After the echo of Lorelai's last words faded away she just stood awkwardly next to Luke and I could see that she was scared. Her hand frantically searched Luke's and, once she found it, latched onto it with desperation. I could see Luke flinch a little at the force of her grip. Once upon a time it had been my hand Lorelai clung to. Her first day in kindergarten and later school had been occasions when she had been extremely unsure of herself and she had tried to draw strength from me. It gave me hope for their relationship, seeing this small, subconscious gesture and Luke's instinctive response.
Next to me I caught a glimpse of Richard dragging a hand tiredly through his hair and then over his face. "We can't just start again where we left off, Lorelai … and I don't think we should. Too much hurt, blame, guilt and shame built up over the years …"
"Falling down is part of life, getting back up is living," Luke commented wisely – and we all stared at him. I certainly hadn't expected anything like that coming out of his mouth. 'Well, well, well, look at that. Maybe he isn't such a bad match for our Lorelai,' I thought. Glancing at Richard through my lashes I could easily read the same thoughts in his raised eyebrow and had to smirk, after 40-odd years I could read him even better than ever before.
Luke turned a faint hue of red and looked down on his feet, shoveling them nervously. "My dad always said that … It's pretty much what I told Lorelai about opening the Dragonfly."
Lorelai nodded enthusiastically, then turned around to Luke, wrapping her arms around his neck. She pressed a kiss to his lips, tenderly and gazing lovingly into his eyes. When she settled back onto her heels, her lips still only inches away from his lips, she whispered, "You might not consider yourself an educated man but you always know what to say. I love you."
For the first time she said that to him in front of us – Was she giving us a glimpse into her elusive life? Freely and naturally, as if we had every right to see this? Before I could come up with an answer to my own questions, Lorelai turned around to face her father.
"I don't expect us to start from where we have left off, Dad," she said thoughtfully. "I expect us to continue to do what we have been doing minus the residual anger and disappointment. I know I spoiled the plan …"
I had to stop that line of thinking before Lorelai could yet again convince herself of its truth … after all it couldn't be further from the truth. My words spilled out of my mouth before I could think them over and stop them.
"I admit, I had plans for my children. Every mother has. You had plans for Rory … that she goes to Harvard and she mentioned something about her 21st birthday. Normally, when a child doesn't live up to your plans for it – to your expectation, if you want – it's not that bad, you tell yourself that the next one will. I didn't have that, this chance had been taken away from me from the very beginning. It was you and only you – always. I focused all my plans for all the children I had wanted and their futures I had imagined on you. Now I know that it was wrong of me to expect all these things from you … you were a teenager and what I expected was too much. And now, I look at you and you have exceeded my expectations, my wildest dreams. You may not have followed our plans but you have made your own plans and fulfilled them. I'm so very proud of you, my baby. I love you"
The moment I saw Lorelai's head whip up to meet my eyes and the speechless happiness I could see in them, I knew that for once I had found the right words. Richard's arm snaked around my shoulders and he pressed me to himself, smiling broadly.
"Well said, darling, well said indeed," he said softly. Meeting our daughter's eyes as well, he spoke in the same soft voice, laying his heart bare. "You and Rory both have made me prouder than I thought I could ever be. The only moment to top the feelings I felt at Rory's party in Stars Hollow, was the moment your mother placed you in my arms and told me that I had a daughter."
My eyes filled with tears remembering the moment he spoke of. I had been amazed beyond words that he and I had created such a small, perfect wonder. Gently I placed my hand on his cheek and turned his head towards me. I craned my neck a little and kissed him tenderly, slowly, drawing the kiss out and forgetting for a moment where we were and that we weren't alone. A strangled sob interrupted our bliss and before my mind could catch up with reality, a soft weight bumped into us from the side and two arms wrapped around us. Lorelai buried her face in Richard's shoulder and held us tightly. She didn't say anything for some time, simply holding onto us as if her life depended on it. Finally she came to somewhat and raised her head from Richard's shoulder.
"Mum, Dad, you have no idea how much this means to me, seriously," she beamed at us like a kid in a candy-shop and I felt my own mouth stretch into a broad smile. With some difficulty I freed a hand and stroked her hair out of her face. Her eyes locked with mine briefly and with her fathers, before looking at us both again. "I love you, too."
My heart burst with joy at that moment. Richard was right; this really came very close to the unadulterated love and joy and elation I had felt after giving birth to Lorelai. We had her back – and this time without pressure, or blackmail, or Rory's gentle force.
Luke's voice penetrated our little slice of heaven. "Well, I really hope that our wedding day and the birth of maybe one or two more grandchildren will also make it into the top five moment of your life, Mr. Gilmore."
Both Lorelai's and my head whipped up and around to stare at him. Lorelai's mouth hung slightly open and I knew that my eyes were as round as saucers. Again Luke's cheeks flamed faintly and he looked down. "The time apart was hell for me and I know it was me who messed it up the first time. If you can give me a second chance, I …"
Lorelai's gaping mouth closed and transformed into a brilliant smile. "This is definitely in the top two moments of my life. I finally start a positive and loving relationship with my parents again and my boyfriend makes me the promise of a proposal in the near future." She got up from in front of us and sauntered over to Luke. "The answer now and then is 'yes'." She kissed him, a lot more passionately this time. Sliding her arms around his neck and her hands into his hair, tossing his baseball cap onto the floor, she rose up on tiptoes. Luke's arms wrapped around her slim waist and almost lifted her clean off her feet in his eagerness to draw her even closer.
Just as I was about to clear my throat and draw their attention back to us, Lorelai gently disentangled herself from their intimate embrace. "So? You missed me, you can't live without me, you want to spent the rest of your life with me … I mean, can you handle the craziness?"
"I figured being with you is worth the craziness," Luke said between chuckles. "Must be a Gilmore trait." He winked at her and laughingly ducked her playful slap to his shoulder.
Richard laughed next to me and winked at Luke. "No, not a Gilmore trait, but rather a MacKinnon trait." With that he winked at me and squeezed my waist with his arm still around me.
I huffed in mock-indignation and turned around only to see Lorelai and Luke snickering across the room. "Now look what you have done," I exclaimed, glaring at Richard – or better hoping it looked convincingly enough like a glare.
It only took a second for us all to dissolve into laughter. For far too many years our relationship with Lorelai hadn't been this carefree and jovial. Finally we could laugh over the same things again and be on good enough terms to be joking around and teasing the other a little without it being misunderstood and leading to a fight.
Our relationship was healing and we all looked towards a brighter future – together as a family.