TAKING LIBERTIES WITH THE DATE - BUT I EXPECT THIS IS WHAT EVERYONE'S BEEN WAITING FOR
"I thought we could go to this one restaurant where you can eat outside, looking over the lake in Hartford." Luke said. "And then I read about this movie in the paper…"
Luke was talking.
Lorelai was trying to listen.
But she knew the big elephant in the truck as they drove down the interstate towards Hartford – she knew the elephant was weighting them down.
Luke had waited for her in the truck while she took Jess inside the house to make sure he put some ice on his face, a bruise had already started appearing across his face. Camille assured her that she would take care of Jess, who, by that time, had a nice steak on his face and a puppy snuggled up trying to lick the steak.
"…they said that the movie, although melodramatic was…"
Lorelai decided to attack the elephant head on. "I'm sorry about Christopher."
It was silent in the car. Deafeningly silent as the lights along the highway shot at them and then drifted away.
Turning to Luke, Lorelai saw how uncomfortable he was, just staring straight out the window, his hands holding tightly onto the steering wheel, his face almost in a grimace. And she said, "Things have been better with him lately." And then she looked down at her hands as she racked her brain for something she did that really messed this up, "I don't know what made me think that confronting him was a good idea?"
A few seconds of silence, until Luke asked, "So this violent, punching Jess in the face, refusing to leave thing, that's all new? Like," He glanced over at her, "Just something that happened here lately?"
Oh the lies she could tell. Explain it all away as just being a bad day. That she said something to piss him off. Or that he felt like she was taking away his right to see Rory and that's what really set him off.
And she sat there for a second, trying to figure out the best way to put it. "I moved away to the city with him when I was sixteen." She started, giving him the whole picture, "I married him when I was eighteen." And then she looked over at him, trying to communicate it correctly, "Getting married that young causes problems for everyone."
Luke, in his blunt way that Lorelai usually loved, said, "So it's been like this for a while."
She held up her hand, without a ring on it, and said, "I divorced him for many reasons." And then she swallowed and said quietly, more to herself than to Luke, "But the way he treated me was most definitely one of them."
Flashes of nights spent cowering in the corner, the farthest corner away from the kids' room to keep him distracted and beating on her instead of hurting the kids. Biting her lip to keep from crying out in pain and waking the kids. Quietly begging him to please just go to bed alone. Splitting pain as her head hit the arm of the couch and his body jumped on top of hers.
The feel of the early morning light against her skin, streaming through the kitchen window, while her bruised fingers wrapped around the rag she used to scrub the blood off the floor – wanting to erase all traces of anything happening before the kids woke up. Holding herself up against the sink when Rory would come out of her room in the morning and hug her, willing herself to bear through the pain her daughter's embrace caused.
"He was a choice I made years ago." The reason for her choice flew through her mind, and she dig her fingernails into the palms of her hand. His father had been so angry. "And it's a choice that will be with me for the rest of my life."
Luke's voice was absolutely calm. Something after the blowup with Chris really stuck out to Lorelai, "Doesn't mean you have to suffer for the rest of your life."
"What do you mean?" She asked, turning her body diagonal along the seat, "He's the father of…" she hesitated, "one of my children, and I have to see him."
Luke shook his head, glancing again over at her, "If he's so horrible, do you…"
Lorelai knew exactly where he was going with this, "…think Rory should be spending time with him?" Lorelai finished, now her turn to stare out the window. Almost, she was talking to herself, "He's never hurt the kids…" And she remembered Jess' bloody nose, "Well, before today." And she thought to Rory jumping into that car with Chris. "And Rory's always idolized her dad. Since she was a kid, he could do no wrong."
Luke turned the truck down an old dirt road. "Rory still thinks he's a good guy?"
Oh. The question that had been going over and over in her mind for the past year since that drunk night that Chris stole her money. What was a healthy relationship for Rory to have with the man who did that to Lorelai?
And she simply said, "She doesn't know."
The gravel under the truck made the cab bounce a little. "Huh?"
Lorelai just shook her head, "I kept things from the kids. I never wanted them to know how bad it was…" And she wished she could go back. "I think Chris used that to his advantage." Thinking through some of the things Rory said even just earlier that day. "He's telling her things about me that aren't true. And…" Now she whispered, "I don't know what to do."
"Just tell her?" Luke suggested, turning the wheel again around a steep curve. "I mean, why wouldn't you just do that?"
"I think it's too late." Lorelai admitted. "Anything I say will be twisted and made my fault." It always had been. Since she was just a kid.
Luke shrugged his shoulders, "Well…" The truck came to a stop. "You have to try."
"Yeah, you're…" And suddenly, she saw the beautiful landscape around them. "Where are we?"
Luke just smiled and turned off the truck. "Dinner."
Then he got out of the truck, leaving her to look around at all of the rolling hills of trees around them, the light from the fading sun behind the truck glistening off of the vast array of yellows and oranges, deep red sticking out to Lorelai the most. Leaves drifted in the wind, up and around like a sweet song, lifting up and over the already naturally piled leaves in the old forest.
The door opening beside her caused her to look up at Luke, and, in her mind, really notice him for the first time. The usual flannel shirt looked pressed – a slight crease down the sleeve made her realize he tried to iron his shirt. Nice jeans on, his baseball cap was gone, leaving his wavy hair perfectly combed back to show he really tried. He also shaved, his face looking almost naked without scruff she was used to seeing on his grumpy face. Which now, contrasting, held a big smile as he opened her door and held out his hand.
Giving him her hand, she turned her feet outside. And he said, "Careful, there's a big step down here." Lorelai smiled at him, remembering all the times he gave her rides to the doctor or just to the store and didn't bother cautioning her about the step from the truck. But he was trying to be so sweet. Lorelai had to make sure she didn't fall for his sweet…
And she couldn't even finish her thought as she got out, and looked behind where the truck was parked. Because she was looking out over the sun, setting across the beautiful lake, helmed with trees just like the ones she saw earlier, only brighter. And glowing. And breathtaking as she stood there, her hand still in Luke's. "Oh god, this is beautiful." She whispered.
"I thought you might like it."
And the she felt him leading her, with a hand at the small of her back, leading her around the back of the truck, close to the lake. And she looked and saw the tailgate hanging out, and a small checkered blanket stretched out along the bed of the truck. And in the middle of the blanket, a large picnic basket sat, along with a pile of extra blankets.
"Luke…" She said, looking up at him, realizing how much work he put into this.
He just smiled down at her, a smile so big across his face that it brought a smile to hers. And his sweet words. "A small restaurant by the lake."