Family Feudalism

Chapter 7

Tristan was at home after work one evening, staring at the contents of his pantry. There were spices in the door and non-perishables on the shelves. He was hungry for dinner, but didn’t know what he wanted. From the counter where it was charging, his cell phone started to buzz. He walked over and answered, “Hello?”

“When are you getting here?” Rory asked.

“Getting where?”

“Your parents’ house.”

Tristan leaned against the counter and frowned. “Why do I need to get to my parents’?” Then, “Are you at my parents’?”

“Yes, for dinner. Remember, your mom invited me.”

“But you’ve done such a good job of getting out of things,” he said pointedly.

“Hey, I called to postpone,” she said in defense. “I had to cover a story. I never know when something is going to pop up.”

“Mm-hmm. I didn’t know you agreed to dinner.”

“I only did it to get your mom to stop asking.”

He didn’t recall that strategy ever working to his advantage. “Now you understand why I went to Francine’s.”

“I’m starting to see the merits of getting people off your back,” she admitted. “So where are you? Are you on your way?”

“I’m at home and no. I wasn’t invited.”

“Yes you were, your mom said you weren’t here yet. Meaning you’d be here eventually. Soon even.”

“I had no knowledge of any of this.”

“Well now you do, so get over here.”

“If that’s your version of come hither, it needs work,” he said. “Oh second thought, I like it.”

He sat the phone down and sighed. He hadn’t seen Rory since the baseball game, which had been over a week prior. She’d called to postpone the evening of painting they’d scheduled. There was an uprising in Southeast Asia she’d gone to cover. But apparently she was back in town.

He hadn’t thought of a better plan. He couldn’t ask her out, even if he wanted to. And he sure did want to. The desire had faded in the past after he’d gone. But now he was right back where he was before. So he’d done some—minor—fibbing. Playing it cool was all he had. The best he could come up with was to not tell any blatant lies.

Their families were too meddlesome, they were helping to mess things up. Who’d want to date a guy after their estranged grandmother tried to set them up? Tristan couldn’t think of anyone. He couldn’t think of anyone who’d want to date a girl because his parents encouraged it, either.

And then there was Emily Gilmore, who was blowing everything out of proportion. If she’d take a step back and get a grip on herself, she might not feel the need to ‘make up for’ a fix-up gone bad. But Tristan understood her intentions clearly, hands off her granddaughter. He was much better at reading between the lines than said granddaughter.

None of it was fair, really. Why did the girl he wanted have to hate him? Oh, right, because he’d been an ass half a lifetime ago. How could he forget? It wasn’t supposed to go the way it had. She was supposed to have gone out with him the first time he’d asked. Then he could have gotten bored and moved on. It was the natural order of things. She wasn’t supposed to say no. And he wasn’t supposed to care. .

Tristan sighed again headed for the door leading out to the garage. At least he had a solution for his dinner tonight.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

A little later, Tristan walked into his parents’ house. He stepped into the kitchen and stopped abruptly. His mother and Rory were standing at the island in the middle of the room. Rory was wearing a simple navy blue dress with a plunging V-neck and elbow length sleeves. During their first acquaintance, he’d only seen her in her school uniform or the occasional oversized sweater.

What was his deal? He didn’t like frumpy outer garments—they weren’t nearly as revealing as he preferred. If he’d been able to delve deeper and find something beyond her plain looks to like, couldn’t she have seen past his . . . quirks? It seemed fair.

“What are you doing sneaking through the back like one of the servants?” Cecilia asked. She was wearing one of her prized designer evening gowns and her blond hair fell to her shoulders in loose curls.

“Just what you said, sneaking,” he answered. “What are you doing in the kitchen?”

“It’s a room in my house, I can be in it if I choose.”

“I know, I just didn’t know you knew you had a kitchen,” he said.

“Not everyone’s kitchen is exposed for the whole world to see.” She turned to Rory. “I hope you haven’t been to his house, it’s a mess.”

“It’s getting better, and she has,” Tristan said for Rory. “She likes it a lot.”

