Whenever I think about Christopher, aka the man who impregnated my mother, my eighth birthday comes to mind. Mom had a full day of celebrations planned, as was typical. Rory's and my actual birthday party was going to be the next day, an extravaganza that in coming years the cops would shut down. Christopher had called the week before, and promised to come and spend the day with us.
I was a total daddy's girl back then. Every visit I was eager to hear stories about his life, to tell him all about mine and insist on being seated beside him for meals. I settled myself down by the window early that morning, and waited for him to come. Mom and Rory realised by noon that he wasn't coming.
"Come on, Ava, we have birthday celebrations to get to," Mom said, trying to sound upbeat.
"We can't go yet," I protested. "Dad's on his way,"
"I'll give him a call, okay?" she said, exchanging worried looks with Rory.
He didn't answer his phone. So I sat at that window all day, refusing to leave or celebrate my birthday when Dad had to be on his way. I eventually fell asleep, my head leaning against the glass. I woke up briefly when Mom picked me up to put me into bed.
"Is Dad here yet?" I asked sleepily.
"No," she said soothingly, but I could detect her anger at him beneath the surface. "Go back to sleep, baby,"
"Will you wake me up when he gets here?"
She didn't answer, but I was asleep before I could ask why.
There are more examples of this, of broken promises and tantrums thrown later when I learned he would once again be absent from significant events. Eventually, I stopped asking if he would be coming and started seeing him for who he really was – and it wasn't my dad. He may have fathered me, but he was so sporadic in actually being there that it was easier to just pretend he didn't exist.
Rory understood earlier than I did that Christopher wouldn't come the majority of the times he said he would. More of than not he turned up when we least expected it, random days when he 'wanted to see his girls'. Rory was aware of it, but ignored it. It would be easier for Mom and Rory if I followed suit. Maybe I am more like Grandma than I thought, because I can sure hold a grudge. Grandma just ignores it when it comes to Christopher because she has delusions about a big society wedding.
So you can imagine my delight to learn he was coming for a visit.
I impatiently waited for Luke to take my order as Mom read over something of Rory's. I ignored my sister's usual 'it sucks' routine, sighing and wishing a certain boy would come downstairs. He'd intrigued me, especially after I had started to read the notes he had left for me in Howl. Who knew something so insightful would come in such a surly, bad boy package? I didn't tell Rory. It was one of the books we shared and she would kill me if she found out one of her precious books had been written in.
"Thank God," I said as Luke came over and started serving us coffee.
"Okay what do you want? Eggs, toast, combo?" he fired at us.
"What's the rush there, zippy?" Mom asked.
"I'm just swamped this morning. I was supposed to have help," he said, indicating to upstairs. "But I don't, so order right now or I'm bringing you all an egg white omelette with steamed spinach,"
"Bacon and eggs," I said, panicked.
"Pancakes," Mom said, sounding horrified.
"French toast," Rory spoke up.
"Thank you," he said, only to turn as the boy I couldn't get out of my head finally came downstairs.
"Jess, you were supposed to be down here…" he trailed off, noticing Jess' Metallica t-shirt. "What the hell is that?"
"That," Luke said, pointing to the shirt as if it had killed a puppy. I settled back. This would be entertaining.
"That is a shirt," Jess explained.
"Change," Luke said bluntly.
"Go upstairs and change your shirt,"
"I like this shirt,"
"How can you like this shirt?"
"It brings out my eyes," Jess said with the utmost sarcasm. I hid my grin behind my coffee mug.
"Hey, part of the deal of you staying here is that you work here," Luke said. "When you work here you will wear proper work attire, and that is not proper work attire. Now go upstairs and change into something that won't scare the hell out of my customers."
"Whatever you say, Uncle Luke," Jess responded, making sure the 'uncle Luke' was exceedingly mocking.
"Gross t-shirt," Mom commented.
"Yeah," Rory agreed.
"Good band," I added.
"Oh yeah," Rory and Mom agreed.
That afternoon, I was lounging on the sofa reading when Rory came in.
"I'm coming out," she blurted out. I looked up, confused, as she headed to the kitchen.
"Out of what?" I heard Mom asked, distracted. I got up and followed Rory.
