DISCLAIMER: Still not mine. These lovely ladies belong to Amy Sherman-Palladino, Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions, Hofflund-Polone and Warner Bros. Television, though there are also original characters here that are my own. My first name for Ms. Peters is inspired by Patricia51's name for her in her Prory fic series Stop the Presses. Although, anyone else notice you can't find Gilmore Girls DVD's rather easily anymore? And is anyone else thinking 'Blu-ray release' soon? (crosses fingers). All other products mentioned within are the property and trademarks of their respective owners, and no disrespect is meant or implied.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Yes, I am still alive. Yes, it has been over two years since I've updated this story, and I have to apologize for making you wait. I haven't forgotten this story, but I've also had a year I'm not exactly happy with having to live in. My job has changed around a lot, I have more responsibilities, and less free time to work with. Also there are more interests (and fandoms) in my life, and I will admit four years out from the series and working with my writing partner Marieke I'm starting to see that Rory never treated Paris as well as I have imagined, and I've taken more to Paris/Lorelai. However, that does not change this universe where Rory is her own woman and treats Paris with respect.  Also, too many stories on ff.net had me discouraged (seriously, let's get the point here; Rory never was threatened with pregnancy in her last month before graduation. It's stupid, out of character, and annoying. Nor was Paris.). If you're looking for analogues for Nora and Ms. Salmon, picture Nora as Raven Symone, sass and curviness and all, while Ms. Salmon's resemblance to Brooke Smith (she who played Erica on Grey's Anatomy before she departed into that cursed Seattle Parking Lot of Disappearances and left me yearning for her comeback one day) is completely purposeful. Thank you to everyone who has been patient with me and following this story despite a lack of updates, especially those in the GGSlash group and FF.net. I do feel like I let you down by not getting this out. But I had reasons; towards the end of this chapter I had a love scene, written twice and over 20k which I both had written out but didn't feel worked with where the story was at this point. I debated what to do before deciding to cut them out entirely and just end it on a more emotional than sexual note. However I have not deleted either scene and may release the softer scene as Chapter 22, with the other one as its own story. That one I seriously changed my mind on after the abhorrent reviewer on Battleships, Tensions... suggested I add more spanking to my fics (the scene was written before that review and included consensual student/teacher roleplay but after that I decided to pull it back because it was not up to my standards and after my negative review of his awful foray into GG fanfic, I decided that it didn't work for this chapter.). Thank you to Danielle for sticking by me for so long and for also surviving SEVEN DAYS without power because of the great Halloween Nor'easter. I shall never complain about losing power for a mere 28˝ hours ever again after a thunderstorm (though I had to miss the GG fifth season opener because of that and have it taped). Thanks also to Marieke for keeping me interested in fanfiction with our nightly Paris/Lorelai/Lenneke adventures (who is Lenneke? You'll find out one day.). This chapter has been gone over so many times, but it is unbetaed, so let me know about any errors you see that I should correct. And, please, please, leave me feedback on the story, good or bad. Detailed feedback. I know this chapter is cute, good and I will probably write more (please), and no, I cannot update now, for that is impossible ten minutes after I posted a new chapter.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Longing With a Cherry Tomato on Top
By Nate

Chapter Twenty-One
Funding Battles and Teacher Flirtations


There are frustrations that have come within my life that just won't go away. Competition, unexpected surprises, and of course, those who are bound and determined to see you fail, no matter the consequences.

I know to everyone else I might seem cutthroat in trying to get my way, but that isn't at all true. After what I did to Rory I soon began to regret giving her the cold shoulder after I found out through Tristan that she was going to date him, which wasn't true, but hey, I was looking for every reason to hate her at the time. I have taken some grey market shortcuts to get my way at times, but nothing that would stick me in jail by any means. If anything, peeking at Rory's files on her first day was nothing more than a minor misdemeanor and two days of detention.

But I have never gone to the steps that Francine Jarvis has to undermine anybody. Never would I be that cold-hearted and dark. I couldn't stand to have that attitude, much less her horrible morals, where she uses her conservative values to undermine others at her own expense. I know things from Madeline that I could never tell Rory because I don't want her innocent soul to be sullied by what she has done.

Until last week however, I was willing to dismiss them. No matter what she did, from taking out my electoral rival based on a pithy blowjob to ruining years of Puffs traditions, I couldn't say a word. There is an unsaid line between student body president and senior class president that has never been crossed in this entire school's history. There have been battles behind the scenes and negotiations, but usually we work together. We have to. All for Chilton is a part of the alma mater, and it applies like Charleston's words that failure is not a part of Chilton.

But when I heard those tapes last Monday, and then all through this weekend, I knew I couldn't stand any longer for Francie to use her position of power to abuse the office. It's one thing to feel like we must compete with each other. She's going for valedictorian with just as much zeal as Rory and I, and she has a long generational line at Brown she needs to live up to. I understand that.

What you never do is use a position of power to benefit yourself, ever. No matter how you might feel about someone you run an organization with, you leave it at the door and you work with them. Nothing more. I learned that lesson well with Rory; when I gave her a chance at the Franklin, she worked her ass off to make her presence known. She's a damned good reporter and her de facto co-editing with me, I can't beat it. I won't admit it to her but she's helped me avert more mistakes than I will ever let her know about.

Francie took it beyond that though, thinking Rory's small town upbringing meant that she was a reincarnated Dorothy Gale who wouldn't question anything she wanted to do at all.

Y'know, one thing they forget to tell you about those ruby slippers though? They're made out of rubies. Imagine the toe of that going right where it counts. Forget for a moment how I get panic attacks from watching that film or that the actual slippers were rhinestone-pasted high heels. If they were real ruby slippers, they would hurt.

Rory knows how to use her slippers for more than clicking three times and reciting a proverb. In her shoes she's done so much more than she ever could have in Hollow High. Going into today I was nervous that she would lose her nerve around Francie once they came face to face anew at that conference table.

She once again has proved me wrong and proved herself to be incredibly worthy. There is no doubt in my mind that when I made that rushed decision to offer VP to her in May, I didn't think of all that she could bring to the table back then beyond an adorable face and a guaranteed ally next to me.

But now as I analyze the events of the day, I can tell you that without Rory by my side this afternoon, the fall of Paris Gellar would have ensued over the next few days.

Or it would have happened in the last few hours...

It had been a long and busy day for all of us. Rory and I had skipped lunch and met with Nora Folsom to let her know the threat to RTS. At first she brushed off the threats as business as usual, but as I played the clips on my iPod, she was visibly anguished and slumped into a chair in the conference room. I was grave and serious as I let her know I would try all I could to keep her funding, but that it wasn't going to be easy.

"This is a threat, Nora. But it isn't an ending."

"How can you say that? You heard her in those tapes. She wants to bring me and the entire organization down! What I really want to do is--"

Rory interrupted her calmly, holding up her hand. "I know you want to kill her, Nora. Trust me, I was the one who had to take it all and I would just love to give her a homemade tube tying."

My reaction to that image was uncharacteristic. "Ewww!" I closed my eyes and choked back as Rory rolled her eyes.

"Not helping, Par." She turned back to Nora. "I really think Francie is more bluster than action, especially here. She wants to make a point and this will allow her to do so."

She laid out the picture of what we had to do, walking around the room. "We have fifteen members in the government, and we need two-thirds to push the funding through. That's eleven if I'm doing the math right."

"I thought we needed ten," I corrected, but Rory directed that look at me that chills all my drive when she's on a hot streak during question and answer periods.

"Ten is not enough here. We need to try for eleven, even twelve if we can get it. I think we have the votes, but three are Jarvis cronies. They'll vote to deny no matter what. We have seven committed to voting with the both of us. So we have 7-3 going into the meeting tomorrow. We need to turn four, and try damned hard for five. But it still has to come as a surprise vote." She detailed what Francie had planned to do, including how she'd organize within the week before next week's meeting to get her 7-10 majority. "Madeline told me today that Francie began full court press to deny funding on the undecideds. So we need to work around that. She thinks right now we're unaware and that I'm keeping this secret. She has somewhat of a head start."

"So what do you suggest I do?" Nora tried to struggle with her decisions as RTS president. "I don't know that I can get my club to get the pressure on them, and you know we provide a shield to some of those members who come to our meetings but don't participate in our public efforts. If they come out in support of funding, they'll also be pushed out."

I let my thoughts into the matter. "We organize silently then, get it out through IM, texting and email. You get your members in the loop about everything in the next six-seven hours, they'll have free time. They text or email a member, then the other and then the other. That spreads the email campaign forward. By the time you get in tomorrow morning your members are aware their future is in stake. We keep it secret, then you get in there and your members watch the meeting after I decide to invite you in the room. I spring the vote, allow a debate period and then the five turn our way."

Nora hesitated for a few moments, pulling back her hair and playing with a ring on her finger. She considered the risk of some members bumped out and asked us about it.

"They can submit anonymous comments," I told her. "I don't often allow them, but they're allowed in our rules of order. I want this vote to be organized, but I don't want you to feel threatened. I assure you that your group will survive with full school funding."

Nora was in a panic, I could tell. Usually she was calm and composed, but she kept fumbling with her ring. She knew that she needed to keep student government funding so that Chilton would consider RTS an official school club. Without it they had just as much influence on school affairs as those kids who played trading card games in the corner of the dining hall.

"I can't risk anonymous comments; I have to speak on behalf of everybody. But what if they try to go after us?"

That was when Rory stepped in again. "If Francie tries anything, she'll have to answer to the remainder of the student body. The both of us and Ms. Peters will make sure to keep her in line. I guarantee it."

"So why protect us?" she questioned. "I don't understand how you're giving me this notice you'd never give anybody else at all."

This was the moment of truth for the both of us. We hadn't come out to anyone but friends and our family, so this was our first edge away from our comfort zone. I took in a deep breath as Rory took my hand and prepared Nora for what she was facing.

"We've been together for a month," Rory said calmly. Nora just stood there stunned for a moment, making me afraid that I was about to be in for some kind of tongue lashing from her.

But that thought melted away as she smiled towards us, and then laughed a bit. Both of us were confused and directed an odd towards the girl. She's an odd woman to be sure; an African-American from one of Hartford's more interesting neighborhoods who pretty much went against her entire family to be out with her lover of two years, Melanie McHale. She was always one to be unflinching with her opinions.

Of course, this was no different.

"Damn it, I owe Mel 50 bucks!"

"Huh?" Of course I was highly confused, until it became clear that Nora was incredibly perceptive.

"Come on, really, Paris? I knew you might bend towards our side of the scale since seventh grade!" She shook her head and I was mortally embarrassed while Nora stated my entire Country Day and pre-sophomore romantic history to Rory. "Men find you intimidating, but women are naturally drawn to you. I even had a couple thoughts of asking you out in ninth grade, but you were a bit hella scary back then, all focused on the state tests and debate team, not to mention Harvard!"

