Authors' Note: Big ups to our betas sosmitten and Robinpoppins, as well as our
coordinator, Lula Bo. Thanks for being there, guys!
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
"Oooh, how about Ashley Judd?" Lorelai asked, looking up from the paper in front
"You're definitely cooler than Ashley Judd," Rory nodded from across the table.
"Plus, you don't have the extra baggage of starring in mediocre chick flicks and
flaunting a large-but-not-always-correctly-utilized vocabulary."
"Yes, I have a medium-sized-but-always-correctly-utilized vocabulary."
"Lorelai, please put the list away," Emily said from her end of the table. "It's
rude to read at the dinner table."
"Don't waste your breath, Emily," Luke said, rolling his eyes. "She's been at it
since before we left the house tonight."
Lorelai ignored the running commentary and kept scanning the list in front of
her. "Ah-ha!" she cried as she spotted a familiar name. "How about Lucy
"Really?" Rory smirked, looking at Lorelai skeptically. "You're saying you're as
hot as Xena, Warrior Princess? You sure you want to go there?"
"Hey, Xena's been off the air for years now," Lorelai argued. "Without the
leather breast plates and the not-so-subtextual lesbian subtext she's just
another tall chick with an accent looking for a gig. So, yes, I'm as cool as
Lucy Lawless—and almost as tall, too."
"Lorelai," Richard boomed from the head of the table, "your mother's right. This
is the one night a week we have the whole family together, and it's a time for
civilized family conversation and the exchange of important ideas. Now put the
"Hey, this is important stuff," Lorelai cried, waving the papers around for
emphasis. "This is a list of celebrities who are going to hit the big 4-0 this
year. I, myself, am gonna be forty in a few days, and I have to be sure I still
fall within the hotness and coolness parameters for women my age." She looked
down at the list again, searching for another name. "Take Molly Ringwald, for
instance. I'm at least as cool and way hotter than Molly Ringwald, right?" She
looked around the table for agreement but was met with blank looks from everyone
but Rory, who nodded.
"You mastered the art of using your cleavage to put on lipstick way before she
did," Rory grinned.
Luke's head snapped up and he looked at Lorelai with interest. "You can do
that?" he whispered.
"I'll give you a demonstration later," Lorelai purred.
"Who on earth is Molly Ringwald?" Emily asked, and Lorelai couldn't help smiling
at the irony that Emily's curiosity was dragging her into the debate against her
"She was the star of most of John Hughes's teen movie oeuvre," Rory said.
"You remember, Mom," Lorelai added. "I must have gone to see Sixteen Candles
eight times while I was pregnant with Rory.
"That would explain why my first words were 'What's a-happenin', hot stuff?'"
"Is she the one with the red hair?" Emily asked.
"Yup," Lorelai nodded. "That's her."
Emily looked at Lorelai in surprise. "But I thought she was just a young girl."
"She was," Lorelai grinned. "In 1984."
"Lorelai," Richard said in the slightly patronizing tone Lorelai had grown used
to since she was five and wanted to know why she couldn't wear her pink tutu to
play in the snow, "I really don't understand why you're so worked up over this.
There's nothing wrong with growing older. Why, these days, people are living
full, productive lives decades beyond what they used to."
"After all," Emily chimed in, "forty is the new thirty."
"But that's what I'm saying," Lorelai said, tapping the list for emphasis.
"These are all hot, vital, exciting women who are about to turn forty, and I'm
right in there with 'em.'" She turned to Richard. "And you're right, Dad. People
these days are living exciting lives well into their so-called golden years.
Look at Paul McCartney."
"What about Paul McCartney?" Emily asked.
"Well, he's gonna be sixty-six in June," Lorelai said, "And he's still rockin'.'"
"Literally!" Rory added.
"Paul McCartney is going to be sixty-six?" Richard demanded in disbelief.
"Yup," Lorelai nodded, smiling mischievously. "The Cute Beatle himself is
officially closer to seventy than sixty."
"Oh, my," Richard said, sagging a little in his seat.
"Richard," Emily said, unconsciously tugging at the skin on her right cheekbone,
"Remind me to make an appointment with Dr. Permian tomorrow."
Lorelai just smiled and went back to perusing her list. She let out a triumphant
cackle when she spotted another familiar name. "Oh, Rachael Ray, I can totally
kick your butt—and I can do it in under thirty minutes."
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
On Saturday morning, Lorelai sat on the counter by the stove, sipping her first
cup of coffee of the day, and watching Luke cook breakfast. She loved this part
of their morning routine; she had known it all along, but asking Luke to move in
with her was probably one of the best decisions she had ever made.
Luke was busy frying up the last of the bacon, while Lorelai peered over at the
skillet. She frowned.
"Bacon's not done yet," she stated. "The pancakes are getting cold, you know."
Luke sighed. "You know, the pancakes wouldn't be getting cold if you didn't make
me throw out that first batch."
"That batch was overdone," she pointed out.
"That batch was overdone because you kept on saying 'one more minute' over and
over again until they were charred and, thus, inedible," he told her.
Lorelai looked over his shoulder. "You'll have to cook up a third batch if you
don't get this batch off the fire."
But you're the one—" he began, and just glared at her before turning away to
handle the bacon.
Lorelai suppressed a giggle as she watched Luke all flustered, his nostrils
flaring up in anger. "Relax, hon," she said. "God, you get worked up so
"Aw, you love it," she teased. "No matter how much that vein on your forehead
She handed him a plate as he transferred bacon onto it.
"Well, breakfast is ready," he told her. "Go get Rory."
He began to pick up some nearby cutlery to set the table, but Lorelai grabbed
his hand, pulling him towards her.
"We can give Rory five more minutes," she told him with a smile, pulling him
closer and wrapping her legs around his waist. "She's busy finishing up her
article, so we should leave her be for a while.'"
Luke smiled. "I guess a few more minutes to ourselves wouldn't hurt."
As he leaned in to kiss her, there was a knock on the back door before both Luke
and Lorelai could react, the door had burst open to reveal Babette. "Morning,
sugahs!" she cried happily.
Luke and Lorelai pulled apart, Luke dropping knives and forks in the process.
While he leaned down to pick them up, a flustered Lorelai greeted her neighbour.
"Babette! Um, hi!"
"Oh, sorry doll," she said, looking from Lorelai to Luke and back. "Was I
"Not at all!" Lorelai assured her, glaring at Luke as he grumbled at her feet
and got back up again. "We were just preparing breakfast. What brings you to our
place this morning, Babette?"
"Aw, Morey's playing a few shows at the Blue Note for the next few days, and
mornings sure aren't the same with his constant chatter."
Lorelai cocked her head to the side. "Huh. Never pictured Morey as much of a
"Oh no, his lips move as fast as those fingers of his do!" Luke and Lorelai's
eyes widened at that. "On the piano, of course," Babette continued.
"Oh, of course," agreed Lorelai. "Do you want some coffee and breakfast Babette?
Luke can set a plate for you."
She heard Luke grumble yet again behind her, as he moved around the kitchen
prepping the breakfast table.
"Hush you," she whispered.
Babette seemed oblivious to their bickering. "That'd be wonderful, thank you! I
just need to pop in across the lawn and feed Apricot, but I'll be back." The she
left just as quickly as she had come in.
"That's great," said Luke. "Are you sure we can't just keep the back door
"Fairly sure" she told him, patting his back gently. "I'll go get Rory."
♫ ♫ ♫
Rory sat staring at her computer screen, absently drumming her fingers on her
desk. After a minute she highlighted a line of text, rewrote a few words, and
went back to drumming her fingers. A few seconds later she clicked the UNDO
button, bringing back the sentence as she'd originally written it. She leaned
back in her chair, placed her hands behind her head, and chewed her lip
thoughtfully as she re-read the same paragraph she'd been looking at for the
past half hour. A few minutes later she made another correction, read the
sentence over, and just as quickly hit UNDO again. She repeated the process
three more times before blowing out a frustrated breath, minimizing the window
showing her article, and bringing up the submission guidelines for Salon. The
submission guidelines, of course, hadn't changed since she'd first read them a
few days ago, but that hadn't stopped her from reading them five times that
morning. With her heart racing she opened a new window, pulled up her Yahoo!