“It so unsafe, being outside the city limits,” Cecilia said. “I wish you’d live in a—”

“Gated community?” he finished for her.

“Yes.”

“Did you know the police reports in your neighborhood are disproportionate to the amount of crime?”

“That’s because we’re vigilant.”

“Holy paranoia, Batman,” he said with a smirk. “I think I’m going to let my grass grow two whole weeks before I have it cut.” He glanced around the room, all the stainless steel appliances were immaculate as always. “So what are you doing in here anyway?”

“The maid is sick,” Cecilia answered.

Tristan argued, “Elsa never gets sick. Are you sure it’s not one of her grandkids?”

The woman shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Did you ask?”

“No.”

He made a clicking noise with his tongue and looked at Rory. “There you go.”

“I had to call a caterer, so we’re waiting. I didn’t want to leave Rory all alone in the living room.”

“I’m sure she brought a book,” Tristan said. “And I saw Grandpa’s car, I’m sure he’d love to have a chummy discussion about how great Yale is.”

“He’s in the study,” his mother said. “He had a call to make.”

To Rory, Tristan commented, “He’s not very good at retirement.”

“My grandpa was so bad at it, he quit,” she said with a half-smile.

Addressing her son, Cecilia said, “You’re lucky we have to wait. You’re late.”

Tristan argued, “You’d have to invite me for me to be late.”

“I did invite you.”

“Telepathically?” he asked rhetorically. He turned to the brunette again. “As well as being persistent, Dugray’s have excellent communication skills.” He glanced at the microwave clock and asked, “Dad still at the office?”

“Yes,” Cecilia answered. “He’ll be home soon though, which gives you plenty time to go upstairs and change.”

He looked down at his clothes. He’d put jeans on after work and had discarded his tie. He turned back to his mother. “Why do I have to dress formally?”

“Because we’re going to have dinner.”

“So? Don’t you ever get tired of dressing up in your own house?” he asked. “Don’t you want to be comfortable?”

Scandalized, Cecilia said, “We have guests this evening.”

He held a hand to the side of his mouth like he was telling her a secret. In a stage whisper, he said, “When Rory came over, we ate dinner, and we were wearing jeans. And I don’t have a dining table yet.” To Rory he said, “With all these formal dinners we keep attending, I really hope the next one is a murder mystery, you know—dinner theater. I like to think I’d be good at it.”

“Will you please just go change?” Cecilia asked, exasperated.

“Fine,” he said. “But I don’t know if there’s much up in my closet. So don’t be surprised if I come down in a Chilton uniform.” He added to Rory, “It’ll make me nostalgic.” He winked at her and headed out the door.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Rory’s pulse kicked up a notch as Tristan left the room. She was probably a little jumpy around him after their brief—whatever—on the porch swing the last time they saw each other. She thought he’d maybe wanted to—and maybe she’d wanted to—but it was probably nothing, just her imagination working overtime. She’d barely thought of it afterwards.

They could hear Tristan singing a wordless melody on his way to the stairs. Cecilia cringed and called out, “You’re terribly flat, dear.” She smiled at Rory apologetically when he stopped. “He was never much of a singer.”

In his defense, Rory commented, “Oh, I still recognized it. Wasn’t it the romantic music you always hear in movies when characters—uh, when they kiss?” Was he trying to subliminally remind her of what definitely didn’t almost happen?

“What?”

“You know, like in cartoons when the characters swoon in a romantic moment.”

Cecilia gave her a look indicating she was at least moderately insane. “That was from the fourth movement Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Suite.”

Embarrassed, Rory said, “Oh . . . right, nostalgia—that does make sense.” She hastily added, “Since we were supposed to be in Romeo and Juliet together.”

“I wonder why he never told me about it,” the woman mused.

Judging by their communication skills, Rory speculated he might have, just to have it forgotten. Or worse, discarded.

Cecilia changed the subject. “I do wish he’d finally settle down with a nice girl.” She added, “I hate that he has four years left on his commission. He could at least try to get out of it.”

“I don’t think it works like that, he signed on the line after all.”

