DISCLAIMER: Yes, yes, I know, Gilmore Girls is the property of Amy Sherman-Palladino, Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions, Hofflund-Polone and Warner Bros. Television. Somehow I haven't been able to change that yet. All other trademarks and services are the property of their respective owners.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hello there! I know, I know, this isn't The Innkeeper's Lover, but that story's chapter four has become a beast that may not be posted anytime soon. This is one of two fics I'm posting to start 2013, and this story I'm curious as to how people will read it. I've been working on this one for two years from an idea I had back then, but just never got around to finishing until I had a near week of time out. It seems like poor Paris and Lorelai have been neglected lately, and this seems to be a fun way to get those two ladies together, while also pushing away most of what I loathed about the cursed final season, such as the new 'brain trust' forgetting about all the supporting characters the staff had built up over six years before, and pretty much treating Paris as mere comic relief who had not had a nervous breakdown in season six mined solely for comedy rather than what it was; a girl who lost her parents to greed and a friend who took advantage of her to get the editorship of the paper despite not really deserving it for her semester off. Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years, especially Mieks and Danielle, who really both love Par/Lor. Please review and tell me what you think of this, even if you don't like it.
SPOILERS: This is a definite alternate take on season seven. Lorelai never went near a relationship with Christopher, but turned down Luke's invitation to elope. Everything with Logan and Rory happened as is in the show but will not be elaborated on. Paris and Doyle are broken up friends and distant. Finally, Olivia and Lucy happened for Rory, but not for Paris.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Sketching Out the Details
Lorelai wasn't feeling like herself anymore.
Not that she felt disconnected from herself. She was just completely unsure of who she was anymore. Was she still the idealistic girl of fourteen she always thought she was, forever young, always wanting to learn? Or was she the thirty-eight year old innkeeper who had loved and lost...and lost...and, well, was getting to be the Detroit Lioness of Dating?
Luke was now only a friend. She had kept her distance from Christopher since he almost attempted to take advantage of her state when she came up to Boston to talk to someone, an error she had never told anyone. She wasn't sure of herself, but she knew that holding back April for as long as Luke did was unforgivable.
For the last few months she had been throwing herself into the Inn, much to the worry of her best friend. Sookie was troubled as she saw herself leave work before Lorelai, where for many years it was the exact opposite. It would get to near ten at night, she would be ready to go, and there was Lorelai, buried in her work, telling her she would catch a nap on the couch in her office if she had to. The inn was doing very well and for the chef it concerned Sookie that Lorelai became a workaholic to make up for her problems with Luke.
The mother of three began to see the effects first-hand. Lorelai was losing weight, less apt to 'taste' Sookie's meals in order to throw herself into the credit card reports and pursue those who bounced checks just for the want of something to do. She became irritable, tired. With Rory in school more and taking a trip to London over fall break to see her boyfriend, she couldn't even have movie marathons anymore, as her wisecracks would echo through an empty house.
Sookie would spend nights talking to Jackson about her worries, and her husband would assure her that Lorelai would always bounce back. But five months after the breakup, that was not the case in any way.
The readhead was growing deeply concerned as November rolled around and heard the tall brunette fret that her mother was constantly on her about finding someone to at least date for the upcoming holidays, but she had no interest in doing so. "I'm just going to end up with my heart broken," she told her matter-of-factly. "I'll just keep my mother off my ass for the holidays and we can get back to normal."
She knew there was no way Lorelai would be back to 'normal' unless there was some intervention on her part. In the days of the Independence Inn if Lorelai felt a little mopey something could come to cheer them up eventually.
But at this time of year with both of them partners in the Dragonfly with the few limited indoor weddings they could get? Sookie knew as a businesswoman that Lorelai had to cheer up at the peril of the business.
The woman tried to figure out what to do over a week, pouring her mind over for ideas. She didn't want to get something physical, but she knew that there was one thing that brought Lorelai out, always.
Socialization. Business school had been a fun time for Lorelai and she felt challenged by the experience, coming out better for it. She loved making the friends she'd still see every few weeks in Hartford at a local coffee shop. It was good for her to get out of the craziness of Stars Hollow and Sookie knew it was enriching for the woman.
But her mind kept getting struck on something else. When Lorelai was still a maid and Sookie an apprentice to the head chef at the Independence in their early twenties they would talk about their childhoods, and one thing Lorelai mentioned stuck out.
She loved being an artist. She told Sookie of spending hours in her art class at Hillside Academy feeling creative and being happy in there, drawing or sketching, and painting. She eventually fell out of it because of Emily haranguing her for pursuing what she called 'an idle activity with no chance of advancement', while to Christopher the act of art wasn't as cool as racing his Camaro down Route 5.
"I regret that I didn't go deeper into it," Lorelai said, sighing in regret. "I made up for it by excelling in crafts and home economics. My sewing and all that. But there's nothing like feeling black pencil lead all over your fingers 'cause you're going over this thing you've been trying to draw perfectly. If I ever had the time to do it again, I would take it up in a heartbeat."
As Sookie recalled the conversation, she was at her kitchen table with a bunch of copies of the New Haven Advocate Jackson had picked up in order to carve Davey and Martha's pumpkins. Notably thrifty, Jackson had told his wife that he would rather use a free paper to cut them over than support the local gossip-happy Gazette, even to carve pumpkins over.
While Jackson was at the pumpkin patch, Sookie stayed behind for a well-deserved few hours of quiet time. The chef busied herself by cleaning the kitchen, then draping the newspaper over the table. She had no interest in what was in the paper since she was no longer 21 and certainly not into the bands the kids in New Haven liked. Long weekends spent just going to concerts or bar-hopping were now definitely not allowed for the renowned chef in her late thirties.