Mail account, and started a new message. After a few minutes of staring and
sighing and finger-drumming she quickly filled in the Features Editor's e-mail
address and typed "Editorial Submissions" in the subject line. Seeing the words
"editorial submission" in print caused her to freeze, and she immediately closed
the window and pulled up her article again. The fact that she'd gone through
almost the exact same ritual every day for the last week made her shake her head
at her own wimpiness before highlighting another chunk of text and making what
was destined to be another short-lived revision.
A tap on her bedroom door startled her, and she barely had enough time to close
the window before her mother poked her head into the room.
"Yup. Bathed, dressed, and ready to face another day in the Stars Hollow
"Just be careful to stay out of Kirk's way today. I don't want to have to
mediate another turf war between the two of you. Lorelai stepped into the room
and peeked over Rory's shoulder. "So, whatcha doing? Looking up dirty words on
"Please," Rory smirked. "I went to Yale. If I want to look up dirty words I'll
use the OED. Actually," she said quickly, not quite sure of why she didn't want
Lorelai to know the truth, "I was just checking to see if the second season of
Who's the Boss? is up on Hulu yet."
"Ah, yes. Alyssa Milano before the tattoos and the soft-core porn and the
supernatural powers." Lorelai tugged affectionately at Rory's ponytail. "Well,
if you can drag yourself away from the wonder that is Tony Danza in an apron,
our own domestic-but-manly man has left us a wondrous feast of extra-fluffy
chocolate-chip pancakes, extra-crispy bacon, and extra-caffeinated coffee."
"Have I told you how much I love that you managed to snag a man who cooks?"
"Oh, this is all for you," Lorelai smiled sweetly. "I told him what a long day
you have ahead of you, and I asked him to make all your favorites."
Rory stood up and stretched, trying to work the kinks out of her neck. "This
sudden burst of maternal affection wouldn't be some kind of ploy to get me to
tell you what's in the works for your birthday, would it?"
"Rory, I'm hurt," Lorelai exclaimed, placing her hand over her heart. "Do you
really think I would use a cheap food ploy to manipulate you, the beloved
daughter I brought into the world after forty-two hours of grueling labor and
raised with the sweat of my own brow, just to get the dirt on my birthday
"You're right. I totally would," Lorelai grinned. "Now, spill. What's Luke
planned for birthday? Surprise party? Romantic picnic? Dinner and dancing?"
"Whoa, whoa," Rory exclaimed, holding up her hands in defense. "Who says Luke
has planned anything? This is Luke, remember? Bad at birthdays, hates shopping
for gifts, thinks Hallmark is the first sign of the Apocalypse?"
"Yes, I'm familiar with Luke's Unabomber profile," Lorelai nodded, "but I also
know Luke better than anyone, and my finely-tuned Lukedar tells me there's
something brewing under that blue baseball cap."
"If there is, he hasn't shared it with me," Rory said, pushing Lorelai toward
the bedroom door. "Hey, did I hear Babette's voice earlier?"
"Yeah," Lorelai nodded as they walked into the kitchen. "She just ran home to
check on Apricot, but she's going to be back to join us for breakfast. Seems
that Morey's out of town for a few days and she just wants some company."
"And who makes better company than the fabulous Gilmore girls?"
"We'll do until someone else comes along," Lorelai said, pulling out a chair.
"Here. You sit, and I'll serve. I had Luke put extra extra chocolate chips in
your pancakes, just the way you like them."
Rory rolled her eyes. "Boy, you sure know how to wear an informant down, don't
you? Does the CIA know about you?"
"Rooooryyyy," Lorelai pouted.
"Mooooom," Rory said, mimicking Lorelai's tone.
"Come on. I'm dying here," Lorelai insisted, loading a plate with pancakes and
bacon. "I need to know what Luke has planned so I can be prepared for it."
"Well, yeah." Lorelai handed Rory her plate and sat down at the table. "You said
it yourself. Luke's horrible at birthdays. Remember his trip to the Chat Club to
shop for Rachel's birthday? And let us not forget that April's party was like
something out of a Soviet Bloc country before I took over."
"So, Luke's no Martha Stewart," Rory shrugged. "That's not exactly a news flash.
What's your point?"
"My point is that this is the first time Luke's ever gone out on a limb and
tried to plan a surprise for someone he cares about. Knowing Luke he'll put a
lot of thought and effort into it, and he'll probably be all excited about
pulling it off. But we also know that this kind of thing isn't exactly his
strong suit. If he's planned something lame I need to know now so that I can
brace myself and pretend to love it when it happens and not hurt his feelings.
C'mon, kid," Lorelai said, putting her hand over Rory's and looking her in the
eye. "This is important to me. And to Luke."
Rory held Lorelai's gaze for a moment, then burst out laughing. "You almost had
me," she said, shaking her head. "The hand thing was a nice touch, but the catch
in your voice at the end there was a little over-the-top."
"Rats," Lorelai hissed, snapping her fingers.
"You're slipping," Rory teased, taking a forkful of pancake. "I guess it's true
that we do slow down as we age."
"Ungrateful child," Lorelai muttered as she broke off a piece of bacon and
shoved it in her mouth.
"I hear ginkgo biloba does wonders for improving brain function in older
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
"Hey, Michel," Lorelai called as she walked into the inn later that day. She
stopped when she saw the sour look on Michel's face. "What's with you? President
Sarkozy leave yet another wife for an even younger girlfriend?"
"The Wellers in room eight want to know why we can't provide them with organic,
unbleached linens washed in fragrance-free detergent, the plumber can't get here
to look at the sink in room eleven until Monday, the new reservation program ate
the last four entries I tried to make, and—oh yes, did I mention I'm not even
supposed to be here today?"
"Yes, you did, and you don't have to worry. I will let you go in a little while
so you can go up to the roof and practice hockey with Randal and the rest of the
slackers," Lorelai sighed, rolling her eyes. "Okay, look. Take that set of beige
sheets with the flecks in them to the Wellers. Don't say they're organic, don't
say they're not organic. I'll get Luke to look at the sink sometime over the
weekend. And you just have to click on 'Save Reservation and Return to Main
Menu' to get the reservations back. Now, did we get any mail today, or were you
too busy working on your Basil Fawlty impression to notice?"
"Here," Michel sullenly picked up a small stack of envelopes next to the
computer and thrust them at Lorelai.
"Boy, you're just bucking to get 'Exceeds Expectations' in the employee attitude
section of your next review, aren't you?" Lorelai said as she opened the first
envelope. It was one of those generic, mass-produced birthday cards businesses
buy in bulk, and Lorelai smiled when she saw the stamped signature. "Aw, it's a
birthday card from Jerry's Linens. Isn't that sweet? They send me one every
"That's right," Michel smirked. "You're turning forty soon, aren't you?"
"Yup," Lorelai nodded. "On Monday."
"You know, there's a website you might find interesting," Michel said with an
evil grin. "It's called CosmeticProceduresForum.com. You can read all sorts of
patient reviews on different plastic surgeons and techniques, compare prices,
even search for a local doctor. I think you'd find it very useful."
"And how do you know so much about a plastic surgery website?" Lorelai retorted.
"You in the market for an eyebrow lift?"
"I myself don't have any need for such procedures and don't expect to for quite
some time yet," Michel said smugly, "but I thought a woman of your advancing
"Michel!" Lorelai turned to find Sookie standing by the stairs, looking aghast.
