December 31, 2010

Even though I told Luke that I was content to be a spinster, it wasn't entirely true. I did go on dates. A lot of them. My mother was persistent in setting me up on countless blind dates with men around my age. All of them, without fail, were divorced. And most of them were horribly conceited, or dull, or just not my type. After too many horribly awkward end-of-date excuses, I began to make it clear at the beginning of each date that I would not be putting out. This may have seemed a little hasty to some (i.e., Sookie), but more often than not, it saved me from having to endure super long dates that were way past their expiration by men with only one goal.

New Year's Eve of 2010 was one of those dates that inspired my new policy. He was a cousin or great-nephew or step-son twice removed of one of my dad's business associates. He was in town for some kind of business meeting and my mother took the opportunity to set up the date. He planned to take me to some kind of fancy charity ball, for some cause that I didn't bother to pay attention to what it was.

Ryder Cohen picked me up from my parent's place at exactly 7:15 on the dot. He was dressed immaculately in a suit that had to be worth more than my Jeep. My mother insisted that he meet me at their place. She said it was to protect my privacy, but I know it's because she wanted me to make the best impression, and my dump of a house in podunk Stars Hollow would not do. It worked out, because I really didn't want him to know where I lived in case he was a weirdo.

My father ushered him into the sitting room, and then busied himself fixing drinks for us. I sat there, holding my martini, and trying to smile while my date not so subtly gave me a once-over. I had purchased a new dress for the evening, a floor length royal blue satin with chiffon overlay, strapless with an intricate design around the bodice. The dress sparkled in the light, and I had even applied a slight shimmer to my cheeks. It was New Year's Eve, after all. I apparently had passed muster, because Ryder sat next to me and accepted a drink.

I waited in silence while my parents and Ryder talked about business stuff, smiling and nodding when appropriate. My mother was pleased with my behavior, because she kept giving me approving glances. Of course, she didn't know I was the perfect daughter because I didn't care enough to be myself.

"Shall we?" Ryder asked, breaking me out of my thoughts.

I smiled brightly, accepting his hand as he pulled me to my feet. "Lets," I agreed, and he helped me into my coat.

The ballroom looked beautiful. There were twinkle lights everywhere, and the hostess led us to our table. We were seated with 2 other couples, one of which kept going back and forth to the open bar in shifts, and the other that disappeared soon after dinner started, either to scream at each other or make out in the coat closet, I never figured out which. That gave Ryder and me more than enough time alone with each other.

"So, your father tells me you own a hotel," he said, picking up his glass of scotch.

I pick at my salad, moving the pieces of lettuce around with my fork. "An inn, actually. Country inns are very popular with New England tourists. We also do business meetings and larger gatherings, like weddings."

"Sounds quaint," he replied. He skipped over the salad entirely and went straight for the bread basket, which gave him points in his favor. I couldn't help but think that Luke would have liked the salad; the greens were fresh and crisp and the dressing was a light vinaigrette. I shook myself slightly, and tried to pay attention to my date.

"It's lovely," I said. "The grounds are beautiful and we try to keep a certain sensibility about the property to attract tourists and business people alike."

"So what's next, then?" he continued, buttering the roll.

"Next?" I asked quizzically.

"Will you open more inns? Branch out into business retreats? Full service wedding planning? What's next?"

"Oh," I said, setting down my fork. "Um, nothing. I'm going to run my inn."

"Don't you hire people to do that?" he asked.

"Well, sure, I hire people to run it when I'm not there. I do have a lot of flexibility with my schedule. But I enjoy the day-to-day part of owning the inn. I like to talk to my guests and plan events, I work very closely with my staff on a daily basis."

"You can't be serious," he said.

"I'm very serious," I replied, starting to feel offended. "I love what I do." He stared at me a moment, then pushed back his chair.

"I'm going to get another drink. More wine?"

"Please," I said.

We steadfastly avoided the topic of my career for the rest of the evening, which I was grateful for. By the time dinner was over, he was starting to slur slightly. I'd noticed that he had barely eaten anything but bread and some of the meat on his plate. I'd stuffed myself, preferring to eat rather than talk to this guy, whose entire interest seemed to begin and end with money. Making it, spending it, and showing everyone else how he was making it and spending it. If I'd needed more reminders of how much I didn't fit in my parents' world, these dates would do it. Ryder wasn't much different from Ben, or Nate, or Adrian.