"Out into society,"
"Wow, that sounds worse than Die Hard 2," I said.
"Wait, what are you talking about?" she asked, looking up from the textbook she had been highlighting.
"I went to Grandma's house after school,"
"Okay, right away bad," Mom said, now actively listening.
"Well, her DAR friends are all there, they're talking about the Debutante Ball that is being thrown."
"Oh no," Mom said, her face mirroring the horror I was sure was on my own.
"When I got back from Grandpa's office, they all invited me onto the patio,"
"Why on earth would you go onto the patio?" I asked dramatically. "Nothing good can come from a patio full of society women,"
"Amen to that sister," Mom said. "Going out onto the patio is like accepting the position as the drummer in Spinal Tap, " Mom said, and I nodded.
"Before I knew it, Grandma was telling me how important it is for a person to be properly presented to society,"
Mom and I let out an identical grossed out groan.
"And how every young girl dreams of this day,"
Again, we groaned.
"And how there are flowers," she said, her voice lessening with enthusiasm.
"Oh Lord," Mom groaned.
"And music," Rory continued.
"Please," I scoffed, not even wanting to think about what those ladies thought constituted good music.
"And cake," Rory said, sounding completely unenthused. This however, perked Mom right up.
"Oh yeah, the cake's actually good,"
"I tried on your old dress," Rory added.
Mom shook her head and got up. I turned to her, trusting that she would get Rory out of this nightmare. Poor naïve Rory.
"What are you doing?" Rory asked.
"Getting you out of this,"
"Go, Mom," I said supportively. Rory sent me a look. "Come on Rory, let her get you out of this,"
"Mom, wait," she said as our mother began to dial.
"I swear, my mother is great at getting someone to agree to agree to something that in any other universe they would never consider,"
"Especially Rory," I added.
"Ava," Rory said, sounding exasperated.
"I am convinced she had something to do with Lily Tomlin doing that movie with John Travolta," Mom ranted.
"I'm doing this," Rory interrupted, taking the phone off Mom.
"Why?" Mom said, genuinely confused.
"Because you should've seen the look on Grandma's face when she asked me," Rory said. "It's just really, really important to her."
"But - - " Mom began.
"Now if it's that important to her, and not important to me, then why shouldn't I do it?"
Damn it, this was the reason I was known as the bitchy one.
"Rory, do you know what a coming out party says?" Mom asked.
"I'm here, I'm queer, get over it?" I suggested.
"Well queer sister, it actually says 'I'm a woman now'," Rory corrected me.
"No, it says: 'Hi, I'm of good breeding and marriageable age…" Mom started to rant, relating it to animals.
"I wonder why she didn't ask me?" I asked sarcastically.
"She did say something along the lines of you wearing a mini dress just to spite her," Rory admitted.
I smirked. "What do you know, the woman does know me,"
"Anyway, I made a promise," Rory continued. "But you guys don't have to be a part of it if you don't want to."
"Sweet," I said satisfied, bringing my book back up to read and started heading for the living room.
"Look, if you really want to do it, we'll help," Mom said quickly. I dropped my book back down and turned back, horrified.
"Mom!" I protested.
"We'll support you, Rory," Mom said, giving me a look, making me sigh heavily. "It's just weird. This is all the stuff I ran away from, I just assumed you'd be running with me."
"I'll run with you," I said passionately, desperate to get out of this. When she didn't respond, I tried, "Join us uncivilised ladies, Rory," I said enticingly. "I don't think debutantes have pizza on their side…"
Mom laughed. "Well, if you're sure, where do we start?"
"Well, there's the dowry," I said. "Conservatively, I can see you going for at least three goats,"
"Hey, they add a couple of chickens to that and they have themselves a deal," Mom added.
Rory looked up from the booklet Grandma had given us on the ball, her face pale.
"What is it?" I asked, concerned.
"It says your father is supposed to present you at the ceremony,"
"Oh," Mom said quietly, the mood immediately going downhill. Christopher's track record didn't exactly commend him for the fatherly roles.
"Whatever, I can get someone else to do it,"
"Rory," Mom said sympathetically.
"Grandpa, probably," Rory continued. "Or Taylor,"
"Okay," Mom said, trying to calm her down.
