CHAPTER 1 - PERFUME AND EGGS

THANKSGIVING

"Mom, the turkey was delicious," Lorelai Gilmore assured her mother Emily as they, her father Richard, and Lorelai's boyfriend Luke Danes stood in the foyer of the elder Gilmores' mansion, which was one of the oldest and grandest homes in Hartford, Connecticut.

"Did you think so? I thought it was a tad dry," Emily stated, eyebrows pinched together skeptically. "Carolina is from El Salvador, you know, and I don't think they're used to baking turkeys down there. It's so warm, why would you want to bake anything? I should have known better than to trust a reference from Judy Wandsneider."

Lorelai glanced over Emily's shoulder and saw Carolina, Emily's current maid, retrieving their coats from the closet. She had a feeling that this would be the last time she saw Carolina. Maids never lasted long at Emily Gilmore's house.

Luke noticed Carolina as well, and tried to be helpful. "Emily, the turkey was wonderful. I have never had such a delicious turkey before in my life."

Emily glared at Luke. "You don't have to be patronizing, Luke. If you thought it was subpar, just say so."

Luke immediately clamped his mouth shut, a black cloud gathering above his head, and Lorelai bit her tongue. It was no secret to any of them that Emily didn't have a lot of love for Luke. Emily had always hoped that Lorelai would marry up, and was thrilled when her daughter moved to New York City after college to pursue a career in advertising. The Gilmores themselves had finally upgraded in the past few years from Lorelai's admittedly posh childhood home in tiny Stars Hollow to prime real estate in Hartford. When Lorelai's seemingly lifelong flirtation with Luke, the hometown diner owner whose wardrobe consisted almost entirely of flannel and a grungy baseball cap, and who had never traveled more than one state away from Connecticut in his life, had crossed over into an actual relationship five years ago, Emily had not hesitated to tell her daughter exactly what she thought of the decision.

"You're living in New York City now, Lorelai. Are you telling me there are no eligible men there who could possibly make a good match for you?" she had sniped upon hearing the news.

She had received a ripe retort in response. Lorelai and Emily had never gotten along well, and Emily's disapproval of Luke just made Lorelai want to date him more. Emily had interpreted this mulishness as the ultimate act of rebellion, and many thunderous battles had been waged in its wake. When it became clear that Lorelai and Luke were not going to split up any time soon, Emily's strategy had switched to using underhanded comments instead of outright venom to state her opinion, which was even more infuriating to Lorelai than the original tactic.

Richard helped Lorelai shrug into her coat. "Lorelai, are you sure you can't stay for coffee?" he asked. "We know you love your java."

Lorelai pressed her lips together. "You know, Dad, thanks for the offer, but we really have to get back to Stars Hollow. I don't usually get long weekends off, so we want to make the most of our time together." She darted her eyes in Emily's direction so her mother would know that Lorelai meant sex.

Having been rebuffed, Richard tried a different tack. "Luke, are you sure you can't convince our daughter to stay?"

Luke shook his head. "I think Lorelai is the boss of this decision," he said, neatly sidestepping the issue.

"Of course. She's always the boss," Emily muttered a little too loudly.

"Mother, I heard that," Lorelai snapped, eyes flashing.

Luke quickly put his hands on Lorelai's shoulders. "We should get going," he said, and a few seconds later, he and Lorelai were standing outside in the crisp November air, opening the doors to Luke's pickup truck.


To Luke's surprise, Lorelai was unusually quiet on the half-hour drive back to Stars Hollow. He didn't mention it, though, and enjoyed the silence. Usually Lorelai liked to talk his ear off, recounting the evening's events with disdainful relish, while Luke would have preferred to leave the arduous experience in the past. This was a nice change.