"How did I give off a vibe?" I was offended by her assertion that I was already drawn towards girls so young, even if Madeline has told me she noticed around the same time. An outsider's view though is a little different...and maybe a little bit more clear, I hate to admit.

"The pining over one boy? Really? Come on, you were like I was before I kissed my first girl. I put all my effort into some idiot thug in sixth grade and when I finally got a chance to date him it was so boring. He was self-indulgent, selfish and his kissing just didn't work for me. You know..." There's that evil Nora smile she uses to get her way. "Kind of reminds me of a certain blonde you yearned for before Laura Ingalls Wilder over there came into your world."

"Oh my God..." I blushed furiously that Nora had me so figured out. "So you knew eventually we'd get together?"

"The last two years Mel and I got together on the first day and made a bet on how long it would take to get you...to the dyyyyyke side!"

I was so humiliated while Nora brought out her horrid Darth Vader impression. "Can we please get back to the matter at hand?" I asked firmly, scaring both girls back into normalcy.

"Sorry...sorry." Nora shirked back as I regained my composure. "I guess I figured you were into discipline, Gilmore. Perfect choice of woman."

Rory was startled and sighed. "Sometimes I have to wonder." I directed a stern stare towards my girlfriend and she came back into line. "N-n...not that I would ever question our love, Paris."

That made me smile. "You better not." I then proceeded to run down the rest of the plan of attack with Nora assuring me she would cooperate every step of the way. It was going to be hard and I definitely was putting the entire student government on the line just based on this one vote. I had to be careful, but most of all I had to make sure Francie's hyperbole fell flat. If I could get the vote out in a normal way, as if it was part of a normal vote on something which was approved every year, that would do it for me. I could live with that.

But Francie was prepared. I knew that. With Nora and the rest of the Rainbow Triangles on our side, I had to make sure this passed and that the five would go my way. The surprise vote was the best course of action to that. If they didn't get hyped up, they wouldn't know what they're voting for...

Unfortunately I'm not the president of the Minot, North Dakota city council approving more money for the senior center in a slam dunk vote. There would be no quick path to the words 'motion approved'. Francine would make sure of that.

The beginning of the meeting went as expected, but I kept more eye contact towards the right side of the table than I usually had in the past. I had to keep an eye on Francie's body language to see how exactly she intimidated Rory into going with her. While Rory sat silently next to me as I led the meeting and let other council members speak their minds about issues while my mind multi-tasked the various situations I found myself in at that moment.

Indeed, Francie was nowhere near paying attention to anything else. She kept trying to get Rory's attention through silent means, such as a rolled pencil or a nudge of some kind which was always out of reach. The frustration of watching her try to prod my VP while someone else went on about their effort or the minutes were approved from the last meeting got to me. I was powerless to stop Francie at this point, my only power at that point hoping that I could sneak by the vote in a whirl of other dull legislation.

Ms. Peters walked around the room, monitoring the proceedings. After hearing the recordings she had told me that she supported the both of us, but that we should still be careful that we're not projecting too much of our support into the matter. The only other person who knew in that room a vote was up was Madeline, known only to her in strict confidence.

There also had to be a period of debate. Usually it's not an issue with Key Club or Amnesty so we always skipped it, but I had to give others a voice. Some of the members of the group might not like the group not because of their beliefs but just on other factors such as overfunding of school groups or a lack of understanding about what exactly goes into a gay-straight alliance. Those arguments I can understand and will support.

Outright hate is something I can't get behind.

Slowly we debated and considered issues. It was how I expected it to go and I was able to keep everything in control. Francie kept quiet, along with her cronies. They never suspected a thing at all as we went through issues involving...uggh...the Valentine's dance. This time she didn't want to move the venue or pocket any of the funding, which was such a relief after the grief Rory went through over the Formal. God, my girl is smart; if she was alive during Watergate who knows what might have happened to Nixon.

Finally, it was the moment of truth. The vote went through to reject a motion for a smoking zone between the Randall and Montrose buildings...yet again. How many votes and years is it going to take for the smokers to get a clue most of the students hate the smell of cigarettes and don't like butts littering the grounds of the campus? My mother is a heavy smoker and it's only through plenty of monitoring on my Nanna's part that I got through my entire germination without taking a hit of nicotine.

I paused at the last 'nay' sounded through the room, holding my gavel tight and preparing for my next move. Eight members of the RTS stood outside the room, ready to be called in.

This is it, Gellar, I thought to myself, directing a stare at my girlfriend, who in turn returned it. This goes down perfectly, you will be respected forever. If not, we go down together with the ship. Don't bullshit, don't give up, and don't fuck up. Show that bitch that you are the student body president, not her.

I slammed the gavel down hard and tossed it down firmly. "Motion, once again, denied by a 12-3 tally. Try again next year, Marlboro Men." I slid on my reading glasses in a deliberate move to show my authority. I knew exactly what I was reading, but everything about this vote had to be orchestrated perfectly. I made sure that voice was procedural, not ready for a fight. No way can I show my hand off to Francie.

"We have some visitors today who want to monitor the meeting and offer some opinions. Kelly, could you open the door and let them sit on the far side of the room?"

Our treasurer rose and walked to the door, opening it up and letting the eight members of the club in. There were four boys, four women, two of them in couples. Nora and Melanie of course, naturally sat in the front, while Mark Newsom, the male leader of the alliance sat to their right. I kept my eyes off Francie as I read the motion.

"Next order of business, our gay-straight alliance, the Rainbow Triangle Society, has their funding up for a vote. I feel that they have earned a raise from the $500 for the 2002 calendar year to S1,000, and Miss Folsom has assured me that it will be satisfactory for 2003." I took my eyes off the page and then my glasses. I could've sworn I saw Rory melting in her seat, but since they're meant only for up-close reading I couldn't tell for sure. Not a look towards Francie at all. "I will open the floor up to debate, then to the public."

Predictably, Francie's hand went up, and I directed my attention to her. "Yes, Miss Jarvis. You have the floor." A nervous pause and a hope that I wasn't about to see everything go down in flames.

Her opening statement however kind of hurt as she alluded to history long relegated to the dust bin. "This group cannot continue to be funded by the school. This school began in 1803 as an extension of the Puritan church, and it should be apparent that the behavior this group endorses is offensive to the founders of this school. Augustus Chilton would have shamed anyone who had ever kissed their roommate, and he did. The historical records for this school show that a Dorothy Chambliss of Avon, aged fourteen, in 1804 showed a romantic interest in her roommate. When this was found out, Founder Chilton rightfully expelled her for violating the Honor Code."

Little would I have known that all weekend, Rory had spent her time also researching the school's history, and she rose her hand up to make a point.

"Miss Gilmore, you have a response to Miss Jarvis?" She rose up and there was no longer a sign of that nervous sixteen year-old cowering when I introduced myself to her two years ago.

She was prepared, without one index card to be found.

"I do, President." She turned away to face Francie.

So it began.

"May I remind you, Miss Jarvis that this school has been free from any church influence since 1906? Some Chilton mothers took offense to the exclusion of a suffragist instructor who supported the right to vote by women and the attempts by the Church and the regents to terminate her contract. The administration of the school was savaged in the Courant and smaller newspapers of the day for their position, the church received protests from several organizations in the state, including the public school teacher's union representing Hartford Public Schools. Students from Miss Porter's came to the aid of Chiltonians who wanted the teacher to stay and suggested a merger with Chilton. Although this would have been helpful, the legacy of Chilton would have forever disappeared with the union of the two. It became a thorny issue for the Church to deal with and the administration was of no help, so towards the beginning of the 1906-07 school year, the Puritans removed their funding from the school and only took on a small religious role in the matters of the Academy. Shortly after, these Chilton mothers and other pillars of the community took control of the school and allowed that woman to teach." There was no malice and anger to her arguments, with her voice staying even and hand movements limited and perfect. "Since that year, the influence of Augustus Chilton and his ancestors has only been ceremonial, not official."

"So I'm supposed to be swayed by your argument based on a vague story about some long-dead teacher?" Francie's jaw squared and I sat back and took in the arguments.

"I'm sorry to bring history into this further, but Augustus Chilton, his ancestors and later administrations disallowed Jewish students and the practice of Judaism for years. This continued until a progressive board of regents allowed Jewish students admission in 1935 because the Great Depression wasn't exactly filling the Chilton endowment. Progress is always made in small steps. Our first minority student was admitted in 1948, months after Jackie Robinson took the field in Brooklyn. Of course, the co-ed issue is still something that divides many alumni to this day, but in my opinion opening the doors of our Academy to males was a step in the right direction."

"I'm sorry, what point were you trying to make, Gilmore?" She seethed the name like it was hateful. "I can read this history lesson anytime in the library."

"That we may be a private institution, but everyone who leaves here a graduate later becomes a part of the public. You cannot get around that, Francie." She walked around the table, and there was no illusion that she was even flustered by the redhead arguing for her. "The causes we fund and the students we admit are watched by many organizations that aren't U.S. News and World Report. I could care less how they think of us, but I'm thinking about in the future when I talk to someone and I bring up my alma mater, I don't want to have to hear them respond with 'hey, that's the school that hates gays, right?'"

There was a shocked reaction through the room, but she carried on. "I read about the history of this school and without exception, it has been progressive. The school of the first female Justice of the Supreme Court, the institution where forty CEO's of Fortune 500 companies graduated from. We have won many athletic and scholastic championships, fed so many students into the Ivy League, the Seven Sisters, the Big Ten, Pacific Ten; I could name every conference in the nation. But most of all...we remain at the heart of everything, an accepting institution."

A pause for dramatic effect as I could see Francie's face redden in anger. "I was accepted here, but I still had to pay my way."

"More like your grandparents--"

Ms. Peters stepped in before things turned cold. "Back off the attack, Miss Jarvis."

"Thank you," Rory said, and brought herself back on point. "I didn't have to be accepted here. I could have easily been rejected. But I wasn't, I worked hard, and look at where I am. Vice president of the student body." She turned around on her heel. "Now I'm not a hateful person. I don't like being hateful to anyone. The very fact that you could be opposed to someone just because they choose to love someone else? Is there ever a problem with that?"

"Of course there is! It is unnatural and against what God intended."

"Let's not bring God into this, Francie. We're not here as biblical scholars, just to decide if this group should remain funded by the school." I kept my eyes on her while she made her case. "Do they do good work? I think they proved that with their multiple clothing drives through the year, along with their support of many social service organizations within Hartford. Whereas certain other groups only seem to exist to keep the names of their members in the society papers and bulletin boards, they exist to provide a refuge from hate in this school. They take in anybody, whether they are rich or poor, popular or invisible, loved or loathed. They are there for them, and in turn they help provide a caring environment to get some of these students out into the open, off the sidelines."