As she laid out the last of the papers over the table, her eyes caught on something. She didn't know why, but she suddenly found herself entranced by an ad on one of the pages. Not because it was big and huge, beckoning her to holiday savings on a Chevy Tahoe. Instead, a figure that was drawn was reproduced in soybean newsprint, wrapped around a box.
She stopped to read the text, and where in any other circumstance she might have ignored it, Sookie hummed in excitement as her interest was piqued at the subject of the ad;
Looking to expand your inspiration and find new friends in a calm and relaxed setting? The New Haven Workshop for the Creative Arts is now taking students for their new class, 'Introductory Figure Drawing' with Eleanor Sandberg, an acclaimed teacher from New York. This thirteen-week class will test your creativity and give you a new insight on how the human body is portrayed and why it is a work of art. Most materials included; inquire further details via our website.
Interested, she ripped the ad off the page and headed to her kitchen laptop which contained her library of recipes. She opened her browser and Googled the school's name to be taken to their website, where she read more details about the class. Everything seemed great about it, but what got to her was the setting.
As our building was formerly a New Haven Police precinct house converted into a school for adults, our setting is much different from a usual figure drawing class. Where other schools surround the drawing subject with the students and possibly would make them feel uncomfortable, we use what had been the building's former interrogation room, which like the main classroom has been remodeled to be a comforting place to model. With the model staring at their own reflection in the mirrored glass rather than other students, this class provides a unique setting for a figure drawing class not found in any other school in New England. The focus thus is on the drawing techniques themselves as taught by Ms. Sandberg, rather than the focus of placing a model in a setting where they are front and center rather than the craft being taught.
"Hmmm..." Sookie had never heard of such a class, but it was definitely unique. She could see Lorelai being much more comfortable in a class like this where she could make a few joking asides without insulting the model themselves. That meant Lorelai could make some new friends and gain more skill that she could use, maybe in wedding settings and become her happy old self again.
She scrolled down a little more for the dreaded part of the class; the cost. She closed her eyes and wondered if it was something that would not only be a good gift, but not crimp her wallet and deny Davey his Tickle Me Whatever at Christmastime. She opened her eyes...
The class is $500 regularly. However with early registration for our classes staring in December, there will be a 25% discount for early registrants...
"$375?" Sookie was a little shocked at the figure. But she knew she could do it. Not only would it get Lorelai out of her blahs, but maybe, just maybe it would make Lorelai happy again and get her out of her Luke funk.
She had no idea before then what to get Lorelai. But by the time Jackson came home she had received an email from the Workshop thanking her for her payment and that they would send Lorelai a gift package as soon as Sookie wanted it sent out.
"I really hate to do this, Lor," she told herself. "But you need to get yourself back out there, girl. And this is something you'll have fun with, if not to have laughs about funny looking penises." Blushing from saying the word she closed out the window, wondering how her best friend would react when she gave her the gift over Thanksgiving.
Paris Gellar was frustrated. Now that she was fully on her own, things were not, in a word, 'good' in any way. Since she had lost financial support no thanks to her mother actually listening to the bozo who told her she was within her constitutional rights not to pay taxes and convinced her father of the same, Paris had been doing things to keep up with her bills. She was just barely over water, but knew one false move and she would be in a financial hole.
Without Rory's half of the rent and utilities she would be dead. She was down to nothing but broadcast cable, did homework by candlelight and wore multiple sweaters to keep herself warm. Any way she could save a dime was enough to keep her solvent. The tutoring service she started helped, but she knew that it wouldn't be enough to be a career, so she took a couple of jobs at Yale's library, shelving books and scanning items in order to keep all her bills paid.
But she had just received her second semester tuition bill. Everything she would do, would not be enough to pay it. She was still stuck with the yoke of her formerly large income defining to the feds what her tuition could be, and she was determined that she would do anything before she would be stuck with a student loan until it was absolutely necessary, and hopefully in a year or so she could get at her protected trust early and get back on track.
Everything about her life right now wasn't good. Doyle had gotten a job offer for The Oklahoman writing about sports that he would have been stupid to pass up, as it offered great opportunities for advancement. Thus the relationship she had with him for a year was gone, though on good terms as he moved to Norman to write about the Sooners. Rory wasn't there more often than not, or buried in her laptop or phone texting and Skyping Logan non-stop. She couldn't stand her studies any longer and was looking for any way to make her ends meet to get her last year of undergraduate studies paid for.
Paris had grabbed a copy of the Advocate, a paper she loathed as a competitor to the Daily News, but now was finding a lifeline to hopefully finding a job which didn't humiliate her. The last words she ever wanted to utter were "Welcome to McDonalds, this is Paris. May I take your order, please?"
She browsed through most of the ads, finding most of the jobs beneath her or just too physical. She knew she could handle factory work but that she would likely be stuck on the assembly line based on her short structure, something she didn't want to end up on.
With a furrowed brow she went through them all, until her eyes caught an ad off to the side with a figure. She read through the ad, seeing it was about figure drawing, something she wasn't interested in.
Well, not the class itself. She would never have the patience to draw a human figure and saw herself being either restless or using an eraser to finesse her drawing until the paper was frayed through.
But she read through the other part of the ad and found herself piqued.
Models who are taken for this class will receive fair compensation for their services, around $100 per session. As we have several sessions on several evenings you will work consistently with one class over a thirteen week period.
Soon she was reading further on the website, concerned about how she would be seen as a model, and read through the description.
We strive to provide a safe and relaxed environment for our models. Despite our unique glassed-off setting where you will not hear any input from the classroom, we do screen out and will suspend any student who is not in the class in a serious manner. The most important thing is that we are not looking for a 'perfect beauty'; applications from professional models will not be accepted. If you have any piercings or tattoos we do encourage you to apply as the human body to Ms. Sandberg is just another canvas, and provides a challenge to our students to work into their assignments.