I was just finishing up my dessert when he scooted his chair closer to me. "What do you say we get out of here?" he asked, his alcoholic breath making my nose wrinkle.

"And go where?" I asked. "Isn't there a silent auction, or dancing? There usually is at these kinds of things."

"I have a hotel room. We can dance in private, if you want." He leers at me, a smug smile curling his lips. I've never been less turned on in my life.

"No, thanks," I said. "I don't dance privately on the first date."

He sits back, agog, as if he can't believe that I, homely innkeeper woman, would turn him down. "We're both adults here," he said, sounding almost wheedling. "What's some fun between two consenting adults?"

"Nothing wrong with that," I replied. "You'll just need to find another consenting adult." His face hardened, and he shoved his hand into his back pocket. He extracted a wallet, and slipped out a couple of bills.

"I think I will. Here's cab fare. Have a nice life. Enjoy your inn." The way he said 'inn' made it sound like an insult. Then he dropped the bills on my empty plate and stalked off. I stared blankly at the money. He left two $100 bills. I've never felt more like a whore, even though I didn't actually put out.

I sighed, and left the money on the table. I didn't come on these dates ill-prepared, I had my own cash in my wallet. I picked up my coat from coat check, and called a cab to take me back to Stars Hollow.

That year, we didn't have many guests at the Dragonfly over the holidays. It had been a really cold and snowy winter, which drastically affected the amount of tourists willing to brave the New England winter. In order to make a little extra cash flow, we decided to sell tickets and have a small New Year's Eve gala. It was cozy and intimate, and we cut corners by asking the town to chip in. After my bummer of a date, I knew the only place I wanted to ring in the New Year would be at my quaint place of work.

When I arrived, it was shortly after 11, and the party was in full swing. Morey was playing the piano in the library and I could hear Miss Patty's voice singing some jazz standards. Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. My heart surged with affection and contentment over what Sookie and I had built, and about the town itself. It was way better than some stuck-up snob in a suit any day.

I popped into the kitchen to see how Sookie was doing with the food, and she stopped still when her eyes landed on me.

"L-L-Lorelai," she stammered. "You're here? What happened to your date?"

"Oh, he decided to prowl around for someone more willing to give into his not-so-charming wiles," I said nonchalantly. I swiped some crab puffs from a tray that was being prepared. "I just thought I'd come by and see how the party was going. Looks like everything is going amazing."

"Oh, everything's fine!" she said, in that high-pitched squeaky voice that made me instantly suspicious.

"Sookie?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Everything's so great, you should go on home!" she continued.

"What's going on?" I asked.

She was about to start making up something, but I gave her a stern glare. She visibly deflated, then admitted, "Luke's here."

"Oh," I said, my cheeks pink.

"And," she said, cringing, "and he brought someone."

"Oh," I repeated, and I felt that horrible sinking sensation I feel whenever I hear that Luke is dating someone, or seen with a woman. Thankfully, it doesn't happen often, and it never seems to last long, but it always hits me like a ton of bricks. "Well, he's allowed," I said. "We aren't together, so…"

"Yeah, you're right," Sookie said, trying to be soothing.

"And I had a date tonight, too," I added, trying to sound positive and upbeat. "It's fine, it really is." I smiled, but it was fake. I knew it, Sookie knew it, the whole kitchen staff probably knew it.

I eventually left the kitchen, but I stayed by the front desk, away from the party. I checked over the next day's reservations, and looked over the supply log, and did whatever busy work I could. I was in the middle of calculating whether we could afford a third horse based on that year's profits, when I heard a familiar voice.

"Hey, Lorelai," he said.

I looked up, and gave him a thin-lipped smile. "Hey yourself," I replied. "Are you enjoying the party?" He looked great. He was wearing black pants with a slim grey jacket over a light blue shirt. The shirt was open slightly at the collar and I could see he had on a grey undershirt. Everything was hugging his body exactly right.

"Yeah, it's great. You guys did a good job pulling it together."


His eyes went up and down my body, and I felt a shiver of desire. "New dress?"

I looked down at my dress, noticing how it seemed to sparkle even more in the dim light. "Yeah," I said. "I had a thing earlier."

"Well, you look beautiful." My eyes met his and I could see the lust I was feeling mirrored in his own eyes.

