Family Feudalism

Chapter 15

Rory woke up with a start. She looked around the room, trying to remember where she was. She saw her desk and recognized her bedspread. She’d spent so much time in hotels over the years, she sometimes started her day figuring out where she was. The past couple weeks, the travel was for job interviews. She’d gone on a few. She sighed and rolled over, blinking a few times and registered it was evening.

She’d had that stupid dream again. It probably couldn’t qualify as recurring, exactly, since it kept changing a little each time. At first she could see Tristan and a faceless woman. The next time they had a child. Rory was a silent observer, just watching someone else’s life. More recently, there was another kid. Tristan looked happy enough in these dreams. So, bully for him, Rory thought. The dream was different this week, but she couldn’t put her finger on it what it was. Tristan and the faceless woman’s brood didn’t grow anymore, so Rory wasn’t sure what had changed. If she dwelled on it for too long, a lump formed in her throat. So she resolved not to think about it as she sat up.

Her room had a few boxes sitting on the floor. She’d been packing up her books. She didn’t have a job or her own place to live yet, but she was getting ready, none the less. Her first job after college had started abruptly, she wanted to be ready if something similar happened. She went to her closet and pulled out a box. She opened it to find old school work. She couldn’t believe it was still around. Maybe the work should go in her shrine, she thought dryly. She shoved the box back in the closet and walked out of her room. She followed the sound of the television coming from the living room.

“Hey,” Lorelai said, looking up. “You were sleeping when I got home, and I didn’t want to wake you.”

Rory sat down on the couch as her mother flipped through the channels, stopping at the evening news. They listened to a report about a Hartford license bureau, but after a minute, Lorelai changed the channel.

Rory turned to her, frowning. “Hey.”

“What?”

“She was in the middle of her report.”

“So? Her story was boring,” Lorelai said. She nodded toward the television. “Here’s a different reporter. Let’s see if she has something more interesting to say.”

Rory argued, “The other reporter probably didn’t get to decide what she was going to do. It isn’t her fault she got a story about driver’s license renewals.”

“I’m sorry,” Lorelai said, pointing the remote at the television. “I’ll turn it back.”

Rory continued, “She probably worked really hard on it too, and you just turned the channel on her—just replaced her. I bet she’s missing dinner with her family to do this report. And they’re the ones who can’t replace her.”

Lorelai stared. “Look at her,” she said, pointing to the young reporter with shiny brown hair and a trendy outfit. “She’s like twenty-four. She probably doesn’t even have a family.”

“And she never will if she doesn’t slow down long enough to have a life,” Rory muttered.

“Then she’ll get a bunch of cats. She’ll be fine,” Lorelai said reassuringly.

Rory gave her mother an incredulous look. “That’s not funny.”

“Uh, sorry,” Lorelai said. Somewhat timidly, she asked, “So, how are your interviews going?”

Still frowning, Rory answered, “The Boston Herald interview went okay, I guess. But I don’t know if I want to live in Boston.”

“Not a big Red Sox fan?” Lorelai asked absentmindedly. Then she gasped and covered her mouth. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“About what?” Rory asked stiffly.

“I didn’t mean remind you of anything . . . or anyone.”

Rory stared. “Who?”

Lorelai stared back for a second. “No one.”

“The editor at the News Journal in Delaware was nice,” Rory said. “But I didn’t really like the newsroom. It was all grey with its tiny cubicles and florescent lighting. It was depressing.”

“A lot of journalism jobs will probably involve a newsroom,” Lorelai reasoned.

“I know,” Rory said. “But their only opening was in sports anyway, so it doesn’t even matter.”

“What about the Hartford Courant, are they hiring?”

“No.”

“Oh. So you might not have a choice but to move away.”

Rory shrugged. “Maybe. I applied to some news stations too. Broadcast journalism . . . I’ve been told my stories done on video are better than my articles.”

“Who told you that?”

Rory crossed her arms as she stared at the television. “Why? You don’t agree?”

“No. I was just wondering who said it.”

