Rory looked up from her book. "I'm trying to study, Paris."
"I need your attention for a few minutes."
"Just a few, okay? I've got --"
"Yes, I know you have a paper in American Short Story due in two days. I know that. Please note that in my favor when you consider my proposal."
"I would like to make you a proposal."
"Well, ask your assistant to type something up and have it on my desk before close of business."
"Rory, I'm serious."
"Yes," Rory said, marking her place in her book with her hand. "Yes, I'm sure you are."
"As I said, I would like to make you a proposal."
"I'm going to be very disappointed if you don't have a PowerPoint presentation."
"Dammit!" Paris said. She blew her hair out of her face with an angry puff. "Dammit, I told Terrence that you'd be expecting it, I said that if one wants to be taken seriously then one must present oneself seriously --"
"I told him that PowerPoint quantifiably raises the threshold of agreement by six percentage points, any idiot knows that, but no, he said, don't do it, he said, ordinary people find PowerPoint cold and off-putting in interpersonal relationships, he said, and like a fool I listened. I listened to what a man who wears a poncho and puka shells has to say about interpersonal relationships. When will I learn?"
"Paris," Rory said. "I was kidding. I'm glad there's no PowerPoint. I hate PowerPoint. I do find it cold and off-putting in interpersonal relationships, although, actually, I also find ponchos cold and off-putting in interpersonal relationships." Paris huffed again impatiently. "Sorry. I was just kidding."
"Kidding," Paris said. "You like that."
"You've got me," Rory said. "I come from a long line of kidders. Well, a long line of one, really, because my mom's parents aren't so much kidders. Although I guess my dad kind of is, so that's two, although he and my mom aren't really in the same line, because that would be gross --"
"You're kidding again," Paris said.
"Well, babbling. I like that too."
"Babbling," Paris said thoughtfully. Then she stood straighter and put her arms behind her back. "As I was saying. I would like to make you a proposal, and I would like you to do me the courtesy of seriously considering it before making a decision."
"You have my undivided attention," Rory said.
"I think that it's time that you face the fact that you will never find happiness with a man."
"As recent events have proven, you have an uninterrupted record of disastrous relationships with men. In fact --"
"I wouldn't call Logan and me disastrous --"
"You went to bed for a week with five pints of Ben & Jerry's and The Collected Works of Sylvia Plath."
"That's just -- that's normal college angst, everybody goes through something like that when they're my age, it wasn't a disaster --"
"To the University of New Zealand."
"What's your point, Paris?"
"Merely that this latest sad state of affairs, pardon the pun, is indicative of an endemic problem in your life. You're incapable of having a long-lasting, fulfilling relationship with a man."
"I am not!"
"Rory," Paris said, "let's face reality here. Before Logan, who was there? Do I need to list them?"
"What's your point, Paris? It's not like you've got such a great track record."
"Actually, you've just made my point for me. Neither of us have such a great track record -- with men."
"So what's your proposal?" Rory said. She opened her book again. "Are you going to stage an intervention? Build me get a craft corner? Buy me a copy of The Rules?"
"My proposal is that you and I should enter into a Boston marriage."
Rory closed her book. "What?" she said.
"A Boston marriage," Paris said. "A passionate friendship between equals. A mutual relationship of love and support. A primary emotional attachment and outlet between two women. Forsaking all others. You and me. Till death, blah blah blah --"
"I know what a Boston marriage is," Rory said. "I just hadn't heard of anyone having once since, oh, Queen Victoria died."
"Nevertheless," Paris said. "It's the perfect solution."
"But I don't have a problem," Rory said. Paris cocked her eyebrow. "I don't -- you're crazy!"
"I'll give you some time to consider it," Paris said. "Give it some serious thought. No rush."
She walked to the door, then turned. "We'll talk tomorrow," she said, and then left.
Rory sat looking at the door. It was a long time before she opened her book again.
She went to bed early that night, because she was really tired with all the studying and everything. Tired as she was, it still took her a long time to fall asleep. It was after midnight when she heard Paris come back in. She was too tired to get up and talk to her.