She spent all night perusing all of the various requirements to apply, including an application and pictures. She walked around the empty apartment, feeling unsure of herself and wondering if somehow she was demeaning herself in the name of tuition money.
But Paris could think of worst ways to pay her bill. This was $1,300 of guaranteed income that she could put right in and pay Yale with. The Workshop was also a quality outfit, having been around for forty years without any problems to speak of beyond the usual spattering of unaccredited teachers that plagued these kinds of schools. But she had remembered that the Daily News profiled Ms. Sandberg a few years back and found her work and teaching style to be second to none.
She looked herself in the mirror after closing all the blinds and undressing, taking a hard look at herself.
"I look worn out," she told herself, looking at her naked form in the mirror. The slim form she had for a long time from the diet her mother suggested during Chilton senior year had long disappeared, and her womanly form had come back all over again. Her hips were wide, while her cheeks took that deep russet color she knew was unique to her genetics. She felt her eyes weigh down a little from exhaustion as she ran her fingers along the curvature of her breasts.
She moaned, knowing they were so tender and unique. She had been taught by Sharon to be ashamed of her breasts and hide them from the world for years. When she could buy $300 cashmere sweaters and $150 turtlenecks to slim her figure down, that was quite easy.
No longer was that the case. Her wardrobe had become much different in intervening years, out of pure necessity. Going down to Target and Wal-Mart from J. Crew and Macy's forced her to look more at lighter sweaters and t-shirts, and Lorelai teaching her that Goodwill was not a word of shame had given her a reality check she so desperately needed. She had to show off her breasts a little more in her outfits, if only because she couldn't pay more for bulk any longer.
She was just now growing to love her body in its imperfect state, moles, freckles and all. If it wasn't for Asher Fleming, she knew she would still be hiding in those large sweaters, shy as could be.
Looking at herself in the mirror, she knew that she needed to get out and prepare for the real world, and get over some of her insecurities about herself. She had changed. Paris wasn't a pushover any longer, but she also was growing to have a heart now.
Besides, it can't hurt on the resume, she thought to herself wryly. And I'm not going to ever see anybody in this class. It is a perfect class for me; I can be as anonymous as possible. Maybe I can even convince them to use a false name so nobody knows I'm spending some of my nights in an old police station being a sketch subject.
She thought for a couple more hours, but soon was sending out to the Workshop an application back via email, along with a few shots of herself sent in a ZIP file.
"And hey," she told herself, "if I don't get accepted, it's fine." She went to bed, content to not think about it unless they called back at all, which her bitter side thought would never happen.
The new month of November had brought the innkeeper into an even deeper ennui. Her mother had attempted to set her up on a couple of dates which had failed miserably as the men didn't meet any kind of standards she wanted. Rory was actually considering a move to London to work for The Guardian to satisfy Mitchum's want for Logan to stay overseas, no matter her wishes that the girl would stop living for just a man. She had finished up the decoration plans for the Inn for the holidays on the evening Sookie invited her over for a dinner as again Jackson gave her a break to pick out a turkey a few days before the holiday. Thankfully her veto meant poor Davey and Martha would only see their father choose a fresh turkey at the Trader Joe's in Hartford rather than his original plan of choosing one still living at a farm north of Norfolk.
Sookie ordered a pizza from Joe's and caught up with Lorelai about her life, seeing that the tall brunette was deeply worried about everything. The Inn was doing well and her bills were being paid. Everything else surrounding her life was adding pressure, however. Lack of dates, daughter gone, and a lack of anything fun unless it involved a peanut-shaped TiVo remote in her fingers catching up on Will & Grace. Lorelai was not herself any longer, and Sookie needed to change that somehow.
After the women had shared a couple of MGD's between them, Sookie suddenly perked up. "Lorelai, I have something for you. I'll be right back."
The innkeeper was curious as to what her best friend would want to give her. It wasn't even Christmas yet, or even Black Friday. She began to peel the label of her bottle, sad about the state of her life. I'm 38 and what am I? A single woman who just has nothing going on. She looked around the room until the cheerful chef came back in.
"Now I know it isn't Christmas yet, but this is something that I couldn't have gotten you then. I thought you'd like to try this." Sookie handed her over a large wrapped package, nearly flat but not quite, nearly in the shape of a laptop. "Open it up!" Sookie's enthusiasm was nearly overbearing as she giggled happily as Lorelai gave her a side-eyed glance, wondering what had gotten into her friend/business partner.
"OK, I guess." She noticed the striped wrapping and began to feel it on each side to guess what it was. She couldn't make it out however, beyond the fact it was some kind of paper product from the sound it made when she knocked on it. She began to unwrap it, but took one guess about what it could be.
"Sook, do I really need a ten year desk calendar?" The redhead laughed at her guess. "Because if it's that, I'm going to OfficeMax to declare them insane for selling one." She peeled back more of the wrap until a blank piece of cardboard appeared before her.
"Turn it around," Sookie encouraged, as Lorelai narrowed her eyes. She didn't know what she could be talking about until she noticed the spiral on the side. She turned it around.
It was something that was just a little smaller than a newspaper. She turned it around and then...
"A...sketch pad?" She looked at the black 11"x14" book with 100 pages and wondered what was going on. She then found another gift lightly taped to the cover of the pad. "And a...five pack of charcoal pencils, along with a gum eraser?" Lorelai was utterly confused by what was presented to her. "Hon, did you have a few beers before you came here? I'm not an architect."
"It's part of my early Christmas gift to you," she said brightly. "There's something else, look behind the cover."
"OK...I swear, this is confusing." She opened up the book to find a white envelope marked 'for Lorelai' taped to it. Pulling it off, she looked at Sookie, feeling odd for having such a gift early. "I really don't know what you could be doing."
