And the vomiting and hot flashes could simply mean she had a bug of some kind. As for the cravings. . . well, he had always had strange eating habits. Lorelai had tried valiantly to prove that she was not pregnant, but the doctor had confirmed it, and Lorelai's world came crashing down around her.

Telling her parents was the hardest part. After recovering from their initial shock, they had begun to plan the remainder of Lorelai's life. She would take a battery of tests to receive her GED. She and Christopher would get married. Christopher would go to college and then work for Lorelai's father. Lorelai had screwed up, big time, but Emily and Richard Gilmore could fix it. They could create the picture perfect family. Lorelai, Christopher, and the baby. Everything would work out.

Lorelai had different plans. She didn't want to marry Chris. She didn't love him. She wanted to live her own life and leave Chris free to live his. Although Lorelai knew nothing about childcare, she wanted to figure it out on her own, not relying on anyone else. But her mother just kept pushing.

"Lorelai?" Emily's voice called up the stairs.

"Yes, mother?" Lorelai quickly derobed and began to pull on a loose t-shirt and a pair of jeans.

"Christopher has come to see you."

Lorelai rolled her eyes. "I'll be down in a minute, Mother!" She zipped her jeans and hung her dress back in her closet before running down the steps. Her mother was waiting at the bottom, lips pressed tightly together.

"Lorelai, how many times must I ask you not to run down the stairs? It sounds like a herd of wild animals." Lorelai said nothing but turned and headed to the living room. Chris sat on the couch, nervously fidgeting as he ran his hands through his wavy brown hair.

"Hi, Lor," he greeted when he saw her. Though he managed a smile, he still appeared ready to throw up.

"What's up, Chris?" Lorelai asked apprehensively.

"Well, I've been thinking. . . about us. . . and the baby. . . and I think. . . well, do you wanna marry me?" He pulled a ring box from his pocket and opened it, holding it out to her.

"I can't believe her!"

"Who?" Chris was a bit panicked, especially since Lorelai had made no move to take the ring from the box in his hands. He thought she would accept the offer immediately. After all, she was pregnant with his baby.

"My mother. I keep telling her I don't want to get married, so she sends you to talk me into it. I hate her!"

"Er. . . well. . ." Chris was extremely uncomfortable now. Emily had told him to ask Lorelai properly and "talk some sense into that girl." But they were supposed to get married, right? That's what you did when you got pregnant. You got married so you could raise the baby properly.

"I knew it! Look, Chris, you really don't want to be involved in any of Emily Gilmore's little schemes. It'll all blow up in your face later."

"But, Lor, you're. . . pregnant."

"So? Look, Chris, I don't love you in that way, and I know you don't love me. We'd be miserable if we got married."

"But, Lor-"

"No buts, Chris. We both have the rest of our lives ahead of us. Let's not let Emily Gilmore ruin that." She stood up and looked at Chris who remained on the couch, dumbfounded. Her eyes took on a sad, almost wistful look. "Goodbye, Chris," she told him before turning and walking back to her room.

A few minutes later, Lorelai lay on her stomach on the bed in her room, absent-mindedly flipping through a magazine. She had headphones on which were connected to a boombox with the volume turned up louder than Emily would approve of. Lorelai enjoyed her secret moments of rebellion. As the song changed, the door to the room opened violently, hitting the wall behind it and rebounding sharply. An irate Emily caught it before beginning to yell at her daughter. "Lorelai Victoria Gilmore, you get back down to the living room this instant and accept that boy's offer!"

"Ever consider knocking, Mother?" Lorelai calmly turned the page.

"Do not change the subject on me! Do you know how much you have put your father and I through? We've finally come to terms with your pregnancy and we've even worked out the perfect solution. For once, Lorelai, think of someone other than yourself and quit being so stubborn!"

"I am thinking of someone else, Mother!" Lorelai put down her magazine and turned to her mother. "I'm thinking of Christopher who shouldn't be forced into a marriage with someone he doesn't love. I'm thinking of my baby who shouldn't have to grow up with people who don't want to be together."

"A child needs a mother and a father, Lorelai. That's the way things work!"

"Not always! There's plenty of single parents out there, and their kids turn out just fine. All my baby needs is someone to love him or her, Mother. And I can do that. I can be a parent. I'm not a little girl anymore. I grew up the minute that stick turned pink. I can take care of myself and my baby. Without Chris's help and without yours."

"Lorelai, this is not over. So help me God, you will walk down that aisle in a month." Having had her say, Emily turned on her heel and left.

Lorelai screamed in frustration and clenched her hands into fists, leaving deep grooves where her fingernails had dug into her palms. She turned to the side and a purple strap caught her eye. Lorelai knew she had to make a decision that could easily affect the rest of her life. She had grown up in the past five months. Was she ready to prove it?