The next morning Rory was awakened by a light knock at the door. By the time she got there, Paris was gone. On the floor in front of the door was a tray holding a cup of coffee, a chocolate doughnut, the New York Times folded open to the editorial page, and a file folder. Rory carried the tray over to the coffee table. She turned the TV on to the morning news, then turned it off. She ate half the doughnut and looked at the Times longingly. Then she nudged open the file folder.
Inside was a forty-page printout of a PowerPoint presentation entitled Boston Marriage: The Thinking Woman's Solution. Rory gripped the doughnut between her teeth and sat back on the couch, PowerPoint in one hand and coffee in another. She paged through the presentation, determinedly not pausing at a chart labeled "A Historical Analysis of Gilmore Dating: Two Decades of Disaster." When she got to the three-page bibliography at the end, she flipped back to the beginning and read it again, more slowly.
When Rory finished reading, Paris still hadn't returned. She left the tray and the presentation on the coffee table and went to get dressed. Before she left for class, she wrote, "Thanks for breakfast," on the first page of Paris's presentation and put it back in its file folder. At the last minute she opened the folder and tore the bibliography out of the packet and shoved it in her backpack. Then she pushed the folder under Paris's bedroom door.
That night, when she came home, Paris was sitting on the couch with her legs tucked under her and the file folder in her lap. She didn't look up when Rory shut the door.
"Hey, Paris," Rory said, "how's it going?"
"Did you even read it?" Paris said. She still wasn't looking at Rory and Rory didn't think she sounded like herself. She did sound angry, which was like Paris, but her voice sounded smaller somehow, and brittle. Actually, she did sound a lot like herself, Rory thought, just the self that Paris didn't show to many other people.
"Of course," Rory said. "Of course I read it, I read it twice."
"Oh," Paris said. She looked up at Rory. "Because it was just lying there, on my floor, and you wrote 'thanks for breakfast' on it but you didn't write anything else on it, so I didn't know what to think."
"I just wanted to thank you for breakfast," Rory said. "Because it was nice of you, and it was good, so I wanted to thank you but you weren't here so I wrote you that note, because -- well, thank you for breakfast. It was nice of you."
"You're welcome," Paris said.
"And, you know, thank you for that PowerPoint presentation," Rory said. "It was very informative. And well researched. And full of charts."
"I do think it's easier to really consider something when you have all the facts laid out in front of you like that. It's more concrete."
"Oh, I agree," Rory said.
"So?" Paris said.
"It was very concrete."
"You must have more to say about it than that."
"What am I supposed to say?" Rory said. "It's not -- you're not serious."
"It's forty pages of PowerPoint. Who would do that if they weren't serious?" Paris asked. "Besides, I'm always serious."
"That's true," Rory said. "But I guess I just don't see this big problem that you see. So I haven't found the right guy. So what? I'm not even out of college yet. I have plenty of time."
"I thought you said you read my proposal."
"I did -- look, I even took the bibliography with me."
"Well, if you'd read it thoroughly, you would have seen the statistics on what it's like out there for intelligent, high-achieving women." Paris was on her feet now, pacing up and down in front of the couch. "Do you know what the chances of finding someone who's a real partner, who supports your goals and thinks that your career is equal to his and can meet your intelligence with his own? I believe the scientific term is not bloody likely!"
"Statistics don't --"
"Rory, open your eyes. Do you think that you're what men want? The real you, not the cute quirky little college girl? You're smart as hell, and driven as hell, and you want to do something real with your life, and has there ever been anyone in your life who really knows what that feels like, who's really, truly understood your goals and supported them?"
"Paris, that doesn't matter --"
"Doesn't matter? Doesn't matter?"
"Of course it matters in the long run. But it doesn't matter right now, because what you're proposing isn't real," Rory said. "Come on."
"Not real," Paris said. She sat down on the couch.
Rory sat down next to her. "Look, you're just -- you're having a dry spell, that's all. I know it's hard, but somebody's going to come along. You can't give up just because things are looking a little rough. That would just be sad." She reached out and patted Paris's arm. It didn't feel as awkward as she'd thought it would. "Buck up, little camper."
"This isn't about giving up," Paris said. She put her hand over Rory's, just lightly at first. "You haven't really thought about it, not seriously. You haven't let yourself. But think about it, Rory, open your mind and think. What would it be like, to have someone who really knows what it's like to want what you want, who thinks about the same things, who cares about the same things? Who thinks about them and cares about them with you? Who makes them -- who makes you -- the center of their life?"