She looked down at the back of the envelope and peeled it open with her index finger, ripping the surface slightly before revealing the contents inside. Two sheets of paper were folded in and she pulled them out, wondering what to do. Sookie prompted her to look at the first sheet of paper, where she had written out a note about the reasoning for the gift. Asking for it to be read aloud, Lorelai complied with the request and did so.
As your best friend, I've noticed you've been burying yourself in your work to get over Luke. While I'm glad you're here running a great business, we don't need you here all the time. Tobin shouldn't have to be coming in as you leave, for instance. And I know you're still down about Luke. I'm still down about him, but I'm also concerned you're shutting yourself in because Rory's gone and you think there's nothing to do but work.
You are a great woman when you're out there, talking to people. Not just because they're guests of the Inn, but because you like them. You used to be that way; you haven't been lately.
So I've been searching for a way you can do that. I took my time thinking about this until I remembered how you loved sketching in high school, how you felt about drawing and that it was a fun hobby for you. Something you seemed to have pushed aside, but I think it's still there, lurking in that spark field you call a brain.
I know this may feel like too much. That you think I should've just gotten you something else. But I miss my bubbly friend, cheering up everybody and swiping samples of my dishes and desserts. I love you, Lorelai, but girl, you have to get out there, and soon.
So here's the deal; Thursday nights, you're taking off. No exceptions; Michel is going to work on those nights whether he likes it or not. You're going to have fun, make new friends and hopefully you'll feel like your old self in no time because you're gonna meet a lot of new people through this and get to play with this stuff too. For the next thirteen weeks, I expect you to let go. This will mean;
-No phone calls
And this means you turn your BlackBerry off. I want you to remember; you're my friend and I want you to be happy. Hopefully this will help you remember who you used to be.
Love you, hon,
After a pause, Lorelai wondered what was going on. "Wait, you want me to take off work? For...drawing?" Confused, she wondered what was going on. "What am I going to draw? I know I loved it, but that was twenty years ago. I--"
"Look at the other piece of paper," she said, interrupting Lorelai. The brunette moved Sookie's note behind the other page to read what it contained. Scanning through it she made out the basics and sighed.
"You got me a thirteen week figure drawing class at the Workshop in New Haven?" She stared pensively at her friend. "I can already draw. I don't need a class."
"But you're probably a little rusty," she argued, knowing some of the rough sketches Lorelai did during the Inn remodel. "I'm not implying you're bad at drawing, just you need to have something to occupy you that isn't you stuck alone again at home."
Lorelai shook her head furiously. "I have plenty of things to keep me occupied. I've got to look over Christmas, I have Hanukah week coming up, not to mention New Year's. I won't have time--"
"You will have time," Sookie insisted. "Tobin is taking extra hours on Thursdays, along with Michel. They actually insisted on it because you seem to get a little near your fuse towards the end of the week."
Lorelai stared daggers at her friend as Sookie went on. "We are fine. Lorelai, if we weren't fine, you would know. But hon, you have to stop getting all wound up. I know what's going on with Rory, the things with your parents. You need to get away from that crap, even for three hours every week. You can't be acting like you're going for an honorary AARP membership at your age. You're still vital and wonderful, and your life is not even half over yet."
The innkeeper shook her head. "OK...well, what I'll do is, I'm going to get a--"
"NO REFUNDS on the class!" Sookie shook her head. "You are going, whether you like it or not."
"Well then you go," Lorelai shot back. "You bought the class, and--"
"I can't draw anything! I swear if I sent the school on TV a sketch of their turtle with the beanie back they'd wonder if there was a screw loose in my head. Besides, I'm married! I can't be going off to drawing classes gawking at male members and boobs, but you have plenty of time!" She set her hand on Lorelai's shoulder. "Come on, give it at least three or four weeks? If you don't like it, then you can ditch it. But I got this for you as a friend, out of love, and a need to see you have something to make you smile. Or someone." The chef looked at her friend, frowning. "Come on, I know you loved the class and I saw some of your stuff when you moved to the house. You were amazing. And you do better gown designs than Soozie's over on Locust even though you have no wedding experience whatsoever."
"Well..." Lorelai felt her stomach clench. It had been a long time since she did much drawing that was just for fun. All of her sketching was of dresses and the like for her sewing, and draft plans for the Inn a few years back. She knew she was good at it, though her sketching skills were a little more harried as the years went on.
It...could be good for me, she thought to herself. I have been a bit focused on work lately, even though we're at a good profit. Great one, in fact. Already her cash reserves were in the $50k range, not bad for a two year-old business, and though she tried to avoid her parents when possible, the various LLC's and Delaware corporations her father and Luke had helped her set up had sorted her financial affairs to a place where she felt a little comfortable. Even if there was a slowdown from her numbers in previous years, it hardly was enough to make any kind of dent. We're doing well. Just fine. I have to stop fretting about every single thing about the business. That's why Sookie is there to be a partner, to check things over. I have to include her.
She also knew drawing was fun. She loved to do it, and to have a refresher course on the art of it was sure to be a help. She needed something to do with Rory gone, and channel surfing could fill only so much time.
"If I do this, no distractions? I'm going to come back on Friday morning and all is well?"
"It will be fine," Sookie assured her. "I just want you to get out there and meet new people, even if they don't have the same interests. You'll have fun, and you get to see some cute guys for sure."
"Or women." Lorelai looked over the sheet again. "You know according to this it's gender-neutral, right? I may end up drawing a lady."
"Hey, I just picked out the class. What you do with it, it's not my business." Smiling at her friend, Sookie knew she probably had her ready to go for it. "So, how does it sound?"
Lorelai stayed silent for a moment, looking over the wonderful equipment her best friend provided. She couldn't deny that it was a gift with lots of thought behind it, and much better than the neglected kitchenware usually given by Sookie around the holidays.