Over in the passenger seat, Lorelai was mulling over the conversation that had taken place over the customary pre-dinner drinks and the dinner itself. They'd covered the usuals: Richard's insurance company, Emily's work with the DAR and gossip on whose children were getting divorced and why, Lorelai's career as a creative director for a prominent Manhattan ad agency and what the latest advertising trends were, and Luke's opinions on breakfast menus and his observations about customers' egg preferences. Lorelai could practically recite her piece automatically, she'd given the same talk to her parents so many times before; but apparently it qualified as bonding in Emily and Richard Gilmore's book, and she wasn't about to put herself out thinking of fresh topics when the old ones would suffice. And yet…something about their conversation tonight gnawed at her. It hadn't been any different than any other time. She tried to put her finger on what it was, but came up empty.

"Lane's looking forward to seeing you," Luke said, intruding on her thoughts. Lane Kim was a young waitress at Luke's Diner who adored everything about Lorelai and always hung breathlessly on every word Lorelai spoke about living in the city and meeting glamorous clients. In Lorelai's opinion, this was largely due to Lane's upbringing in a strict Korean household where anything remotely resembling fun was sternly discouraged on account of its possibly sending you to hell.

"Huh?" she said, rousing from her reverie. "Oh, yeah, Lane. It'll be great to see her."

"Yeah, she talks about you all the time. She practically begged me to take her with us to your parents' house."

"Well, she could have gone in my place."

"That would kind of defeat the purpose of her going in the first place."

"True."

Lorelai returned to her thoughts. Now that this unfinished idea was churning in her mind, she couldn't let it go. What was it that was so unsettling her?

Luke turned the truck off the freeway, and within minutes, they were pulling up to the diner, where Luke had a small, sparsely furnished apartment upstairs.

Suddenly, it hit her.

"Luke," she said, putting her hand on his arm, "we need to talk."

"About what?" he asked, turning the ignition off.

"About us."

He looked at her with a shadow of trepidation in his face. "Can we go inside first?"

Lorelai hesitated. "I don't know if we should."

She reached out and took Luke's hand in hers, hoping he would understand.


Lorelai's roommate's eyes widened in surprise when she walked into their apartment and saw Lorelai sitting on the couch, flipping channels.

"Oh, my God, what are you doing here?" she asked, removing her scarf and hanging it on the slightly lopsided coat rack by the door. "You're supposed to be in Stars Hollow spending Thanksgiving with Luke."

"Rory!" Lorelai exclaimed happily, setting the remote down and quickly scooting into a cross-legged position. "Do you want the long version or the short version?"

Rory's eyebrows knitted together warily. "See, you look like you're setting up for the long version, so I have a feeling that if I say the short version, I'm just going to get the long version anyway. I'm being lulled into a false sense of choice."

Lorelai grinned. Rory Leigh knew her too well. Despite an age gap of over ten years -- Rory hadn't been out of college long and was just a junior copywriter at Huntzberger and Stiles, the ad agency where they worked -- the two had clicked instantaneously and become the best of friends. Even though they were vastly different in personalities -- Rory shy and bookish, Lorelai vivacious and chatty -- they understood each other like they had known each other all their lives. "It's freakish," Lorelai would often say, "but it's like we're sisters from another life." They did look a lot alike with their bright, sky-blue eyes, chestnut hair, and fair skin. It was a mistake that strangers often made about them, actually; they'd been asked many times if they were sisters. Sometimes, when Lorelai was feeling especially mischievous, she would toy with the question-askers and say they were mother and daughter, spinning an elaborate story about how she got pregnant in high school and ran away with Rory to make a better life for her. About half the time, the asker would stiffen up awkwardly; the other half, he or she (usually a she) would practically fall all over herself praising Lorelai and Rory for their incredible fortitude, using words like "brave" and "inspiration." Once, Lorelai and Rory even got free dessert from a well-dressed woman from Atlanta after telling the tale. ("It was the crème de la crème of crème brûlée," Lorelai liked to reminisce.) "You're terrible," Rory would chide Lorelai after each charade while shaking her head, but her eyes would twinkle too much when she spoke.

"I am not doing any lulling at all," Lorelai said, defending herself. "I am one hundred percent lull-less. I am lull-free and loving it. In fact, today is your lucky day, because I am willing to give the short version."

