THE ESCAPE

Ever wonder what really went down when Lorelai ran away from the Gilmore house? Here's one version of how it might have happened. . .

DISCLAIMER: I own my car, my cats and my condo. That's it. The characters belong to Dan and Amy.

CHAPTER ONE: THE ULTIMATEM

Lorelai Gilmore had a problem.

It wasn't enough that she was being coerced by her mother to attend the stuffy tea with the stuffy DAR ladies taking place in their home that afternoon. It wasn't enough that she would be stuck indoors on a beautiful early summer's day.

No, she also had to submit to wearing the ridiculous dress her mother had laid out on her bed that morning.

There was nothing really wrong with the dress, she realized, as she pulled a brush through her dark, tangled curls. It was simple, tailored, navy blue with white collar and cuffs. The problem was, it just wasn't Lorelai. It bore a striking resemblance to every other outfit she had been forced to wear to every other boring social event since she was twelve—and, she knew, to every other dress that would be seen at her mother's home that afternoon. It bore no relation to who she was—an energetic, vibrant 17-year-old girl whose tastes ran much more towards jeans, sneakers and T-shirts extolling the virtues of her favorite rock bands.

She slipped the dress over her head, managed to pull the zipper up in the back and then began to struggle with the buttons on the cuffs. After a few minutes, she let out a frustrated "Gah!", examined the cuffs more closely and restarted her efforts. But her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a baby's shriek down the hall.

The cuffs forgotten, Lorelai slipped her feet into the navy blue pumps her mother—or the maid, at her mother's command—had set on the floor by her bed, and scurried down the hall to her daughter's nursery.

She skidded to a stop just inside the door. There was her baby, her Rory, sitting in her crib, sobbing like her heart would break. Her enormous blue eyes turned to her mother, their lashes drenched with tears, and she raised her arms in supplication.

Lorelai ran to the crib and swung her daughter into her arms. "It's okay," she murmured into the baby's soft curls. "What's the matter, Rory? It's okay, baby."

She heard a rustle at the side of the room and turned to see Rory's nurse, Theresa, rise from her chair and lay down the book she was reading. She crossed her hands in front of her, her sharp features grim, and turned a steely eye on Lorelai, knowing what was coming.

"What's the matter with you?" the girl shrieked. "Are you deaf? Can't you hear her crying? She needs to be picked up!"

"Excuse me, miss," the nanny replied stiffly. "But she's teething and she's going to cry no matter what we do. I can't hold her twenty-four hours a day. "

"You'll hold her when she's yelling like that!" Lorelai shouted. "She doesn't know why she's in pain! She just knows she needs to be comforted!"

"It's good to let them cry sometimes," the woman stubbornly insisted. "They have to learn to comfort themselves. Otherwise they grow up needy and dependent, always clinging to adults."

Lorelai briefly wondered if a blood vessel was going to burst in her head. "Needy and dependent? Clingy? She's a little baby—she's not even nine months old—she IS needy and dependent at this age, and has every RIGHT to cling to an adult! I can't believe I'm hearing this! You're nothing but a heartless, lazy bi—"

"LORELAI!"

Still hugging Rory, Lorelai turned defiantly at her mother's voice to see Emily Gilmore standing in the nursery door—looking, Lorelai thought, for all the world like judge, jury and executioner rolled into one.

She glared at her daughter but when she spoke her voice was modulated as always. "Lorelai, our guests are arriving. Give the baby to Theresa and come downstairs."

"She's in pain, Mom! She needs me!" Lorelai told her, her own pain clouding her voice. "This—this woman won't do anything for her!"

Emily looked like she was about to argue, but drew herself up into a composed stance. "Theresa, take the baby from Miss Gilmore," she commanded.

Theresa crossed the room swiftly and before Lorelai could even turn in her direction, she had pulled Rory from her mother's arms and turned away. Rory, objecting to this turn of events, began to shriek again and to reach for Lorelai. But before the girl could do anything, her mother had grabbed her arm and was escorting her firmly from the room. "Thank you, Theresa, " she called over her shoulder.