“I thought if he met someone he liked enough he’d want to make sure he doesn’t get called back.”

“You mean me?”

“I had hopes, yes,” Cecilia answered. “It’s a good match, you’re from such good families. I thought it was a wonderful idea when Francine made the suggestion.”

Francine. Rory knit her brows as the wheels in her head slowly turned. “Did she by any chance give you my number?”

“Yes, actually. I hope you don’t mind, but I did ask her for it. I invited her this evening, but she couldn’t make it.”

Well, sure, Rory thought, why face the person you tried to use? It was unbelievable, the woman was still trying to marry her off, as though she was—as Tristan had said—living in a another century.

There was a knock at the door, and Cecilia let the caterer’s in. After they were given instructions, Rory followed her through the large house until they reached the living room, where Janlen was seated, reading a newspaper. Rory took a seat on one of the couches. It was similar to the furniture found in Emily’s house. If this was what Tristan meant to put in his living room, it wouldn’t go with the rest of the house at all.

“Ah Rory,” Janlen said, setting the paper aside. “It’s nice to see you again. Would you like a drink?”

Rory accepted the offer and he went to the drink cart in the corner of the room. From an unknown entrance of the house, Mason appeared. He greeted them all and, upon hearing about the dinner situation, excused himself to his study.

After a few minutes of small talk, the sight of Tristan walking down the stairs caught Rory’s eye. He apparently found appropriate attire in his old room, as he was in a suit that fit him perfectly, and he’d added a black and grey striped tie. Instead of joining them, he continued in the direction Mason had disappeared.

At the sound of his knocking on the study door, Rory commented, “He really likes his shop talk, doesn’t he?”

Janlen looked through the entrance thoughtfully. Without agreeing or disagreeing, he said, “When he was a boy, Mason came into the office one morning and said, ‘My son wants to follow in our footsteps’. He was rather pleased.”

Across from Rory, Cecilia nodded in agreement. “I remember that day. Mason was sitting at the table during breakfast and Tristan announced he was going to be a lawyer when he grew up.” She paused for a moment to take a sip of her cocktail, then continued, “Well, you should have seen the way his eyes lit up when Mason sat his newspaper down to listen. Tristan started talking so fast, he probably didn’t even know what he was saying.”

Rory’s eyebrows twitched in concern. It would be a cute story if it wasn’t so depressing. She wasn’t sure if she should be glad Cecilia had witnessed her son declaring his career intentions, rather than hearing from the nanny.

“All the men in our family used to go to Yale for law school, you know,” Janlen told Rory.

Cecilia said, “Until Mason that is, he was a rebel and went to Harvard instead.” She said it with a sparkle in her eye and a small smile. “So you can guess where Tristan had to go.”

Rory really didn’t want to, but went ahead anyway, “Boston?” Cecilia nodded in confirmation and Rory felt her heart sink. She wondered if Tristan did anything because he wanted to.

One of the caterers stepped in to inform them dinner was ready. Cecilia went to the study while Janlen led Rory to the dining room. She took a seat across from him and was again struck with the feeling that a table like this wouldn’t fit in Tristan’s house. Neither would the large curial cabinet with the fine china.

When everyone was assembled—with Tristan next to Rory as though their proximity would give the illusion they were a couple—Janlen said, “Rory, I hear you just returned from Asia.”

“Yes,” she said, placing her napkin on her lap. “I wrote a few articles for a daily in Massachusetts. And recorded a video for a local news station.”

“You have quite a diverse resume,” he commented before sipping from his wine glass.

“I like variety.”

Pausing before eating a bight of chicken, Tristan asked, “Isn’t it all death and destruction?”

“Not all of it . . . sometimes,” she said unconvincingly. “Once I went to a coronation ceremony where a woman became a king.”

“Rory,” Cecilia said suddenly, “I should have thought of you before, I have an open seat at the Passover Seder I’m hosting.”

“That’s supposed to left open for Elijah,” Tristan told her.

“I’m not talking about that seat,” his mother said.

Hesitantly, Rory said, “I don’t know, I’m not Jewish. The chuppah in our yard is misleading.”