Rory raised a skeptical eyebrow. "And what would that be?"

"I broke up with Luke."

Rory's jaw fell open. "You what?"

"I broke up with Luke," Lorelai repeated.

"Say it again."

"I broke up with Luke."

Rory stared at her. "Are you sure? You don't seem too broken up over it." She came over to the couch and sat down next to Lorelai.

Lorelai sighed. "I had to."

"Was something wrong?"

Lorelai shook her head. "No, nothing was wrong. We didn't argue about anything that we don't normally argue over, which, by the way, includes the proper order for eating M&Ms. Everyone knows you eat the greens last, but he, for some reason unknown to man, sees no difference in the value of any of the colors. I have witnessed him eating a brown last and feeling no remorse."

"Barbarian."

"It's a very uncouth way to live. Anyhow, on the way back from my parents' house, I was sitting there, thinking about my mother's pointed barbs about Luke working at the diner and the fact that we weren't married and spawning like trout yet, even though we all know she can't stand him, and Luke talking about frying eggs as he always does when we have to eat with my parents and me talking about trying to land a perfume contract as I always do when we have to eat with my parents, and I started thinking, what on earth do perfume and eggs have in common?"

"This narrative is becoming very James Joyce."

"Hold on, I'm getting there. And I started thinking about how I'm spending so much time planning trips back home to see him or for him to come and see me, and then it occurred to me that I have no plans to move back to Stars Hollow, and he has absolutely no interest in moving to New York, and I think he might actually have an allergic reaction if he had to live here."

"And your point is…" Rory motioned with her hand.

Lorelai looked Rory in the eyes. "We don't want the same things. I mean, we care about each other, we really do. We've known each other forever, and it was really romantic that he pined after me for so long before we finally got together, but, at the end of the day…I'm in New York, and he's in Stars Hollow. And my day is spent thinking about perfume, and his is spent thinking about eggs. And I don't see that ever really changing."

Rory nodded, looking a little sad but also understanding. Sometimes even the deals that looked the most solid could be broken. "So how did he take it?"

Lorelai sighed again. "Like Luke. Don't get me wrong, I really blindsided him. I guess he thought that after five years together, plus over a decade of flirting in the diner, he had it all locked up. Like we were common law boyfriend and girlfriend and it would take an act of God and a Red army to split us up. But no, he didn't cry, or yell, or inflict violence upon inanimate objects. He just nodded and asked me if I was sure and if I would reconsider, and when I said I was totally sure and that this was the right thing to do, he said he understood and he wished me the best and he would always be here for me if I needed him."

"Wow. So in other words, you crushed his tender heart into a thousand little pieces and he will never know the love of a good woman again."

"You make me sound so cold and heartless."

"It's a talent of mine."

"But I know I did the right thing," Lorelai said with conviction. "I want to get married someday and have a family, I always have. But I love my job, too. And I just realized, I want to be with someone who wants the same things that I do. Luke, as much as I care about him, is never going to be that guy. Remember when he asked me to go camping in Vermont with him with no electricity to be had for miles?" She shook her head. "Once I realized that, I knew that prolonging what we had was just going to keep me from meeting the guy who is that guy. I don't want to wait forever."

Rory scooted next to Lorelai on the couch and wrapped her arms around her. "You are a crazy, amazing woman, and I'm proud to be your friend, roommate, and most loyal of fan club presidents," she said.

"Aww, you're great, too, Kid," Lorelai said, returning the hug. "So you don't think I was too cruel?"

"Well, I'm not going to say there aren't any freshly dented trash cans in Stars Hollow right now, but he'll see that it'll all work out for the best in the end."

"Aww. That's why you're the upcoming-est little copywriter at the agency. You can put the polish on even the smelliest turd."

"You do realize you just compared yourself to a turd, don't you?"

"I kind of deserve it, though." Lorelai curled her legs under her and gave Rory a look. "Speaking of the agency, how is it going working for Logan? I guess Daddy decided it was time for him to start acting like the heir apparent."