Emily rapidly steered her daughter down the hall into Lorelai's room and shut—not slammed—the door firmly behind her. "What's the matter with you, Lorelai?" she said angrily, turning to her daughter. "Are you out of your mind, speaking to Theresa that way?"

"She's letting Rory sit there in pain, Mom," Lorelai huffed. "She just wants to read her book and let Rory cry. She's just lazy and useless!"

"Don't be ridiculous," her mother retorted. "She comes with the highest recommendations from the agency. I've seen her credentials. She's worked for some of the best families in Hartford, and certainly knows more about caring for a child than a 17-year-old who has never even been around a baby before! We paid extra to get her and we're very lucky she agreed to come and work here."

"I don't see it as luck," Lorelai groused. "And nobody knows how to take care of my baby better than me."

Emily sighed. "I don't understand you," she told her daughter. "It simply isn't necessary for you to be bothered about caring for the baby night and day. That's what we pay people for, so we can concern ourselves with other activities. Like the tea we have this afternoon, and the charitable work we do. That's what women in our position are expected to do, Lorelai. I've told you that a million times."

"I don't care about that stuff," her daughter retorted. "I'd rather take care of Rory. I think that's the most important thing I could do with my life. "

Her mother's eyes narrowed. "Well, if you'd married Christopher like we wanted, we could have bought you a nice little house and you could have stayed there and taken care of the house and your husband and child. But no—you couldn't listen to us about that, either."

"Mom, for the thousandth time—I don't love Christopher! And Christopher doesn't really love me. Our marriage would have been a disaster."

"When you get pregnant, you marry the father of your child." Emily repeated the mantra Lorelai had heard too many times to count over the past year and a half. She closed her eyes and let out a frustrated "Aargh!"

There was silence in the room for a moment while Emily surveyed her daughter. Then she spoke in a cold, firm tone. "At any rate, our guests are waiting downstairs and now is not the time to discuss your future—or lack of it." Good dig, Mom, Lorelai thought. "I arranged this tea so you could meet some of the ladies in the DAR and let them get to know you, in preparation for your joining the organization in the fall. You will come down with me now and you will behave yourself." She stepped back from the door in a silent invitation for Lorelai to precede her.

As the girl sulkily complied, Emily got in one last shot. "And fix the cuffs on your dress—you look like a hooker with them hanging open like that."

So Lorelai descended the staircase with her mother and entered the living room below which was soon filled with chattering women holding drinks and small plates of hors d'oeuvres in their manicured hands. As instructed, Lorelai circulated, a fixed smile on her face, and attempted to keep from yawning at the inanity of their small talk. A few times someone said something genuinely interesting or amusing. Then her devastating smile lit up her beautiful face, her bright blue eyes sparkled with mirth and her laugh rang out above the low drone of the women's modulated voices. And her mother would wince.

As she was wont to do, eventually Lorelai drifted to the area near the kitchen, where the caterers and party planners were congregated and began to chat with them in a friendly way. Despite her disdain for the "events" her mother was constantly throwing and attending, Lorelai had developed an interest in how they were put together. Just from observation, some reading and her surreptitious talks with the help, she had absorbed a great deal about table settings, center pieces, dishes, glassware, flowers—and, of course, one of her favorite subjects: food. As she went with her mother to the various events Emily insisted she attend, Lorelai, sometimes out of sheer boredom, would study every aspect of the party and think, "Now, I would have used different flowers for that centerpiece. Colored dishes would be more festive. That glassware is just ugly," redesigning the whole event for her own amusement.

Emily, of course, did not approve.

As Lorelai chatted with one of the caterers, who were set up near the staircase, out of the corner of her eye she caught her mother glaring at her from a few yards away. Emily's eyes moved to one side and back again, indicating that she wanted her daughter to return to the party.

Lorelai glared back. But just as she was about to give in and head towards the living room, her ears, which had become enormously sensitized to such things over the past nine months, picked up a sound. A baby's wail.