"Or the cable guy, he looked friendly last week. He may have a tux."
"Hand me the phone, Ava," Mom said with a smile.
"Why?" I asked, moving it out of her grasp. I had a feeling she wasn't calling Grandma.
"Look, there are many things that should weird Rory out about coming out but inviting your father shouldn't be one of them,"
"He won't come," I said bluntly. "Or he'll say he will and then bail. That's what Christopher does."
"Ava," Mom sighed.
"What? Am I wrong here? Don't you think it would have been nice to have your dad around on Father's Day or your birthday or pretty much any other significant day? But Christopher doesn't. Rory would have better luck with the cable guy."
"Hey!" Mom warned me.
I thrust the phone at her and stormed into my bedroom, slamming the door behind me. I hated how much it bothered me, the idea of Christopher coming to town. The last time he had come, it had earned us a meeting with his parents who clearly wished Rory and I had never been born. And that was one of the good Christopher visits.
I blasted some music and sketched angrily, too wound up to draw as I blocked out the rest of the world. I knew Mom would be calling him.
I ignored Rory as she came in and turned off the music.
"He's in Boston now," she continued. "But Mom says he's definitely going to come,"
She was so excited, I just couldn't understand it. How was she considered the smart one again?
"Great," I said dully.
"He does love us, you know he does," she said, sitting at the end of my bed.
"No, Rory, I really don't know that," I said, not cruel, just honest. "Mom loves us. Hell, even Grandma and Grandpa do. But Christopher sure as hell hasn't shown that."
"You should call him Dad," she said sullenly, returning to her own bed.
"I'll call him Dad when he starts acting like one," I retorted, moving over and turning the music back on. Rory glared at me, but I just returned to my drawing.
Unfortunately, debutante fever had officially taken over the Crap Shack. So I had retreated to the front porch, sitting on the front step and sketching to try and avoid the mania. Rory, Dean and Lane were inside watching Neil Young in a tux. Yeah, Dean was pretty hot. But Neil Young cool? A horn beeped and I frowned as I saw Christopher get out of the car.
Rory came flying out of the house. "Dad! Dad!"
Mom followed behind her, standing a bit back as Rory eagerly approached him.
"Whoa! Hold it. A lady never runs out to meet a gentleman caller who hasn't been announced," he joked.
"Sorry, we haven't tamed my wild ways yet,"
"Thank God I'm here now,"
I snorted as they hugged.
"I missed you," Rory said.
He had a funny way of showing it.
"Hey," Mom approached the pair, and they looked every bit the happy family. I looked down at the tornado I had been drawing, that was threating to swallow Stars Hollow whole.
Mom started mocking his car, which was a new addition considering he had always been very devoted to his motorbikes.
"And this is for you," Dad presented Rory with a gigantic book.
"The Compact Oxford English Dictionary!" she said, thrilled.
"I promised you,"
I felt my face flush with anger and embarrassment, remembering when he hadn't been able to pay for his gifts from the bookstore for Rory and me.
"Sorry it took so long," he continued.
"That's okay," Rory hurried to assure him.
"On the bright side, this is the new addition," he said. "The old one wouldn't have the word 'jiggy' in it."
Rory flew inside to look words up in it immediately.
"Hey stranger," he called to me, and I scowled.
"No hug for your old Dad?"
"I don't know Christopher," I said, and his face immediately fell. "I wasn't exactly expecting you to show up,"
"Ouch," he said quietly. "I got something for you too. Those pencils you were just dying to get?"
I got up. "No, thank you,"
"Ava," Mom said warningly.
"What?" I snapped. "It's not appropriate for me to accept gifts from a virtual stranger." I sent the hurt Christopher a glare. "I'm going for a walk,"
"Ava Leigh Gilmore!" Mom shouted as I walked away from them.
I ignored her as I stormed off, heading straight for my usual respite.
Jess was there when I arrived. I didn't say anything to him. I sat on the other side, facing the opposite direction and started to draw.
It was fifteen minutes before either of us spoke.
"So, drama at the Gilmore house?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because you look like you're about to stab someone with your pencil,"
"My father has made an appearance for Rory's debutante ball," I said bitterly. "They're all back there playing happy families,"
"And you're not," he said, coming over and sitting beside me. I put my sketchbook down and shrugged. "You have daddy issues?"