"Don't say that to Lorelai! Don't you know you never pick on a woman about her
"Sook, really, it's okay... "
"No it's not." Sookie glared at Michel as she took Lorelai's arm and practically
dragged her into the kitchen. "Come on, honey. I just made a fresh pot of coffee
and some lemon-blueberry muffins."
"You know," Sookie said as Lorelai poured a cup of coffee a few minutes later,
"it is okay to be freaked out about turning forty. It's a big deal."
"I'm not freaked out," Lorelai said, peeling the paper off a muffin. "I'm
actually really fine with it."
"You can admit it. Look at me. I've still got another year, and I'm already
starting to wig out a little."
"Sook, seriously," Lorelai mumbled with a mouthful of muffin. "I'm really... "
"I mean, sure, they talk and talk about how forty is the new thirty and age is
all in your mind, blah-blah-blah," Sookie went on, clearly not even listening to
Lorelai, "but everyone knows that's all a bunch of crap. Once you hit forty,
everything changes. Stuff that used to be up here," she gestured in the vicinity
of her chest, "ends up down here," she finished, dropping her hands down around
her waist, "and everything else shifts and spreads," she said, spreading her
arms well beyond her hips.
"Okay, Sookie... " Lorelai tried to interrupt, since Manny and the line cooks
were starting to stare, but by now Sookie was entering full meltdown mode.
"Oh, yeah, they can wave pictures of Diane Lane around and tell everyone how hot
women over forty can be," Sookie said, grabbing a random onion and chopping it
as if it were, in fact, Diane Lane's head, "but Diane Lane didn't pop out three
kids, run a kitchen full-time, and still have to come home at night and figure
out how to get the blueberry stains out of her husband's overalls." She threw
the remains of the onion away, picked up another one, and kept chopping. "It's
real easy to look hot when you've got someone doing your hair and make-up and
you've got thousands of dollars to spend on beauty products and you get private
Pilates lessons and you've got your plastic surgeon on speed-dial. Come back and
talk to me when you barely have the energy to wash your face at night and the
only moisturizer you can find in the house is Vaseline Intensive Care, Diane
Lorelai didn't say anything, knowing from long experience that once Sookie got
started it was best to let her run her course, like a case of the flu. She just
kept eating her muffin as Sookie's rant continued.
"And they tell you you can be sexy after forty," she cried, grabbing a bowl of
walnuts and blindly starting to crack them. "So you cut out pictures of Elle
MacPherson, and you shop at Victoria's Secret, and you light candles, but how
are you supposed to feel sexy when you look in the mirror and you see your
mother staring back at you?" Sookie stopped, finally winded from her outburst,
and looked at Lorelai in shock. "Oh my god, I'm gonna be forty!"
"I know, honey," Lorelai said, gently taking the nutcracker out of Sookie's
clenched hand and putting her arm around her. "How about we go for a walk, huh?
I think we two sexy, middle-aged broads could use some fresh air."
"Fresh air is good," Sookie said faintly as Lorelai led her out the back door.
"It's supposed to make your skin glow."
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
"The party is only two days away, so let's see where we are at with the
planning," Emily said.
Luke was at the diner with Rory and Emily, putting together that last-minute
details of Lorelai's surprise party that was two days away. It was one of their
final meetings; they, along with Sookie, had been secretly planning the event
for a month already. It was never easy, given Lorelai's curious and prodding
nature, and he was always on edge that she would walk into the diner at any
He was rather uncomfortable at the moment, having Emily in his diner, sitting
across from him and making veiled jabs at him. He could not wait for the
planning to end, after a month of working with her closely. He knew he had to
suck it up until it was all done, and luckily, he always had Rory there as his
"So, Sookie tells me the menu is complete, and the food and cake will be at
house before the party begins," Emily was going on, meticulously checking off
items of her excruciatingly long list as she spoke. "The linens will be
delivered on Monday at 2, so Rory, you will keep your mother occupied until the
"You bet, Grandma."
"I'm still waiting to hear from the catering and bartending staff, but that
should be fine. And the music," she trailed, and Luke swore he saw her shudder.
"There's still time to hire a string quartet. I can't stand the idea of CDs,
Rory, you know that."
"CDs are fine, Emily," Luke told her, then smiled reassuringly at Rory.
"Besides, there's no room in the living room for a band."
"Well that's a whole other story," Emily continued. "I'm still not sure about
the party being held in the living room. This is Lorelai's 40th birthday, not
that of a six-year-old! I've actually had the Rose Room booked for a few months
now, just in case, and it's ours with just one phone call." Emily looked
pointedly at Luke. "And money isn't a problem; Richard and I would be happy to
pay for it."
Luke sighed, relieved when a customer called him over for a re-fill.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
"So, are you feeling better now?" Lorelai asked Sookie as they walked through
the town square.
"Yeah," Sookie sighed. "I'm sorry I lost it like that. Boy, some friend I am,
huh? I'm trying to make you feel better about your birthday, and you end up
talking me off the ledge."
"Hey, that's what friends are for," Lorelai smiled, patting Sookie's shoulder.
"Besides, you've talked me off of plenty of ledges. Remember the Bad Perm
Meltdown of 1998?"
"Oh, yeah," Sookie laughed. "You looked just like Roseanne Roseannadanna."
"I prefer to think I looked like Amy Irving, but you get the point."
"I guess," Sookie replied. She looked at Lorelai curiously. "So, are you really
okay with the whole turning forty thing?"
"Yeah, I am," Lorelai nodded, and she knew she meant it. "I wouldn't be thirty
again for anything. I mean, don't get me wrong. I would love to have my
thirty-year-old body back, because I? Was built like a brick house when I was
"Oh, well, sure. Who wasn't?"
"But now I just feel... I dunno, like everything's finally coming together. I
have a beautiful, intelligent daughter who's an Ivy League graduate, I run a
very successful business with my best friend... "
"Aw, thanks, honey."
"... My relationship with my parents has somehow evolved from Kennedy/Kruschev
circa 1962 to Reagan/Gorbachev circa 1987, and I think that finally, after
twenty-seven years of dating, broken engagements, and a marriage that didn't
last much longer than Pamela Anderson's last two, I'm finally starting to get
the whole relationship thing down. I feel like I may actually be turning into a
grown up, and I have to say it feels really good."
"Good for you," Sookie cheered. "Now, will you be sure to give me the same
speech next year before my fortieth birthday?
"Absolutely," Lorelai smiled. She looked up as they were about to pass Doose's.
"Speaking of the grown-up relationship thing, I told Luke I'd pick up some
toothpaste and peroxide. You want to come in with me?"
They entered the store, and Sookie headed over to the dairy aisle while Lorelai
strolled through the health and beauty aids, where Taylor was busy dusting the
shelves and making sure the merchandise was lined up perfectly.
"Taylor, I don't know how to tell you this, but I think the Advil bottles are
two millimeters further out than the Aleve bottles. If you ask me, they're
trying to mount an insurrection."
"Well, hello, Lorelai," Taylor said, not taking Lorelai's bait. "What can I do
for you today?"
"Oh, nothing," Lorelai said, browsing through the toothpaste. "Just came in to
grab some peroxide and some stripe-flavored toothpaste."
"Well, don't forget to check out our unbeatable savings on dental floss while
you're here." Taylor brushed his hands off and laid his feather duster on a
nearby shelf. "Say, you have a birthday coming up soon, don't you?"
"Yes, I do. I'll be forty on Monday."
"That's what I thought," Taylor nodded. "You know, I think I have a new product
you may be interested in." He walked to the other end of the shelf and came back
holding a small, white jar with gold lettering. "I just got this in last week,"
he said, handing her the jar. "It's supposed to be the latest in age-defying
"Really," Lorelai sighed. "Age-defying. Huh."
"Yes, it's got free-radicals, or acetaminophen or something in it that all those
Hollywood starlets are always raving about."