“No one.”

“Okay,” Lorelai said slowly. “Didn’t you interview for an editor position in Woodbridge?”

“Yeah,” Rory said with a sigh. “But I don’t know. Editors work a lot of hours.”

“What else do you have to do?” Lorelai asked.

Rory shifted her eyes to her mother slowly.

“Sorry,” Lorelai said.

Rory let it slide and went on, “I didn’t hear back from the Chicago Tribune or the LA Times. And I sent an inquiry letter to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, but I don’t think I want to go there.”

“Why not?”

Rory shrugged again. “I don’t feel like living in Georgia. I guess I’m just not much of a southern belle.”

“You’ve gotten really picky,” Lorelai commented.

“No I haven’t.”

“Yes you have. You don’t even have any lists going. You’re just brushing off places for vague non-reasons.”

“Sometimes you just know. And with those places, I know I don’t want to go there.”

“Then why did you apply?”

“Because I’m looking for a job and want options,” Rory said, exasperated. After a moment’s pause, she hesitantly said, “I don’t think my interview at Newport, Rhode Island’s local CBS affiliate went very well.”

“How come?”

“I didn’t know all the answers. They . . . they wanted to know where I see myself in five years, and I didn’t know what to say.”

“That’s an easy one,” Lorelai said. “You’re supposed to say you’ll be employed at their company, working your way up the ladder.”

“But I didn’t see myself working there in five years,” Rory said. “I couldn’t just lie.”

“Sure you could. It’s called fake it till you make it.”

“I’ve been reporting the news for eight years, I shouldn’t be faking it. If I am, maybe it’s a sign I shouldn’t be doing it.”

“All right,” Lorelai said. “So where do you see yourself in five years?”

“If I knew, I’d have given them an answer,” Rory said, agitated.

Five years seemed like forever, and the thought of endless work stretching before her wasn’t as appealing as it used to be. Instead of living her own life, she was constantly reacting to other people’s. And it was often the end of their lives. Continuing this way sounded not only exhausting, but depressing. People turned off the news because it was negative. Articles ended up in tomorrow’s trash. Rory didn’t feel like she was making much of a difference. If she didn’t cover a story, another reporter would do the job. Everyone was expendable.

“You’ll think of something,” Lorelai said confidently, though unhelpfully. Slowly, she asked, “Does your inability to choose a job have anything to do with that reporter’s future cat family?”
Rory shrugged and shook her head, uncommitted.

Apparently afraid of offending Rory, Lorelai carefully said, “If you want, we could get some ice cream and watch some sad movies tonight. Maybe even cry a little, if we feel like it.”

Not oblivious to what her mother was suggesting, Rory resoundingly said, “No.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

A few nights later, Emily was in the living room having drinks with Rory and Lorelai. She opted to have drinks inside this evening—it seemed safer. It pleased her to see Rory engaging in conversation this evening.

From her place on the couch next to Lorelai, Rory asked, “So, it’s your neighbor’s nephew who’s coming tonight?”

“That’s right,” Emily said, turning from the drink cart and sitting in a chair in front of the fireplace.

“Who? What?” Lorelai asked, looking from Emily to Rory.

“My neighbor’s nephew,” Emily said. “He’s home visiting from New Hampshire.”

“Great,” Lorelai said. “But why is he coming here for dinner? Wouldn’t he rather have dinner with his own family while he’s visiting?”

“There’s nothing wrong with me having a nice young man over for dinner, Lorelai.”

“I know, Mom. I’m just wondering why you’re being so generous. I mean, isn’t it a little soon?” Lorelai asked pointedly.

“It’s fine,” Rory said after she took a sip of her martini. “Grandma asked me if it would be all right if he joined us, and I said it was.”

“Oh really,” Lorelai said. She eyed her daughter warily before looking back at Emily. “I don’t get a vote around here?”