"I have lack of a daddy issues," I said, irritated. "He shows up rarely and whenever he does, the Lorelai's roll out the welcome wagon. It makes me sick."
"Well what about you?"
"What about me?"
"What's your dad situation?"
"Took off years ago," he shrugged.
"Sucks," I said.
"Yeah, well, Liz is no prize either,"
"Neither's Christopher," I said. "So, read anything good lately?"
After a few hours with Jess debating books, the sun started to go down and I sighed. It was easy to chat with him, to forget about Christopher's arrival in town. But I had to face the music sometime.
"Better head home before Mom sends out the search party,"
"Yeah, knowing your mother she probably would," Jess said, offering me a hand up. Surprised, I accepted. He pulled me up, and all of a sudden we were closer than we'd ever been. A faint scent of cigarettes and aftershave hit me, and I looked at him with wide eyes.
"Jess…" I began.
"I better go," he said, giving me a grin and walking away. My heart was pounding. I shook my head to clear it and made my way home, completely distracted.
My mother was waiting for me on the front porch. I was surprised that she didn't seem angry. Just sad.
"Hey," she said as I approached.
"Hey," I said, taking a seat on the porch swing. She rose from the step and moved to sit beside me.
"He's making an effort," she said. "I understand where this anger is coming from…"
"Do you?" I interrupted. "Because it seems like I'm the bad guy for acknowledging all the shitty stuff he's done,"
"Language," she warned.
"He managed to turn up this time," I said. "That's great for Rory."
"And for you too," she said. "He wanted to talk to you…"
"I don't want to talk to him," I said quickly. "Thought I'd made that pretty clear,"
"I just…. I don't want you to have all this anger inside you,"
"You're not the one who's caused it, Mom," I said honestly. "And you can't change the fact that Christopher hasn't been interested for the past sixteen years,"
She didn't bother to deny it. "He loves you,"
"I don't want to be around him," I said. "I'm guessing he's crashing on the couch?"
She nodded. "Rory really wants him here, Ava," she sounded anguished. "If I ask him to leave, it hurts her. If I let him stay, it hurts you."
I sighed. "Who are we kidding, Mom. Let's just do what we always do. Perfect Rory deserves to have her perfect dad around. I'll just hide out in my room until he's gone."
I was making my way through town, having enjoyed a coffee and brief conversation with Jess at Luke's. I made my way over to the gazebo, wondering just how badly Rory and Dean were going. I'm sorry, but it was a little funny, okay? They had practiced a little at home, before Mom had quickly called Miss Patty to teach them the required dances.
Seeing my parents dance, perfectly in tune with each other, made me stop in my tracks. I stared until the song ended, and they were applauded. I quickly turned and walked away. Please don't let Mom fall for this.
The fact that Mom had gotten Christopher to stay in a hotel was beyond surprising. Rory hadn't been thrilled, but hadn't said anything to me thankfully. He was still around a lot, and I often caught him looking at me like he wanted to say something. He never did, so I just avoided the house as much as possible. Even when I was home, I kept myself hidden away in my bedroom. However, these things couldn't be avoided forever, and the day of Rory's cotillion was upon us. Rory, Mom and I arrived, looking around at our opulent surroundings. Mom and I were already dressed to the nines, but Rory was still dressed casually and had her dress ready to put on out the back with the other debutantes.
"Wow, this place is huge," Rory said in awe. She looked at the staircase. "Do I have to walk down those stairs?"
"I'm afraid so," Mom replied. "Unless you want to make a really memorable entrance and slide down the banister, which I totally encourage by the way,"
"Me too," I said. "Seriously, good money involved if this happens,"
A haughty looking lady approached us. "You are…"
"Lorelai Gilmore," Rory answered.
"…late," the lady informed her strictly. How were we late? It didn't start for another hour and a half.
"Sorry, my fault," Mom quickly said. "Took me awhile to get pretty. Not all of us are sixteen anymore," she indicated to Rory and I. "You know what I mean?" At her death glare, Mom realised, "No."
"You are to head up the stairs. The preparation room is on the right." The lady informed Rory.