"I...I guess I'll be getting to know the human form closely this winter," she concluded, before bringing Sookie into a hug. "Thank you for the classes. Even if they aren't the best, I'm sure I'll find a use for them for sure, even if it's just to meet people."
"That's all I want for you, Lor, to be happy." Patting her slim friend on the back, the chef hoped at the end of the thirteen weeks she might be talking to a new guy for Lorelai, and someone much less stressed than she was now.
Please work, she pleaded within her mind. She deserves to smile. The women released from their hug and went on to talk more about the course, Lorelai getting more excited by it as Sookie went on.
Of all the days though, Asher Fleming still left a space in her heart unfilled. Whatever she had with Doyle, it never could compare to the loss of her beloved professor. She still cried over the loss of him and despite all she did to replace that feeling, the day of his death still left her in a state of shock that she had never recovered from. Especially when her attempt to honor the man was reduced to the same level as a kegger, Paris knew she could not love as deep ever again.
Now she was truly alone. Her nanny was deep in retirement, her children and grandchildren spread through the country. Her own relatives associated the tax problems of her parents with her by proxy, despite her insistence on getting her payments all in early in January. Rory was gone, treating their friendship like a nuisance.
The only person in the world she couldn't get mad at was Lorelai Gilmore. She still found time to talk to the woman at the Inn about her problems every two weeks, to have heart-to-hearts with the innkeeper. However Lorelai's own work put a crimp in those talks, and when Olivia and Lucy became Rory's friends, she felt no connection at all with either girl and found their obsession with her a little bit in the realm of Single White Female territory. Stephanie also proved to be someone she couldn't befriend at all.
But things were getting somewhat better. She had expected outright rejection by the Workshop and put it at the back of her mind, only to be surprised by a voicemail from Eleanor Sandberg when she came out of class a few days before Thanksgiving.
"Miss Gellar, I was planning on emailing you, but that might have seemed a little impersonal," she started, before going on further. "You must join the class! I have looked at your form, your figure and looked you up online. I think you are a perfect candidate for the class. You're focused, probably can stay still for extended periods of time, and I think you definitely have a figure meant for further study."
Sitting down on a bench, she felt a little more confident about her self-image. "Really, I get submissions from so many men and women, but it was brave of someone like you to put yourself up for all these weeks of standing still and what else comes with this. Frankly that you're not a stick figure is heartening. I think you do have it, though I would have one small issue; maybe look a little less sad and get out there and give yourself some sun and open up your pores? You look a little down. Otherwise, let me know if you're interested."
Paris was. She knew nobody would care, and the setting meant she would be shielded from having to talk to anyone. It was simple money to make, and all she had to do was bring down her liquid intakes before each class so an inconvenient bathroom break would be no factor. It would all be easy to do...
Except she knew Eleanor was right. Years ago she may have torn into the woman for attacking her for being insular and quiet.
"She is correct though," she told herself, "I have to get out there, look as good as I can for thirteen weeks of this, even longer. I have to do what I can to fix myself."
Which lead her to the door of someone she used to loathe years ago. For her peppiness and need to rub in her face in her sex life, she hated her.
But damned if what she did didn't lead to great results. A few days after, she was at the door of the apartment of one Janet Billings, her athletic roommate from freshman year who she kept up with on her Facebook page. One of the first to keep up with the service, Paris loved using it to eavesdrop on others, though she was relieved Logan couldn't compute to save his life so he hadn't joined, while Rory was of the type that even putting her name online would give her negative attention. Paris didn't care, and humbled, had friended both Janet and Tanna online. Tanna was doing wonderfully, finding her niche pursuing her science degree and falling out of the nervous habits she had before turning eighteen, while Janet...
The door opened, revealing the blonde. "Paris, what are you doing here?" Janet was surprised to see her, content to talk to the girl far away from where she could yell at her about her life choices.
"Umm, I kind of need a little help," she admitted. "Are you still into cross-training and jogging?"
"Of course I am." She guided Paris into the house. "What's going on?"
"Well, please don't tell anyone this. Not a soul. It can't even be mentioned on Facebook, because if it will, I don't know how anyone will react."
She took a breath and described her situation in full to Janet. Her finances, the fracture with Rory, everything she could. She wondered how Janet would react to her modeling and tried not to be specific, but as she went into the description, she was interrupted.
"The Workshop?" Janet crossed her hands across her chest. "Oh yeah, I did that last year, just for fun. It was an awesome way to spend idle time in the winter when I can't get out there to train. It's safe and I'd recommend it to any brave woman."
"Wait, you did that?" Paris was surprised. "But you've got a full ride, you don't need it for tuition."
"Might be true, but it adds to the resume. Being an athlete I was a natural to get in, but there were plenty of other body forms in there too. You're going to be perfect."
"So, hold on." The smaller blonde held up her hand. "Why didn't you say anything about it online? You're an open book otherwise."
"Well, one thing; who knows when they'll open up Facebook to everyone? I don't want my parents to know how I spend my free time. Besides, it would be a little awkward to say I met my boyfriend there." Paris's attention was distracted by a waving hand, where a curly-haired young man in black plastic glasses glanced them both.
"Hi." Paris waved back, surprised by the intellectual looking man.
"That's Kevin," Janet said, introducing her boyfriend. "And yes, he isn't the sporting type. After that football player you hated, I realized that the gene pool and my bedroom habits couldn't accommodate another athlete, so I stayed single a couple of years. He's a good guy, did wonderful sketches with me, and at the end of the class when I got to come in the room, we hit it off immediately. A few weeks, and...yeah, he's awesome."
"He does look nice." Paris smiled back at Kevin, who she knew somehow she could trust, unlike Finn and Colin. "You've been doing well then?"