“We aren’t either,” he said.

“You don’t have to be Jewish to have a Seder,” his mother said impatiently. “We discuss current world affairs, like freedom and religious tolerance.”

“Oh,” Rory said in surprise. “That sounds kind of fun. I might actually like to come.”

“Wonderful, everyone will love to have you,” Cecilia said. “I could make room for you too, Tristan.”

“No thanks,” he said. He sat his water glass down and arched a brow at Rory.

“What? It sounds fun,” she whispered defensively. “I like world affairs. I thought you liked them too.”

“I like them just fine. But it’s going to be a bunch of my mom’s friends.” He added, “And she might get carried away and start introducing you as her daughter-in-law.”

Rory shook her head dismissively. When they’d stopped their whispered conversation and resumed eating, Mason spoke up for the first time, “I was in court this afternoon. Judge Woods was presiding. The law means more to her than anyone’s last name. She’s easily one of my favorite judges in the area.” He raised his wine glass to his lips, but paused to add, “She’s wise in matters of youthful indiscretions.”

“That’s true,” Janlen said in agreement. “She tired of those cases long ago.”

“As did I,” Mason said evenly. “They motivated me to take action when Tristan was determined to go down the same path. He’d have a hard time defending anyone if he was sitting in jail himself.”

“Ah, memory lane,” Tristan said under his breath.

“I think you’ve been acquainted with her, Rory,” Mason said.

She glanced up at him, perplexed. “Sorry, who?”

“Judge Woods,” he repeated. Watching her carefully, he said, “I believe she sentenced you after your arrest.”

Rory’s fork stopped on the plate and her cheeks warmed. Out the corner of her eye, she could see Tristan put his own fork down rather than continue eating.

Without looking up, she said, “Right. Now that you mention it, I guess the name is familiar.” For what it was worth, she said, “It’s been expunged.”

Tristan tilted his head closer to her to whisper, “Court transcripts live forever.”
“Reading court dockets is his hobby,” Cecilia said dryly. She was seated at the foot of the table, opposite her husband.

Determinedly, Rory lifted her head to say, “I was going through something. But I served my time.”

“Yes,” Mason said in a tone of—what Rory interpreted as—mild approval. “Which is more than your partner-in-crime can say.”

“His dad has good lawyers.”

Mason nodded. “A shame, too. From what I understand, he could have used a heavy dose of reality long before your incident with the coast guard.”

“That’s not proper dinner conversation,” Cecilia said.

“My apologies,” her husband said, returning to his plate.

To Rory’s relief, Tristan changed the subject, “So how about those Red Sox?”

“I heard they won the game we went to,” she said.

Cecilia perked up, looking from Tristan to Rory. “You went to a game? Together?”

They both nodded, and in an ever-so-slightly pointed tone, Rory said, “There was an extra ticket, so I went along.”

“We left the game early though.”

Mason lifted a brow slightly at Tristan, as though in silent question. Rory didn’t know what that was about, but the blond just shrugged nonchalantly and went back to his dinner.

“Leaving a Red Sox game should be a crime,” Mason said, luckily in jest. “It’s not something we do in Boston.”

Tristan turned to Rory and mockingly straightened the knot of his tie as he haughtily mouthed, ‘in Boston’. He smiled at her and she grinned back. They shared eye contact for an extended second and he asked, “Aren’t you glad you came tonight? The fun never ends.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Later, Tristan and Rory were in the living room alone. He had asked her if she wanted to stay for after dinner drinks, and citing a romantic interlude between her mother and Luke at home, she agreed. He was now sitting across from her on the couch, reading the paper.

“This is weird,” she said.

“What is?” he asked, not lowering the paper.

“Being at your parents’ house. Meeting your whole family,” she said. “You’ve met my family—and town. I’ve had boyfriends who haven’t met all the people you have.” After a moment she added, “I never met either of Jess’s parents.”

“Who?”

“My high school boyfriend,” she answered. Tristan didn’t remember anyone by that name. Apparently reading his mind, she quickly said, “My second high school boyfriend.”