"Look out for the toxic cloud of Chanel and Final Net," Mom said. Rory followed the lady up the stairs, leaving Mom and I alone.
"So…" I said, and Mom turned to me. "How much bribery is it going to take for you to let me have some champagne?"
"In front of the grandparents?" Mom snorted, leading me to the bar where I was forced to get a soda. "Good luck. Besides, do you really want the three hour lecture on alcohol and safe choices?"
I winced. "It would totally lead into a safe sex talk, wouldn't it?"
"Which would lead into another five hour lecture…" she said as we arrived at the bar. She ordered a cocktail. She got served and said, "You are a wonderful, wonderful man. I have a feeling we're going to be very close tonight,"
"I hate you," I muttered, sipping on my Coke with a frown. "Come on Mom, just vodka this up a bit,"
"Hey, I got you out of this," she said. "Mini dress or no, Mom totally wanted the twin act going on. I've already earned my mother of the year crown,"
Grandma suddenly appeared, causing Mom to choke slightly.
"Mom, you're here," she said, sounding slightly surprised.
"Hello Ava," she said coolly, clearly not too pleased with me for not joining Rory in the ball. "And where should I be, Lorelai, Spain?"
"I tried calling you all night last night," Mom said, much to my surprise. I had been hidden away, so I had completely missed why my mother of all people would be desperate to get in touch with Emily Gilmore.
"I was very busy," Grandma said.
"And then we got here before you," Mom continued.
"What is your point, Lorelai?"
"Nothing, it's just weird,"
I was starting to feel really uncomfortable. I had thought I would get the full on guilt trip from Grandma, not the ice queen.
"Well, I'm here now so it's not weird anymore," she said, looking away. "Look at these flowers, baby's breath. What is this, County General?"
"You look really nice Grandma," I said meekly.
I was ignored, as she ranted, "Cotton tablecloths, folding chairs. It's not supposed to be like this. In my day, people sat in real chairs."
"Mom, is this about Ava not wanting to do the ball?" Mom asked cautiously.
"No, I'm perfectly aware this isn't 'Ava's thing' as you informed me," she said. "Despite its importance to me. I wanted Rory to be presented to society in a beautiful, elegant ballroom, not a Shakey's!"
"The room is beautiful, Mom, you're being too critical,"
"There's Nan," Grandma said, sounding like pure evil. "I'm going to have a little talk with her about the proper height for a taper,"
She walked away, her target in sight.
"Okay, how did she manage to say 'proper height for a taper' and make it sound like 'I'm going to murder someone'?" I said, astonished.
"Well hon, I don't think this is about you," she said. "I think Emily Gilmore has much bigger fish to fry…"
Mom and I soon got stuck talking to women discussing inane things like their daughter's trip to fat camp when Christopher approached.
"Hi, sorry to interrupt," he turned to Mom. "Could you come with me? My cummerbund and aren't seeing eye to eye,"
"Men, totally helpless, excuse me,"
Before I could make a decision whether to be bored to death by these women or endure the company of my father, Mom grabbed my hand and pulled me along with her.
"You saved me, I love you, I want to have your babies," she said. "Oops, too late,"
Someone else to abandon? I thought, watching glasses of champagne go by and wishing desperately one was in my own hand.
"So, having a good time Ava?" Christopher asked and I raised an eyebrow at him.
"It's a debutante ball," I said. "There are about fifty million places I would rather be right now."
"Right," he laughed awkwardly. Sensing my mother's distressed look, I excused myself and hid in the bathroom, hoping that by the time I got out, he would be backstage with Rory.
Mom was waiting at the mirror when I finally emerged.
"Hmm," she said thoughtfully, looking at me.
"What?" I sighed.
"Oh, I just thought if you drowned in there, your hair would be soaked,"
"Ha, ha," I said dully.
"Your dad is back with Rory, so you can come out of hiding, Anne Frank," Mom quipped.
"This isn't funny," I hissed, and she looked at me in surprise. "I see the way you're looking at him, Mom,"
"Ava…" she said. "I like having him around, okay?"
"Fine," I said icily, channelling my inner Emily. "We better get out there. I'd just hate to miss Rory's debut into society."