"Could be better, but I can't complain. But I know I can't say the same for you." Janet opened up her arms to a girl she formerly considered the enemy. "Sorry about your parents and Rory. They've done pretty shitty things to you. Come here."
"Umm, OK." Paris was still a bit hug-phobic and though she was leery, she let the taller woman wrap around her, slowly encouraged as Janet told her to unclasp her fists. "I'm sorry if--"
"Paris, don't think about apologizing. You've done all the right things, lived your life right and done all you can. And for what?" The runner broke apart, beginning to express her opinions. "I liked you much more than Rory after that first year. At least you had the balls to stand up to me. That damned girl with her affairs and Logan...fuck, I hate him. You know his buddies made fun of Kevin for his glasses? He can't help it; he's got that thing Lisa Loeb has where he can't wear contacts."
"Not a surprise. She's out in London right now, probably losing more of the resolve I told her to have." Paris sat down, feeling a lot less threatened. "So the reason I'm here is...I'm kind of isolated in my apartment, and Eleanor kind of hinted in her message to me that I could stand to have some sunlight and such."
"AKA, exercise." Janet smiled at her. "You want to get out there and make up a new you with the modeling thing to impress Sandberg a bit more than you did with your pics."
"And the people drawing me behind that glass. I don't want to be the sad and bitchy Paris any more. And with Rory becoming the exact society girl I hate and loathe, I think I need to get out there. Stop hanging with poisonous and weird people."
"Well, I don't know anyone like that. I'm also toned as hell and happy as can be." She grasped Paris's hands and smiled. "You know if I get you on a regimen, it means 5am wakeups. No more frozen foods and coffee, and damned hard work. I'm not going to try to change the shape of your body, which is fine as it is, but tone it more, get you ready for miles of running a week, even in freezing weather. Though not right away, of course."
"Of course." Paris felt ready. "And I do have workout gear, my nanny bought it for me years ago. Just never got around to wearing it."
"Paris, just remember it this way. You walked a college-like campus at Chilton for about four years. That's about two miles every day, for 180 days per year. You can do this, look good, and knock the socks off those sketchers behind that window. And once you get out in the working world, having a killer figure and wit? It's going to get you more places than being all Quincy M.E. all the time." She narrowed her eyes, staring down Paris. "And yes, this means working out on my exercise ball."
"The damned exercise ball. Man, I hate that thing." She moved her gaze into the corner, where the blue ribbed sphere stared her down like it wanted a showdown. Jokingly she pointed her index and middle fingers at her eyes, then towards the ball. "I'm coming for you."
"Now that's the Paris Gellar I knew in freshman year!" She clapped her hands. "The one that took charge and scored Fleming beyond her assigned semester. Secretly, I did find it hot, but back then, we were oil and water."
"We still are to a point." Paris smiled. "But if I can get along with you all over again, anything is possible. Maybe...I'll find a man who's just right even with what I want."
"Or a woman." Paris scoffed, but Janet reminded her of the spring break kiss. "Come on, I know you hated me but wanted me in bed at the same time. You're the very definition of pansexual."
Paris nodded. "That's kind of true. I'm happy with anyone as long as they love me. I just haven't found that person yet."
"See? If I can find love with a dork like Kevin, you can be happy with a man or woman, age be damned." Paris felt relieved by how it was going, and that the past was indeed just the past between her and Janet. "Now let's get you into fighting and posing shape. You have two weeks before your first class, right?"
"You really think I can get enough sun in the next two weeks? It's Connecticut in late fall."
"I might need the help of a tanning bed, but I think we can do it. But first..." She grabbed her phone. "I'm calling Tanna and her guy over. You seriously need socialization, Paris."
"Tanna has a boyfriend?"
"Oh, yes." Kevin spoke up, getting off the couch. "You would never think he was a molecular biologist in the making. And I heard about you from Janet; withdrawn student, near valedictorian?"
"Join the club." He pointed to himself, shaking his head. "Fourth place at Exeter, class of '03, rejected by Dartmouth. I saw the big C-SPAN speech too, fucking hurt to see you like that. You're a good girl, but hanging out with the Lice & Dork Brigade certainly doesn't help anyone at all."
"I wanted the dumbass banned from the Daily News, but my ex had his balls stolen by Huntzberger. Couldn't do a damned thing."
Talking to Tanna on the phone, Janet yelled out from the other room. "That paper he and Rory put out after your breakdown was crap! They had no right to take your title at all!"
Paris shook her head. "Janet, you don't--"
"It's true," Kevin said with full honesty. "They didn't support you and made you feel like an ass. Janet's a taskmaster but I know she would've cottoned to your system. It's just those people you had to stand in the newsroom didn't know regimen at all. Their loss. And how Rory pushed back in after the sabbatical I'll never figure out."
"Wow, it seems like I grew my own little fanclub in the last two years without knowing it." Laughing heartily, Paris knew she had found a new home with Janet and Kevin. "It's not that I hate Rory...I just hate L&DB Rory. Her mother has thankfully kept her perspective."
"Oh yeah, I still love Lorelai. I miss her sleepovers! Oh, Tanna does too!" Kevin looked at them both funny.
"A mom?" Kevin shook his head. "You girls are odd."
"Lorelai's a cool mom, Kevin," Paris said, defending her. "She's only 36, and awesome. She took me to my first rock and roll show with the Bangles, which I really wish I was making up, but yeah, she introduced me to actual pop culture."
Kevin smiled, happy with his new girl friend. "I think the both of us are going to get along just fine, Paris Gellar. Platonically, of course."
Paris held up her hand. "Very platonic. I have one rule in friendship; don't steal boyfriends. Thank God Asher was divorced!"