"You can't defend them, Rory," Francie argued harshly. "This isn't a matter of what they do, it's what they promote. A lifestyle many people are against!"

"They aren't promoting anything but tolerance and safety, along with community service. I look at this group and I don't see anything evil about them."

"That's because you live in that stupid little town--"

Don't even go there. I firmly pounded my gavel and stopped her argument right there. "How her town is doesn't make a difference here at all. I will advise you, Jarvis, stay on point."

"I'm just trying to say the real world is cruel. It's not going to be fun or all nursing home visits and campfire circles, whatever you all do. It's cold out there, and if you want to keep this club, you're promoting a lifestyle that will scar you, be cruel, subject you to things that heterosexuals will never experience. All you're doing in your club is insulating your members from the real world out there. I could care less how many good faith effort things you do in the community. I don't care for instance that WFSB does that coat drive this month, and WVIT is collecting canned food. It's all a sham. It's there to put a happy face on the community, when really it's just future branding to get people to think your station is awesome and who cares that your weatherman was arrested for drunken driving? I will not approve funding to shield students who should just stick on a happy face, get over it, and maybe find a date with someone of their own sex."

It was like the Scopes trial watching these two ping pong back and forth their arguments. I swore I even saw Ms. Peters unconsciously click an invisible stopwatch. "These students deserve protection and civil rights, and I won't stand by you casting a vote for them to be pushed out of the closet. Their community service is good and they do more than they need to in order to receive the student funding. There should be no issue in approving it."

"It's wasteful!" Francie shouted, pounding on the table. "You mean you would rather hide students than have them out in the general body?"

"Students like Nora and Melanie, they've handled it. They get over the slurs and soon it was pretty much a losing game to tease them because they love each other. Now they're fine. Someone else, they need support and help."

"They can go outside the school and get that support!"

"Some may not! Some can't afford the time to do so. Chilton is a high-pressure environment and there's a need for a group like this within the walls of our school. I don't understand why you're so against this."

"Because it is biologically wrong and our efforts should go to abstinence education, not for something like this."

"Guess what? My mother received that abstinence education at Hillside." Her voice firmed as she began to make her final drive to her point. "I'm living proof that abstinence does nothing but pressure you to have sex because it's forbidden and seemingly evil. It doesn't work, period. I'm not here to argue about sex ed, but if you want to fund abstinence education in Chilton, why don't you just throw $50,000 in Governor Rowland's hot tub and see what it gets you?"

Whoa. Now that's something you don't hear out of Rory's mouth everyday. An attack on the highest officer in the state and one who signs bills Francie's father authors or votes on. She wore a smirk of satisfaction as Francie tried to attack her in a way that wasn't personal.

"It...it works sometimes."

"I'm sorry, but sometimes doesn't count in teen pregnancy stats." She made her way back to her seat. "I support the funding, if not to protect these students, but to provide them a forum that another student organization might not endorse. Some of them are liked by the school, some of them aren't. All deserve a place of safety to go besides the corner of the dining hall at lunch, and I fully support them and their funding."

"I guess we'll have to disagree on this then, Gilmore." Her eyes suggested cold hate for the girl as she finished her argument, and Rory sat down next to me, feeling like she had won her argument. I thought that she had done a wonderful job, never biting on anything personal, and I had to give her points for keeping a veiled attack on Francie's father well hidden.

"Thank you, ladies," I said, still firm and neutral. "Anyone else have an opinion on the matter at the table here?" A few spoke out for our side, including Madeline, who agreed with our side of course, but added that she would approve even more than the regular funding. "They deserve $1,500," she said, much to our surprise. "They were almost non-existent my freshman year, but Nora has done an excellent job with her outreach and other efforts, along with their adviser, Ms. Salmon. I think that any group who would give extra support to the soccer team by pressuring the cheerleaders to actually drag a couple of bodies out to their game? That's a winning group in my book."

"I never even considered that," I said thoughtfully. I was surprised with each new day how Madeline was becoming her own woman. Louise sat next to her, but was distant. "Anything else, Miss Lynn?"

"Not much more. Also please, let them have a better classroom to meet in than the basement one they have now. I like the art room as much as the next person, but they need a place to meet where students can find them and can look outside a window. Nothing against your style at all, Nora, but I really think you could do with a better atmosphere."

"I've been trying to get that myself," Nora responded, happy that the issue was getting notice.

"With that...I guess, comment period. Miss Folsom?" She came to a lectern at the end of the table and had a couple sheets of papers of notes from herself and of the meeting. I knew that this was the critical part of stating her case, to save the funding. I looked once towards Francie and Rory before bringing my attention to the lectern.

If looks could kill, both of them would have been long dead. It was a détente between them, both of them knowing they had to get their way.

Whatever the case, they had to accept whatever vote I could bring out of these other twelve students. We can't change minds after the fact, so we had to keep the appeal from being so high pressured and heated. Rory might have tried to be kind, but I was still afraid she was hard-selling it a bit too much.

"Representatives, Miss Gellar, Miss Gilmore, Ms. Peters?"

Thankfully, Nora was the voice of sanity in the entire situation. I listened intently as she described a sixteen year-old next to her, Devon Fredrickson. She spoke from her heart as she described how this shy boy had come to Chilton knowing he saw things differently, but still tried to pursue his dreams.

"I remember when he walked in our room the first time about how scared that he was to be true to himself and be how he was. Devon put on a strong front, he dated girls, tried to come off as a 'true male'. He talked to me, and the alliance about how he felt the first time he saw his best friend as more than just that, along with the anguish he felt of having to stay distant."

Devon's story unfolded from there. This kid, everything about him suggests 'All-American'. He's from a north Hartford suburb, heavy into sports, was heavily recruited by many schools in the area to attend based on his athletic skills. He chose Chilton and quickly rose through the freshman and JV levels to make varsity this year as a guard for the basketball team.

Nora's voice echoed through the room as Devon sat down, looking nervously at the entire council.

"He came to us at the beginning of September. Usually, I see a student in a letter jacket and I think, they're here to bait or tease us. They don't care about our message at all, or what we do. The RTS still has memories of a hockey player who came in five years ago in good faith, but turned away from us as soon as he became one of the top goal scorers in the state. The pressure of a locker room setting, the need to keep your orientation away from those cruel guys that call you a 'fag' just because you had a weak night grabbing rebounds. The kind of language that hits me right in the gut when I hear it, because I hate these words myself."

"It took me awhile to trust him. Others did so, right away. We have an open door, but I have a shielded heart. Many of us do." She glanced down at the lectern. "I had a rough life before I came here, lost without a purpose. I got the scholarship to escape the apathy of my local school and I thought it would be a new start. Instead, I felt ignored and hated even more because I knew early on based on my personal experience that I could never love a man.

"Some in my family experienced sexual abuse. My brother, my sister, they have. Only by the grace of God did I escape that and testify against that relative who would be so low as to ruin the trust of a family member. My father never forgave me. Who knows where he is now? I avoided gangs only by using my smarts to get ahead. I refused to let the teacher's idea of 'extra credit' as defined by the teacher's edition be the limit to my education. I worked damned hard to get in this school, but only to find myself lost again, all over again. I went home every night scared that because of the way I am, it might be my last journey home. I still do."

There has never been a time in my entire school career where I have expressed any kind of emotion. I have sat through several memorial services where everyone mourns someone that when it comes down to it, was either an ordinary or marginal student who made some kind of stupid choice. Drinking, speeding, taking drugs. Unless it has been for a truly tragic or natural death, I'm like Lynda Day; it's their own damned fault and I do not mourn for them. I don't cry, or ever express any kind of emotion in a school ceremony.

The stories of Nora and Devin however were forming a hard lump in my throat.

"I knew I was gay for years. I never said a word however because I could have been killed for being the way I am. I was afraid and scared, and even would have gone the entirety of my Chilton education dateless if I had to. I had to get through school. I had to finish it, and discover myself when I left here, hopefully for a tolerant university."

She took a breath, and then a sip of her water. Her voice wavering, she continued. "I didn't even know there was a GSA in this school at all. Their bulletin board messages were always buried under some charity car wash announcement, or in many cases just ripped down out of spite. I felt alone in my own world, not wanting to make new friends because I was afraid. Afraid of being myself. But somehow, I remember the morning of September 15, 1999. The girl across from me, our current student body president, was reading the morning announcements. Usually I wouldn't listen at all because I could care less about dance team tryouts. Even though everyone assumes because of my race and my build I must be the next Beyonce, when really I have about as much groove as Steve Urkel." She received a couple laughs. "I still hear her voice as clear as day...'Finally, the first meeting of the year for RTS, the school's gay-straight alliance, will be held in B22 Cartright at 3:45 this afternoon.' I remember, I knew I had to be there. So I went."

Nora described the state of the group at the beginning of 1999 as fractured and weak, led by a teacher advisor who refused to advise at all and only took it for Headmaster brownie points. After a strong start in the Puffs schism the group had been discredited and slandered secretly by the school groups, and the top leadership was a mess, asking for only the minimum $50 to hold a meeting in a classroom and led by someone who used the group more as their personal clique than a social group, disallowing anyone new in unless they personally knew them.

"It was not a good situation that I came to. The Rainbows didn't feel safe, the group's leader was...and I really hate to say this, an extreme drama queen. He loved to exacerbate everything and didn't care about the group charter at all. I introduced myself and came out for the first time to them, but I didn't feel right. It didn't seem like a community. Open teasing was allowed, use of slurs, apparently in a move for self-depreciating humor, but that instead created a hostile environment. It was appalling that the group was in that shape."

"For one month I took it all in stride. I thought it could change. Then came October 12." She paused to compose herself. "The day in 1998 I still remember well. Turning on the television, hoping for the best for a story I followed with much more interest than I usually did with the news. I heard those words...'Matthew Shepard died in the hospital early this morning.' I openly wept in shock that morning and still remember the darkness I felt that someone would ever say those things, or kill another person because of who they loved. I was in a daze. I couldn't go to school. I was thankful that someone in Hartford organized a candlelight vigil at the Statehouse that night. It was a defining moment of my life, a call to action that I knew who I was. I knew that I wasn't like anybody else, that I was always more pulled towards one sex than the other."

"On that day, I brought up Matthew's death. I wanted to have a moment of silence and reflection among the members." No longer was there a single person in that room looking at their notes. All eyes were on her. "You know what the group leader said?"

A silent beat. Her eyes focused on everybody, with her jaw squaring for her prepared anger. "Matthew who?"