Lorelai slowly rose from the bed and tugged her duffel bag out from under the pile of shoes in her closet. She looked at it once before making a final decision. Setting the bag on her bed, Lorelai locked the door to ensure herself some privacy. Lorelai then began to rummage through her dresser, taking out her favorite clothes. She only had a couple of maternity outfits, neither of which she liked, but she decided they were better than nothing. After laying the clothes in a pile on her bed, Lorelai opened the top drawer of her desk and pulled out the cash hidden there. She counted it. 207. Certainly not much, but maybe enough to live off of until she got on her feet. She sighed and tucked it in her wallet. She had known it wouldn't be easy.

An hour later, Lorelai finally managed to zip the duffel bag. It was smaller than she remembered. Or perhaps it only seemed smaller since she had not been packing for the rest of her life the last time she had used it. Lorelai glanced one last time around the room, ensuring she had not forgotten anything. Satisfied, she shouldered the duffel bag and realized how heavy it was. She did not know how she would lug it all the way to. . . wherever she was going. The strap cut into her shoulder, and she shifted the bag in discomfort. 'Oh well,' she thought, dropping the bag to the floor and shoving it under her bed. 'I'll just figure that out later.' Once the bag was safely concealed, she sat back on the bed to wait.

Richard and Emily went to bed at 10:30, as always. Although their punctuality often irked Lorelai, she was grateful for it that night. She waited until 11:00 so that she knew they were asleep before standing up quietly. Carefully, Lorelai placed the note she had written earlier on her pillow, arranging it so that her parents would see it when they came to find her. Just as silently, Lorelai shouldered her bag and tiptoed into her bathroom. The window opened without a sound; Lorelai had used it so much over the years that it no longer squeaked in protest. Maneuvering out of the window and onto the roof ledge was trickier with the duffel bag, but Lorelai finally managed to climb out and pull her bag out behind her. The roof creaked, a sound which cut through the night's stillness like a gunshot. Lorelai froze, expecting her parents to come storming into her room at any minute, ut they remained where they were. For the moment. Breathing a sigh of relief, Lorelai shut the window and followed the roof to the corner of the house, keeping her back to the wall as she crabwalked across. A large birch spread its branches onto the roof ledge at the corner, and Lorelai carefully climbed down it and landed with a soft thud in the grass below. She looked back at the side of the bleak, gray house where she had spend much of her childhood. She knew she should be sad, but it did not feel as if she was leaving her home. Home is where the heart is, and Lorelai's heart had never been in that house. It sill lurked somewhere, waiting for her to discover it. 'Might as well start walking now,' she thought, walking across the yard and stepping out of her parents' influence forever.

Lorelai had been walking along the highway for about thirty minutes. It was pitch black, leaving her unable to see anything in front of her. Of course, light probably would not have helped Lorelai much. She had no idea where she was headed. She just wanted to be as far away from her parents as possible. She wanted to provide for herself and live life like she wanted. She wanted to prove she was strong and independent. To her parents and to herself.

A truck pulled over next to Lorelai. She sighed, assuming it was some sex-crazed forty-year-old who was looking to hook up. The driver rolled down the window, and Lorelai approached cautiously, ready to bolt at the first sign of danger. As she looked at the truck's driver, she stopped in her tracks. He looked to be around her age, maybe one or two years older, and he had brown hair that reached down to his ears. He wore a black baseball cap with the bill pointing to the back of his head and a blue flannel shirt. Lorelai's eyes moved to his face, and she noticed he was quite easy on the eyes. . . hot, actually. Her heart did a small somersault, and she silently cursed herself. 'Remember what happened with Chris. That's why you're in this situation in the first place,' the voice in her head admonished.

Luke Danes could not believe his eyes. He had seen the girl struggling with her bag on the side of the road, and he could not just drive pat. His father had instilled a code of chivalry in him which he found impossible to breach. So, he had pulled off to the shoulder to offer the girl a ride. When he had first seen her face illuminated by the moonlight, he was speechless. The girl was beautiful. She had wavy brown hair which framed her delicate face, and her figure. . . well, Luke had trouble keeping his eyes off of it. 'Eaxy boy,' he warned himself. 'You don't want to scare her off.' He forced himself to look at her face. "Do you need a ride?" he asked, attempting to quiet the stream of thoughts which ran through his head. Lorelai smiled. Luke noticed how nice her smile was; her teeth were brilliantly white and perfectly straight, and her eyes seemed to shine.

"Sure. That'd be great," Lorelai told him. "Mind if I throw this in the back?" She pointed to the duffel bag.

Luke shrugged. "Go ahead." Lorelai struggled for a minute, so Luke, ever the gentleman, slid out of the car to help her with it. With his help, she managed to lift it into the bed of the truck.

"Thanks." Lorelai smiled again. Luke thought he could definitely get used to that smile.

"No problem." As they both entered the car, Luke asked, "What did you have in that thing anyway?"

"Oh, you know, just clothes and stuff."

"Uh-huh." Luke turned the key in the ignition. "Where are you going?"

"Oh, I don't know. Where are you going?"

"Stars Hollow."

"Stars Hollow?"

"Yeah, it's a small town about 45 minutes from here. That's where I grew up."

"Sounds nice. I'll go there."

"You want to go to Stars Hollow?"

"Sure. Why not? It's not a nudist colony or something like that, right?"