Later on as the night went on, Paris had caught up fully with Tanna and Janet, along with getting to know Kevin and Marcus, Tanna's boyfriend who made Paris laugh about their stark contrast, the under 5' scientist and former child prodigy dwarfed by the 6' bear of a guy. Free to not have to censor herself about Rory and finding excitement in the workout plan Janet was building with her, which included easygoing calisthenics and a weekly yoga class Yale held which Paris was surprised to learn was free with the use of her student ID card, the petite blonde knew she would begin to find her stride.
She was also surprised to find out that Tanna thought of her in a sexual manner, a little bit of champagne shared between the five loosening her lips. "Yes I did," the girl said, her squeak of a voice never changing. "I thought one day you'd push me up a wall and have your way with me!"
"Oh my God!" Paris shook her head. "That would be a little scary!"
"Well you were the first girl I saw naked," she said, stating in a deeply complimentary manner. "Until you got outta that shower I was virginal, but when I saw those curves and ass dripping wet--"
"Marcus! Tell your girl to back off!" Paris shrieked, blushing deeply and laughing out loud. "She's been watching too much Friends!"
"Her new addiction is Buffy, and she just discovered The Shield and the wonders of a good f-bomb." The beefy boy gripped the shoulders of his curly-haired girlfriend. "Her parents back in Colorado Springs would be chagrined to learn that their home-schooled girl is a true woman who now loves her TV."
"And piercings." Paris noted the multiple jewels and rings lining the shell of Tanna's left ear, along with a diamond stud on the right side of her nose. "Someone finally grew out of her shell."
"You helped that. If not for you, Paris, I'd be back in Colorado a long time ago, probably at one of those crazy church schools. You taught me to stand up for myself, and Janet taught me to be confident. I...I might still stutter a little here and there, but...but I'm happy with my life now. I got out of that dorm a better girl, and when I went back home after that year..." She paused for a moment. "I actually....I broke things off with my parents because they wanted me to be more 'normal'. They hated that I knew about things outside of the home-school garage and had regular college experiences, and they thought I was crazy for not registering as a Republican. I haven't been back since then. Thank God my ride here is full-freight so they couldn't do a thing about it or stop me from going back. I missed a lot in my youth."
"I'm glad you got out then. And I'm being honest. You always looked timid and shaky that first year, Tan. Now..." Paris took in a deep breath. "If you'll let me, I would like to be your friend. Not a bitch, but a friend to you."
Sighing, the small girl happily bounced in her seat. "If you don't mind me rambling about anime and sitcoms, I can definitely be her friend."
"Just don't get her started on hentai," Janet demurred. "When she discovered it...oh man. Who knew Tanna Schrick was a feminist?"
"It's insulting to women and--"
"Yes, we know, Tan, it's a terrible artform," Kevin said in response. "I'm sure you and Par will talk for hours about it."
"It's a date," Paris said, smiling happily at her former roommates. "So..." A pause. "You have piercings. Any tattoos?"
"I could share them, but they're in places Janet won't like Kevin seeing." She winked at Paris, who yelped in shock while Janet rolled her eyes. Laughing, Paris knew she had found her home away from home.
"This is much, much more fun than hearing about a Lame & Debt Bro-gade prank. God, I can't believe I'm saying this...but I missed you both."
Even if she would never cross the threshold of the Workshop in a last-second case of nerves, Paris knew she was already happier than she had been since her parents fled. Spending the rest of the night drinking and talking with her new friends, Paris knew the next four months were going to be the adventure of a lifetime before she had to head out into the real world.
She also had to admit she always saw Tanna, who loved Dungeons & Dragons with a vengeance, having a dragon tattoo on her hipbone, and was surprised at how the silly little girl who was scared of her three years ago was so boldly happy in front of her, showing how life changed someone timid into a strong woman in a small amount of time.
Before she had laid eyes on the ad, she knew she was more than unhappy. The next few months were going to be a bitch on her body, and she wondered how many people in the class she was in would make fun of her body.
At this moment, she didn't care though. Bouncing drunkenly on Janet's exercise ball as a tipsy Tanna tried to make her and Kevin guess a movie title which somehow corresponded to Silence of the Lambs but Paris couldn't figure out how Tanna furiously pointing to her thigh with a finger to her mouth meant that, she knew she was ready for what was sure to be much more fun than sulking and finding herself moderating Rory and Logan's constant fights.
"I'm ready to get naked," she declared as Janet and Tanna toasted her later on in the evening before the self-admitted fifth wheel and the foursome flopped onto the couch to enjoy making fun of edited Goodfellas on TNT, Paris happily ignorant that Rory was dragging herself back into Logan's London flat after a long and draining night in the West End watching him openly flirt with everything on heels.
"OK, I admit I'm excited." Lorelai had been escorted to New Haven by Sookie, who insisted on driving her down in her SUV, afraid Lorelai would skip out on her. Thankfully it was proven untrue as Lorelai practiced sketching out on one of Rory's holiday Barbie and Ken dolls up in the attic to have an idea of where to go over the last week or so, but Sookie was taking no chances. "I can't wait to get in there and get cracking on drawing dirty things."
"And that's why I got you in this, girl. You're going to be happy. It's hard work, but I know you can do it." Pulling into the parking lot, Sookie smiled at her friend, who was nervous, but ready to go. The chill of the late November air was in the air, and she was glad to see Lorelai at least a little more cheered up. "Promise me you'll tell me everything about tonight?"
"Everything?" Lorelai's smile wrinkled. "Even if I see someone hung like a horse?"
"Absolutely, everything. Well, as much as I can hear that doesn't violate my vows to Jackson." She giggled happily. "Now you have lots of fun, and I expect to see you with a nice hand cramp tomorrow!"
Lorelai put her hand to her mouth. "Dirty!" She hugged Sookie close and grinned, getting out of the car. "I will have fun in there, I promise!" Sookie saw Lorelai off, watching her walk in the building before driving off to Whole Foods to get a few things for the Inn.
