A/N: I finally got around to posting this. Apparently deadlines are just 'suggestions' to me. But whatever. I'm not going to wait as long as I did last time, that's for sure. There are a few people to thank for this one. Thanks to Filo for the beta and the listening ear. And the willingness to challenge me a bit. Thanks to BOOM for doing the research for me when I was on campus and couldn't access the episode I was assigned. Thanks to a few other people who know who they are, for listening to be blab on about how this needs to get done. You guys are awesomesauce.
The books, notes, and other study materials stacked on the kitchen table seemed to be staring at Lorelai, taunting her and preventing her from enjoying her TV show. She grabbed the blanket on the couch, covering up her legs and trying to focus in on the show. Lorelai attempted to concentrate, but out of the corner of her eye, she could see all of her study materials piled up on the table. The sight of the books and notes were getting in the way of her expert procrastinating. She reached for the remote control, starting to channel surf as she glanced at the table. Frustrated, she shut off the television and dropped the remote on the couch. Her playtime was over for the day. Finals were fast approaching, and if the previous day's study session was any indication, she was far from prepared.
She tossed the blanket aside and walked into the kitchen. Grabbing the first book on the stack, she opened it, looking for the outline she had made on the last day of class. Lorelai groaned, realizing that it wasn't inside the book. She reached for the folder on the bottom of the stack of study materials, hoping that her outlines were carelessly misplaced. The idea of re-doing the outlines made her feel nauseous. As she searched through the folder, she came across a stack of papers and let out a sigh of relief.
The outlines were found. She couldn't put off studying any longer. Lorelai opened the outline packet and started to make some flash cards, but every thought she had running through her head seemed to distract her from her work. Focus, Lorelai, focus, she tried to tell herself.
"Man, I need coffee," she said to the empty room, getting up from the table and starting a new pot. As the coffee brewed, Lorelai attempted to concentrate once again. She didn't know what it was, but something she read started to lead her astray. When the trail of thoughts came to Luke and the fight they had, her head started to hurt.
It was more from guilt than anything else. Although, she knew that her reaction wasn't completely out of line. Her kid had just been in an accident, and as far as she was concerned, Luke was the easiest to blame. If Luke hadn't been so… Luke-ish and let Jess stay with him, Rory wouldn't have gotten in a car accident.
The logical part of her knew that it obviously wasn't Luke's fault. Luke was right; he cared more about Rory than he did about himself. Lorelai was probably a little irrational about the whole thing, but she was sure Luke could understand that she was concerned about Rory's safety, and maybe a little overemotional at that point.
Well, maybe not. Lorelai knew Rory was okay. But as she thought beyond the fact that Rory was safe, and touched on why the accident happened, her only option at the time seemed to be to tell Luke to go to hell. Because of course he was directly responsible for the accident; there could be no other explanation. Lorelai shook her head. Now the guilt started to kick in again.
She couldn't deal with that when finals were approaching. It was too much stress. The tension headache she was experiencing from simply thinking about all the studying she would have to do was enough to deal with. The fight with Luke was just making things worse.
Shaking her head, she focused in on her outline again. She checked off the third term on the outline, putting its corresponding flash card on the top of the newly created pile. After about a dozen flash cards, the coffee was finished and Lorelai's mind wandered to the big fight again.
Lorelai got up and poured herself a cup of coffee as she continued to think about the blowout over Rory and Jess's accident. Taking a seat at the table, she unconsciously tapped a highlighter on the table. Lorelai could always go into the diner, maybe start to wear Luke down. Things would eventually be back to the way they were; she could go to the diner for coffee and food, and she could concentrate on her work. That would be one less thing she had to deal with. Maybe if they made up…
It wasn't going to be an easy resolution. There weren't just hurt feelings involved this time. There were injuries, relatives, and several tons of twisted metal that also made this idea of making up more difficult. She wasn't one to grovel for forgiveness. Lorelai was fully aware that she had said some hurtful things and irrationally blamed Luke for something that wasn't his fault.
But they had to make up. They always did. Sure, sometimes it took a little longer than others. Sometimes there were more hurtful things said, sometimes it took longer to realize the stupidity of the whole thing, and sometimes things weren't the same for a little while after the make up. But she and Luke always moved on.