It was an unacceptable action for someone to have ever done that. I will not say here who that group leader was at the time because he has moved on from this school, thankfully. Suffice it to say that if he had asked for funding during my tenure, he wouldn't have gotten it.

"I couldn't believe him at all. He claimed to be the leader of a group that tries to spread acceptance of the way we live our life throughout the Chilton community, but he can't acknowledge an event in our time that has had the impact of Stonewall? He didn't know about it? It appalled me as a gay person that the face of our group within the school couldn't even be bothered to know what we were fighting for. That he could be in it for his own selfish needs, to give him 'friends' and to use us as a meet market, that was not what I signed up for. He was a senior. I was a freshman. I faced him, a foot between him and my own height, and I told him to get the fuck out."

If this was a regular meeting, she would have been thrown out right there. But I didn't raise a hand at all to warn her. Nor did Ms. Peters or anybody else. I couldn't censor this moment.

"He asked me what was wrong, and I went off on a tirade that if he was truly committed to the Rainbows, he would have us out every single day doing things in the community to prove that the fears and doubts of the eighties were over. I wasn't afraid. Most of us were not afraid. He made us feel like our orientation was a curse, nothing to bring out into the open. It was against the spirit of the founders in 1989. It was unacceptable. I refused to allow RTS to be led any longer by someone like that.

"When I was finished, he told us we were on his own and he took his friends with him. We went from twelve to six members in that one moment. He said he would start another group as he left. Funny thing, the Headmaster refused to fund them and they quietly disappeared. I took over the presidency of the Rainbow Triangle Society, and we were done being silent. I was younger then than Miss Gellar is heading the government, but I had just as much responsibility to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual population of this institution as she does with the entirety of this student body. My anger and passion has gone into reforming this group, to make it be out and have it be not only a refuge, but a place for encouragement to live your life as you love it. To be unafraid to be out and proud, but prepared if you're not ready to step out of the shadows and make that commitment to your life.

"On September 11, we organized the vigil in the front quadrangle after the buildings collapsed, helped appeal to the Headmaster to cancel classes for the remainder of the day and the next day. We have done much for this community, stepped in and volunteered wherever we could. I have received hate mail and death threats for making the club what it is, but that has been more than overwhelmed by all the thanks and positive letters from many organizations and individuals through this state and up north in Massachusetts. I've spent countless hours encouraging other GSA's around the state and New England to be more active and be for just more than just gay activity at school, but for gay civil rights in every facet of life. We do that through public service, hard work, encouraging other groups to combine with us. The Junior Rotary Club has a partnership with us, the DAR, the League of Women Voters and so many other groups. We convinced the Chilton Regents to force the Boy Scouts to meet elsewhere because of their pathetic policy of excluding gays from their organization, no matter their age. I mean, God, what do we have to do to prove that we want to be a force in this school?"

I could tell Nora was at her breaking point, the pressure of losing the funding getting to her with the passion of her words. "I know there are some of you who would not like to extend the funding for us on the smallest of concerns, or because you think homosexuality is wrong, that it's some evil force designed to draw us closer to Satan or whatever. I am content with my view of God, however. I think that he is a kind and benevolent being who does not need us to take every word in the Bible seriously and look at that book for what it is, as a guidepoint, not as an unchanging constitution. We have made progress in 2,000 years, I'd like to think. I wish that those who would love to use their religion as an excuse to hate my way of life would actually look at where I'd be without this club. I'd be closed in and distant. Hell, I could've been long a tragedy on the 6 o'clock news, given the 'she was a kind girl' treatment and ignored after, just remembered as a faded light pole memorial on Zwieback Street. Many of us sitting in front of you would be the same way, or possibly in a loveless relationship because we can't be who we are. The members we keep secret at least have at the minimum, a place to go so in their darkest hour. We are happy as we are and if this funding is pulled from under our feet, I don't know what we can do. I know we can get private funding, but that comes with strings, and possibly the pressure to change our agenda based on our funders. At least with the student body behind us, we have that freedom to go on as we are. I can leave at the end of next semester with diploma in hand knowing the Rainbow Triangle Society is strong, that it will remain that place to go when you're drawn to someone the same as you that you have those feelings for.

"If you deny this funding, you will deny these students that safe haven, and I know that you will look back in the distant years and regret that you could have made a difference. You may disagree with me. There are even a few who might want to see me expelled because I'm in a loving relationship with a woman I love, and everyone else in this school because we aren't following Augustus Chilton's Honor Code to the letter because of who we loved. But you know that the love of someone of the same sex has always endured. It has for many years of this school's history in 'Boston marriages', requests to stay boarded with the same girl for all of your intermediate years, the tears when someone has found out your secret and forced you apart. Those days have passed us, along with the boarding era, a hidden part of Chilton's history. But love continues to be a rising emotion within the walls of this school, each and every day. No one can stop the emotions, the bliss and happiness you feel when you know that you are who you are, and you're proud to say that you're in a school tolerant to everyone."

I felt her entire speech hit personally within my soul, and I admit now that I did shed tears. Even if I had not known I loved Rory in that moment, I was proud for who I was. Though I'm not ready to expose us yet, Nora's words reassured me that if Rory and I were to need protection, we could be in that room and not be afraid. Closing her speech, she aimed her words right towards Francie's side of the table.

"I know that I won't see a unanimous vote with my words. I don't expect that. I also hope that your vote isn't saying you hate citizens who love members of the same sex. But I ask you to consider in your heart, as a Chiltonian, as a human being, and as a representative of the 1,600 members of this student body, is your voice representing everybody? Do you feel you can cast that vote and be confident those you represent would approve of that vote? And could you face one of our hidden members, explain the exact reason you voted to oppose the funding, and know in your heart that you made the right choice? Please, do not vote on emotion. Vote on our request with deliberation and consideration. That is all I ask of you. That is all the Rainbow Triangle Society asks of you. Vote how you feel, not how it will appear to others.

"As for Devon? He came here for safety. Not from his teammates or Coach Fulham, who have pledged their full support to him. He needed our support to stand up to his sports-obsessed father who wants him to be a jock, and wanted to be assured that he was OK the way he was. It is. It always should be. And hopefully many years from now, the Blue Demons will assure another school fielding their first gay player that it is the same as the end of segregation; dividing does not help. Uniting always makes you a winner. Thank you."

She sat back down, and all was quiet for the next minute as many of us recovered from the power of Nora's words. Rory brushed back tears, while Madeline beamed a bright smile towards the RTS members to tell them they were supported. Many of the other government members did the same thing.

There seemed to be only a few neutral faces in the room, our swing votes of course. But surprisingly among them were one of Francie's friends, Lemon. Her partner-in-crime thought deliberately about what she heard, as I saw her take notes all throughout everybody's arguments. For a usual yes-girl, that was surprising.

On my side though, I couldn't gauge Louise's reaction. She was sitting in her chair quietly, fiddling with a pencil and never looking up to check Nora. I remembered the rules of order and I decided that indeed, we would vote instead for the $1,500 instead of the original thousand.

It was a last minute bet on double zero, for sure. Adding money usually kills something. But if I was reading everybody right, I had the votes.

After thanking everybody for their debate, our treasurer prepared to count the votes as Ms. Peters walked the room. I started with the end of the table on the right side.

"O'Malley, your vote."






Not a surprise, especially since his moment of weakness 'bought' Francie the election.





"Darling?" You guessed it, the second of the Jarvis supporters.


I was getting nervous, we were at 3-3...





Now onto the other far side of the table, where at least three yes votes were guaranteed.


"Aye...ma'am." Really not starting to mind Brad anymore. At least he has well-instilled manners and a nice choice of woman.



Ten votes, 7-3. We're on our way...

"Grant?" I wasn't even going to panic about this one--


Huh? Nay? Was she sure that she knew what she was voting for?

"I'm sorry, I didn't hear that vote," I said to her, brushing my lobes to fake that I needed my ears cleaned and popped.

Once again she stated her vote. "Nay. I understood my vote."

I was stunned. My best friend, bosom buddy since preschool, was going against me. I was appalled. I wasn't even looking at Rory for her reaction, but searching within my soul. I wanted to cry, shake some sense into her and tell her she was actually siding with Francie, the biggest bitch we know besides me. Beyond that, she was voting against gay rights. I would have never expected her to be that way.

The funding was dead with that denial. Rory and I were votes eight and nine, but we needed ten. Louise was ten. She was the one to meet that 67% threshold.

My heart clenched. I prepared myself for an oncoming panic attack. But I had to ride this through and go forward. I could announce the results and then hand the gavel to Rory while I punched something hard before I had to go to the hospital. Preferably Francie's jaw.

But there was no hope. I saw it in Nora's eyes. She knew the vote. She knew the math. She was going down in defeat.

I had to get through this. There were two more votes before the two of us, Francie and Lemon. I prepared for the inevitable...


She cast her vote as harshly as she could muster, her eyes full of sick smugness. "Nay!" I bet she wished the Grinch would've stayed the way he was before Who-ville convinced him to give back the presents.

This was it. 9-6 took it only to 60% approval. Enough to avoid a filibuster in the U.S. Senate, but not to save the RTS.

"Monroe?" I tried to be neutral, but there wasn't any hope. I had lost this vote for sure.


Yup, our fate was sealed--

Wait, what? Did I hear that right?

I thought I was hearing things. Lemon Monroe, Francie's best friend, was going against her?

I had to make sure, just for the sake of accuracy.

"Miss Monroe, you are voting to extend the funding, is that correct?" Francie tried to keep her from speaking, but her hand was pushed away as Lemon explained the reasoning for her vote.

"I know what I'm voting for, Paris. I cannot possibly vote to block funding for an organization...that I will be joining myself."

She blinked a couple of times to the empty sounds of silence, then she stated why. "Francie, you always told me these students were only looking out for themselves and their agenda. You told me to stay away from them, that they were looking to turn me into something that I wasn't." She took a deep breath, and with the Puffs already well known after the supposed veil of secrecy lifted, she confessed to her best friend exactly how she felt. "I...some of the members of the Puffs and I...we experimented, in that way. I...actually fell in love with one of them, but held back my true feelings since saying so would have resulted in my expulsion in the group in your hands. I have since regretted that I turned her down and instead went with a date you set me up on at church who was horrible to me." Lemon's voice, which was usually very weak and quiet, was in this moment strong and echoing through the room. She got up and looked towards Clea Yang, a student sitting with the RTS group who had been with us during the Puffs initiation. "I don't know if your offer from a year ago still stands and if you reject me, it's justified. But...if you're willing to, I would finally love to take you out on that date, Clea. I think...I think that at the very least, I'm bisexual. I don't know if this can be forever. But I can no longer stand by and watch while my best friend tries to convince me that what I feel in my heart is not right."