We sat silently at the table, and I was surprised when the speeches started and the grandparents weren't yet seated. Mom got up to see what was going on. I got startled as I heard my grandfather started yelling 'to hell with society'. Freaked, I saw Mom drag them both out of the room.
Uncomfortable, I could hear the faint yelling from the room. I went to get up, but Mom turned and motioned for me to sit back down. Reluctantly, I sank back down, but kept an eye on the argument going on between my grandparents. They returned to the room but not the table as Rory was presented like a proper society girl, and Dad looking the proper society father.
Stuff it. I grabbed a glass of champagne off the table and sat back as my sister humiliated herself with a fan dance.
Since my family didn't return to the table and I already had a glass in my hand, the waiter kept refilling it. Soon, I was quietly laughing to myself about the pure ridiculousness of the debutantes, and got up to go to the bathroom. I stumbled and fell over, and suddenly Mom was beside me.
"You okay?" she asked, concerned, then frowned.
"I'm fine," I said, stumbling a bit as I got up. "I tripped,"
"Have you been drinking?" she said incredulously.
"What else was I supposed to do when you left me alone with these people?" I snapped.
She quickly steered me outside into the cold night air. "Are you kidding me with this? You're sixteen!"
"What, like you didn't drink at my age?" I retorted.
"I also got pregnant at your age with twins, would you like to re-enact that behaviour?" she retorted. She got out her cell phone and made a call, as I leaned against the wall of the building and looked at the stars.
Rory, Dean and Dad came outside, the dancing have finished a little earlier. Nobody said a word to me, as Rory guided me to the car and we drove in silence back to Stars Hollow.
"Ava, bed, now," Mom barked.
I poked my tongue out at her and headed inside, still pretty content in my drunkenness. I was surprised, however, when Christopher followed me inside.
"What do you want?" I asked bluntly as I entered my bedroom.
"I'm heading home tomorrow,"
"Boston, right?" I said without meaning to.
"Right," he said. "I just wanted to talk to you before I go. I want to come by more. I know I haven't been around a lot – "
"Wow, understatement," I laughed. "Look, do whatever you want, okay? Rory and Mom want you around…" I paused, then glared at him. "You're not going to jerk Mom around again are you?"
"I have a girlfriend in Boston," he said.
"Good," I nodded. "Is it serious?"
"Well, feel free to stay in Boston with…"
"Feel free to stay with Sherrie, Christopher," I said.
"Do you really hate me that much?" he asked, sounding hurt.
I sighed. "It's easier when you stay away. When you're here… you just take off again. You always do," I wiped my eyes, annoyed at the tears. "I better get to bed before Mom kills me."
"I'm gonna be around more, okay?" he said. "Boston is not that far away."
"Just go spend time with Rory and Mom," I said. "Perfect little family right there, right?"
"It's a family of four, kiddo," he said softly. "Not three,"
He walked out before I could respond. I sat down on my bed.
"It's a family of three," I murmured. Rory, Mom and me. Rory, Christopher and Mom.
I just wanted everything to back to normal.
The group headed for a walk, towards Luke's I imagined. I sighed and got into my pyjamas, ready to read something to take my mind off everything. I was startled by a knock on my window.
"Jess?" I said, surprised. Oh no, this wasn't good. Drunk Ava should not be around cute Jess.
"Hey," he grinned. "Let me in?"
"You could have come through the front door you know," I said, helping him in. "They all just went out,"
"I saw them leave,"
"Then why the window?"
He shrugged. "Adds mystery,"
I laughed. "You're such a dork," I spontaneously gave him a hug.
"Someone been drinking?"
"No," I said, then grinned sheepishly. "Maybe,"
"Ava Gilmore," he said, shaking his head in mock disappointment.
"What else can I do at a debutante ball?" I said, pouting. His eyes lingered on my mouth for a moment, then he took a step back toward the window.
"I should get going,"
"You just got here," I said, confused.
"I find that hanging with someone generally goes better if both are drunk, or both are sober," he said, climbing back out.
"Hey!" I said, and he poked his head in. "Next time, both drunk?"
He gave me a smile and slipped back into the darkness. I plopped onto my bed. Drunk Ava and Drunk Jess? Either a really, really bad idea or a really, really good one.