"Is that what you're saying isn't real? Because I think that's sad."
"No," Rory said. "I don't believe that that can't be real."
"Just think about it," Paris said. She let go of Rory's hand and walked toward her room.
The next morning Rory woke up again to a knock outside her door, and a cup of coffee and the New York Times. This time she made sure to write her thank-you note on a piece of paper ripped out of one of her notebooks, with nothing on the back that could be misconstrued. While she was fishing through her backpack for a piece of paper, she pulled out the bibliography she'd stuffed in there the day before. Rory unfolded it carefully and put it in the front pocket of her backpack, where it would be easier to find.
After a week of breakfast not in bed, exactly, but on the floor, Rory caught up to Paris between classes and said, "You don't have to bring me breakfast every day, you know."
"I know I don't have to," Paris said. "I want to."
"Well, okay," Rory said.
"Do you not want me to?"
"Well, no," Rory said. "But -- I should do something nice for you."
"You don't have to."
"I know I don't have to," Rory said. "I want to."
Paris smiled. "Well, okay."
"So -- is there something you want? I mean, I could buy you coffee, although it seems kind of stupid for you to get up in the morning and bring me coffee and me to get up and bring you coffee, because we'd both be up and we'd kind of cancel each other out --"
"Do you know what I'd like?" Paris said. "What was it you were listening to while you were studying last night?"
"I don't remember," Rory said. "Maybe the White Stripes?"
"I don't know," Paris said. "I don't know much about that kind of music. But I kind of liked what you were listening to."
"I'll make you a selection. Rory Gilmore's Songs for Swinging PoliSci Students. The soundtrack of my studying life."
"I'd like that," Paris said.
More than a week of breakfast, the daily paper, and even the latest issue of the Believer delivered to Rory's door deserved a kick-ass CD, in Rory's opinion, and so she called in the expert.
"You want to make Paris a mix tape," Lane said.
"Well, a mix CD. I've written some ideas down, but I thought you'd have some better ones, so --"
"You want to make Paris a mix tape," Lane said.
"Well, yes. She's been really nice to me lately, she's been bringing me coffee every day, and the paper, and I think she's been kind of down about guys or something lately, because she had this insane idea --"
"You want to make Paris a mix tape," Lane said. "I made Zach a mix tape."
"This isn't like that kind of mix tape," Rory said. "I mean, think of this as a mission of mercy. The gaps in Paris's musical knowledge -- well, you can't even call them gaps, it's more like the bands she does know are tiny islands in the vast ocean of her ignorance." Lane looked at her blankly, and before she could say the same thing again Rory said, "Lane, she's never even heard of Sonic Youth."
Lane winced. "You know that's physically painful for me to hear." Rory grinned, and Lane sighed. "All right. Words I never thought I'd say: Let's go make Paris a mix tape."
The mix CD went over well, as Rory had known it would, but she knew that even though Paris didn't ask, she was still waiting for an official response to her proposal. It was only fair to do a little research, to take it as seriously as Paris did. But Rory still had classes, after all, and it was a few days before she had a chance to spend some quality time at the library with Paris's bibliography. Rory set herself up at a carrel on the third floor, far from the action, and started to skim through the pile of books in front of her. She had never read most of them. They were pretty interesting, and she took a few notes, but nothing really caught her eye until she opened a small paperbound book. It was someone's dissertation from ten years ago, analyzing the letters of a small group of nineteenth-century New England women, and from the state of the book it was quite possible that no one except the author had read it in ten years. Something about that seemed so heartbreakingly sad to Rory that she settled in to read it right that second.
She was twenty pages in before she was startled by the sight of dark lines underscoring a passage. It wasn't just her usual reaction to such a violation of a book -- and a library book at that -- that stopped her, it was her recognition of the familiar handwriting in the margins. Of course Paris had read this book, too.
It had been a long time since Rory had had the pleasure of reading a book notated by someone close to her, that intimate sense of dipping into someone else's mind while she read. This book was no Howl; in fact, it was rather dry, but she found herself enjoying the tracks Paris had left through the pages. She laughed when a spot of particularly troubled grammar prompted Paris to write, "you illiterate moron," and she smiled when she found traces of Paris's argument in one woman's letter to her friend. "In you I find the only true measure of my success, because only you understand my aspirations, and share them," was underlined in Paris's heavy hand.