“He didn’t want to take you home to meet the parents?”

“He wasn’t living with them. He was getting into trouble, so his mom sent him to live with his uncle.” Hastily, she added, “Luke.”

Tristan snorted. “Your cousin, how Appalachian of you.”

Defensively, she said, “Mom wasn’t married to Luke back then.”

“Hey, whatever you have to tell yourself,” he said. So some other guy had more success when he hadn’t, Tristan thought, meaning there was something fundamentally repulsive about him.

When Rory fell quiet, Tristan had an easier time focusing on the news article in front of him. He made it to the bottom of the page and was looking for the rest of it on another when Rory blurted out, “He told me I’d make a good assistant.”

Tristan briefly glanced up from the paper as he thumbed to the page he was looking for. “What?”

“When I stole that yacht—I stole a yacht—it was because of a bad reaction to some career advice . . . from a—an important—person,” she rambled. “During an internship.”

Tristan blinked as he processed. “Was that why you ‘took time’ to look for something else to do?”

“Yes. I had a meltdown.”

He nodded once. “Oh.” Having found the correct page, he went back to his paper.

“What do you mean, ‘oh’?”

He didn’t look up this time. “Nothing, just oh.”

“It sounded loaded.”

“Like a gun?”

“Like it makes sense. Do you think he was right?” she asked incredulously. “Because he was wrong, and I’ve been fine without his help.”

He sat the paper on his lap and said, “Of course he was crazy. You were always going to be a great journalist. How dare he tell you something like that?” He raised a brow. “Better?”

She was frowning at him now. “What was that?”
“Pandering, what you wanted to hear.”

“I didn’t want to hear anything.”

“Didn’t you?” he asked rhetorically. “You didn’t like my first response.”

Obviously offended, she asked, “You’re saying you agree, then?”

Tristan shrugged dispassionately. “I don’t see a point either way, you clearly picked yourself up. But I believe the story.”

She scowled, letting him know he was walking a fine line, but he elaborated anyway, “You were pretty sheltered, Mary.” She glared at the moniker, so he held up a hand before she could protest. “It helps make my point. You wanted to report the hard hitting news, but all you wrote in college was feature articles—”

“So?”

“—And everyone around you tells you how great you are—”

“You don’t know that.”

He tilted his head in disbelief. “As you’ve mentioned, I’ve met most of the people who know you—related or otherwise. If someone didn’t, I need names,” he said flatly. When his request was met with silence, he continued, “So I can understand someone doubting your ambitions, and I understand why it was earthshattering to be denied the praise you were used to. And from the king himself.”

Rory crossed her arms and looked away.

Picking the paper back up, Tristan added, “It’s a shock to the system when you don’t get what you’re entitled to.”

“I never felt entitled to—.” She stopped abruptly.

“It doesn’t matter,” Tristan said. “You proved him wrong. And I’m just a lawyer, so I don’t know how anything I say about it makes a difference.” He returned to the article, surprised Rory was still sitting in the same zip code as him. Forgetting what he’d read from the previous page, he had to flip back.

After a few minutes of silence, a decidedly less angry Rory said, “I think your dad hates me.”

“He can’t hate you, he doesn’t know you.” At least, it’s the philosophy Tristan acquired at a certain point in life. “He was just busting your chops. It’s how he gets his kicks.”

“I stole someone’s property,” she said, tracing the design of the couch with her finger.

“So did I. You served your time.”

“Yeah,” Rory said reflectively. “But I went into the courtroom confident I wouldn’t get into much trouble. Grandma and Grandpa did too—he made a scene when the judge gave me more community service hours. Everyone was sure I’d get off with the plea deal.” She sighed heavily. “Which only proves your previous point.”

“What about Lorelai?”

Rory paused for a moment before she said, “Mom didn’t talk to me until I went back to school.” A few seconds ticked by and she added, “She doesn’t care for people who do whatever they want, either.”

Tristan sat the paper down next to him and pressed his fingers together, propping his elbows on his knees. “My dad really does hate those cases. Do you want to hear my theory about him?”

