Morning of flight to Prague
"C'mon, Rory, just one more!" my mom begs, pulling me towards the Starbucks stand at the airport. This time, though, I refuse to budge.
"But mom, I still have to go through security and passport control. That's gonna take a while. I can't miss this flight, someone from the Tribune is meeting me at Ruzyne, and…"
Exasperated, she cuts me off. "Rory, your flight doesn't leave for another 2 ½ hours! And you lied! You told me it left at 10.30, and it really leaves at 1! You made me get out of bed and drive to Hartford way earlier than necessary. And I especially needed my beauty sleep, since I'm gonna walk out of this airport with you on the way to another country, and my mascara will have run, and I'll look like the missing member of Kiss! If I was the fi-antsy, I bet you would've told me the correct time!"
"Mom, take a breath. You knew all this before now. Why the drama?"
"Drama is my occupation, didn't you see my t-shirt? It's just, what am I gonna do with you across an ocean? I won't be able to just pick up the phone and call you for fashion advice, dream analysis, and everything else that I need you for, kid." The tears are starting to pool in her eyes, and it only makes this so much harder for me. I'm almost glad that Logan's already in San Francisco, because I'd never get on the plane if he were here. Lorelai's bad enough.
"It's just, I'm so so proud of you, baby. These are tears of pride, mother's pride, I promise."
"I know, mom. I'm trying not to cry too. But I showed you how to use Skype on the computer. I even bought you a Skype-phone. We can call whenever, for free, just please keep in mind the time difference. We'll be ok, it's only for 6 months, plus… I'll be home for Christmas…" I sang the last bit, hoping to make her smile, if only a little. And it worked. Magic.
I hug her one last time, and she nearly crushes my lungs. I gather my small carry-on suitcase and my backpack, stuffed with books and crossword puzzles, and my iPod, not to mention what other things Lorelai thinks I need in order to survive a 9 hour plane ride. I take a deep breath to reinflate my lungs, whisper "I love you" to my mom, and walk off into the unknown. All by myself.
After a typical flight, with bad food and even worse coffee, which I tried in vain to improve by adding my vanilla ice cream to it, I breathe again, happy to get off the damn plane but nervous beyond belief at what lay in store. Getting my bags is easy (must remember to thank mom for putting the silly sparkles and ribbons on my suitcases; they are not hard to find on the carousel!), I collect my first journalistic stamp in my passport, and step out into the arrivals hall. I know someone's meeting me, but I have no idea what he or she looks like. I scan the sparse crowd, and see my name held up on a sign. And "up" may be a slight exaggeration. As I make my way over, I find a tiny girl in glasses and funky clothes, smaller than Lane, but with a big smile and an even bigger piece of paper that says "Miss Gilmore" in bright pink letters.
I approach her, smile, and introduce myself. "Hi, I'm Rory Gilmore."
"Miss Gilmore, I'm Terezka, I'm the assistant editor's assistant. Does that make sense? I'm sorry, I'm babbling. When I heard that we'd have another girl in the team, I offered to meet you at the airport, I'm sure this can be overwhelming, right?"
"Right. And it's Rory. Just Rory."
"Well, I'm Terezka Hantuchova, but since most of our foreign staff have problems with Czech names, I just go by my first. We all do at the Tribune, so it's a bit more laidback. I'll just shut up now, I'm sure you're exhausted. The car is this way."
We make idle chit chat in the car, and I start to think I've found Lane's missing twin. Terezka's in a jazz quintet, she plays trumpet, and she drives like a maniac. She blithely informs me that she's borrowed her boss' car so we don't have to carry all the luggage onto the bus, then subway, then tram. When we get to what I assume is my building, she's bouncing a little on the balls of her feet. She tells me that she lives down the block, that we live in Vinohrady, which is dead close to the city center, and even closer to the Tribune's offices. And that it used to be part of the royal vineyards, which is where it got the name. And that all the trams pass by just a block away, and that it's a great neighbourhood. A bit of a brain dump, I start to wish I had my notepad with me. Did I really do all this to poor Anna sophomore year?
She shows me all the keys I need: one for the main door downstairs (old, carved, and for some reason painted green); one for the back door, which leads to the garbage and recyclables; and one for the apartment itself. The elevator is extremely small and rickety, and I think I'll be taking the stairs when I'm not carrying tons of suitcases, despite Gilmore Rule #3.
"Ta-da! Here's your flat! I hope you like it! Okay, your company cell phone is on the coffee table, my phone number is already programmed into it. I'll leave you to unpack, get settled, nap. You don't have a landline, just the cell, but the DSL is installed in this building, so you can just plug in your laptop and have internet access. But I am taking you out for dinner this evening, with a couple other colleagues. So that you'll have more than one face you know tomorrow at the office. Okay?"