"Taylor," Lorelai said, handing the jar back to him. "I'm really not in the
market for age-defying acetaminophen, but... "
"Oh, you say that now," Taylor shrugged, shoving the jar back at her, "but just
you wait. Now, I'm no advocate of cosmetic procedures, mind you. I can't stand
seeing these women with their foreheads full of that bopox and their eyes pulled
back to their ears. I believe we should leave our faces as the Good Lord created
them. But I do understand that a woman of a certain age still wants all the help
she can get to stay looking youthful."
"Well, I don't think I'm going to be getting 'bopox' any time soon, and I feel
plenty youthful," Lorelai said, handing the jar back to Taylor again, "but
"Tell you what." Taylor looked around as if to make sure he wasn't being
overheard. "Since your birthday is coming up and you've been a regular customer
for so many years, why don't you just take it as a gift, compliments of Doose's
Lorelai was about to tell Taylor where he could shove his age-defying birthday
present when Sookie came up behind her.
"Sweetie, I need to get back to the Inn and get the dinner prep going. Are you
ready to go?"
"Right behind you," She nodded. "Thanks for the cream, Taylor, but I have my own
age-defying system." She leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, "Every night
Luke draws me a bath full of the blood of local virgins."
The look on Taylor's face kept her laughing all the way back to the Inn.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
"Okay," Lorelai called as she sat on the couch watching a Top Chef re-run that
night, "you have to promise me that you will never make me eat a taco made out
"Do you even know what jicama is?" Luke asked as he came into the living room
carrying two bottles of beer.
"No, and while I admit it's fun to say 'jicama,' I firmly believe that if it's
not crunchy and made of corn or soft and made of flour it has not business
putting itself around taco fillings. It's not natural."
"Got it," Luke chuckled, handing her a bottle. "No jicama tacos."
They sat quietly until a commercial came on for Celebration City, the local
party supply chain. Lorelai smiled inwardly as she realized the ad provided the
ideal opening to dig up some dirt on her birthday surprise. "You know, I really
like those silver-and-blue streamers," she said, hoping she sounded nonchalant.
"They'd be great for this birthday party we're hosting at the inn next month."
"I think those were for a wedding anniversary," Luke replied, picking up his
bottle of beer from the coffee table.
"Yeah, but still, I think blue and silver is a nice color scheme for a birthday
party. Like, say, if I were having a party for my birthday I could go for a
whole silver and blue color scheme."
"As long as you also had Hello Kitty balloons, right?" Luke smirked. "But I'll
keep the silver and blue thing in mind if I ever do throw you a party."
Lorelai sank back against the couch cushions and sighed. When it came to secrets
and surprises, Luke was like Andy Garcia's vault in Ocean's Eleven, and at the
moment she didn't have the other ten guys to help her break in.
A minute later an Olay Regenerist commercial came on, reminding Lorelai of the
conversations she'd had earlier in the day. "Hey, do you think I'm getting old?"
Luke nearly choked on the sip of beer he'd been taking, and he turned to stare
at her. "Do I think you're getting old?"
"Yeah. Do you think I'm getting old?"
"Uh, no, I don't think you're getting old," Luke replied, looking at her as if
she'd just asked if she should take up skydiving. "What brought that on?"
"I don't know," Lorelai shrugged. "I mean, I still feel young. I feel like I'm
twenty five, and I think I still look pretty good."
"You look really good," Luke said firmly.
"Aw, thanks, babe," Lorelai smiled, patting his leg. "It's just that everywhere
I go lately someone's trying to console me about turning forty, or trying to
turn me on to something that's supposed make me look or feel younger, or telling
me that forty is the new thirty, and... " trailed off, not wanting to
articulate what had been tugging at the back of her mind all day.
"I just... I wonder if they're all right. Maybe they're all seeing me the way
I really am, and I'm not as young and fabulous as I thought."
"That's nuts," Luke said, putting his beer back on the table and turning toward
her. "You're the youngest person I know."
"You have to say that," Lorelai snorted. "You're sleeping with me."
"Doesn't make me blind or stupid," Luke insisted. "Okay, maybe a little stupid
sometimes," he chuckled.
"Thanks a lot," Lorelai cried, smacking him on the arm.
"Look," Luke said, reaching up to tuck a piece of hair out behind Lorelai's ear.
"You are always going to be young, no matter what age you are. We're gonna be in
our nineties, living in the nursing home—"
"Lifestyle complex for active seniors."
"Whatever," Luke replied, rolling his eyes. "You'll still be talking a mile a
minute, wearing your sparkly tops and your tight jeans, trying to get all the
other geezers up and dancing to some silly song by the Bang-Bangs."
Lorelai smiled at the sincerity of Luke's words and leaned in to kiss him. "Even
with the mixing up of two of the greatest girl groups of all time, that was just
about the sweetest thing you've ever said to me."
"I have my moments," Luke smirked, pulling her to him for another kiss.
"So, in our nineties, huh," Lorelai murmured against his lips.
"Uh-huh," Luke mumbled as he planted kisses along Lorelai's chin.
"That's, like, fifty years," she breathed.
"Um-hmm," Luke replied, nuzzling Lorelai's neck.
"That's a whole lot of togetherness," Lorelai sighed, running her hands through
Luke's hair. "You think you can handle it?"
Luke pulled back to look at her and grinned. "I can take it if you can."
Lorelai smiled, happily letting the day's events slip from her mind, and just
enjoyed spending this extra time with Luke. As she was about to suggest that
they perhaps take it up to the bedroom, she heard the clicking of the front door
latch. She whipped her head to see Babette enter the foyer and then the living
"Hey, dolls!" she said happily, sitting onto the lounge chair as if she did that
every evening. "How are you two crazy kids tonight?
Lorelai saw Luke's head roll back in frustration. "Be good," she warned him
under her breath and gave him a gentle poke in the ribs. "How are you,
"I'm alright, sugah. I just got a call from Morey who said to tell you that he
thinks he saw someone who looked like Bono at the Blue Note tonight, and he
thought it'd be something you'd appreciate."
"Lorelai smiled widely. "Omigod! Really? Wow, so was it him?"
Babette just stared at her. "No, honey, it was just some guy who looked like
"Oh, well, that's very sweet of Morey. You'll thank him for me, won't you
"I sure will." She paused happily and leaned back into the chair. "So, what do
you kids plan on doing tonight?"
Lorelai peered over at Luke, whose eyes widened in glee. "Actually," he began.
She elbowed him in the stomach, the air gushing out of his mouth with a groan.
"Oh, nothing," she told her. "We're just talking about the town's concerns over
my turning 40."
Babette nodded her head sadly. "Oh, sugah. I know exactly how you feel," she
began, with a sympathetic tone in her voice. "When I turned 40, everything
started going wrong. My first gray hairs started showing, which was when I
started with these weekly dye jobs. Then the girls started sagging a bit, and
that's when sex with Morey kinda was never the same again..." She paused and
looked at Lorelai with wide eyes. "You must be so terrified."
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Rory stepped out of Weston's into the bright sunshine and took a deep, grateful
breath of fresh air. It had been a long Sunday morning of baking cookies and
serving scones, and she was glad to be away from the smell of sugar and pastry
dough. As she shoved her Weston's apron in her backpack and rummaged for her
bookstore nametag, she debated whether she had enough time to grab a chicken
chow mein sandwich at Al's before starting her afternoon shift at the bookstore.
A glance at her watch told her she barely had enough time to grab a can of soda
and bag of chips from Doose's, and she had just turned toward the market when
her cellphone rang from the depths of her purse.
"Hold on," she muttered, frantically digging through her bag. "I'm coming, I'm
coming." Her fingers finally made contact with the phone and she pulled it out
of her bag, noticing the unfamiliar number on the display.
"Is this the phone of Rory Gilmore, up-and-coming reporter and all-star bagel
hockey player?" asked a vaguely familiar male voice.