“Sure.”

“He hates when people break rules—and even more when they get away with it.”

“Don’t people pay him to get away with stuff?”

Tristan grinned and nodded. “Since he gets clients out of legal trouble, he takes it upon himself to punish their wallets.”

A small smile tugged at the corner of Rory’s mouth. “You think so?”

“Mm-hmm. It explains his sky-high fees.”

“Do you hate me?”

The girl was full of surprises this evening. Looking at her like she was crazy, he asked, “What for?”

“You were shipped off because of people like me. Your dad sounded just like that judge.”

Tristan laughed a little. “Your felony was after mine, so it’s chronologically impossible. Now if you had gotten away with it, then he’d probably hold it against you. He respects a good character building experience.”

“I guess we both have the other privileged kids to thank for the swift justice.”

“No,” he corrected, “we have ourselves to thank for that.”

She thoughtfully tilted her head a little and gazed at him. It wasn’t the first time she’d done so. He picked his paper back up like it was amour, avoiding the way she was looking at him. She really needed to stop doing that.

From behind the paper he said, “It doesn’t matter if my parents like you or not. We’re not dating, remember?”

“I know,” she said. “But for what it’s worth, Mom seems to like you—although it might be to spite Grandma. Our last movie night included singing sailors and a Navy JAG officer.” Dryly, Rory added, “She’s been getting on everyone’s nerves telling them they can’t handle the truth. Really, I think if she wasn’t married, she’d date you.”

He smiled a little. “At least I can get one of the Gilmore girls.”

After a brief pause, Rory said, “I thought you weren’t interested in getting one.”

Tristan didn’t respond, instead letting a few seconds awkwardly tick by in silence. He sat the paper down and stood. He checked his watch and said, “I think I’m going to head out.” She was frowning at him, perplexed. “I guess I’ll see you Tuesday night, unless something better comes up.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Rory walked through the front door of the house a half an hour later. The living room was dark, the only light came from the kitchen. It was a soft flickering light that made her not want to walk in. But there was no other route to her room. Sneaking through was her only option. She took a deep breath and took the plunge.

Luke and her mother were sitting at the table, smiling at each other. It looked like they’d finished their meal and had moved on to dessert. A group of candles flickered between them.

When Lorelai saw her daughter, she lifted her head higher. “Oh, hey.”

Luke looked over his shoulder and hastily jumped up. “Rory, hi. Let me clean up a little and you can—”

“No, no,” Rory said quickly. “Don’t let me interrupt. I was just going to my room.”

“No, it’s okay,” he said, picking up the plates from the table and putting them on the counter next to the sink.

Rory felt guilty as Lorelai helped move dishes and blew out the candles.

“I can make some coffee, if you want some,” Luke said, taking a large canister out from the cabinet. “That was dumb. When do you ever not want coffee?”

Rory protested, “No, it’s really—”

But her mother interrupted with a smile, “We’d love some.”

A few minutes later, it was just the two women with the kitchen light on and the coffeemaker brewing. Her mother checked the time and commented, “It’s kind of late. I take it dinner with the Dugray’s was more successful than the Hayden’s?”

“It was touch and go,” Rory said. “Mason knew about my arrest.”

“That’s supposed to be expunged.”

“I know. I think he might be all knowing.”

“Hmm, God-like.” Lorelai took two cups down from the cabinet and poured them each coffee.

Rory accepted the cup and looked around the quant kitchen. She was at the table talking with her mother, as she’d down so many times in her life. She knew for a fact Tristan wasn’t doing the same with either of his parents, and wondered if he ever had.

“You might be right about them,” she said. At Lorelai’s inquisitive expression, she added, “About Tristan and his dad. They might not talk about normal stuff. It might just be business.”

“That’s sad,” Lorelai said, having a seat.

Rory nodded in agreement. “A kid shouldn’t have to tell their dad they want to have the same job as them just to get his attention during breakfast.”

“Is that what Tristan did?”

“That’s what it sounds like.”