Clea got up, feeling out of sorts, in shock. I could tell that there was that connection between them that Rory and I shared. She seemed giddy and a bit excited. But still skeptical. "Are you sure, Lem? What about your parents--"

"They know. They don't like it, but they'll live with it." She paused to catch her breath. "Please, Clea. If you're with somebody, I understand, but Nora is right. I'm voting with my heart and with my fellow students this time, not what is expected."

Clea paused, considering what she wanted. But there was no hesitation. I didn't consider it back then, but Lemon and Clea were almost inseparable during the initiation after Francie had to go into her ceremony.

"Just don't break my heart, please, Lem? Give us a good chance together. Of course, please come to our meetings and know that we will protect you."

Lemon beamed at the acceptance. Since she was in a formal setting she couldn't hash out the specifics of the date during the meeting. "Thank you!" She then looked at me, seeming very apologetic. "I...I'm so sorry, Paris. I didn't mean to...oh, God, you must find me embarrassing right now!" Laughing nervously, Lemon looked down at the table. "I'm such a ditz!"

I smiled at Lemon and reassured her. "Miss Monroe, you explained your vote. That's all I needed. I'm not mad or disappointed in you for your interruption at all." I did give her a light warning. "Just don't expect me to be so lenient in the future."

"I...I won't. Thank you, Paris." Rory could finally breathe as I called on her vote.


Finally I could get this out of the way. "And I vote aye." After a confirmation period with the treasurer to second the vote, I focused on a certain redhead to watch her biggest effort to interfere with my legacy and the rights of the students I represent go down in flames.

I was firm and even as I went through the final formality. "The ayes are ten, the nays are five. The vote meets two-thirds majority. The Rainbow Triangle Society will receive $1,500 of funding for the new calendar year, along with a new classroom to meet in, plus the full endorsement of this body as an organization representing the students of the Academy. The motion carries."

I brought the gavel down nice and hard to make it so. In the meetings I've presided over, it was the most satisfying pounding I've taken...

And if Lorelai ever hears that, I'll never hear the end of it. Backing slowly away from that statement...

All I can say is that I can now carry for the rest of my life the image of Francie's bitch face as I made it so. To see one of her own allies cast the vote to take us over the top, it was much more than satisfying, it was downright courageous and gutsy for her to do so.

But it was also so enjoyable to see her give a nice look towards Francie that read 'you don't own me. I'm my own woman and don't you dare try to stop me.'

The rest of the meeting went swimmingly, since there wasn't much to do. With Francie's motion to vote for the funding just before the holidays muted, she had nothing she could bring up or oppose. It was quiet all through.

At the end, I adjourned the meeting, and immediately it was time for Rory to deal with the ramifications of outing Francie's plans. The redhead took her by the hand demandingly, looking stern and angry.

"Rory, I'd like to talk to you...alone." Her cold voice chilled Rory all over again. Her fight or flight response sparked up, panic flashing in her eyes.

I had to stop this. There was no way she was going to get her way.

"Nice try," I warned her, getting in front of Rory and asserting myself like a mother hen. "Francine, I will advise you now as your superior; stay away from her."

"Superior of what?" She scoffed in my face. "So you have a gavel. That's all you have. I'm the senior class president. You have to deal with everybody else."

"Francie..." Lemon tried to yank her hand to pull her away, but she pulled back.

"We are no longer friends, Lemon. You are supposed to support me, nothing else." She turned around and tried to seem intimidating. But Lemon hadn't lost her courage by any means at all.

"I would support you, but this is insane. Forcing students to vote with you, threatening them, giving them hell if they defy you. I'm sorry. I was your best friend, but I cannot continue to be so if you're going to behave like this."

"She's right, Miss Jarvis." Ms. Peters had been watching the situation in the corner of the room, heading towards us when she felt fearful that Lemon and Rory were about to feel threatened. "I will not have you acting threatening to those who oppose your policy. Cool it down or I will send you to the Headmaster." She walked into Francie's personal space to make it clear. "I know what you've been doing to Miss Gilmore, and it stops now. Be thankful that I didn't report your conduct any further." She pinched her fingers together, leaving only slight space between them. "I was this close to forcing faculty supervision for you to use the restroom."

"You wouldn't have had the guts," Francie dared as she gathered her bag. Ms. Peters didn't even flinch as her cool voice warned her otherwise.

"Guess what? I work for a private school. Your father can't touch us. We can do whatever it takes to discipline you within the statutes, and if I have to have someone timing your bathroom breaks to the second and pull you off the toilet, I will. If I hear about one more instance of you or your friends intimidating others in any sense, you're done here and in every other club. Do I make myself clear, young lady?"

I shuddered. I knew Ms. Peters would do whatever it took to keep Francie in line. Mainly because what usually isn't mentioned by many is that Ms. Peters is actually Staff Sergeant Angelina Peters. She refuses to use her Army rank in civilian life, but she was in it for sixteen years, mainly working off military time as a reporter and later section editor at Stars & Stripes, and of course as a decorated veteran of Desert Storm. I love Ms. Peters at times like this when she gets into disciplinarian mode; she drives us all. The paper comes out on time, everyone comes to agreements, and even students like Francine Jarvis are no match for this woman.

"Yes, ma'am," she responded in a quivering voice. That would have been enough, but there was still some unfinished business to take care of.

"Now I think that something is owed to Miss Gilmore, isn't it?" Francie looked down for but a moment, and found her chin propped right back up. "I said to you, Miss Jarvis, you owe Miss Gilmore something."

Francie looked at Rory. "I'm sorry, Rory."

"What was that, Jarvis? My hearing has deteriorated a bit in my old age." Ha, please! She's 42 and can still hear a robin chirp three miles away at rush hour!

"I apologize for my conduct to you, Miss Gilmore. It was wrong to force you to vote against your feelings." Lemon was the only other one to know about everything and you could tell she was angry at her friend. I know for sure she was never in the bathroom with Francie because I didn't hear her voice in those tapes. "It was unacceptable."

Although I considered the apology half-assed and under pressure, Rory had just enough forgiveness to let bygones be bygones.

"I accept your apology, Francie," she said, a believable smile on her lips.

"Can I go now, Ms. Peters?" she asked in a frustrated voice.

"Yes, go on." Francie fled from the room, mortally embarrassed. Lemon was still in the room and looked to talk to Rory, while I found my gaze moving towards a certain blonde packing her things. I headed over to the far side of the table to talk to her. I really had to get to the bottom of this.

"Why did you vote against the funding?" I tried to be as kind as I could, but frankly I was pissed. Louise always seemed like an open kind of person. That was the last thing I ever expected her to do. Slamming her bag onto the table, her eyes flared with anger.

"I voted how I did because I felt like it. Now if you'll excuse me--"

I grabbed at her wrist before she could leave. "You know that's bull, Lou. You've been distant to everybody since you got together with that guy on the football team. I want to know what's happening with you, it's not like you to be this cold. That's my role," I joked.

Louise wasn't laughing at all, gritting her teeth while continuing to gather her things. "Look, I'm here, I voted. That's what we needed, right?"

"I needed your vote! One which I can usually count on!" I yelled.

"Please, you don't need me at all. You and Gilmore and Madeline are against me and how I live my life!"

"I don't know how you live, that's the problem!" I continued to keep my voice raised. "Tell me what is going on!"

"I'm breathing and fine. There, that's your update, Gel." She yanked back her hand. "Please leave me alone. You shouldn't be concerned about nothing." Walking away, I was desperate. I don't care if Rory is my girlfriend. At the core, Louise will always be my first friend and what affects her affects me. If it was about us keeping secrets I could understand. But nobody had been told about our relationship at all.

I didn't know what else to say to stop her. So I asked her the only question I could.

"Am...am I still your friend, Louise?" I was meek asking her. "I don't like it when we fight." I sounded pathetic, I know, but I needed that reassurance that I was still in her life. She looked at me, serious, the pale beauty of her face filled with worry lines and self-loathing.

There was something in her eyes I had never seen before in my life. Not a kind of sadness or anger. They were kind of dark and vacant, not as if they were dilated, but as if she had given up on everything. It hurt me to see her like that.

It wounded me even more to hear her answer me.

"I don't feel like a friend to anyone, anymore." Her voice had a tone of defeat, the usual sensual husk gone, and her words dull and wavering. This wasn't the Louise I knew at all. She was a shell of herself. "I...I need to go." She scurried out and my heart broke.

I was expecting to celebrate my victory over Francie. Now I didn't know if I wanted to gloat over anything. Something was seriously wrong with this girl and she was able to keep a strong front usually. If she was pissed it was usually something a party, a talk, and a hot blonde could deal with.

Now I wasn't so sure. There wasn't anything obvious wrong. I had been checking her physically to see she was doing anything dangerous. About the only danger sign was her eyes were rimmed red, but that was likely just from crying. There were no cuts, her skin was still full of life, her figure was just fine and she was still doing well in class. Her nose was normal so she wasn't huffing or sniffing anything...

I hope. I watched her leave and turned around to see Rory and Nora talking. I was planning to go with them to the RTS room and celebrate the funding win, but I couldn't at this point. Nora hugged me right away and thanked me with a kiss on the cheek.

"Thank you so much!" She was jubilant. "I didn't think we could get it, but we did. More funding too, I'm so psyched! We're going to be unstoppable this year."

"It's not...a problem." I gasped for a bit of air. "Nothing against your hugs, Nor...but release...please?"

"Oh." She took a look at my discomfort and released. "Sorry, Par."

"She does the same thing with me," Rory responded with a laugh. "I asked her to a dance and when she said yes, I apparently almost killed her with a bear hug."

"You forget, Gilmore that I am a small woman, thus I have small lungs."

"Yes, but you do have big boobs to make up for it." She directed her secret smile towards me and I was completely speechless. Oh my God, she didn't just say that! My mouth dropped open as my jaw seemed to paralyze. We were in front of Ms. Peters yet, after all!

"Oh, I must agree with you, Rory." She smiled while giving me that heated once-over. "I watched her grow into her fine lil' body that first year at Chilton in the locker room. If Mel here hadn't have sprung me a year later, I might have--"

"NORA!!" I whispered her name roughly. "Ms. Peters is here. I'm really, really, really trying to keep this quiet for now."

"Oh, so I guess you don't know," Nora shrugged. "I assumed you did."

"What are you talking about?"

She pulled me aside to the side of the room so that Ms. Peters wouldn't catch us. "There's a good reason Ms. Salmon is our group leader and why Angie over there got all green-eyed monster over us getting our funding pulled."

"Of course there was. Francie was flouting over her."

"Paris..." Nora smiled at me. "Tell me that you have no freakin' idea why Ms. Peters was so passionate about you getting this in as soon as you could."