Rory squirmed a little. "Um…it's interesting."

Mitchum Huntzberger was one half of the senior partners of the Huntzberger and Stiles ad agency. Now in his 60s, Mitchum was stern and imposing, but he was also very smart, and it was those very character traits that had helped H&S rise to the top and make Mitchum a very wealthy man. Unfortunately for him, his dedication to his job had made him a less than perfect parent, and he had his playboy son Logan to show for it. After carousing his way through Yale, Logan had been dragged kicking and screaming into the world of advertising by his father, and in retaliation had spent the past few years putting a face to the word mediocrity while bedding a fair share of the better-looking female clients. Tired of Logan's games, Mitchum had promoted Logan to creative director, giving him his own team of copywriters, account managers, and artists, with the hope that Logan would swim rather than sink. So far, Logan had managed to keep his head above water, but with all the elegance of a fish flopping on dry land.

"That good, huh?" Lorelai said sympathetically. "Well, hang in there. At least he's pretty to look at."

"Yeah, there is that," Rory said, fiddling with the hem of her sweater. She glanced up at the television. "Oh, hey! Now, Voyager is on!"

Lorelai immediately perked up. "Ooh! There's nothing more romantic than a woman who falls in love with a married man on a cruise ship."

"It's hard to argue with Bette Davis and Paul Henreid."

"Well, they had the stars."

For the remainder of the movie, Lorelai and Rory remained engrossed in the film, alternating between chattering over it with their own commentary, and quoting the lines along with the characters.

When it was over, they both stretched, listening to their joints crack.

"Life is always better in black and white, isn't it?" Lorelai observed dreamily.

"I'm bushed," Rory yawned. "Thanksgiving with the Leighs is always a zoo."

Lorelai smiled. At least one of them enjoyed being with family. "You get yourself to bed, babe."

"Aye, aye, captain." Rory mock-saluted her, then headed off to the bathroom.

While Rory brushed her teeth, Lorelai went into her bedroom and changed into her pajamas. As she did, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

She looked the same. She didn't look like a woman who had just dumped five years of her life down the drain. Well, that was a little harsh. She had a lot of good memories with Luke. He was always there for her whenever she needed him, he listened to all of her office drama without complaint, and he'd even learned to differentiate between Manolos and Jimmy Choos, thanks to her excellent tutelage. He was good at fixing things, and when he visited, he always took care of all the chores she never wanted to deal with (which tended to be all of them). She would miss him, but the gaping hole in her heart that she expected was nowhere to be found. She just felt…nothing. It was strangely liberating and at the same time, a little disturbing. Was she made of ice?

Suddenly, the enormity of what she'd done hit her, and she began to cry. Her tears were not for Luke, though. For the first time in her adult life, she realized, she was alone. Luke had always been her safety net, her fallback option. In the years that they'd flirted over the counter at the diner, she'd always had the confidence that if her current relationship didn't work out (and there had been quite a few, ranging from flings to fairly serious), Luke would always be there to pick up the pieces. And then, when they were finally together, she had felt that her work was done; Luke was as stable and loyal as a German shepherd. No more need for backups, no more searching for security.

And now all of that was gone.

Eventually, her tears dried up, and she wiped her bleary eyes. She opened her door and peeked into the hallway. Rory's door was closed, and Lorelai could hear a steady sawing noise coming from behind it. If only Rory could hear herself now; she'd have to stop bragging that she never snored. Lorelai knew a snore when she heard one, and that was most definitely a snore.

She tiptoed into the bathroom and pulled out her toothpaste, a bright blue gel that tasted like bubblegum. Luke had hated it and never used it, even though Lorelai had insisted that a mouth that tasted like Hubba Bubba was infinitely more appealing to kiss than a mouth that tasted like mints. When she reached for her toothbrush, she saw Luke's Oral-B in the slot next to hers.

With determination in her face, she picked up the Oral-B and tossed it into the trash can.