“I didn’t think you’d have a problem with it,” Emily said. When the doorbell chimed, she said, “There he is now.” She got up and walked to the foyer, ignoring Lorelai as she whispered in protest to Rory. Emily met her guest, who was a tall man with jet black hair. He was wearing a very fine black suit with a crisp white shirt. They exchanged pleasantries and she inquired about his parents before she led him into the living room.

“This is Ethan Chase,” Emily told the other two women. “He’s an architect.”

“Oh, that sounds exciting,” Rory said, smiling politely.

Emily turned to Ethan. “Rory’s a journalist—”

“But I’m between jobs right now,” Rory interjected.

“Yes, but we’re sure she’ll get scooped up in no time,” Emily said. She made Lorelai get up to make room for Ethan, but her daughter didn’t sit on the other couch. She stood with her arms crossed, frowning at Emily. As Rory and Ethan embarked in small talk, Emily went to make him a drink. When she was finished, Lorelai was still standing awkwardly in the middle of the room.

“You can sit.”

“Actually,” Lorelai said, pointing toward the entrance. “Could I just talk to you out in the hall for a minute?” She grabbed Emily’s arm.

“All right, you don’t have to yank my arm off,” Emily said as she followed Lorelai to the foyer. “What is it?”

“Really Mom?” Lorelai asked. “Are you kidding me?”

“What?”

“Do you really think it’s such a good idea to set Rory up again so soon?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I can invite anyone I want over for dinner. And since you’re so concerned, I asked her if she wanted to meet someone, and she said yes.”

“But Tristan only left a few weeks ago.”

“So? She’s fine,” Emily said, peeking into the living room. “You should be fine too.”

“She isn’t fine, she’s avoiding the issue completely,” Lorelai said. “That isn’t fine, it’s denial. She refuses to wallow.”

Emily looked back at Lorelai. “What is wallow?”

“It’s where you take time to be sad about losing someone.”

“That’s called grieving, and you do it when someone you love died,” Emily said sternly. “No one died.”

“Well when you end a relationship, you have to mourn what you lost—or at least acknowledge it—so you can move on.”

“Rory was not in a relationship, Lorelai.”

“Ugh, you sound just like her. Even you know something happened.” Lorelai sighed in frustration. The she gasped. “Wait. Maybe that’s it. He’s the one that got away.”

Tristan Dugray is not the one that got away—”

“Obviously not for you.”

“—and he only went away,” Emily finished. “Honestly, I don’t know how you could say something so preposterous. Rory will be fine. She’s gotten over boys before. She can certainly do it again.”

“This time it’s a man,” Lorelai pointed out. “And she’s older now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Lorelai lifted her brows. “What do you think I mean?” She strolled back into the living room.

This was her idea of a joke, Emily thought. Lorelai knew exactly what she hoped for Rory. Maybe this was the first time Rory had been interested in someone in a long while. But it didn’t automatically make Tristan the one. He was just a one. And he wasn’t even in the country, so Emily didn’t need to worry about it anymore.

Before she could return to the living room, the maid came to tell her dinner was ready. Emily had the others follow her into the dining room, and she didn’t even have to do any special maneuvering to get Rory to sit next to Ethan. As the dinner got underway, Emily watched the two young people make polite conversation. He complimented her taste in books. Rory would occasionally smile and agree with something he said. She was only picking at her food.

By the time they finished eating, Emily wasn’t at all pleased. She turned her attention to her daughter. “Lorelai, could I talk to you for a moment in the study?”
“About what?”

“Just—about—I need to ask you something.”

“Can’t you ask here?”

“No.”

Lorelai sighed dramatically, and then stood up. “Fine.”

Emily smiled at the other two. “We’ll be right back.” She followed Lorelai out to the hallway, but stopped her before they got more than a few steps away.

“What?” Lorelai asked. “Who’s yanking an arm off now?”

“She’s so melancholy, and they’re boring together.”

“You should be glad she isn’t in a bad mood. And they’re getting along really well.”

“Rory’s hardly smiling, and when she does it doesn’t go to her eyes. She’s just going through the motions.” Emily put her hands at her hips.