Yes, going to the diner was a good idea. It would start the healing process earlier, make things a little easier during study time, and it would give her some peace of mind.
"How's it going?" Rory asked, walking out of her bedroom and into Lorelai's study zone, interrupting her thoughts.
"I hate these books, hate them," Lorelai answered, abandoning the idea of going to the diner.
"Now, now," Rory started.
As Rory spoke, Lorelai's papers started to fall out of her books. "Agh! See that? They're trying to escape – they hate me, too."
"Your books don't hate you," Rory replied, trying to reassure her mother.
"Ugh, Rory, my brain is full. It has reached capacity. It's Shea Stadium when the Beatles played. It's cramped and girls are screaming and I think George is fighting with Ringo."
"You have a very active head," Rory said.
"I simply cannot ingest anymore information."
"So take a break."
Lorelai shook her head. "I don't have time."
"Close your eyes, clear your head."
The idea was tempting, but Lorelai hadn't really gotten much done since she started. She had to stick with it for a little while before she took a break. "No, because clearing my head just means that all the knowledge I have painstakingly stuffed in there will leak out. In order to make room for stuff, I lose stuff. It's a very vicious circle."
Rory poured herself some coffee while Lorelai lamented on her woes in the pursuit of higher education. The throbbing pain between her eyes worsened as Rory declared that learning was fun. The symptoms Lorelai was experiencing were far from what she would call fun. Her head felt heavy. Heavy with knowledge, but it was knowledge that would surely be forgotten if she stopped looking at the books for more than five minutes.
She had high school flashbacks, recalling the early mornings that she spent with a book in hand, reading by flashlight at her desk. Lorelai could recall the feeling of disgust she had after fighting the internal battle between wanting to do well in school and wanting to see her friends or go out on a date.
Lorelai was never a slacker by nature, but the pressure was often too much. The expectations that Emily and Richard set for her were less than appealing. Sure, she wanted to do well, but Vassar wasn't her own personal benchmark for success. The fact that it was all being forced upon her made her less than interested.
But the tables were turned now. Lorelai was studying for her own good, not to please anyone else. She was doing it because someday, somehow, she was going to open her own inn.
Opening her own inn. That was a pretty big dream. It wasn't like the achievement relied solely on passing her finals and graduating from business school, but it was a major piece to the puzzle that would eventually form her future. The realization made her symptoms worse. Quickly abandoning thoughts of the inn, she continued her rant to Rory.
"That's what kills me – this is self-inflicted. I'm a masochist. I might as well be carrying a switch and periodically lacerating myself with it," she said overdramatically.
"That diploma hanging on the wall is going to make this all worthwhile, trust me," Rory assured her.
Lorelai shrugged. "I guess, unless I turn into John Nash and start drooling on people."
Lorelai started to turn her attention toward her books once again when Rory interrupted her train of thought. "Hey, you're graduating."
"No, you're graduating – there's gonna be a ceremony," Rory pointed out.
"Oh, I don't know. It's community college."
"Well, community colleges have ceremonies."
Lorelai picked up her pencil. "My community college doesn't even have a lawn, they won't necessarily have a ceremony."
"They must," Rory insisted. "Did you ask?"
"No." Lorelai thought for a moment. "Well, now that you mention it, I think someone said something about some cheesy ceremony for my business class."
Rory's interest grew at Lorelai's revelation. "When is it?"
"I don't know," Lorelai paused. "Next Thursday or something."
"That's great, you have to do it," Rory insisted.
"I don't know."
"You have to do it," Rory repeated.
Rory nodded. "Yes. You've never been a part of an actual graduation ceremony."
"I know. That's because my stupid conservative high school wouldn't let me be in the ceremony and nurse you at the same time," Lorelai teased.
Rory made a disgusted face. "Don't be gross."
"Do you really think I should do it?"
"Yes!" Rory answered enthusiastically. "You've worked hard for this, you've earned it."
Rory wasn't going to give up. "Come on, you know that deep down you really want to do this."