There were other passages, highlighted more tentatively, as if Paris weren't quite sure of them, or as if she were afraid that someone else might see how sure she was. "You are the grace of my life," Rory read, and there was something startling about that, too. Rory traced the light pencil line with her finger and tried to imagine Paris reading those words, reading them and wanting to mark them, to remember them.
"Tell me what books you read, what music you hear, what company you meet, what thoughts you think. Tell me, my beloved, so that I may read those books, and hear that music, meet those folk, and think those thoughts. Tell me, so that I may know you better by knowing what you know, that I may love you better by loving what you love." Rory shut the book and left it abandoned in the carrel.
At home Paris was already in bed. Rory knocked on her door and then walked in without waiting for an answer.
"Here's the thing," Rory said. "We never had that kind of friendship -- not just all gushing and sentimental, although that certainly never was us, but it's never really been all that supportive, has it? Competitive, yes, and driven, but all mutually supportive like you said, that's never been what we're about. That's not our friendship."
"Well, our friendship's always been passionate," Paris said sleepily.
"Yes, but not -- not the way you were talking about."
"Oh, come on," Paris said, sitting up in bed. "I mean, yes, I'm never going to be all sloppy, touchy-feely, oh my angel whatever you do is perfect because you're so perfect. I'd throw up before I'd manage to say something like that, and you'd throw up if you had to listen to it. Or you should, at any rate."
"I don't know --"
"But that's not the only way of supporting someone. I push you to be better, to do more, to be more of what you can be. Don't I?"
"Yes," Rory said. "But I don't know that that's always a good thing. I mean, competition, yeah, it makes you better, but sometimes it felt like you were willing to take it to the death, you know?"
"Rory," Paris said, and even in the low light spilling in from the living room, Rory could see that Paris's face was serious, expectant, "do you really think I haven't changed since I was sixteen?"
"No," Rory said. "No, you've changed."
Even in the low light Rory could see Paris smile. "And you've changed too."
"Yeah," Rory said. She got up from Paris's bed. "Well, good night. I'm sorry I woke you up."
"I'm not," Paris said. "At least I know you've been thinking about it."
"Yeah, well, I think about a lot of things. And you gave me that list of books -- you know I can't resist a list of books."
"Well, keep thinking about it," Paris said. She lay back down and rolled to her side.
"Maybe," Rory said. "I mean, I've got an exam in three days, I've got to think about that, and like I said, I have a lot of things to think about --"
"Keep thinking about it," Paris said without opening her eyes.
On the morning of her exam, Rory woke up to a delicious aroma wafting through her room. "Am I dreaming?" she said out loud as she got out of bed. She followed the smell to the living room. Paris was sitting on the couch, pouring coffee into a mug from a massive thermos.
"Here," Paris said. "Drink this."
Rory took the cup. "I don't know if I should. I think I still might be asleep." She took a sip of coffee and said, "Now I know I'm still dreaming. This is -- is this Luke's coffee?"
"Yes," Paris said. She brandished her thermos. "Drink up, because there's plenty more where that came from."
"But where -- how --" Rory took another grateful sip of coffee. "God, this is good. But you went all the way down to Stars Hollow already? And how in the world did you manage to get Luke to fill up a huge thermos for you during the morning rush? He hates that -- he never does it."
"I'll tell you what I told him," Paris said. "When you run an establishment whose purpose is to sell coffee, and someone comes in and wants to purchase a large amount of coffee from you at a premium price, this is not a problem. This is a business opportunity. It's not the type of thing you should forbid; it's the type of thing a savvy businessman takes advantage of."
"That worked?" Rory said. "I can't believe that worked."
"It didn't. He told me that when he needed an economics lesson, he'd call me up, and then he told me to get out, but I held my ground, and then he tried to ignore me. Well, you can imagine how successful that was."
"I would give quite a lot to have seen that," Rory said.