“What do you want me to do about it?” Lorelai asked. “Go tell her to smile right?”

Ignoring her, Emily went on, “They aren’t even whispering to each other.”

“Why would they?” Lorelai asked, looking at Emily as though she was crazy. “They’re sitting right next to each other.”

“I don’t know why they’d whisper, but it’s what she did when—when Tristan and his family was here. They had their own running conversation on the side the whole time. They were constantly leaning in toward each other.”

“What is she going to have a side conversation about with this guy?” Lorelai asked, jerking her head in the direction of the dining room.

“I don’t know.”

“She just met him. Did you expect them to fall in love immediately?”

“Of course not.” Emily didn’t know what to expect anymore. This wasn’t going any better than it had at the party. It didn’t even matter if Tristan was out of reach.

After a moment, Lorelai gently said, “It was a fluke, you know.”

Emily looked at her. “What was?”

“They already knew each other—Rory and Tristan. And it wasn’t their fault Francine put them in a room together. They were just innocent bystanders.”

“Speaking of Francine, she called me to stammer an apology for everything,” Emily said grimly.

“Good,” Lorelai said. “Everyone can move on now.”

“I didn’t say I forgave her. I’m still considering it.”

Lorelai rolled her eyes. She walked away then, returning to the dining room, where the maid was bringing out strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Emily had waited so long for Rory to have everything Lorelai missed out on. She was supposed to have it all. And she was supposed to get it while Emily was still around to see it. Richard wouldn’t get to, she thought morosely. She wondered what he would have to say about how she’d acted the past few months. She knew the answer though, he’d think she was being silly. All this to-do over how a couple of people met. She peeked into the living room again and sighed. She just wanted her granddaughter to be happy and have the life she deserved. She didn’t think it was so much to ask.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Rory was still at the dining room table later, picking at the last of her dessert, when her grandmother returned from seeing her guest out.

“You two got along well,” she commented.

“Yeah,” Rory said, looking down at her plate. “He was nice. And good looking. We have the same opinions about Ayn Rand’s books.” She looked over to Emily guiltily. “Maybe I should have accepted his offer to go to that charity auction tomorrow. I wasn’t trying hard enough.”

“It’s all right. You shouldn’t have said yes if you didn’t want to go. Besides,” Emily added, “he left with his tie, so I suppose you just didn’t like him enough.”

Rory’s stomach flopped and her eyes grew wide. “What?” She felt her face warm slightly. She’d never made it back upstairs for Tristan’s tie on the night of the party. Apparently Emily found it. Rory wondered if her grandmother knew who it belonged to. Then she remembered dinner the week after the party. Of course her grandmother knew, she was stubborn, not blind.

“Please, you’re your mother’s daughter,” Emily said flippantly, taking a bite of her strawberry shortcake.

Lorelai took a sip of wine and musingly said, “I can’t tell from your tone, but I’m going to take that as a compliment.”

Changing the subject, Emily asked, “How is your job search going?”

Lorelai answered, “She doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.”

“Nonsense,” Emily said, looking at her granddaughter. “You’re a journalist. You always wanted to be a journalist.”

Rory shrugged a little. “Nothing sounds good right now. And the hours are bad.”

Emily quickly said, “You’d like better hours?”

“I think it’d be helpful if I want a life outside work,” Rory said. “Which pretty much rules out dropping everything to cover a story at any second.”

Emily muttered to herself, “You want more than work.” Looking back up, she asked, “Do you think you might want to do something else then?”

Rory shrugged again. “I don’t know. Maybe.” She heard how it sounded and shook her head. “That’s crazy. I can’t just do something else. I worked my whole life to be a journalist. It’s too late to change course.”

“Says who?” Emily asked. “Your grandfather started a whole new business after he retired. And he was much older than you.”

“It was the same kind of business though,” Rory protested.

“Teaching at Yale was new,” Lorelai said.

“Yes, that’s true,” Emily agreed.

“But—I have no idea what I’d do instead.”