Emily heard it too and narrowed her eyes at Lorelai in warning. Lorelai simply tossed her head, raised her chin defiantly and turned and hurried up the stairs to Rory's nursery and to a continuation of the same argument with Theresa she had left when Emily had interrupted earlier. She did not return to the party. As she sat and rocked her daughter, Lorelai thought gloomily, I'm going to catch holy hell for this.

Her prediction rate on her mother's reactions had been in the high nineties lately. Her average did not lower with their evening's encounter over the dinner table.

"That was absolutely unforgivable, Lorelai," her mother lectured over the salad course. "You abandoned your guests to do something a servant could do. You were extraordinarily rude. The DAR president was looking for you to discuss your admission and I had to tell her you had left the party. I can't tell you how you embarrassed me. I don't know now if she'll consider your application this year."

"Fine with me, Mom," Lorelai mumbled. "I don't want to join those old biddies anyway."

"Don't be ridiculous," Emily replied sharply. "Of course you want to join the DAR. Who wouldn't want to be a part of such a wonderful organization? It's a great honor."

Lorelai shook her head in frustration. "Mom, where is it written that I have to like all the same things you do? That I have to want exactly what you do? I'm my own person and I get to choose what I like and what I don't."

Emily looked like she wanted to say more, but resisted for the time being, her mouth set in a tight line.

After the main course had been served, Lorelai noticed her mother looking pointedly at her father. Finally Richard cleared his throat and said, "Lorelai, your mother and I have been discussing your future. What the next step should be for you."

This should be good, the girl thought to herself.

"As you know, our first choice for you would have been for you to marry Christopher and settle down," her father continued. "But you refused to do that."

Damn right, Lorelai thought.

"So we were willing to have you and Rory live here, as long as you comply with our rules and try to do something positive with your life, but. . ."

"Taking care of my daughter is doing something positive," Lorelai interrupted.

"But we're concerned that you're doing nothing else," Richard continued. "You hardly ever go anywhere or do anything on your own, without Rory. You never do anything with your friends—"

"My what?" Lorelai snarked. "My friends? My so-called friends all disappeared the minute I began to show. Probably urged to do so by their la-di-da, oh-so-proper parents. And I don't give a damn about any of them anyway." She looked sullenly at her plate. "I haven't even heard from Christopher in months—the guy you thought was so perfect for me." Although she would never admit it to her parents, that fact hurt her a little.

Her mother seemed to sense it, and spoke a little more gently. "You're a young woman and it's time for you to find something useful to do with your life. I had hoped that, since you're living at home, you'd take your place in society beside me, join the DAR, serve on some committees and charities—all the things I do."

Lorelai sighed. "That's not what I want to do, Mom."

"Oh, I've realized that," Emily replied, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. "You've made that quite evident." She paused and her tone modulated. "So we thought it would be a good idea if you planned to go to college next fall."

Lorelai looked up with interest.

"You've passed your high school equivalency test and your grades have always been good," her mother continued. "It's a little late to apply for freshman year, but your headmaster always liked you and we think he could be persuaded to put in a good word for you with some schools and get them to squeeze you in."

"Oh, I don't know if that would be necessary, Mom," Lorelai replied thoughtfully. "Actually, I think going to college would be a good idea—I had been thinking about it myself. There are plenty of state schools and community colleges around here. I could go part-time, take a couple of classes to start, so I could still be available for Rory."

"Absolutely not," Richard retorted. "No daughter of mine is going to a state school with all the other riff-raff. You weren't raised in a ghetto, Lorelai—you're from an Ivy League family, don't forget."

Lorelai glanced at him sideways. "How could I forget?" she queried sarcastically. "Well, if you don't want me to go to one of those places, what do you have in mind?"

Emily rose, went to the living room and returned with several thin books in her hand. "Here are some catalogs for places we think would be suitable. Your headmaster has connections with all of them. Read through the catalogs and start filling out the application forms."

Lorelai flipped through the catalogs, noting with increasing dismay the names on the covers. She looked up at her parents. "But these are all too far away. I couldn't commute to these schools."

"You wouldn't commute," her mother replied, her voice tight. "You'd go and live in the dormitory like the other students."