"I really hope for the best," she told herself, impressed that she actually was able to get Lorelai a perfect Christmas gift. "I'm sure this is going to be fun for her...and very interesting."
When Lorelai got to the door, she was surprised to see Janet and Tanna in the hallway talking. Going up to them she re-introduced herself.
"Hey, what are you two doing here?" Janet perked up as Tanna brought her hands behind her back. "Are you here for a class?"
"We're not. We were dropping off--" Tanna started to tell Lorelai Paris was there, but suddenly received a jab in her shoulder.
"Yeah, a friend. We brought them here because they didn't have a car and made a quick dinner out of the night before we dropped them off here." She brought a strong gaze down on the curly-haired girl, as if to remind her that Paris didn't want anyone to know she was there. "How are you, Ms. Gilmore?"
The brunette nodded, still down that Rory had dumped both Janet and Tanna as friends the moment the LDB took interest in her. "Great. Actually, my bestie has decided that I should take a class here to get away from the Inn for awhile."
"Yeah, the Dragonfly. I actually went out there during the summer to run the pond and lake. You have a beautiful property out there, Lorelai. From what I heard it was a bramble before the renovation."
"Thank you, Janet." Lorelai brought up the strap on her bag, adjusting it so it didn't slide off. Her gaze fell to Tanna, and the girl's heavily pierced ears. "Someone's a regular at Claire's."
"I actually went to a shop outside of Bridgeport where my boyfriend gets his work. It...it's nice. Very clean. Makes me feel, independent, you know."
"I know the feeling." She remembered back to parent's weekend, where the elder Schricks fit the very definition of 'helicopter parenting'. "I hope you're doing well. I miss seeing you both."
"Maybe we'll see you more," Janet told her, smiling. "So, which class are you taking? Foreign language? Clay modeling? Real estate?"
"Sookie got me a thirteen week class in figure drawing. I'm pretty excited about it."
"Oh...oh yeah." Janet stumbled around, her mind overflowing with possibilities, whereas Tanna suddenly looked like a deer in the headlights. "I...I modeled last year for it. Eleanor Sandberg is great. You're going to have lots of fun in there."
"Aw, man, I missed you?" Lorelai slid up to the suddenly shy athlete, teasing her slightly. "Well, I'm sure whoever I get to draw, they're going to look as lovely as you are." She smiled at the runner and examined her. "I might take you as a template if that's alright."
"Ummm, yeah, that would be fine." Janet took Tanna at the shoulder. "Well, we uh, must be going. Studying to be done. Right Tanna?" Silence. "Right?" Another jab of her elbow, and Tanna slid out of her trance for a moment.
"Yes, gotta go, bye, Ms. Gilmore." Lorelai headed down the hall as Janet and Tanna left the building, both of them surprised and in shock, but Tanna especially.
"Did...did she say...f-f-f-figure drawing?" Tanna panted. "The same as Par is modeling for?"
"Tanna, you have a wonderful boyfriend--"
"But I also think Paris is hot. And Ms. Gilmore. Too much hotness!" She raised her hands. "We can't tell Paris, she'll freak."
"I know! She's behind the glass, this is...it's..." Janet really didn't know how to describe the situation. "Maybe Lorelai won't recognize her. She's tanned and she--"
"Janet, are you kidding, she will know! Paris is a unique snowflake, and she has that cute little neck mark. Once Lorelai sees that she'll know!"
"Don't panic on me, T! Do. Not. Panic." She sat against the building, the scientist feeling overwhelmed by the images filling her brain. "We know one thing; Paris can't be told."
"I know that."
"But..." the pony-tailed runner smiled. "We should keep tabs on Lorelai. How she reacts to the class. Figure out some way to watch how it all goes. For Paris it's just a job, two hours in the drawing room. But for Lorelai, it's something else."
"J, you're talking weird." Tanna wanted to understand. "Ms. Gilmore is just here to learn, maybe she won't care she's drawing Paris."
"Oh, she will. You know how Paris talks about her as 'the woman who didn't leave her', who let her talk at the Inn when Rory left school and her parents fled. There is something there."
"Even if there is, she's half Lorelai's age. There can't be something there when there's nothing to begin with."
"She dated a 60 year-old man, Tanna! To her, Lorelai is young!"
"That's true." Tanna shook her head. "I guess we won't say anything to Par. We want her to come out of her shell, and if she even gets a whiff that Lorelai is on the other side, it's right back to closing herself in."
"And we don't want that." Janet looked at Tanna, who was determined in her decision. "Damn Paris for telling us Lorelai is single."
"Damn them for both being hot." Tanna grumped all the way to the car. "I'm going to be thinking of them a lot."
"Oh God." Janet could only smile as she hoped they wouldn't have to become too involved with Paris and Lorelai in any way.
As Lorelai found the classroom, she wondered what caught Janet and Tanna to be confused all the sudden, but brushed it off, getting her supplies prepared and anticipating what was to come in the next fifteen minutes.
Paris was dressing in her robe, ready to expose herself to a small corner of the world, and hopeful that others would learn from her beauty as they drew her over the next thirteen weeks. She smiled, looking herself over in the mirror, ready to go.
"I'm ready for this," she stated confidently, knowing it was too late to turn back from this point. Having looked over the sketching room she knew that she would be more than protected. With an alias protecting her real name and the probable lack of Yalies in the class, there would be no way for her to be discovered, just like only Janet's closest friends knew about her time at the Workshop.
"I'm ready for this," Lorelai told herself, all of her supplies laid out as she awaited what was to come in her class. This is going to be interesting, she thought to herself, others beginning to filter into the classroom.
Lorelai would not know that in a half-hour, her entire world would shift. Or that her opinion of one Paris Gellar would take a serious shift away from how she knew the girl.
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