"No, nothing like that," Luke assured her quickly. "It's just different from Hartford. A lot different." 'And I'm afraid of what I might do around you,' he mentally added, glancing at her quickly. God, she was beautiful.

"Well, different's good. I need a change."

"If you don't mind me asking, what are you running from?"

"Would you like the long version or the short one?"

"Whatever one you want to tell."

"Well, I found out four months ago that I was pregnant." Lorelai paused and looked at Luke to see his reaction. His eyebrows shot up.

"Pregnant?" he asked, turning to her. "You certainly don't look pregnant."

"That's nice, but trust me, I am. Five months, actually. Anyway, I told my parents and Chris—that's the baby's father—told hi. They thought I should give up the baby for adoption, but I want to keep him or her. So my mother came up with other arrangements. Chris and I would get married at some elaborate wedding, and he'd go to work for my dad. I'd have the baby, and we'd raise it together, and we'd live happily ever after."

"Why didn't you do that?"

"I didn't want to marry someone I didn't love. And I also couldn't make that kind of commitment at sixteen. I refused which only made my mother angrier. So she convinced poor Chris to propose. Once again, I refused because I knew he didn't really want to get married. My mother had just twisted his mind until he thought that. So, of course, my mother was very pissed by this time. She started yelling at me about how I ruined everything, all her plans for me, and I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to live my own life, not the life my mother wanted for me. So I packed my bag and left. That's about where you come in."

"Wow." Luke was having a hard time digesting the story. A baby at sixteen? Most girls would gladly accept any help they could receive. "Umm. . . are you still in school?"

"Nah, I just got my GED. I didn't think I could work, take care of little no-name here, and still go to school."

"Yeah, that would be tough." Why did he sound like such an idiot? "I'm Luke, by the way. Luke Danes."

"Lorelai Gilmore." Lorelai wondered why she had told Luke everything she did. They had just met, and she knew nothing about him. He could be a rapist or a murderer, and she had willingly gotten into the car with him. She had completely disregarded every lesson she had learned in school about the dangers of strangers. As she looked at Luke, however, Lorelai somehow knew he was no murderer. His blue eyes seemed too trustworthy. He exuded honesty, and Lorelai felt comfortable with him, instinctively knowing nothing could happen to her when she was around him. Although it seem strange considering that she had just met him, for the first time in her life, Lorelai felt safe. "So, Luke Danes, how old are you?"

"Eighteen." Luke did not trust himself to say anything else, so an uncomfortable silence fell over the two.

"So, you're graduated then?" Lorelai finally asked.

"Yep. Just got my diploma."

"Any plans for college?"

"I was actually thinking of sticking around Stars Hollow. Helping my. . . dad with his shop."

Lorelai noticed the paused before he said the word "dad" and the crack in his voice. "Is something wrong?"

"No, it's just. . ." Should he tell her? After all, they had just met, and he did not want to divulge all the details of his private life. But she had told him about her life. "My dad was diagnosed with cancer a couple months ago. The doctors are afraid he doesn't have much longer to live." Luke's voice became quieter as he made the last statement.

"Oh, Luke, I'm so sorry. I always do this. I ask the wrong questions."

"No, it's okay. Really." He kept his eyes glued to the road, willing the tears not to fall. "You didn't know."

"Is there anything I can do?"

Luke chuckled softly. "We just met, and you already want to help me?"

"You gave me this ride."

"It was my pleasure." 'Watch it, Luke, that sounded a little forward.' "So, uh, where in Stars Hollow do you want to go?"

"I just need a job that pays."

"Well, there's an inn right outside of town."



"Dirty. I told you I wanted a job, and you mentioned an inn."

Luke suddenly caught on. "Aw geez, that's not what I meant. I was going to say the inn needs a new maid."

"Oh, is that what they're called these days?" Lorelai giggled. Although it was dark, she knew Luke's face was turning red. "Is that why you picked me up?" she teased. "You just wanted to take me to some run-down inn and have your way?" She giggled again at his obvious discomfort.

"Lorelai, I was honestly just. . . trying to be nice. I didn't want. . . I wasn't even thinking about. . . well, you know." 'Actually, you were,' the voice in his head reminded him.

Lorelai burst out laughing. "I was only kidding, Mr. Uptight."

"Oh, well, good," he said lamely.

"I mean, just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I'm easy. I guess if you asked in the right way. . ."

"Aw Geez," Luke repeated. Lorelai laughed.

Luke dropped Lorelai off at the inn a half hour later. "I'll see you around," she told him as he lifted her bag out of the back.

"I'll be here." He handed her the bag. "I'm usually at William's Hardware during the day, so if you need anything else. . ."

"Thank you. I'll remember that."

"No problem. I. . . well, bye."

"Bye, Luke." Lorelai watched as his truck drove away before turning to the inn in front of her. It looked very peaceful, surrounded by blooming trees and flowers which, though carefully tended, somehow still retained a wild appearance. The outside of the inn was wooden like the colonial homes Lorelai had seen in history books. It was rustic, but Lorelai found herself liking the building. She smiled to herself, knowing her mother would certainly never approve of the inn.