"Who is this?" Rory demanded, trying her best to place the voice.
"Ouch," the man laughed. "I know it's been a few months, but I didn't think I
was that forgettable."
The tumblers suddenly clicked into place, and Rory's eyes widened. "Patrick?"
"Thank god," Patrick teased. "For a minute there I was thinking I leave no
"Oh, you leave an impression," Rory said, unconsciously smoothing her hair and
tugging at her shirt. "I'm just surprised to hear from you, that's all."
"Yeah, well, Darshana and I were talking yesterday and we realized neither of us
had been in touch with you since you left the press corps. After we finished
flagellating ourselves for being such horrible friends, I volunteered to be the
advance man. So, how's it going, Gilmore? What are you doing with yourself these
"Oh, you know, my family keeps me pretty busy," Rory stuttered, mortified that
anyone she'd met when she was a professional journalist on the campaign trail
would find out she'd spent the past few months shelving books and counting
towels and baking cookies. "And I'm doing some writing here and there."
"That's great," Patrick said. "I'd love to read some of your stuff if you want
to send it to me."
For a split second Rory debated telling Patrick about her article, but then
thought better of it. "Sure. That would be great," she lied. "How about you?"
she asked, desperate to change the subject. "Looks like things got interesting
just as I left."
"Yeah, it looks like political campaigns will always be interesting as long as
the candidates' pastors keep giving potentially incendiary sermons and the
sermons turn up on YouTube," Patrick chuckled. "Actually, I might be leaving
myself pretty soon."
"Really?" Rory asked in surprise. "I thought you loved the campaign trail."
"I do," Patrick replied. "It's just that... Well, I haven't told anyone here
yet, but I'm being recruited by the Times for a permanent gig."
Rory stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, her mouth agape. "The Times? As in
The New York Times?"
"That's what the nice man at the interview said," Patrick laughed. "Seems they
read a few of my Obama pieces and liked them, and they may have a place for me
at their national news desk."
"Patrick, that... that's incredible," Rory breathed.
"It's not a done deal yet," Patrick said quickly, as if he didn't want to jinx
anything. "And it's a very junior position. I don't think I'll even get my own
byline the first year or so."
"Who cares?" Rory cried, shaking her head in amazement. "It's the
"I know," Patrick said, and Rory could hear the combination of awe and pride in
his voice. "I don't think it's really sunk in yet. Next week I'm—" Patrick
broke off, and Rory could hear the din of voices growing in the background.
"Look, I hate to brag and run, but they're getting ready to start the briefing.
I guess I'd better go."
"Okay," Rory said. "Well, it was good to hear from you, Patrick. And
"Thanks, Gilmore. And don't be a stranger, okay?"
Rory walked on, still in a daze over Patrick's news. He'd done what most
journalists dream about. He'd been recruited by The New. York. Times. She shook
her head in wonder as she approached Doose's, then stopped short as she caught a
look at herself in the market's large plate-glass windows. She sighed as she
regarded the pony-tailed, jeans-clad, nametag-wearing girl that stared back at
her, then hoisted her bags more securely on her shoulder and stepped into the
market in search of lunch.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Lorelai was currently upstairs getting dressed while Luke was downstairs getting
ready to head to the diner and his meeting with Emily, Rory and Sookie about the
final touches to Lorelai's party. The party was the next day, but they still had
some last minute decisions to make.
Luke's cell phone rang and he looked at his caller ID. He saw that it was Rory,
and he quickly looked up the staircase for any signs of Lorelai before
"Hey, Luke," she responded. "Is this a good time to talk?"
"Yeah, we've got a few minutes," he told her. "What's up? Aren't we meeting at
the diner in 30 minutes?"
"That's what I called to tell you," said Rory, and Luke could hear the hesitancy
in her voice. "I can't make it. I've got another shift at the bookstore that I
couldn't get away from."
Luke sighed. He needed Rory there, to act as a buffer against Emily. He knew
Emily wouldn't be as vindictive towards him if her granddaughter was there. He
"Oh," said Luke, disappointed. "I guess that's, alright. As long as Sookie's
"That's another thing," said Rory. "Jackson had a situation at the greenhouse,
so Sookie has to stay home and watch the kids."
Luke gulped. "So you're saying it's basically just me and your grandmother."
"That is the gist of my phone call, yes."
"Rory, you can't do this to me," said Luke, and he realized he was begging.
"Your grandmother's going to tear me to shreds. She's going to take all my ideas
and change them, and I'm just going to sit there and take it!"
"Suck it up, Luke," said Rory. "You're a grown man, and you can take her, I know
you can. You'll be fine. Listen, I have to start my shift. I'll see you later."
"Rory!" Luke hissed. "Wait!" But all he got was a dial tone.
"Luke?" he heard from behind him.
He turned around to see Lorelai standing at the foot of the staircase, staring
at him curiously, with a twinkle in her eye. "What did Rory want?"
"Rory?" he said in an attempt to be casual. "That was, um, a wrong number." He
took her arm and guided her to the kitchen. "You hungry?" he asked, deflecting
her thoughts from questions about the phone call.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Luke was sitting at a corner table at the diner with Emily. It was not a lie to
say that Emily Gilmore terrified him. Especially now, with that determined look
in her eyes.
Luke figured she loved taking the reins on this project: he assumed that's how
it went down with all the other events that took place at the mansion. But Luke
was looking forward to planning something special for Lorelai, without all the
lavishness that Emily was evidently planning in her head.
He and Rory had been successful at thwarting Emily's attempts to hire a string
quartet and hold the party in a large ballroom. They gave in on having a few
waiters, to appease her, but he had no intention of letting her browbeat him
into any other big ideas.
"Now," Emily was saying. "I planned on having a large champagne fountain, as
well as a chocolate fountain for people to dip strawberries and such into."
Luke's ears perked up at that. "Excuse me? We never agreed to that."
"Oh, it's a gift from Richard and I," she explained. "We're sure Lorelai will
"Emily," Luke began evenly, trying to hold in his anger. "We never agreed to
champagne and chocolate fountains. Besides, there's no room in the house; where
on earth are we supposed to put two large fountains?"
"If we were having the party at the Rose Room we wouldn't have a problem," Emily
muttered under her breath.
"That's it!" Luke said rather loudly, prompting the few patrons in the diner to
stare at him. Emily looked at Luke as if he were insane and, frankly, he
probably looked it. "I am tired of you belittling me and the way I am trying to
plan this party. Rory and I appreciate your help with it, but I make the rules
and I say there will be no chocolate fountain!"
"I am hardly judging your character, Luke," Emily told him. "I am just more
experienced at throwing lavish events than you are."
"That's just it!" Luke exclaimed. "This isn't a large, lavish party. It is a
simple party at home, and that is all Lorelai would want. Why must you infest it
with these extravagant things that we all know Lorelai won't even like?"
Luke noticed a look quickly pass through Emily's face, either sadness or hurt.
He had never seen that look before, and he immediately knew that he just said
something extremely wrong.
"Emily, I—" he began, unsure of what to say. Apologize? Say that it came out
wrong, that it wasn't what he had meant to say? He knew he needed to fix the
situation, but before he could complete his sentence, he looked out the window
and spotted Lorelai coming towards the diner. Shit, he thought. He had worked
long and hard to make sure he kept the entire event a surprise, and wasn't going
to screw it up now.
He jumped out of his seat. "Lorelai's coming! You have to go."
Emily was less frantic, but she also got out of her chair. "Go where?"
"Here, crawl behind the counter," he said desperately.
"I most certainly will not!"
"Fine, then exit through the back door."
She looked skeptical. "What's back there?"
"What?" she exclaimed. "Surely, you're joking."
As the bell jingled, announcing Lorelai's arrival, he quickly shoved Emily out
the backdoor as she protested with a yelp. He spun around to face Lorelai.