I shook my head. "Nora, you're talking crazy. Ms. Peters is our faculty advisor on the government and Franklin, nothing more than that."

"See..." Nora giggled slightly, taking me by the shoulder and turning me around. "This is why I love you repping us, Gellar. You don't care about the usual gossip and you just go in, do your job and bulldoze through all the bullshit. Never mind the things that should bash you in the face like a 2x4."

"So...Ms. Peters and Ms. Salmon...what are you saying?"

Dear God, I need a brain scan. I can recite facts, but sometimes I feel like my mind is like a badly dubbed Asian-language film. Nora shook her head and let me know what should have been obvious.

"How do I have to spell it out for you, Paris? They're a couple."

"Yes, they're a couple of teachers--"

"No, a couple as in I've caught them in the newsroom making out like I know you and Rory have a couple times, and don't you deny it."

"That's not true. Ms. Peters was in the Army, she could never--"

Nora quickly interrupted me. "It was after her service had ended. When she reached the ETS for her second period of duty she asked for honorable discharge and of course received it, well deserved for an officer of her caliber." That put her at 34 since she went right in after high school. I felt like I was violating her privacy, but Nora went on further. "She was married and ready to have kids, but she had problems conceiving."

"OK, Nora? I do not need to know this. Whatever this is, it's private information--"

"Paris, it's OK." Standing behind me was Ms. Peters with her hand on my shoulder. "I've told this story every year when RTS has had their first meeting."

"But that would mean..."

"Yes, that would mean what you think it means." Rory and Lemon came over. "Elise and I have been together for six years, and the Headmaster has no objections to us living together or raising a child."

"A child?" Rory was surprised. "I mean, I know how you have children, but..."

It was from there that the tension of the earlier meeting gave way to a much more relaxed pace as Ms. Peters explained her circumstances. Which in retrospect I should have known, but hey, she's my advisor, I'm the editor. Unless I'm planning an entire Franklin edition around the life and times of Bill Hicks and John Holmes uncensored, we don't usually argue about anything.

What happened was this; Ms. Peters had been Staff Sergeant Angelina Mason coming off her discharge and moved back home to Hartford with her husband, for whom I will not name for good reason. They wanted a kid, but she had fertility problems. They tried everything, including IVF, but she wasn't getting knocked up by anything medical science could offer.

That left the last option; surrogacy. Her and Ms. Salmon had become fast friends from the moment she came to the Academy and she was a station of sanity coming from the Army and into the school. Ms. Salmon was relationship adverse and always willing to help her few friends with anything they might want.

So one day, Ms. Peters asked her if she could carry her child for a nice amount of money. Usually you'd ask for a ride to the airport from a friend, but how can you turn down such an offer that would at the very least give you some financial security? Elise accepted her and Mr. Mason's offer, and after five months of IVF treatments, Elise was finally able to offer her the wonderful news that she would soon be a mother.

Usually this would be a wonderful time to live. Ms. Peters would be a mother and live happily ever after, and her and Ms. Salmon would remain close for the rest of their lives.

But as she explained it, it was not to be.

"Elise was in the fourth month, while I was ready to tell my family after everything was out of the woods. I knew they'd find it strange, but it was in all but birth, my child. It was a miracle that it had worked out with Elise, and I was pleased to see her progress. We'd see each other everyday, I'd hear her jokingly curse me for sticking her with morning sickness, all of the usual things a surrogate mother deals with, only we were friends and we knew each other.

"One day I was on my computer and my husband forgot to sign out of his Outlook Express. He received a few new messages and I tried to close the icon on the taskbar, but instead, I opened up the program full-screen. I would have quickly closed it had my eyes not laid on the words 'Dear honey,'. It would have been fine...if it had been me writing that email." Her mouth firmed into a frown as she described what she discovered next. Scrolling down the message even though she didn't want to, she read a reply from her husband lower down that described him as instead of a future father, a man who was a complete bachelor and unattached. She didn't have to be explicit with what was in the message at all, there was no need.

"So I went through his email, which I knew was an invasion of privacy, and discovered that he had been using that email address for six years. Three of them had been used to have a relationship with this woman. Can you just imagine it? I was overseas at a base in Japan thinking my husband loved me, while he was meeting this woman back here in town behind my back for needs that I would love to fill, but hello, busy defending the flag and everything else a soldier does?"

"You must've hated him," Lemon commented.

"Oh, Lemon, I didn't hate him at all." She shrugged. "I don't think hate could describe how I felt about having been cheated on for so long. I freaked out. I made sure I was still clean and went through a battery of tests to make sure I was fine. I didn't say anything for two weeks to him or Elise. Especially Elise. I was afraid of what she would say because I had to wait for the tests to come through before I could say a word. I didn't want her to panic and lose the baby."

Eventually the tests did come back, and they were all thankfully negative. In the meantime the dope had forgotten to realize she worked on a heavily computerized and networked military newspaper and knew her way around multiple operating systems. She had his hard drive copied, the emails archived, and by the time he got home from a 'business trip' a few days later, he was dead in the water. The evidence was presented to him clear as day that he had been caught. No court in any state would ever give him anything. She did not have to raise her voice at all, and with all the military precision instilled within her his stuff was out by the next day, the divorce a few months later went uncontested and he left Hartford without a penny of his wife's never to be heard from again.

But in the interim it set up a quandary of what to do. Mr. Mason had given up all rights to paternity, leaving Ms. Peters an unexpected single mother. There was an expectation that with her husband leaving, Elise would revoke her deal to carry the child and have it sent to adoption, since Mr. Mason was to have guided her through all of the pre-natal activities with Ms. Peters only watching it from the side. Even with it being biologically Ms. Peters's the agreement allowed Ms. Salmon final say on what she would do with the child if the covenant was broke.

"We sat down with each other. I was ready to let go, but then she took my hand and asked me, 'do you still want your child, Angelina?' I nodded that I did. 'Will you help me carry it to term?' No hesitation at all on my part. 'Can I count on you to always be there for me? I know you weren't expecting to have to play the...father, as it were, but I'm going to do this with you, or not at all.' It wasn't threatening; she needed me there. She didn't want me to be distant. We sat down and came to the determination that no longer was the child of my former husband and I. This would be our child, in equal measure."

She told the story vividly, explaining how she was again excited to have a child after the turmoil of her marriage falling apart. She fell into the 'father' role with all of her zeal, being there for every doctor's visit, late night food run, every Lamaze class she and Elise attended. The days turned into weeks, and then a couple of months. Ms. Salmon eventually moved in to facilitate Ms. Peters not having to run her across town to get home every night. Seven months in, the two women had completely formed a bond that seemed unbreakable, and that's when it got really interesting.

"It was a late night at Chilton, a horrid one. The snow was flying everywhere, I had a heavy advising session on the Franklin with that year's editor, and I was totally worn out. I was expecting a long grading session through the night, but our benevolent Headmaster had seen the storm reports from Buffalo and Rochester. He knew there would be no school the next day. So I get home prepared to just sleep the night away. I put my pajamas on and..."

She paused, recalling the scene as if I was retelling the story of the notebook all over again. "The power went out. I cursed under my breath and looked outside; there was no way that the circuit breaker tripped since I saw darkness all the way to the traffic light seventeen blocks down Zion to Fairfield, but thank goodness I had the furnace on a generator. So I lit a candle and guided myself into my bedroom. Elise was laying down on it since I didn't have another bed in the house; I usually slept on the couch downstairs. But that night I couldn't take the risk of having her alone; I had to protect her. She woke up from the glare of the candle."

Ms. Peters took a breath in. I felt my skin prickle at the upcoming portion of her story in anticipation. "You know how they say that there's a moment where you fall in love, that it's perfect and there's nothing that can stop it from occurring? That was it." I tried to visualize the blonde physics teacher in my mind seven months pregnant. Ms. Salmon is a beautiful woman and I could just imagine the passion and panic in that moment.

The details were sparse, owing to the teacher/student dynamic, but still enough to jump over easily filled blanks. Ms. Salmon wore a thin maternity nightgown in bed and looked up at the other woman. Ms. Peters told her of the power outage and told her she had to put something else on, but Ms. Salmon was one to enjoy the cold a bit.

"I still remember in that moment staring at Elise, taking her all in truly. The heft of her breasts, the glow of her cheeks from the pregnancy, how the curve of her stomach encased my future child in the safety of her womb. I had grown to consider her close since the beginning of the divorce, but couldn't figure out why. After the papers were signed and we left the courthouse, she held my hand. It was completely natural and I didn't even notice that she clasped it intimately."

"So how did you see her that night?" Rory wondered. "All of that time together helping to bring this child into the world...it must made for close touching and a few uncomfortable brushes and glances."

"It took me awhile to connect the dots," she admitted. "A glance of her leg here when she crossed it...a feeling to be so maternal and protecting of her. Not just as the mother, but like that bond you have with a midwife that you both know what you each want. I never thought twice about touching her, helping her breathe in pre-natal classes, going through the rehearsal of what to do when it was time. Decorating the nursery...man, that takes me all the way back. I even recall her wearing one of my Army dress shirts when she wasn't real along. My husband was into dropping the pretenses at home, but Elise always calls me ma'am out of respect. I've tried to push her out of it, but I can't get it to stick."

"You know, Ms. Peters..." Nora grinned. "We're all big girls in here. I don't mind hearing you get naughty about what happened."

"Yes, but do you want the other poor girls here to have their minds blown, Folsom?" She smiled mischievously towards the girl. "I don't know that they're ready to hear about this."

I thought I wasn't myself, but my mouth jumped ahead of my mind. Probably all my inner vixen's fault.

"I don't think I would mind." I would have caught myself, but it was too late. I couldn't take it back. I blushed violently and tried to take it back, but it was too late as Rory let me know it was fine to be inquiring.

"So Paris's sex drive? I think it's finally hatched."

"Oh dear," I groaned. "I do not have a sex drive!" Thankfully they averted the further need to tease and push me further out while Ms. Peters chuckled.

"Fine, you're pretty much all trusted anyways. It's not like Elise ever prevents me from telling me about it; she considers it as sort of a lesbian evangelism, as it were." She continued, her face warming as she expanded the description as much as she possibly could without taking it out of the educational context.

I don't know why romance seems to a follow a template of need or desire for something. I fell for Rory more out of acceptance and trust more than anything else. Ms. Peters told of missing comfort, having been stuck with only herself for so many years, the only communication between her and her husband through letters which passed through the military censors or the usual holiday video message on television. She finally had something tangible for the first time in years keeping her in the States and as she explained it her having Ms. Salmon as a surrogate made her feel like she always wanted to be, a friend to someone close.