“Now, you’re good at so many things, I’m sure there are lots of jobs you could get.”

Rory’s lips pursed grimly and her brows lowered. “Like what?” The she said, “Maybe I should look into publishing. I’d get to decide what books are published.”

“You’d be really good at it,” Lorelai said.

That was probably true, but Rory frowned down at her plate, uneasy. “I’d have to go to New York though. It still doesn’t sound very exciting.”

Lorelai commented, “Nowhere sounds good to you.”

“That’s not true. I can go anywhere,” Rory told her defensively. She briefly wondered how many times she’d said that in the past few months. For something she boasted as a benefit, the freedom wasn’t making this job search any easier. But she still went on, “If the right job comes up, I’ll go. Anywhere—it doesn’t matter. Or maybe I won’t have to move at all.” She put her fork down and rested her cheek against her fist.

“You’re a writer,” Emily said. “You could become a novelist.”

“I never thought of that,” Rory said. “But I think I want job stability. It takes years for some people to get published.”

“All right. Let’s think about what else you’re good at.”

“Fixing people,” Lorelai chimed in.

“I do not fix people,” Rory said, getting defensive again. If anyone changed, it wasn’t because of anything she did. She’d encouraged some people, sure, but that wasn’t the same. Slowly, she said, “A lot of people have potential to do more with their life. Sometimes they just need a push.” She continued, “Even I needed a push a couple times. Like to go back to Yale.”

“Who gave you a push?” Emily asked.

“Jess.”

“That hoodlum?”

Rory looked up at her grandmother. “Uh, yeah—but he isn’t really a hoodlum anymore. That’s the point. I saw him doing something with his life, so I wanted to be productive again too—and actually, in high school, I told him he could do more if he focused.”

“So the circle’s complete,” Lorelai deadpanned. “How symbiotic.”

Rory shot her a grim look.

“You don’t still talk to him, do you?” Emily asked, brows knit in concern.

Rory glanced at her grandmother to answer, “He’s Luke’s nephew. So, on occasion.”

“Yes, yes of course,” Emily said, hastily going back to her shortcake.

Rory went on, “Some people just have their head in the clouds when they’re young—or don’t have someone at home to encourage them.” Some parents would rather spend their time in Fiji, she thought. “But they can still make something of themselves. And okay, I think everyone should go to college. So sue me.”

“All right, calm down,” Lorelai said. “So you don’t fix people, you see their potential. Maybe you should become a motivational speaker.”

“No thanks.”

Emily sighed as she looked toward the empty chair at the other end of the table. “I wish Richard was here. He’d know just how to help.”

Rory silently agreed.

“There you go,” Lorelai said, finishing off her dessert.

“What?”

“Insurance. You could follow Dad’s footsteps.”

“I don’t know anything about insurance,” Rory said. She pushed a strawberry across her plate and sighed. She slowly said, “Grandpa taught a Yale too.”

“I already said that,” Lorelai said. “Weren’t you listening?”

Emily gasped happily. “You could teach.”

After a pause, Rory asked, “Teach what?”

“Hoodlum high school kids who need some direction,” Lorelai answered.

“I didn’t say who, I said what,” Rory said dryly. “Like what subject.”

“Oh. Gee, I don’t know. How about English?” she said pointedly.

“You would be perfect for that,” Emily said eagerly.

Rory briefly considered the talking about books all day. She didn’t hate the idea, but she still argued, “Some kids hate good books after a teacher makes them read it for class. I don’t want to ruin the classics for anyone.”

“Then make it interesting,” Lorelai said. “And don’t yammer on about symbolism on every page. No one cares about Holden’s red baseball cap.”

“Maybe they don’t know it symbolizes how unique he is,” Rory argued.

“Whatever,” Lorelai said. “Did he have to call everything phony?”

“I’ll give you that one.”

“So can we put English teacher in the ‘maybe’ column? It’s the first thing you don’t have any valid excuses for.”