Lorelai looked at her mother with amazement. "And you think they'd let me bring Rory into a dormitory to live?" she scoffed. "You've lost it, Mom."

Emily didn't respond but gave Richard another pointed look. He cleared his throat again and said, "We weren't thinking that you would take Rory. She would stay here with us. You'd see her on school breaks and summer vacation, of course. She'll be just fine here with us and Theresa."

"Are you NUTS?" Lorelai shrieked at the top of her lungs. She stared at each of them in turn, and began to mutter. "No, no, no, NO, no way! Not gonna happen!"

"Lorelai, listen to me," her mother began.

"There's nothing to listen to! I am NOT leaving my baby here without me so you can turn her into either a brain-dead debutante or another society matron with a stick up her butt!" Lorelai screamed.

"Lorelai!" Richard thundered. "Apologize to your mother this instant!"

"She's the one that should be apologizing to me," his daughter retorted. She threw her napkin on the table and raced out of the room and up the stairs.

Her instinct was to go straight to the nursery but she remembered Rory was probably just getting to sleep and another confrontation with The Iron Maiden was the last thing she could take at that moment. So she went into her room and shut the door, and began pacing back and forth agitatedly.

Not a minute had passed before the door flew open and Emily entered. "This conversation is not over," her mother warned.

"It is as far as I'm concerned," the girl replied, not looking up.

Emily studied her for a moment, her mouth cemented into a tight line. When she spoke, her tone was firm and commanding. "You will follow the plan we have developed for you—or else."

Lorelai looked up with a sarcastic laugh. "Or else? Or else what? You'll lock me in my room with only bread and water? You'll throw me and Rory out into the street? Oh, go ahead, do that. That would provide your society friends with some great gossip for weeks!"

Emily hesitated and took a deep breath. "No," she replied in a dangerously soft voice. "You're a minor, Lorelai, and while you live in our house you will follow our rules. If you can't do that—"she paused again—"we will ask you to leave. But not Rory. We'll go to court and petition that your parental rights be terminated and we be given sole custody of her."

Lorelai stared at her mother and dropped on her bed, her legs suddenly weak. "You. . . you wouldn't dare!" she whispered.

Emily's whole face was so tight by that time that it bore an odd resemblance to a spring about to dangerously uncoil. "We'll do anything we have to do to make sure you lead the life you're supposed to lead, and that Rory is raised the way we think is best."

To say that Lorelai felt as if a runaway 18-wheeler had crashed into her and crushed her to the ground would be an understatement. She stared for a minute at her mother, completely breathless and speechless. But then, for just a second, she glimpsed something she had seen many times before: a predatory gleam in Emily's eye. And the understanding of what was really going on collapsed on Lorelai like the proverbial ton of very, very heavy bricks.

She wants Rory.

She looked down on the floor as she tried to absorb what had immediately become a certainty. She wants Rory. She wants my baby. She wants a do-over. She wants another chance to get the daughter she always wanted, the one who will grow up to be just like her.

Lorelai's thoughts skittered in many directions while Emily stood and waited for a response. Before she had even reached her teens, Lorelai had recognized that by some fortunate quirk of genes or fate, she had been born with an instinctive gift for standing up to her mother—possibly because she had inherited Emily's iron will. She despised her parents' shallow values and lifestyle and determined early on that she would follow a different path from which she had never wavered, despite her many tangles with her mother. She had refused to be molded.

But, she realized with dismay, it would be different for Rory. As young as her daughter was, Lorelai already recognized that their basic natures were different. While she was spirited and defiant, Rory was placid and accepting, except when she was frightened or uncomfortable. She would simply go along with the world as it was presented to her. She would allow herself to be made into the image that Emily Gilmore wanted.

I would rather die than allow that, thought her mother frantically.

Sometimes a huge shock will cause a person to jump several levels in maturity in the blink of an eye. So it was for Lorelai in that instant. Instead of giving into what had been a lifelong impulse to scream her lungs out without thinking when provoked, she stopped herself and paused to use her head. I need to get us out, she thought. And to do that, I need time.