But it was more than that. "I didn't even know I was falling in love with her," she confessed. "That first week in class I felt odd about being the one teaching her how to breathe and deliver since I was the only woman 'father' in the room. It started out just that way, but in two months it became more. She moved in. I began to cook for her, while she helped me decorate the nursery and even touch on the worst thing of my classes, my disorganization of my lesson plans. We helped each other...I guess you could even say we complemented each other. But not like my husband."

Cue the echoes back to that day in the dorm Rory was brushing my hair before the date when she said a couple should complement each other. I shuddered at the parallels we seemed to share with each other.

She told of falling in love further, noticing Ms. Salmon when she passed her classroom or in the halls, and of one odd touch in the teacher's lounge. "I remember she wanted me to feel the baby kick and it just happened to begin at that time. I didn't think of it as anything but second nature, so I felt her stomach. I thought of it as much more as the kick though, it was the way she looked at me. The focus of her eyes, the intimacy of the touch. Ms. James from the office walked in just at the moment I was closing in, unconsciously." I felt so uncomfortable all the sudden. "Since she's so conservative I had to explain that she was my surrogate, but she didn't seem to understand. Mainly because I was still technically married in the legal sense, but I didn't care. He was out of the house and out of my life.

"It became a tradition to catch up at lunch, whether in the lounge or in our classrooms. Watching my child develop, the both of us looking at the ultrasound pictures, soon we became inseparable. She kept trying to half-heartedly pull away from helping with decorations and shopping but it was useless. We were building that bond, becoming closer. I...I even have to admit to maybe pushing things along with a trip to try on maternity clothing that turned into me acting like a daft idiot for three hours while I stared at Elise looking beautiful in everything."

I have to cross my legs, I thought, doing exactly that as I held a shudder as close as I could in silence. I loved this the most, the seduction, the teasing and realizations. I took in Lemon to my other side listening fully intent. No longer taking notes at all, but finally able to use her imagination for much more than how to satisfy Francie's latest plan of attack. I saw the resignation and tension which had been on her shoulders when she walked into the conference room earlier was gone. She was fully calm and content with who she was.

Then I darted my gaze to Rory, Nora between us, a purposeful move because I felt I couldn't keep my self-control. I just think about how she listens and brings her full attention to superiors. I wish you could have a picture of her paying attention. For some reason it reminds me of those paintings where a nun is looking up with her hands clasped in prayer. Rory has the same pose down to the reflection in her eyes, only her hands are unconsciously scribbling notes onto a pad or notebook of some kind in her rushed yet neat scribe. I really think we're of the same cloth, women who soak up everything we hear and don't ever find ourselves distracted by the little things.

She's so beautiful listening. I can see her when she was six years old, listening to a story in a public library curled up with her stuffed chicken...

It feels even more right to be her girlfriend in that moment. Among some of our own, including our own advisor, telling us how she fell in love.

"I finally had to confront my feelings the night of that power outage. Laying with Elise in the same bed, protecting her." Ms. Peters's voice quivered from the emotional impact. "There I was, three weeks after I retook my maiden name, trying to assure Elise all would be fine, that the power would come back soon. The only thing between us a few inches of space and the thin fabric of her nightgown, along with my pajama shirt. She didn't wear a fragrance, but she had a soft scent of talc and almond. I was laying there, looking into her green eyes, and thinking about how much of a beautiful woman she was to carry my child. I couldn't help but stare, to touch..." She paused. "I wrapped my arms around her stomach. I fell asleep to the little kicks against her belly, thinking of how I...I loved Elise. For the first time, I admitted that I wanted her, something I had stopped myself from thinking because it was wrong to be that way. I was scared to say something, so much pressure not only from my parents, but from the service and the school."

I imagined this in a moody and sensual way, filled with shadows and much nervous energy between them. As Ms. Peters described the moment, I saw a lot of myself in her, that fear of others finding out and that excitement of knowing your one and only was in someone so close.

She goes back to the power outage and a few hours later.

"What happened in that bedroom was a complete surprise to the both of us. There didn't seem to a true point where we looked into each other's eyes and saw each other as soulmates. It didn't come right away. But I think what sparked our relationship was just a need for intimacy, someone who needs the other. We both woke up at 3am, the power was still out. We wanted to grade, but our laptops were on horrid batteries. So there was nothing to do. We had distractions those last two months. Things to do, television to watch, classes to worry about and grade, worries about the baby from our parents. They were all gone. We held each other, finally realizing that what was missing from our friendship was a relationship. I had all those doubts floating around in me. But at the same time, I had a want for her, to feel her hands and ravage her body with appreciation for being my surrogate. We talked for a minute or two. Wondered what was going on. Then I just laid it out for her and said I felt something for her and I would understand if she wanted to turn me down."

A pause. "That's when Elise confessed that she wanted me to be hers. It was breathless, quiet, filled with tears. My mind couldn't analyze at all. I did the thing my heart told me to do; I kissed her."

And then Elise returned the kiss, then Ms. Peters reciprocated. A question whether the power was going to be turned back on was asked, but it was lost in a maze of lust as Ms. Peters tried to describe in PG-13 terms what my mind could only picture in NC-17. The only trigger was obvious desire between the two women, a need to feel again. After so many years of feeling unfulfilled, Ms. Peters felt loved all over again as her and Ms. Salmon came together in a way that I...I...

I could really tell you everything she said further out from here, tell you how much they bonded through that evening and into the morning until they had a long heart-to-heart where they decided to test whether a relationship between a surrogate and the child's mother could possibly work. About how Angelina was there to hold her hand and cut the cord when Elise gave birth to Gertrude Vanessa Peters, the first two names being the middle names of her mothers. Gertrude being more known as Trudy. I could state how they still look at each other today with a fire that many couples could wish they would have half of in their own lives.

This could be something I could go on and on about, but I choose not to. Not only for her privacy, but because coming out to your lover is an experience all your own. How I will come out will be different from them. How Rory knew her eyes wandered to me, I know there were private thoughts I didn't know about which went into her decision.

So I won't tell you all of that.

What I will say is two things pertaining to the both of us;

I hope we can last five years like they have. I will definitely be fighting for this relationship. Ms. Salmon and Ms. Peters went through the process with their own families as the relationship continued.

The Masons refused to acknowledge Trudy at all as part of their family. Ms. Peters went through a year of estrangement with her strict general father and her sister. But they eventually saw the light when they saw Ms. Salmon was unlike Mr. Mason in every way. Where he wanted to emotionally stunt the strength the Army gave her to submit her back into a housewife, Elise encouraged her to remain strong in every moment, including facing her father. General Peters could not deny that his daughter was under a better influence after that, and they now get along, although the disappointment that a traditional marriage broke apart to do so remains.

I was inspired, and I saw all of us in the room reacting the same way to this story.

OK, maybe not the same way. You know how hard it is not to imagine two other women together? Especially when they're teachers you've long respected and thought of as conservative and boring? There goes that image.

After some more talking and oohing and ahhing about the relationship from Lemon, she left the room with Nora and Melinda, leaving Rory and I to gather our things before we left for home. As I was leaving, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Paris, a moment alone?" Ms. Peters was insistent on me staying.

"Oh, um, sure, of course." Rory smiled at me as she exited. Then I turned back around as I secured my messenger bag on my shoulder. With Rory gone, I thought I was just being reminded of something to do with the paper.

"What is it, Ms. Peters?"

It was something to do with the paper. But not the publication, much to my shock.

"There's one reason I felt gutsy enough to tell you that story." She shook her head and chuckled. "I know, Paris."

"Know what?" I was without a hint and had no idea. She moved in close to the shell of my ear, and then softly...

"Last Monday I had to stop back in the newsroom for some papers I forgot to grade."

Oh, shit. No...no...please just tell me that what she's about to say isn't true.

"I was actually in on Nora's bet. I thought around semester exams."

Oh, come on! What is the Chilton LGBT community, an annex of Stars Hollow?! I was white as a sheet, a skin tone that with my genes (and fading tan) was hard to muster, but thus, there I was with my jaw slacked while my faculty advisor just shook her head with an evil smirk and gave me a once-over.

"I can't say that I'm disappointed though. It was fun watching you all of these months dance around Miss Gilmore and try to deny you felt something with her. But to me it was clear as a window. The touches, asserting that in all but masthead she was your co-editor. I could just tell on that day you were planning something."

Oh kay. I had no idea why Ms. Peters would even try to encourage me to break several Chilton rules, so I had to ask, beyond being a part of the bet, why she would indulge in the slow seduction of my best friend.

"I guess you could call it a community service," she presumed. "You're in love, Miss Gellar. It makes you calmer. You're less stressed about things, debating is less frustrating, everyone gets their say. Plus I have my own reason for encouraging your misbehavior in the darkroom." She moved closer to me and whispered dangerously into my ear. "Let's just say there was a good reason Ms. Salmon and I called in sick the next morning."


"You...you didn't." I went from white to red faster than my 911 goes from 0 to 60.

"Both of us wish we could be that young again. Had to wear a heat pad on my lower back on Wednesday." She moved away, non-chalant. "Goodnight, Paris, and thank you for having such a sane and..." a pause to take her voice down to a smoky tenor, "...passionate voice in student government." She walked out, leaving me standing there as if I was glued to the floor.

I was trying to block out Ms. Peters walking in and taking her girlfriend right in the living room the moment she came home, fueled by our orgasmic screams from the next room.

That means they have both fantasized about me.

And fantasized about Rory. The both of us together. The ultimate taboo, beyond having sex with a teacher. Imagining two students together as you make love to a fellow teacher.

I think I need to see a cardiologist. All of these revelations and discoveries certainly cannot be good for the health of my heart. I mean...wow.

Madeline and Louise? You can't doubt they've been a part of male teacher fantasies, no matter what. But me? I'm no looker. I still wonder what Rory sees in my physically and if she loves me for my brain...

Wait, forgot the outright confession earlier that she enjoys the girls. In hindsight, I also noticed that Ms. Peters's eyes were blousebound once those words were said.

Damn it, it might be back to the blazer just for punishment of those two. I'm being imagined by two teachers and my girlfriend...

Then again, my ol' ego can't help but enjoy the boost. I leave the conference room with a bit of a spring in my step.

Come on. I have forty year-old teachers lusting after me...

Oh, and Rory...

I thought she'd react strangely to the revelation.

Apparently in the mind of Rory Gilmore, 'teachers using our voyeuristic tryst in the darkroom as fantasy material for their own sex lives' means a completely different kind of strange to her.

Like the kinky kind of strange.

"You really think I'm embarrassed Ms. Peters heard us?" She unbuttoned her blouse with a smile as I relayed the details of the short conversation with the older woman. "I kind of expected it, actually."

"What, you wanted her to catch us?"