“I guess,” Rory said. “I’ll look into it.” An image of a classroom bulletin board with college information flashed through her mind. She was surprised how quickly the thought came, and how much she liked the idea. It almost made her smile. Hastily, she said, “I’d have to go back to school.”

“I know that’s a huge disappointment for you,” Lorelai said.

Again, Rory said, “I’ll look into it.”

“Just think,” Emily said. “You could teach at Chilton. I’m sure they’d love to have you back, you’re one of their success stories.”

“I only said I’d look into it,” Rory reminded her. “And they probably only hire experienced teachers.”

“Yes of course.” Emily went on, “But if you find a job in the area, you could live close by. You could live in a charming townhouse in Hartford.”

“Sure, Hartford,” Rory said. “I could stay here.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

On Saturday morning, Tristan strolled down the sidewalk at the Yokosuka naval base. He walked into the legal services building and went down the hall. He unlocked a door to let himself into his office. He took a seat at his desk and picked up his phone, dialing his parents’ house. When the maid answered, he asked for his mother.

“Hello?” Cecilia said a minute later.

“Mom, how are you?”

“I’m fine, your grandfather is over for dinner tonight. We’re just finishing dessert,” she said. “Are you all settled?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I need a favor.”

“What?”

“I mailed plane tickets to your house. I need you to give them to Lorelai,” he said. Then he added, “Gilmore.”

“All right, I’ll be going to her inn next week for a DAR meeting anyway, so it works out.”

“Thanks.” He wondered if Rory would be there. He quickly shook off the thought. She was probably out of the country. Luckily, she thought he was a liar and wouldn’t have believed what he’d said before they parted at the airport. He hadn’t meant to say all he had, but the truth tumbled out in a moment of frustration. Then he had a long plane ride to play it over and over in his head. It’d been his personal inflight movie. She probably brushed it off though.

His mother interrupted his thoughts. “Why are you giving her plane tickets?”

“Who?”

There was a pause. “Lorelai.”

“Oh, she was supposed to borrow my plane to go to a concert, but I don’t have it anymore, so she needs a way to get there.”

“I see,” Cecilia said.

He warily asked, “Has Dad started on his latest acquisition yet?”

“What acquisition?”

“He wants to merge another firm,” Tristan said, turning to a file cabinet and opening a drawer. “One that specializes in patents. Didn’t he tell you his big new plans?”

“No. What would he want with patents?” Cecilia asked.

“I don’t know. But he said he wanted it and told me I was going to work there. It’s why I quit.” He quickly added, “One of the reasons.”

“Don’t you think you were being rash, quitting like that?”

“Maybe,” Tristan admitted, pulling a file out and closing the drawer. “But that doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind about it.”

“You’re still coming back in a few years though, aren’t you? Where will you work then?”

A few seconds silently ticked by. “I have a job.” Even though he didn’t care, he still returned to the previous topic and asked, “So who’d Dad choose to get him what he wants this time?”

“I really don’t think your father wants another firm. I’ve never heard him mention it.”

Tristan frowned. “Then why did he—.” He stopped and shook his head. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter.” He rapped up the conversation and told his mother good bye before ending the call.

He drummed his fingers on his desk for a moment. He considered the two large purchases he’d made upon his return to Hartford in the spring. He already had the plane taken care of, which just left his house. He thought about the rooms Rory and he’d painted together, the furniture she’d helped pick out. He idiotically let her be a part of it. Even the rooms she didn’t have a say in were done when he’d been a wreck when she was away. He didn’t know if he’d want to live in a house he’d made a home with a woman he didn’t have. And he wasn’t sure where life was going to take him anymore.

The house might be the next thing to go.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

In Stars Hollow, Rory walked from her bedroom to the kitchen. Her mother was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee. “Good, you’re already in your pajamas,” she said.

“So?” Rory said, pouring herself a cup of coffee before pulling out a chair to sit at the table.

“Tonight is the night. You’re going to take the time to be sad about Tristan.”

Rory rolled her eyes and lifted her cup, starting to get up, but her mother stopped her.

“No, stay here. I finally figured out why you’re upset.”