Lorelai patted Rory’s arm. “I’m so glad you found something to fix.”
“I’m not fixing anything. Their relationship is none of my business. I was just an observer.” She thought for a second and said, “Although, I don’t think it’s fair for Tristan to say I have daddy-issues when he’s the one wearing them on his sleeve.”

Lorelai sipped her coffee before saying, “He said you have issues?”

“Yes. Something about dating someone to fill the void left by my absent father.”

“Someone?”

Rory took a drink. “Apparently, from the little Tristan knows about them, Dad and Logan are close enough to be the same.”

“Oh,” Lorelai said. A second later, she laughed a little. “Oh.”

“What?” Rory said with a frown. “You don’t agree do you?”

“Of course not,” Lorelai said quickly.

“Don’t lie.”

“Okay. I guess if I took certain pieces information, and hold them next to each other, Chris and Logan do have some things in common.”

“Great,” Rory said flatly. “I have issues and Tristan Dugray is the one diagnosing me. Just what I was hoping for.”

“Hey, you are very well adjusted,” Lorelai said firmly. “You probably weren’t drawn to Logan because he reminded you of Chris.”

Rory scoffed. “That’s comforting. And incredibly creepy if wrong.”

They sat and drank their coffee for a few minutes, Rory thinking about the evening. She asked Lorelai, “What would you have done if the police let you handle me when I stole that yacht?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, Tristan’s dad pulled him out of school and sent him away. What if I didn’t get arrested? What if you had to decide my punishment?”

“Well, you were going through something,” Lorelai said sympathetically, using the same phrase—or excuse—Rory had. “And it was the first time you’d gotten into trouble.”

“So, what? You’d let me off the hook?” Rory asked with knit brows. “You hate kids who get away with everything because of who their parents are or how much money they have.”

“I don’t hate anyone.”

“You said you did, I remember,” Rory continued, for some reason not letting it go. “We were sitting right here when you said it.” She indicated the kitchen.

“Is that conversation coming full circle now? Because I think we argued over it the first time. You defended them.”

“Yeah, probably because I was becoming one of them,” she said, dejected. “I morphed into someone you hate.”

“Okay, stop. I could never hate you. You’re different, you’re special. And it was your first offense.”

“This sort of thing is why you never liked Logan. He was tainted in your eyes from the beginning.”

“I liked Logan a lot.”

Rory gave her a look of utmost disbelief. “How can you even keep a straight face? You’re happy I didn’t marry him, aren’t you?”

“For your information,” Lorelai said, “I’m often struck with the wish I had Logan Huntzberger as a son-in-law.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes.” Lorelai stared off dreamily and sighed. “I could summer at the Vineyard.”

“You’re not as funny as you think you are.”

Dreamy expression gone, Lorelai said, “I’m extremely funny.”

Rory stirred her coffee, though it was unnecessary. “I stole from someone and got a party.”

“Mom threw you a party?” Lorelai asked incredulously. “I knew she was thrilled to finally have you to herself.”

Rory shook her head and came out of her reverie. “No—Logan’s friends.”

“Oh.”

“I was officially one of them.” She sat in thought for a minute more, sipping her coffee slowly. “You know, there’s a club at Yale for people who are interested literature.”

“Why didn’t you join? You’re a perfect fit.”

“It’s invitation only. They tap you if they want you.” Apparently they hadn’t wanted her. And if she let herself dwell on it, she did feel excluded.

“They should have tapped you,” Lorelai said. “It was definitely their loss.”

Rory stared at her mother for a moment. The compliment had come naturally, without possibility of being wrong. She blinked. “Wow.”

“What?”

“He’s right,” she said. “Tristan is right.”

“About what?”

Rory shook her head. “More things than I’m comfortable with.”

Lorelai drained her cup and stood. “I should get back to Luke.” After she’d put her cup in the dishwasher, she turned back to Rory. “If it makes you feel better, if it was up to me, I’d have locked you in the house and made you my servant. You’d have been scrubbing the floors on your hands and knees. And I would have had everyone call you Cinderory.”

Rory smiled a little. “Thanks.”

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