So she raised her face to her mother, a familiar, sulky, I-hate-this-but-I'll-give-in expression on it and said, "Okay. I'll put in the applications for the schools."

The anger in her voice was not faked.

Emily studied her for a moment, a little suspicious at the teenager's quick agreement. But, seeing nothing in Lorelai's face that looked out of the ordinary—the ordinary for her many past battles with her daughter—she relaxed a little. "I'm sure you'll see that this plan is the best for everyone in the long run," she said primly. And shut the door on her way out, unsuccessfully trying to hide her smile of triumph.

As soon as she had gone, Lorelai sprang up, pacing her room like a tiger, her mind moving about a million miles a second. She had often had the experience of feeling the walls of the Gilmore house closing in on her—but never to this extent. She felt as if she was being squeezed and smothered to death. She actually had to bend over, gasping for breath as she experienced the first full-blown anxiety attack of her young life. She finally stopped and stood still, closing her eyes and forcing herself to calm her thoughts and her breathing. Eventually they both relaxed and she resumed her trek in circles around her room.

Her pacing took her past her beloved dollhouse, sitting on a table in the corner. She stopped and leaned over to look at it, remembering the hours she had spent playing with it, moving small figurines in and out—creating the happy family she so longed for and never had. "I swear, Rory," she muttered. "That's the kind of home I'm going to make for you."

At the thought of her daughter, Lorelai glanced at her watch and saw that the nanny had probably left for the evening. She padded down the hall to the nursery which was lit only by a small, covered lamp in the corner. Rory was asleep in her crib, her dark lashes curling like lace on her pink, porcelain-like cheeks, sleeping the deep sleep of the very young and the very peaceful. As Lorelai crouched to reach between the bars of the crib and gently touch her daughter's arm, she wondered if she herself would ever sleep so peacefully again.

Indeed, she slept little that night, the night following what Lorelai would later term The Great Backstab of 1985. She tossed and turned, her mind moving along this path and then that one and she tried to develop the beginnings of a plan and think of someone who might help her.

She thought briefly of her Grandmother Gilmore. Gran was a practical, no-nonsense lady with whom Lorelai had always felt a grudging kinship, although they barely knew one another. For one thing, she was the only person in Lorelai's world who could leave Emily Gilmore stammering and stuttering and scrambling to fill the old lady's every unreasonable wish, and Lorelai enjoyed this sight immensely. After Rory's birth, Gran had sent a lovely baby gift and a letter to her granddaughter which, on the surface, seemed to scold Lorelai for her thoughtless and impulsive behavior—but which, Lorelai fancied, expressed a hint of under-the-table approval for the girl's independence. She and Gran were kindred spirits, she felt, and surely Gran would get a charge out of thwarting Emily. On anything.

But the senior Gilmore had recently moved to London. Lorelai thought briefly of sneaking into Gran's Hartford house to live but she knew her father paid random but regular visits to check on the property. The possibility of discovery was too great.

Besides, Gran was a Gilmore. While she might fundamentally agree with Lorelai's wishes and not mind barreling over Emily to see her granddaughter get what she wanted, she would never agree to keep a secret like that from Richard.

So Gran was not a possibility.

Lorelai's mind wandered over other people she knew. Her friends, as she had told her parents, had little to do with her these days, finding her an embarrassment, and would probably tell their mothers anyway if Lorelai disappeared and they knew her whereabouts. They were not a possibility.

But as her mind raced over the faces of her friends, it paused on one sandy-haired head and she stopped her consideration to think about its owner. Christopher.

There had barely been a time in her consciousness when she and Rory's father had not been friends. She had seen pictures taken by their parents of the two of them as toddlers, she in a stroller and he standing nearby holding a large ball, both staring at the camera. He had always been around—a quiet, somewhat shy boy with a fixed smile who, for the first few years of their lives, had done nothing to gain her notice or approbation.