I just stare at her, stunned. She seems to have covered everything, and how on earth did she know I wanted some time on my own? Wow, she's good. Apparently, not too good as she's misread the surprised look on my face.
"Oh, God, I'm so pushy, I'm sorry! You don't have to come out with us, it was just an idea, and you probably have jet lag…"
"Terezka, really, it's great. Really, a great idea."
"Okay, so just call that number, and we'll come over and get you."
"You mean to tell me, you'll be waiting by the phone, with other people who will all drop what they are doing to go out with me?"
"Well, technically, we'll be at the pub round the corner in an hour, and from there, we're on your schedule, Rory. Like I said, we're pretty laidback."
With that, she smiles and waves gaily, and walks out the door.
I take my first real look around the apartment, and I really like it. It's a cozy, one bedroom, with a small living room and kitchen nook. There's already a cool baby blue retro coffee machine there, the twin of Logan's espresso maker, with a note attached.
I know you won't get far as a journalist without good coffee. Knock em dead!
I grab the cell from the table, and punch in his number, too excited to worry about getting the laptop up and running.
"I can't believe you did that!!!"
"I take it you've landed and gotten to the apartment, Ace?"
"I had no idea Domenico had such a handsome twin brother! His name is Francesco! How on earth did you manage this?"
"I spoke with the assistant editor's assistant, got the address, and had it delivered. A Tribune intern signed for it. Not rocket science, Ror. Plus, I got Domenico's twin since then you wouldn't have to worry about figuring out how he works. Take a look in your cabinets."
I open the cabinet directly above Francesco, and it's completely stocked with my favorite Italian espresso pads, Lavazza and Illy.
"Huntzberger, have I mentioned today how much I love you?"
"Not that I recall."
"Well, I do. For this and so many other reasons."
"Does one of those reasons have anything to do with a pretty piece of jewelry you're wearing?"
I smile, rubbing my thumb over the back of my ring finger. It's become a nervous habit, almost like I'm checking that it's still there, that it's real. "Could be."
"So, what's your second impression of Prague, Ror?"
"The girl who picked me up at the airport seems really nice, we're going out later for dinner with a couple other colleagues. So I'll know people tomorrow. And the apartment is cute, comfy, furnished by Ikea, but bright. I think I can actually do this, Logan."
"I know you can actually do this, Ace."
"Yes, I am oh-so-fabulous! Oh crap, I haven't called my mom yet!"
"Distracted by Francesco's masculine wiles?"
"Precisely. I'll call you later. Love you."
After connecting my internet phone, I call my mom, hoping to unpack my stuff while talking to her. Instead, she's dealing with some kitchen emergency, according to Michel. I simply leave the message that I've arrived safely, and plan to call her after dinner. Opening the suitcase, I immediately hang my clothes in the extremely small standing closet, to let gravity try to get the wrinkles out. I start placing my picture frames on the various surfaces. My favorite one is a Colin masterpiece; he documented my jump with Logan at my first LDB event, and this one is right after we landed with clutched hands, eyes sparkling. I think that was the moment that I started to fall for Logan. I blink the oncoming tears away; I can do this.
Determined, I line up all my shoes in the small entrance, and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. This is what I've always wanted: to work overseas, to learn other cultures. But all I can think about is how much I miss Logan. Sometimes I think I met my soul mate too soon. As though I was supposed to meet him in a few years, after I'd started my career and started to make a name for myself.
I sit down on the couch and take in the rest of the apartment. I adore the dining nook; it's connected to the living room, but in a small alcove that sticks out of the building, surrounded by windows. Through the windows, I can see a church, and a lot of buildings that are in various stages of renovation. Some are brown and crumbling, but with Baroque statues and architecture. I feel a bit like Juliet when I open the window, and stick my head out. Two statues of half-naked men are holding up my alcove! I have to ask Terezka to take a picture of me here!
I've never lived on my own before, really, unless you count the few months in Logan's apartment in New Haven. But it was never my apartment. It was always his. Technically, this is my first apartment. And my first time truly on my own. I feel almost as bad as I did when mom and I weren't talking a couple years ago. Like I'm missing a part of me. But as I sit here, I start to realize that I really needed to do something by myself. Without always trying to get my mom's approval, or Logan's family's approval. Just to prove to myself, and only to myself, that I can do this. That I belong in the world of journalism. What I will never admit out loud to anyone ever is that I am still very much affected by Mitchum Huntzberger's dismissal of my abilities. That I constantly question myself. Still. And the first moment that I didn't feel that way was when I received the Tribune's offer.