We looked at each other a moment. He stepped closer, and I gripped the pen in my hand tightly. He opened his mouth to speak, but then I heard people starting to count down for the new year.

"10! 9! 8!"

Unexpectedly, he lunged at me, and pulled me into a passionate kiss. The pen fell out of my hand and clattered to the floor.

"7! 6! 5!"

We were all over each other. I could taste beer on his breath, but I didn't care. I wanted him so badly, and it had been so long since I'd been touched like this.

"I want you," he breathed.

"Take me," I replied, my voice drenched in desire.

"4! 3! 2!"

We burst through my office door, and he kicked it shut. I went for his belt and he pushed up my dress, our lips never separating. Once I pushed his pants and boxers down, he hoisted me up onto the desk, and then he yanked at my thong underwear, ripping it right off. Then, he was inside of me, and it was like fireworks all around us. My legs were wrapped tightly around his hips and his hands were on my ass as we moved. I could distantly hear Auld Lang Syne being warbled from another room, but the heavy breathing and moaning surrounded me in stereo sound. We climaxed together, my hands clutching his shoulders and his arms holding me close.

He swallowed hard, pulling away. I propped myself up on my hands on the desk, feeling the loss of heat from his body acutely. He started muttering how sorry he was, that he brought a date, and that he felt like the world's biggest asshole. I looked down. I couldn't watch him walk away from me again.

I heard the door softly click shut, and then I let the tears come in giant, gasping, body wrenching sobs.

The next day, I asked my mother to redecorate my office. I told her it needed a complete refresh, and that I trusted her judgment. I think she was so shocked I asked her for help, she didn't even remember to make a snarky remark. I made Sookie take all my files out of there and I camped out in one of the empty guest rooms until the office was completely made over, as if I could erase everything that had happened in there.

I was moving everything back in, and arranging files in my new cabinets, when Sookie knocked on the office door. "Honey?" she asked, her voice soft.

"What's up, Sook?" I asked, my attention mostly on sorting my papers.

"What happened?"

My head snapped up, and I looked over at her. She had a concerned look on her face, and she was wringing her hands in front of her. I sighed wearily. I'd been a mess for the first few days of the year, but I was trying to put this relapse behind me. I gestured to the empty desk chair, and Sookie sat down. I sat cross-legged, leaning against the wall.

"Luke and I had a thing," I said.

"Like, a fight?" she asked.

"Not so much," I replied. I bit my lip, trying to explain without actually explaining. I didn't want to tell her what had happened, because I didn't want her to read anything into it. "We kissed," I finally said, hoping it would be enough.

"Oh!" Sookie breathed, and she began to look excited.

"Stop," I said firmly, holding my hands in front of her, warding off any enthusiastic giggling. "It was a mistake, and he obviously regrets it."

"Why would you say that?" she asked, confused.

"It happened two weeks ago, and I haven't heard from him since. And he had a date, remember? He shouldn't have been all over me." I shrugged, and then laughed bitterly. "Plus, he basically said it was a mistake immediately after."

"Are you sure?" Sookie started. "Because Luke has always—"

"I'm sure," I replied, my voice harsh. "He's not coming back."

"But he—"

"Sookie!" I cried out. "Please, just stop."

"Okay," she acquiesced.

"I know you've always had this idea that Luke thinks I am the only one for him or something, and that may have been true once upon a time, but I don't think it's true anymore, if it ever was."

"Lorelai," she said, trying to comfort me.

"No, no," I said, shaking my head. I pulled at a loose thread on my dress pants. "It's been 3 and a half years since he told me he couldn't get over me being with Chris. If he wanted to be with me, he would have come back. I'm fine. Well," I sighed, "I'm trying to be fine."

"But you aren't dating anyone else," she pointed out. "You've barely even tried."

"I've been dating," I argued. "Just because they all turned out to be awful isn't my fault. I know how good it can be, and if I find that again, I'm not going to turn it down. But so far, I haven't found that guy. I did the settling for second best thing. It didn't work." I leaned back against the wall, and looked over at Sookie.

"Yeah," she agreed, even though I could tell she wasn't entirely satisfied with my conclusions.

"Look, Sook, I know you're concerned. But I've got this, really." I smiled at her, and she returned it. But after she walked out, my smile faded.