That changed at her sixth birthday party. Snooty little Lavinia Harris had made what Lorelai considered a condescending remark about the size of the Gilmore pool, and Lorelai was not about to stand for it. She engaged Christopher, who had been trailing after her all afternoon, as her sidekick. As Lavinia sat holding court on a bench in the garden, her back against the shrubbery, Lorelai and Chris had crawled through the bushes and smeared the back of the child's frilly pink dress with crushed chocolate cupcakes. The girl hadn't even noticed—and the other snickering kids did not see fit to mention it—until a short while later when her mother arrived to pick her up and began screaming as if the substance on her daughter's dress was blood and not chocolate. The culprits were quickly discovered, as they had not bothered to wash their hands of the cupcake debris, and both were punished.

But Lorelai had found a partner in crime.

After that, they naturally drifted together at children's birthday parties, Christmas parties and multi-family get-togethers where Lorelai always seemed to find some trouble for them to get into. She was the one that usually got blamed; Christopher just seemed too obedient and easy-going to be the instigator of any of their mischief. Emily, impressed with the Hayden's money and social standing, was happy to invite Chris over to the house for play dates, thinking he might be a good example and restraining influence on her hoyden of a daughter. Little did she know that as the two spent more time together, Chris became the author and moving force behind some of their escapades. The two explored every nook and cranny of the Gilmore house and discovered the various escape routes that Lorelai used so frequently during her adolescence.

During their pre-teen years, they begged to be sent to the same summer camp where they would take long walks in the woods together or paddle a canoe into the middle of the lake and talk for hours about their families, the things they disliked about their lives and their plans and hopes for the future. When they were enrolled in the same private high school, it seemed natural that they would begin to date. Lorelai experienced many "firsts" with Christopher: her first real kiss (as opposed to the awkward pecks she had received from several boys in junior high); her first hangover; her first (and last) toke of marijuana; her initial trips to first, second and third base. Until finally came the winter afternoon when the two of them climbed out of Lorelai's window onto her balcony and experienced the "first" that would change their lives forever.

Lorelai had always viewed Christopher as her sidekick, D'Artagnon to her Athos, Boswell to her Johnson, Sonny to her Cher. She saw him as someone who had the same hopes and values and who would stand valiantly by her side in their never-ending battle for freedom from their parents' world. But the minute the little strip turned pink, Christopher wimped out badly in Lorelai's estimation. Suddenly, instead of appearing sure and strong, he began to look confused and uncertain, increasingly placid and diffident, happy to take direction from any adult in his vicinity who might have an opinion on his situation. Thus it was that he proposed to her—not once, but three times at Emily's insistence—and Lorelai could swear that she saw relief in his eyes each time she said no.

He spent a fair amount of time with her during that summer as her pregnancy advanced. In the fall, when she was in her eighth month, he went to California to start college. He came back in October in time to visit her in the hospital and to stand by her side at the nursery window, gazing with amazement and some trepidation at the tiny scrap of humanity they had created.

At that point, he virtually disappeared. His letters and phone calls dried up. He dropped in for a short visit at Thanksgiving and another at Christmas. He didn't show up at Easter but sent Lorelai a birthday card in April. And that was it. Even though Lorelai now suspected he had arrived home for summer vacation, she hadn't seen or heard hide nor hair of him, a circumstance that she resented but largely understood and vaguely regretted.

Lying sleepless in her bed the night after Emily's ultimatum, Lorelai wondered if she might dare count on Christopher for help. She tried to imagine his reaction if she and Rory appeared with no notice on his dormitory steps in California. He might want to help, she knew; he might offer money. But he seemed to have bought in to his parents' world completely in the past year and had resigned his commission as her comrade in arms. She thought that if she did go to him, he would probably urge her to return home and even see giving up custody of their daughter as a viable option. He might even, she thought with a prick of fear, decide to call Emily and Richard himself to inform them of her whereabouts.

So Christopher was not an option, Lorelai decided.

She finally fell into a fitful sleep after a while longer of thrashing in her bed. By the time she awoke, she still didn't have a definite plan but had a pretty good idea of the direction in which she needed to move to make a plan. And step one of Operation Blow This Joint would start that very morning.