Lorelai imagined the idea of a graduation ceremony. The fact that she would have the chance to be in the ceremony was intriguing. Getting the diploma from an envelope that had been sitting in her mailbox didn't exactly seem the same as getting it at a graduation ceremony. She sighed. "Well, I'll admit, I've always wanted to wear one of those gowns.
"And the hat?"
"For the tassel 'cause you know my thing for fringe!"
"And they call out your name and people clap and you get your diploma."
"Oh, and then you do that thing where you move the tassel from one side to the other," Lorelai said with a nod. "Very symbolic, very dramatic."
"That's it, you're doing it," Rory declared.
The look on Rory's face convinced Lorelai. The ceremony didn't really matter to her, but Rory was already planning the day in her head. The more that she thought about it, the idea didn't sound that bad. Not wanting to disappoint Rory, and remembering her love of fringe, Lorelai gave in. "All right, if you insist."
Rory pumped her fist in the air. "Can't you hear it now? Pomp and Circumstance playing in the background as you walk in and wave to your adoring fan?"
"What, your daughter can't also be an adoring fan? Or would you prefer adoring fans?"
Lorelai shrugged. "I'd actually prefer a whole section, with people wearing t-shirts sitting in the crowd so when you look out it spells 'Lorelai'. Maybe they can make up a few dirty cheers."
"Is the crowd going to be that big?"
"Hardly," Lorelai scoffed. "You asked what I would prefer. I simply answered, ignoring the laws of logic and decorum, if you count the dirty cheering."
Rory took the idea and ran with it. "How many people are you planning to invite? Well, how many people can you invite?"
"I think there's a form somewhere in this folder with all the details," Lorelai said, motioning to the overstuffed folder with her outlines and notes.
"Mom, did you raid the recycling plant? Where did all this come from?"
"I was thinking about making a whole bunch of paper people chains instead of studying."
Rory pulled the form out of the folder and stacked some of Lorelai's notes on top of each other, creating a spot to sit at the kitchen table. "Okay. Your name is Lorelai Gilmore. Preferred name?"
"I'm leaving it blank," Rory said pointedly, checking off a few boxes on the form. "You go by Lorelai. And besides, pink really isn't your color."
Lorelai pointed the pen at Rory, trying to look threatening. "You're funny. Hysterical. Remember where most of your genes come from, and when you try to find some form of red attire for Christmas or Valentine's Day, don't be surprised when I tell you that you look bad in it."
"Yes, I will be attending the graduation ceremony," Rory read out loud, ignoring Lorelai's comment. "Number of guests? How many guests are you inviting?"
"The only guest I need is my adoring fan," Lorelai replied, detaching a page from her outline packet and folding it into a paper airplane.
Rory shook her head. "I'll be there. Sookie will want to go, right? With Jackson, that's three. Do you want to invite Luke?"
Lorelai's eyes darted to the floor as she tried to think of an excuse to leave Luke off of the guest list. If the two of them weren't fighting, he would be an obvious fourth guest. But the repercussions of their argument still lingered, reminding Lorelai that Sookie, Jackson, and Rory would be her only guests. They sat for a few moments in silence as Lorelai tried to form an explanation. Before she had to break the silence, Rory picked up on the hint.
"Okay, so no Luke. Well, I'll say six so I can stand outside the building holding them up and selling them for outrageous prices."
Lorelai breathed a sigh of relief and tossed the paper airplane across the kitchen. "My daughter, the scalper. Such big ambitions."
"I'll make a fortune to buy you a great graduation present," Rory replied. "You have to give them a fifty dollar fee to cover the gown rental and the diploma printing, and they need your signature."
"Forge it for me, I'm studying," Lorelai said, turning back to her books.
"First I'm scalping, now I'm forging? Mom, I'm going to be put in jail before I can see you graduate, is that what you want?"
Lorelai grabbed the form and quickly signed her name at the bottom, handing it back to Rory. "There, are you happy?"
"Your L looks like a C. And your dot on the I barely left the actual I. Looks like an L. The L that should have been at the front where the C is."
"I told you to forge it for me, but you didn't listen," Lorelai replied. "Therefore, you forfeit all rights of signature criticism."