"Hey!" he exclaimed in an attempt to sound casual.
"Hi," she said, looking at the back door and then at him strangely. "Was that my
Luke let out a nervous laugh, shook his head, and went behind the counter to get
the coffee pot.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
"You know," Lorelai said as she and Rory crossed the town square late Monday
afternoon, "you have many gifts and talents, but I gotta say that subterfuge
ain't one of them."
"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," Rory retorted, idly swinging
her shopping bags in an obvious—and not wholly successful—attempt at
"Oh, please," Lorelai smirked. "You've been randomly dragging me around town all
afternoon in a pitifully transparent attempt to keep me occupied while Luke puts
the finishing touches on my birthday surprise. Really amateur move, kid."
Lorelai shook her head remorsefully. "I expected more from you."
"I haven't been 'randomly dragging you around town all afternoon,'" Rory huffed.
"Every place we've gone today has been for a legitimate purpose."
"Really?" Lorelai demanded, giving her daughter a sidelong glance. "You had a
legitimate purpose for going into the unicorn store?"
"Hey, I've needed a new unicorn nightlight for a long time," Rory argued.
"Now, throughout our little sojourn today I've made a few observations, and
through my highly developed powers of deduction I've come to some brilliant
conclusions. Shall I share them with you?"
"Would you like your magnifying glass and briarwood pipe before you begin?"
"No need, my dear Watson. No need." Lorelai paused to wave at Miss Patty, who
was standing in the doorway to the dance studio, enjoying a smoke, before she
continued. "Okay, Exhibit A: You've obviously been assigned to keep me
distracted all afternoon, which means I have to be out of the way for a
considerable chunk of time, like the time needed to complete medium-to-large
scale preparations, which leads me to one conclusion."
"That you've seen one too many reruns of CSI: Miami," Rory snarked, tossing the
empty coffee cup she'd been carrying into the trashcan in front of the post
office as they passed.
"First of all, David Caruso is a god of sunglass emoting—but your feeble
attempt at mockery will not sway me from my own detective work. Now, to
continue. Exhibit B," Lorelai proclaimed, gesturing toward the diner. "We have
been in direct view of Luke's all afternoon, with no sight of festivity finery
or of the man himself. This clearly means the fiesta is being held somewhere
other than the diner and that Luke is currently on-site overseeing the final
hanging of streamers and blowing up of balloons."
"Or it could mean it's his day off."
"The above observations also apply to the gazebo and to Miss Patty's," Lorelai
continued, "either of which would make a primo party destination, but neither of
which shows any sign of pre-party activity, covert or otherwise."
"That's because everyone's busy working on a town petition to have you
committed," Rory muttered, earning her a not-so-gentle nudge in the ribs from
"Now, we have conspicuously avoided our house and the Dragonfly, which makes
them the most likely venues for my birthday soiree—except that the inn is
hosting a big antique book restorer's convention this week, which means—"
Lorelai stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and jumped up and down, drawing
stares from Mrs. Cassini and East Side Tillie over at the newsstand. "Birthday
blow-out at the Crap Shack!" she squealed, clapping her hands.
Rory shifted her bags in her hands and rolled her eyes at Lorelai. "You're
pretty proud of yourself right now, aren't you?"
"Uh-huh," Lorelai nodded, grinning broadly. "I'm right, aren't I?"
"I can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of your conclusion," Rory stated.
"I will, however, say that if a surprise party were in the works for tonight,
it's possible that it could be held at the house."
"I knew it!" Lorelai crowed, but Rory held up her hand.
"Now, a party in celebration of your birth were to take place at the house this
evening, it's very likely that Luke would have put a lot of effort into making
it special and keeping it a surprise, and it would probably mean a lot to him
for it to go off without a hitch. If that were the case—and I'm not saying it
is and I'm not saying it isn't—then it might be a very nice thing for Luke if
you were to pretend to be surprised and pleased. Assuming that this hypothetical
party even happens," she finished, giving Lorelai a pointed look.
Lorelai's face softened, and a smile played at the edge of her lips. "If by some
small chance that would possibly happen to be the case, then I would definitely
pretend to be surprised—and I wouldn't need to pretend to be pleased."
"Good." Rory nodded. "Now, I have to stop by the bookstore. You want to come in
"Okay, see, you don't have to keep up the charade when it's just us."
"Since when do I need to make up a reason to go into a bookstore?" Rory laughed.
"Besides, I want to see if Andrew's made up next week's schedule yet.
"In that case, lead the way, my dear Watson."
The bookstore was practically empty when Lorelai and Rory entered. The only two
people in the place were Andrew and Gypsy, who seemed to have been interrupted
in the middle of a decidedly... intimate conversation. They each gave the
girls a wave and then retreated to their separate corners, Andrew scurrying into
the back room, and Gypsy disappearing into the spirituality section.
Rory turned to Lorelai with a mischievous grin. "What do your brilliant powers
of detection make of that, Holmes?"
"The game is most definitely afoot, Watson," Lorelai murmured. "Okay, I'm going
to head over to the travel section," she continued in her normal voice. "I want
to see if any of the Connecticut guides have updated their Dragonfly
"I'll be at the magazine section," Rory replied.
"And I'll be in Scotland afore ye."
A few minutes later, Lorelai had found the write-ups on the Dragonfly in both
Fodor's and Lonely Planet's guides to Connecticut. Lorelai beamed when she read
their rave reviews of the inn, and she made a mental note to tell Sookie that
Fodor's had singled out the weekend dinner menu as "combining the best of
contemporary trends, classic techniques, and fresh, local ingredients."
She placed the books back on the shelf and turned to go in search of Rory,
coming face to face with a still-flustered Gypsy.
"Oh, hey, Lorelai. How's it goin'?"
"I'm fine, thanks," Lorelai smiled. "How are you?"
"Good, good," Gypsy replied, not quite looking Lorelai in the eye. "Oh, happy
Gypsy relaxed a little, apparently relieved that Lorelai wasn't going to ask
about... whatever there was to ask about. "Forty, right?" she asked, looking
at Lorelai closely.
Lorelai groaned inwardly, dreading what she was sure was coming next. "Yes, I'm
forty. Yes, I've heard that there are all manner of miraculous anti-aging
products available these days. Yes, I'm aware that Diane Lane and Elle
MacPherson are both hot and over forty. And yes, I've been told that forty is
the new thirty."
Gypsy stared at Lorelai as if debating whether to call the nice men with the
butterfly nets. "Ooookaaaay."
"I'm sorry, Gypsy," Lorelai sighed. "It's just that all week people have been
telling me that turning forty isn't a big deal, or trying to convince me that
turning forty is a big deal, and I'm just a little touchy, I guess." She looked
at Gypsy curiously. "Was turning forty hard for you?"
"Are you kidding?" Gypsy snorted. "Forty was my best birthday ever."
"Oh, yeah," Gypsy nodded. "Went down to Fort Lauderdale for a vacation and had a
fling with this tattoo artist named Slade. He was... twenty-eight, I think.
"Oh, my," Lorelai breathed, not really sure if there was really an appropriate
way to respond to such a revelation.
"That was a great weekend," Gypsy said, still smiling at the memory. She shot a
covert glance at Andrew, who had just come out of the back room with a stack of
books. "But don't spread that around, okay?"
♫ ♫ ♫
Rory stood thumbing through the New Yorker, mentally comparing her writing with
that of each of the articles she scanned. She came up short in each contest, and
finally dropped the magazine back into its slot."
"Okay, Rory, I have you closing next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I gave
you the afternoon shift on Sunday," Andrew said, coming to stand next to Rory.
"Does that work for you?"
"Yeah, that sounds fine," Rory replied absently, still staring at the glossy
covers in front of her.
"Scoping out your next publication site, huh?" Andrew grinned.