"He put in a valiant effort, I'll give him that. Finally I just stood right in the center of the room and I said as loudly as I could, 'Rory Gilmore needs her coffee this morning, and I'm not going to let you or anyone else stand in the way of that. I don't care if I have to stand here all day.' And then it seemed like he was going to try to ignore me again, so I got right in his way and I said that as long as I was standing there I might as well explain to him the folly of his ways, and then he kind of huffed and puffed and threw his hands around and then he poured the rest of the pot of coffee into my thermos and then made another pot and filled the thermos the rest of the way up. Because I had brought a very large thermos."
"Wow," Rory said. "Wow. What was everyone else doing while this was going on?"
"Well, mostly eating their breakfast. Lorelai was on my side, though. At least I think she was. She kept banging her coffee cup on the table and saying, 'Attica, Attica.'"
"Wow," Rory said. She finished her coffee, and Paris held out the thermos.
"Yes, please," Rory said. When Paris was finished pouring, she said, "Paris, what are you doing? I mean, all this --"
"I know what you mean," Paris said. She smiled. "I'm wooing you."
"I'm wooing you."
"I'm not sure I want you to woo me."
"Well, you're smiling," Paris said. "That might be some sort of clue."
"Yes, well, the word woo is kind of funny."
"I know," Paris said. "That's why I chose it."
"That's why you chose it," Rory said. She drank her coffee thoughtfully. "You're very odd."
"But you did think that word was funny."
"Yes, but -- never mind. God, what time is it? I've got to get moving -- I've got an exam this morning. That coffee was just what I needed, though."
"You're welcome," Paris said.
"Thank you! I said thank you, didn't I? I meant to say thank you."
"I know what you meant," Paris said. She smiled. "You're welcome."
Rory's mother called just as she was leaving her last class. Rory had to give her credit for holding out that long; she'd expected a call hours ago. "You know, Luke was very upset by Paris's little visit. He's been waking up screaming ever since."
"Paris was only there this morning. Luke hasn't had time to wake up screaming."
"He woke up screaming from a nap. I'm telling you, he's having flashbacks. It's either Paris or Nam, it's hard to tell which."
"Luke doesn't take naps. Also, Luke was not in Nam."
"Yes, but he saw the director's cut of Apocalypse Now last week and he's been taking it very hard." Rory didn't dignify that with an answer. "So what was that all about this morning, anyway? Did Paris lose a bet?"
"Paris is wooing me," Rory said.
"Did you just say wooing? Wait -- did you just say Paris? And is? And you?"
"Yes, but it's not what you think. Paris thinks that she and I should have a Boston marriage."
"Huh," Rory's mom said. "Well. Huh. Well. Well, you've finally done it. They said it would never happen, but here it has. I have absolutely nothing to say to that."
"Like I said, it's not what you think. A Boston marriage isn't --"
"I know what a Boston marriage is. I read the papers. And I run an elegant inn in a quaint, quirky, picturesque small New England town -- that's honeymoon catnip for the Boston marriage crowd."
"No, no, that's not -- that's a marriage you get in Boston. She's talking about an old-fashioned Boston marriage, you know, where two women live together, and, and support each other, and are each other's primary emotional person, and devote themselves to each other --"
"And adopt cats and Chinese baby girls together, yes, yes, I told you I know what a Boston marriage is."
"No, you're not listening! Women used to have them a long time ago, and they were mostly platonic, probably, or at least some of them, or most of them, it's hard to tell because people used to write about things really differently than now, they were very flowery. But they were for women who couldn't find what they needed in relationships with men, and who wanted to have a passionate friendship with each other, and it's very hard not to make this sound very very gay but it wasn't. Isn't. Necessarily."
"Platonic. I see."
"That Paris, boy. She's got some ideas."
"Well, I mean, it's Paris, but you know, it's not crazy. Necessarily. I mean, you can see how it can sound attractive, if you haven't had such a great track record, to have somebody who really understands the things you want, and thinks about things the same way, and just really gets you, in a way that no one ever has. I mean, that doesn't sound so crazy, when you think about it," Rory said.
"I think it sounds like a plain old friendship," her mother said slowly. "Either that, or it sounds like settling."
"No, it's different -- it doesn't have to be," Rory said. "You don't understand."
"Maybe not, babe."
"'If only you knew how my heart beats when I think of you and it yearns and pants to gaze, if only for one second upon your lovely face.' Angelina Weld Grimke wrote that to the woman she called her wife. I don't think that sounds much like settling."