"Well with the way this signature looks, they may question the authenticity of it anyway, Corelal Gilmorf," Rory teased, putting the form in Lorelai's purse.
"Why did you put it in there? I'll never find it!"
Rory shrugged. "Well we know you won't lose your purse. And when you have to hand it in tomorrow night and you start looking everywhere for it, instead of looking for your phone to call me and ask me where it is, you'll find the form right there."
Lorelai sighed. "I suppose your logic isn't completely lost on me."
"I am a pretty logical thinker," Rory replied, getting up from the table and walking toward her room. "Now study hard and I'll give you a shiny star sticker."
"I don't want any of the crappy blue ones, I want the gold ones," Lorelai called as Rory's door shut.
The door opened once again. "Gotta earn the shiny gold star," Rory said, raising her eyebrows and motioning to the books as she disappeared into her room and shut the door.
Lorelai sighed. Rory was right. Gold star or no gold star, it was time to start really studying. Procrastinating wouldn't even be fun because the realization that all that work was waiting for her would detract from her enjoyment of the procrastination.
Pulling the book from her lap and putting it onto the table, Lorelai reached for a highlighter and pulled off the cap. She started highlighting some key phrases and words, but soon the margins were filled with stripes, hearts, and other multi colored neon doodles. Her concentration began to fade as the words started to run together. She sighed, holding the highlighter between her teeth as she pulled her hair up into a messy ponytail.
After a few more minutes of highlighting, she forcefully jammed the cap onto the pen and slid it across the table, smiling when she saw it hit the floor. Her willingness to study was officially gone. Her stomach growled and she pouted.
The growling in her stomach subsided and a guilty, knotted feeling set in. She hated fighting with Luke. When she fought with Luke, she not only lost a good cup of coffee; she lost a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, and a friend to talk to (and sometimes torture lovingly).
She sighed. She felt especially crappy about this particular fight. But as bad as she felt, she still had finals to study for. Determined to shake the guilty feeling, she got up and opened the door to the refrigerator. She cringed when she realized how forcefully she pulled it, swinging it back in to make sure it was still on the hinge. Satisfied that it wasn't broken, she crouched down and took a look inside the refrigerator.
She grinned when she found a pudding cup. Glancing at the expiration date, she put the pudding back in the refrigerator. She'd clean it out after she got something to eat. She glanced over at her purse, thinking about grabbing it and walking out the door. Lorelai could almost picture herself sitting in the diner, enjoying a study break, a cheeseburger, and a cup of coffee.
But that was impossible. Okay, maybe not impossible, she thought as she scooted some bottles of water around on the shelf, but it's not like it would help me concentrate. She stared into the refrigerator, almost hoping that leftovers would magically appear. Opening the freezer and shivering from the blast of cold air, Lorelai pulled out a box of frozen macaroni and cheese. She shut the doors to the refrigerator and the freezer when she saw that it was still edible, and began to scrape the frost off of the top of the box.
Lorelai put the macaroni and cheese into the microwave and sat down at the table, hoping to get some studying done in the few minutes she had until her meal was cooked. Just as she was starting to get back into the studying mode, the microwave beeped. Lorelai grabbed a fork and lifted the lid of the macaroni container, letting out a sigh when she saw that the noodles had all fused together when they were cooking.
She dumped the noodles in the trash and sat down at the table one more time. She could survive without the macaroni.
But she could really go for a cheeseburger…
Back at square one. Quit thinking about the damn cheeseburger. Go find some chocolate or something. You're not going to Luke's. You need to concentrate on finals. He'll still be there when you're done.
Her foot dragged across the kitchen floor as she replayed the fight in her mind. She put her head in her hands and sighed, leaning her elbows on the table. It was like being back in the middle of the street, screaming at Luke all over again. She could hear him screaming back at her like it had happened seconds ago. Quickly, Lorelai opened her eyes, shaking her head and trying to let the thoughts go.
Reaching for her outline, she made one last attempt to get some work done. Sure, she had other things on her mind, but getting some of it out of the way would help her get some rest, if nothing else. She let out a frustrated groan as her stomach growled again. She had no cheeseburger, a tepid cup of coffee, and no Luke to solve each of those problems.
It was going to be a long night.