"Oh, no," Rory tore her eyes away from the magazines and turned to Andrew. "I
was just... you know, browsing."
"Hey, your byline's gonna be on one of those covers before you know it."
Rory blushed at the praise, but she shook her head ruefully. "Oh, I don't know
"Oh, sure it will," Andrew smiled. "You know, the whole town read your Obama
articles when they came out. We were all so proud of you. You're really gonna go
Rory smiled wanly as she fought down a rising wave of panic at the expectations
people insisted on laying on her.
"Okay, kid, you ready to blow this Popsicle stand?" Lorelai called as she came
around the corner. "No offense, Andrew."
"None taken, Lorelai. See ya later, Rory."
When Andrew was safely out of earshot, Lorelai leaned in to Rory and whispered,
"There is definitely something going on there."
"Huh?" Rory asked, still distracted by her conversation with Andrew. "Something
going on where?" She shook herself out of her daze and looked up to see her
mother frowning at her in concern.
"You okay, hon?"
"Yeah, it's just... " Rory bit her lip and shook her head. "It's nothing. I'm
She could still feel Lorelai's gaze on her a moment later when Lorelai looped
her arm through Rory's and drew her toward the door of the bookstore. "Come with
me," Lorelai demanded in her best "I'm the Mom and I Said So" voice.
Rory followed Lorelai across the town square and up the steps of the gazebo.
"Sit," Lorelai commanded, grasping Rory by the shoulders and gently pushing her
down onto one of the benches. "Speak."
"Will you give me a Milk-Bone if I do?" Rory asked, rolling her eyes.
"Yes, and if you're extra-good I'll give you a sparkly collar and a nice chew
toy." Lorelai piled their shopping bags and purses onto one end of the bench and
sat down beside Rory. "Now, what's going on with you?"
Rory glanced around the gazebo, studiously avoiding her mother's gaze. "What do
"I mean that for the past few days you've been all secretive and squirrelly, and
your mood swings have rivaled Britney Spears's. Now, while I can attribute some
of the weirdness to the covert planning of my birthday party, I do not, contrary
to popular opinion, think everything is about me." She reached out to stroke
Rory's arm. "Talk to me."
Rory sat silently, trying to make sense of the thoughts swirling around in her
head. "I don't know, Mom, I just... I just don't know what I'm doing here, I
" 'Here' as in Stars Hollow, or 'here' as in your whole existence on Earth?"
"Both," Rory said with a helpless shrug. "I just feel like everyone's moving and
growing and doing things with their lives but me. You have the inn and the spa
expansion and Luke, and Lane has the twins and the band, and Paris has med
school and Doyle. I mean, even Kirk is getting married and planning a family,
and meanwhile I'm living at home and futzing around town like a
"Okay, first of all, Kirk will never have it more together than you, even if you
decided to shave your head and sell flowers at the airport for a living."
Lorelai looked at Rory in confusion. "I'm getting a serious case of deja-vu
here. Didn't we have this conversation not too long ago? I thought you were fine
with what you were doing. You were looking forward to taking time to figure out
what you really wanted."
"I was okay with it," Rory affirmed, staring at her hands. "But then Patrick
"That's the one," Rory nodded. "Only it seems that he may be
Patrick-from-The-New-York-Times Patrick pretty soon."
Lorelai let out a low whistle. "Wow," she said, looking decidedly impressed. She
glanced at Rory, and her face fell. "Oh, hon... "
"No, no, I'm not jealous," Rory insisted. "I mean, of course I'm jealous, but in
that general 'Who wouldn't want to work for The New York Times?' kind of way."
She picked at the button on the bottom of her jacket as she tried to the find
words to express all her self-doubt and confusion. "After I talked to him it was
if I suddenly got this clear view of my life over the past few months and I
began to wonder if maybe I'm not 'weighing my options' so much as I'm burying my
head in the sand."
Rory looked at Lorelai in surprise. " What do you mean, 'Oh'?"
Lorelai sat quietly for a moment, as if debating what to say next, then turned
to face Rory more directly. "Okay, I'm going say some things, but before I do I
want you to promise not to get hurt or mad and to remember that I love you and
you have made me more proud than any mother has a right to be."
Rory let out a feeble laugh, taken aback at her mother's uncharacteristic
directness. "Why do I think I'm not going to like this?"
"You probably won't," Lorelai said with a sad smile, "but I'm going to say it
anyway. Sometimes I worry about you, kid," she said softly.
Rory's cheeks flamed and she looked back down at her hands. "You do?"
"Yeah, I do. You know, when you were growing up you were the most determined,
focused person I'd ever known, child or adult. You knew what you wanted and
where you were going, and you were absolutely committed to getting there, no
matter what the obstacles or how hard you had to work to get there. You wanted
to be Christiane Amanpour, and nothing was going to stop you."
"Things change, Mom," Rory answered defensively. "People grow up, and most of
them don't end up being what they wanted to be when they were six years old."
Lorelai shook her head. "I'm not talking about you becoming a journalist," she
replied. "I'm talking about that spark, that total belief in yourself that used
to be so much a part of who you are. I mean, look at what you did at Chilton.
That first year, all the odds were against you. You were new to the whole prep
school thing, Headmaster Charleston was practically daring you to fall on your
face, and Paris Gellar made it her life's mission to make you as miserable as
"And they almost succeeded, too," Rory chuckled.
"But they didn't," Lorelai stressed. "That's my point. No matter how hard or
scary it was, or how much you may have stumbled that first year, you didn't let
that stop you. You walked through that big, scary oak door and stood at the top
of that big, fancy staircase and said, 'This is Rory's house, yo!'"
Rory looked at Lorelai dubiously. "'Rory's house?'"
"Hey, I'm making a point here." Lorelai stared out into the town square for a
few moments before going on. "But then... I don't know if it was getting to
Yale and discovering you were a big fish in an ocean full of other big fishes,
or if it was being away from home and Stars Hollow for the first time, but
somewhere along the line you seemed to lose that confidence and determination.
Instead of toughing it out and fighting for what you wanted, you started
retreating every time things got difficult. You make a mistake with Dean, and
you take off to Europe for the summer. Some pompous windbag tells you that you
don't have what it takes to be a journalist, and you drop out of Yale. You don't
get the Times fellowship, and you come home and pull the covers up over your
head. It turns out campaign reporting isn't all it's cracked up to be, and
"Okay, okay, I get it!" Rory cried, wiping furiously at the tears that had begun
to fall as her mother talked. She drew a shuddering breath, trying to pull
herself together. "I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment," she whispered, feeling
like a contrite four-year-old.
Lorelai ran a comforting hand over Rory's hair. "Oh, hon, you could never
disappoint me. Ever. I'd just like to see some of the old Rory back."
"The old Rory?" Rory asked, looking at her mother through her tears.
"Yeah, the old Rory. The Rory who knew she wanted to go to an Ivy League college
for as long as she'd known what the Ivy League was and didn't stop until she got
there. The Rory who transferred from a humble small town public school and
knocked a hoity-toity prep school on its butt. The Rory who set goals and
believed in her abilities to meet those goals." Lorelai leaned down and peered
into Rory's down-turned face. "I know she's still in there. I still see these
great, dazzling glimpses of her every once in a while. I just think it'd be kind
of nice if she came back to stay."
Rory leaned back and ran her hands through her hair, weighing her mother's
words. "I was going to submit my article to Salon, she said softly."
"Really? That's great."
"But what if they don't like it?" Rory demanded, hating how plaintive she
"Then they don't like it. Then you submit it to Slate or The New Yorker or
Rory laughed, accidentally inhaling a mass of tears and snot, and looked at her
mother dubiously. "Bitch?"
Lorelai shrugged. "Okay, you'll revise it so it's a witty feminist commentary on
contemporary pop culture, then you'll submit it to Bitch." She smiled and
stroked Rory's hair again. "So, 'Come to Jesus' moment over?"