"No. But it doesn't sound much like platonic to me either."
"No," Rory admitted, her voice small.
"Rory, listen to me. You're my kid, and you're a great kid, and you deserve to have anything you want to have. And I want you to have whatever it is you want to have, whether it's an old-fashioned Boston marriage, or a new-fashioned Boston marriage, or a plain old boy-girl marriage that just happens to take place in Boston. I've got your back, as long as it's what you want."
"But I would hate to see you choose something that isn't what you really want, to see you settle for something, just because you're afraid."
"But I would hate just as much to see you not choose something that is what you really want, just because you're afraid. Because I love you, kiddo, and I'll be crazy about anyone you bring home, as long as you're crazy about them."
"Just promise me that you won't give up on that -- on being absolutely crazy, passionate, out of your mind, gotta have 'em or you'll die, can't look at 'em without grabbing 'em, giddy, giggling, goofy, loopy in love, because, babe, that is one of the prime joys and pleasures in life, and it is worth any amount of loneliness and bad break-ups and pints of Ben & Jerry's that it takes to get there, believe me, as long as you get there. Believe me, I know, and it sounds to me like your friend Angelina knew too."
"I know," Rory said.
"I hope you do."
When Rory hung up, Paris was watching TV in the living room. "What's on?" Rory said, sitting next to her on the couch.
"I taped the National Spelling Bee off of C-Span. This home-schooled lummox from Utah just spelled oscillate with one l, and you could actually see his mother's head spin around on her neck. You want me to rewind?"
"Please," Rory said. She watched Paris point out the boy's plaid-draped mother, then silently spell along with the little girl from Texas who got adamantine. "Paris?" she said, and Paris turned toward her, her lips still moving along with the TV.
Rory turned to meet her, and kissed her.
Rory didn't know why she was surprised that Paris wasn't shy, tentative. She had always known Paris to be fierce in pursuit of what she wanted. But still she was surprised when Paris surged against her, pushing her back into the sofa, and she was surprised when she pushed right back against Paris. She was even more surprised when she realized that deep down, she wasn't that surprised at all.
Paris pulled away from her and for just a moment they paused there, panting, looking into each other's faces. Rory thought that Paris looked as surprised as she felt, and wondered if they had both been surprised by the same thing. Then Paris jumped up from the couch and ran out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Rory sat up and reached for the remote. She watched the little boy spell his word wrong over and over. She guessed that she and Paris hadn't been surprised by the same thing, after all.
The spelling bee was still dragging on an hour later when Paris burst back into the room. "You missed another homeschool flame-out," Rory said, looking up from the couch. Paris stood over her, looking down at her. "You want I should rewind?"
"No," Paris said, and kissed her. This time Rory pushed her away, but not until they were both breathless.
"I freaked out," Paris said, grinning.
"Well, don't sound so proud of yourself."
"I am proud of myself. I freak out! That's what I do. I do it over everything. This wasn't anything special -- I mean, of course this was special, but it was good special, not bad special. I didn't freak out because it was bad, I freaked out because --"
"You're a freak?" Rory said, but she couldn't help smiling too.
"I am! I freak out! And it only took me an hour to figure it out. Do you know how not-bad that means this was? When I freak over something bad, it takes me days of continuous flipping out and weeks of life coaching to figure it out, but this I figured out in an hour and a fifteen-minute phone call to Terrence!"
"I didn't know you were still seeing him."
"He's on retainer. But I didn't even really need him this time, because the first thing I said when I called him was, 'I freaked out! I kissed Rory and I freaked out, but that wasn't because of the kiss, it was only because I freak out over everything. And I'm not freaked out now. I kissed Rory and I'm not freaked out!'" She smiled at Rory. "I kissed you, and I'm not freaked out."
"Actually," Rory said, "I kissed you." Paris lifted an eyebrow at her. "The first time. I kissed you."
"You did," Paris said. "Does that mean you've considered my proposal?"
"I think it's really too early in both of our lives for a commitment like that." When Paris started to argue, Rory kissed her again. "But I'm willing to be wooed," Rory said. "And to woo. I'm willing to woo."
Paris laughed. "It really is a funny word," she said.