“That’s because I already told you,” Rory said impatiently. “I’m upset about his mind games.”

“Oh come, you like him. And how can you be sure it’s all his fault and not Grandma’s—at least a little?”

“What? How could it possibly be Grandma’s fault?” Rory asked. “What does she have to do with anything?”

“She was so against Tristan, she made him the forbidden fruit,” Lorelai said. “It automatically made him even more attractive.”

Rory deadpanned, “You’re obviously confusing me with you.”

“I’m just saying, you’re denying some other factors and focusing on that one thing.” Lorelai continued, “I know you were worried about his relationship with his dad. Even I felt for the guy after hearing second hand stories his mom heard from the nanny. He couldn’t have faked all that, could he?”

Rory crossed her arms and didn’t answer immediately. After a couple seconds, she said, “Fine. I guess not.”

“And that didn’t have anything to do with wanting to date you. His mind games weren’t what won you over.”

Rory considered her options. Maybe if she went ahead and knocked this out now, her mother would finally leave her alone. “Fine,” she said again, staying at the table. “You’re right. I’m ready to deal with it properly so I can move on with my life.” To really play up the part, she went to the freezer to get a carton of ice cream. She took a large spoon from a drawer and returned to her place at the table. She opened the carton and stabbed the hard ice cream with her spoon.

“Good,” Lorelai said. “But first, do you know what you’re getting over?”

“Yes.” Solemnly, Rory said, “The great love of my life went far away, so we had to end our. . . whatever you’d call it—and now I might not see him for years. So order a pizza and crank up Adele, because it’s time to face the sad sad truth.”

Lorelai blinked. “No.”

Rory’s spoon stopped. “No? What am I getting over then?”

In a serious tone, Lorelai said, “You weren’t in a relationship.”

Rory sighed. “I know I wasn’t. That’s what I’ve been telling you.”

“I know,” Lorelai agreed, to Rory’s surprise. “I’m sorry, I haven’t been listening. You’ve been telling me what’s wrong with you for weeks.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me.” Rory dug her spoon in and ate a big bite of Rocky Road ice cream.

“Yes there is, but it’s okay. You’re not upset about a relationship. You’re upset you didn’t get to have one,” Lorelai said.

“What?”

“It’s easier to wallow when you know what you’re getting over.”

What?” Rory said, putting the spoon down, not too gently. “It’s easier to get over an actual relationship? Do you hear yourself?”

“That’s not quite what I’m saying,” Lorelai said quickly. “It’s just—at the end of a relationship, you can think about all the good times and put stuff in a box. You know what you walked away from, you know what you’re missing.”

Rory blinked. “That doesn’t make this worse.”

Lorelai continued, “But it’s still painful. I know the feeling—remember when we got our hopes up about your dad before he knew Sherry was pregnant?”

Rory gave her mother a wild-eyed look, and incredulously asked, “Did you really just make that comparison? You and Dad have a history, you have—me. We could have been a family. He went to be a family with someone else. The situations are completely different.”

“But the feeling is similar,” Lorelai said. “I was happy about the future and had it pulled out from under me by something out of my control. You remember, it was devastating.” Slowly, she continued, “You don’t have much now except all the what-ifs. You can think about what might have been, but you’ll never know.”

“Except we do know,” Rory said. “You and Dad tried marriage and it didn’t work. So see? I don’t have anything to worry about.” For the hundredth time, she heard Tristan’s last words to her. She quickly put a stop to that train of thought.

“As you already pointed out though, you aren’t me,” Lorelai said. “And with all the kerfuffle about Tristan working in Straub’s office, I’d say he isn’t your dad.” She shook her head in frustration and continued, “I only meant the emotion was the same—that’s all.”

Rory pushed away from the table. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” She left the ice cream and her coffee and went back to her room. She flopped down on her bed with her arms crossed, but was in no condition to fall asleep. Even if she could, she didn’t want to have that dream again. She figured out how they were getting different. Tristan was getting farther away each time.

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