"I think I've seen the light, Reverend Lorelai," Rory smiled. She stood up and
stretched her arms over her head, then gave her face a vigorous rub. "You want
to hit the mall now? I need to pick up some stuff at the Clinique counter."
"In other words, we have at least another hour to kill before my party," Lorelai
grinned, standing up and taking Rory's hand to pull her up off the bench.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
At the house, Emily's hired help were getting everything ready for the party,
moving the furniture around, setting food in the kitchen, hauling in the
chocolate and champagne fountains. He'd figured Emily would still bring those
in, despite his protests. And he didn't blame her, after the way he'd spoken to
Luke was trying to find a chance to speak to Emily and apologize for his words
and behavior the day before, but she was too busy ordering everyone around,
discussing the menu with Sookie and purposely ignoring him.
He felt useless in the situation, and figured he'd be productive and went into
the kitchen to see how the food was coming along.
♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
Later that evening, the party was in full swing. Lorelai seemed happily
surprised—although he had an inkling that Rory may have tipped her off—and
everything was going smoothly.
Lorelai had spent most of the party mingling with her friends and neighbours,
walking around the living room, looking at every party detail, big and small.
She marveled at it all, much to Luke's joy, grabbing hold of his hand and
teasing him for basically organizing a town event.
After the cake had been served, Lorelai talked animatedly with Rory, Sookie and
Luke, Emily standing afar with Richard.
"Aw, I knew you guys were planning something. Next time, don't get Rory to keep
me occupied before the party. She kinda sucks at it."
"I tried. Could you not keep your mouth shut and just act surprised?"
"Hey, I am still blown away here. Seriously, guys: this party is amazing. The
banner? Sweetie, it's top notch. And the cake? Sookie, you really outdid
yourself this year."
"Aw, it was nothing Lorelai! Hiding the cake from you was the hard part!"
"And that chocolate fountain!" Lorelai exclaimed, having made the trip for
chocolate-covered goodies five times already. "Whose idea was that?"
Luke peered over at Emily nearby, who was trying to act as if she weren't paying
attention to their conversation.
Luke knew that credit had to be given where it was due. He had to admit, Emily
had really made the party what it was, and thought maybe that this was a proper
time to make amends.
"That was actually your mother's idea..." Luke told her, and he noticed Emily
looking at him.
Lorelai's eyes softened. "Really?" she asked, and then turned to look at her
mother. Never had he seen Lorelai be so touched by anything her mother had done.
He had his hand on the small of Lorelai's back and gave her a gentle push, and
she excused herself from the group and walked over to her parents.
"Hey, Mom. You and Dad having a good time?"
"A wonderful time," said Richard jovially, eating his second slice of birthday
"And, Mom? Thanks for helping to plan this," she told her. "It's not a DAR event
or anything, but it looks great."
"I take it you like the chocolate fountain," Emily suggested with a smile.
Lorelai smiled. "I do. But, screw the fountain; I love those candles by the
mantle. Six inches apart?"
♫ ♫ ♫
Lorelai stood by the chocolate fountain, chatting with Sookie, when she noticed
Babette and Morey walking towards her.
"Morey!" she exclaimed. "You're back; I thought you still had a few more days in
New York before coming back."
"Aw, sugah," Babette replied for him. "The singer got a case of the laryngitis,
and the sax player broke his arm! Their final gigs got canceled, so he came home
early. Not that I'm complaining!"
"Oh, that's horrible, Morey," said Lorelai sincerely. "But we really missed you,
and I guess you'll be taking Babette away from me now."
"Aw, doll, an ol' broad like me must've been cramping your style; you must be
happy to get rid of me!"
"Never, Babette! It's been fun having you over. Be sure to still stop by, the
both of you."
"Will do," responded Babette. C'mon, Morey. My feet are itching to dance!"
"Okay," was all Morey said, and they headed into the living room.
♫ ♫ ♫
Luke stood by the fireplace, cursing at himself for leaving Lorelai's side. The
moment he had extracted himself from her, Kirk was on him like a leech, asking
him his opinion on how to woo Lulu on their three-month wedding anniversary.
Luke pondered a way to get out of this awkward conversation with Kirk, when he
spotted Emily alone at the dessert table. Figuring that dealing with Emily was
less painful than his current situation, Luke interrupted Kirk just as he
started listing the various sexual positions that he and Lulu had yet to try.
"That's great, Kirk," Luke told him. "I'm sure you'll figure it out. Now if
you'll excuse me..." he trailed off, making it to the other side of the living
"Um, hi Emily, he said nervously. He saw her look up at him, a look of distaste
on her face.
"Hello, Luke," was all she said, as she went back to cutting up her slice of
"Listen," he began. "I know what I said yesterday was uncalled for. I mean, you
and I may never agree on anything, but I know you and I both wanted a great
party for Lorelai, and I'm just sorry that I underestimated your motives."
"My motives?" Emily asked him, putting down her pie plate.
"Yeah, um, see I just figured you just like shooting my ideas down and
criticizing me because you don't like me," Luke said, hating that he sounded so
insecure. "But I figure that you just like things big and elaborate and, hey, I
should've figured Lorelai would've been all over the idea of a chocolate
Emily arched an eyebrow. "So Lorelai liked the fountain and you felt it
necessary to suggest I was right?"
"Yes. No," Luke continued nervously. "I realized yesterday that I spoke to you
out of line, and I'd just like to thank you for everything you did to help me
and Rory out."
Emily kept on staring at Luke, and he just stood there, dumbly. When she still
had not said anything after a minute, Luke felt dismissed, so he turned to walk
"For the record," he heard her say, and he turned to look at her. "I do not
dislike you. I know you know that I never thought you were a suitable match for
Lorelai, and I told you that my approval of this union didn't seem to matter to
Lorelai. However, I see it matters to you, and I appreciate that. While there
may be a few things that I wish could change, I hope you know that Richard and I
both have quite a bit of respect for you."
Luke was dumbfounded. Never had he heard Emily compliment him in any way, except
maybe once when she told him the salad at the diner was "fine".
"That's... nice to hear," Luke said with a smile. "Thank you Emily."
She nodded. "Just assure me, however, that there will be a string quartet
someday, if ever, at your wedding."
Luke tried not to roll his eyes. "I'll, um, do my best."
♫ ♫ ♫
After what felt like a boatload of food, drinks and cake, Lorelai was happily
relaxed as she sat at the foot of the stairs with Sookie and Rory. Presents were
still next on the list, but while a handful of townies were getting their groove
on on the dance floor, the ladies just sat there, soaking it all in.
"So, Mom," said Rory. "The big 4-0 has come and gone. You still feeling good
"Of course I am, kid," she told her daughter. "Why? You're trying to bum me out
about it. You can try, but it ain't gonna work, kiddo."
"I'm just saying," teased Rory. "You never know when Mom jeans will be around
"Lorelai Leigh Gilmore!" said Lorelai in mock indignance. "Do not even joke
about Mom jeans. You're genetically predisposed to get this body when you turn
40, as well, missy, so don't jinx it!"
"Your mom's right, Rory," said Sookie. "I wish we could all look like that."
Lorelai swatted Sookie's arm. "Sookie, you look great after three kids."
Sookie smiled. "I know," she said. "But, you're lucky. You had your only child
22 years ago, and you'll never have to go through weight gain during and after
pregnancy again. I envy you."
Lorelai shifted uncomfortably. "We'll, I wouldn't call myself lucky," she said,
then switching the subject away from kids. "Besides, as Luke says, I may look
good, but my food intake over the past 40 years will probably cut my life
"Well, you'll make a pretty corpse," offered Rory.
"So, I guess Sheryl Crow isn't the only person who makes her 40s look
damn good," said Sookie.
"What can I say?" said Lorelai. "Forty's the new forty."
To be continued...
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