Rory nodded innocently. "Would there have been a problem if we were? Come on, Par, half of what we did in there was fueled by the thought of someone catching us, red warning light be damned." She tossed the shirt onto the backseat and I did my best not to look at her. "It actually makes it even hotter in retrospect."

"But we could have been caught! You're missing the point I'm making here, Gilmore. I was under the expectation that there would be total privacy within that room and Ms. Peters would have completely departed. Now I don't know how I feel about it. I'm kind of embarrassed that for the rest of my days in this school she will look at me and think 'that Paris, she's kind of a moaner.' If it was Madeline...I wouldn't be mortified. It's different with her."

"Oh, but I think of it this way." Damn you, Rory for having that sweet but naughty voice. "Imagine if she had walked in on us in the middle of our passion. I don't know about you, but I consider Angie among the hottest teachers in Chilton. I even voted in Madeline's poll and put her right on top."

"She is Ms. Peters," I lectured, "Not...Angie. It is disrespectful to use a first name with an instructor."

"I've called her Angie and she hasn't batted an eye." She went further, crossing her arms over her chest and flaring it out purposefully as she pushed the seat back. "But really, she is a forty year-old woman in excellent shape with a sharp tongue, killer legs and a need to feel commanding over her students. But she's still sweet. When the regents wanted to cut the Franklin funding and your appeals weren't enough, it was her who saved our bacon with her appeal to future students."

"You're...you're right." I kept my focus straight to keep myself in control, but Rory insisted on going on with her fawning.

"I love it when she hovers above you. She has that small cleavage she only displays when she's bent over and it's a small gift to me for having to go through some of the most appalling instructors this school has to offer. I know she does it for Ms. Salmon in case there's that temptation for a mid-day quickie, but I'm sure the ladies of the RTS also appreciate it. I know I do." She lay back on the seat and began to buckle her seatbelt--

At the same time my own legs buckled. Imagining Ms. Peters like that and her scent still hanging in my nostrils, I had been tense through most of the time she told of how her and Ms. Salmon fell in love. The sex especially got to me. I don't know why, but it did. It might have been Ms. Peters describing the way she licked her lips when she disrobed Ms. Salmon and stared at her body in the candlelight, carrying her child. In my mind it was so provocative to imagine her eyes scanning that woman as if trying to find some typographical error that was well hidden in six-point legal type, but failing to do so because she was so perfectly beautiful.

It brought to a flash of Rory...pregnant.

When she's much, much older, though. At her current age her hips cannot possibly handle the strain of bearing a child, nor can my thoughts do the same. I reeled back in surprise thinking of my girlfriend with child. I was blushing and...

More thoughts of Elise going down on Ms. Peters in her full school regalia. I thought about them in a classroom, watching them like I did Lorelai and Mr. Medina. The only thing is I know I wouldn't feel dirty watching those two women at all. The former, it felt wrong and the only way I could cleanse myself was to spread it through the whole school.

But Peters and Salmon? Oh, lord, that could be something hot to watch. I even wondered if Ms. Peters got into her car and sped up the expressway so she could 'celebrate' the rescue of RTS...

God! I suddenly felt so turned on. I shouldn't feel this way. Rory would surely object to me fantasizing about a teacher in this way...

At least I thought so. She yanked the keyring from my fingers before I could place the key into the ignition. My sudden change in demeanor must have startled her.

With a smile, she opened up her door. "I'm driving us."


"No, no, no, don't you even." She waved her finger and got out of the car to switch sides. I pushed over to the passenger seat with much resignation since she had never driven the XJ-8 before. I trusted her well enough and she's insured, but it's my car. I was worried. I settled myself in for the half-hour drive as a passenger as she got in before doing a quick adjustment of the seats, the wheel and mirror to her liking as she explained why she was taking the wheel.

"You need a break and some quiet time to relax. That was a tough meeting and I'm stressed, but I'm sure not as much as you. Louise didn't vote with you, Francie was obstinate and stubborn and you do so much for me every single day you drive into town to pick me up. Let me at least give you a little break, hon."

"I'm fine."

"Sure, you are." Starting the car, her eyes read my situation. "You were primed for a fight going in, and you got it. I knew I could hold my own but you're not used to both Francie and Louise sharing the same position."

"I know." Sighing, I settled back into the seat. "I'm really worried about her now. There's something going on and I can't seem to get her alone to tell me what it is."

"Do you think it's because Madeline is giving her the silent treatment?" Rory wondered.

I shook my head. "At this point, Madeline is reaching out. She hasn't had a chance to talk to her in a week; when she calls her at home she gets an off-hook signal and when she tries to get her cell, it transfers to voicemail. Texts receive no response at all. I've even tried the same avenues and I don't get to hear from her." I was very down on the situation, on the cusp of tears. "I even called Mrs. Grant Sunday night to see if there was anything going on. I guess Louise told her she wants to be left alone, because Mrs. Grant apologized and said she wasn't home and couldn't take a message."

"You don't think...could she be pregnant?" Rory was scared. "I didn't notice anything untoward, she doesn't seem sick or anything. But my mom, she didn't know until she was fitted for her cotillion dress."

"That might explain why she was so quiet and willing to DJ at Formal, then." I thought back to where things turned sour. "I just don't know, though. She's on a birth control patch, but it still has that small margin of error. She would be eating more at lunch if she was...but she still nibbles." I set my head on Rory's shoulder as she brushed her hands through my hair to keep me calm. "I just don't know what to do. I feel like I'm failing at being her best friend. Here I am building things with you and she's becoming distant when I didn't mean to be. She can come to me at any time, she knows that."

"You've told her that?"

I nodded. "Just last week, both in email and in person. I'm at my wit's end on what to say. I even went so far as to ask Dr. Birnbaum if there was anything more I could do and she advised telling the guidance counselor. But there's a whole can of worms right there." I felt odd keeping Rory somewhat in the dark about this and keeping it in the darkness of my mind, but it was the only thing I could do. I can't dwell on this. "I honestly have no idea what to do."

"You could talk to Mom," she suggested. "I know it might not seem like an option but I'm sure she'll keep it private."

I nodded, but still had trepidation. "I could do that. But I'm not sure." I feel guilty about not telling Rory about the pregnancy scare months ago, but I promised Louise. I have to hold that promise no matter how much it hurts me not to say a word. Hartford society is cruel and if it ever came out Lou had that scare, I'm done. It's that simple.

I hope it's just senior fatigue. I'm praying that it is just that and she would come back from winter break recharged. But I don't know that. I slumped back in the seat after Rory pecked my forehead assuring me everything will work out.

"You're an old soul, Par," she told me, looking both ways before backing out of the parking space. "I think you share that with your father. I saw him last week and there's that part of him in you. You can't worry about these things; they'll all fall into place soon. Besides, you have to celebrate. You kicked Francie's ass with that vote today. If it wasn't for you taking action, I don't know what would have happened."

"I know." I was weary, looking out the window. "I just know that this is going to come up sooner than later. Whatever is going on with Lou, it cannot be good."

"I'm here for you, hon." Smiling towards me and patting my leg, she effortlessly made her way out of the space. "You're not alone anymore. I won't let you be."

I was worried though, since Lou knew me before she ever came into the picture. "Even if it is Louise?"

"Par, there's more than love bonding us two together. We both have gone through so much in our lives." If I expected her to list something tough I was sorely disappointed. "For instance we never turned on WWOR's Romper Room and heard Miss Molly call our names in the Magic Mirror."

"Oh man, do not remind me of that." I had to laugh as that was one of the bitter things that came from my childhood. "I even had Daddy send a letter asking why I never heard my name. Bastards never responded and that woman kept saying obscure names like Jonah. Sorry my father stuck me with a unique name and your mom was on Demerol."

"Hey, it could be worse. We could've been born in 1968 San Francisco. You would've made an adorable flower child." She drove out of the parking lot and onto the road, heading towards the west. We kept talking, and I felt more at ease about Louise, though still unsettled. It had been a strange day, filled with revelations and great things, but at the same time I still felt down a bit. No matter how I felt though at least I could count on Rory to give me all the room she could to make me relax.

Relax of course being an understatement. Heading down Route 175 towards 173, I watched the scenery and strip malls pass by in the passenger's side window, still feeling unsettled about everything. But I was relaxed. At least in most aspects.

Sharon of course is front and center for me. I still have this sense that I'm being followed, but it can't be true. I'm just being overly paranoid. Chilton's security is among the best in the state, even above the standards of the Hartford Police. There's no one watching me there. I also don't see the same car in my rear view or in my neighborhood...

OK, I'm beginning to sound like I'm wearing a tin foil hat. Enough with that line of thinking.

I just feel like somehow this house of cards will tumble somehow, and there goes my happiness. I can't let it slip through my fingers. I'm happy. I beat Francie for once. She lost her case and she now knows she can't get anyone else to do her dirty work.

But still, I worry. I'm like Grumpy Bear...

Damn it! I liked them. When I was four! That was 1988. It is now 2002, and I should not be thinking about them just because my nickname is--

"Par-Bear." Huh? My voice never sing-songs things, ever...

Oh, right. It's Rory, currently driving my car as if it's second nature to do so. Why is she so happy all the sudden? There's nothing happening, just her, the road and...

Her fingers sliding on up my thighs and towards the hem of my skirt?

No. Oh, no. Lorelai Leigh Gilmore! Just because I have done this to you a few times does not mean you get to try it out on me! Don't you even dare--

"So, do you think Ms. Peters is a TILF?" The question was sudden, her voice casual and calming. "I never thought I'd see her in the light that I did today."

"TILF?" What does she mean with her question? She must've meant 'Ms. Peters likes the TIFF format for photographic layouts in QuarkXPress.' She is a consummate professional.

"Paris, I saw you lost in thought as you took in her story. Especially at the part where you got to imagine her going down on Ms. Salmon."

"I...I did not," I creak out immediately. "I took it in as if it was just another story." Which I did. Really.

So I might have felt a bit of pressure between my legs. So?

"I'm sure you did. Crossing those legs back and forth almost every minute she spoke. I think you were getting wet from the imagery she suggested..."

Oh God, she's hitching it up, moving the fabric higher. Come on, Rory, concentrate on the road. It's a winding one, you might lose control of the car. Hands at 10 and 2, right now!

Damn it, mouth, work! These are not thoughts, these are statements. Interrupt this frickin' tease and give me some mercy!

Fuck, where is my voice?

"You soaked over what wasn't, though." She's wrong. I'm not feeling wet at all. There is one thing you never do, and that's have sexual fantasies of your teacher...

Fine, I'm an awful liar. I'm wet...kind of.

"I didn't see anything untoward in your eyes. But in your body language you were finding yourself warming from the allegations. Thinking of them close in that bed together, Angelina protective of her child in Elise's womb, doing all she could to resist. But it was fruitless, for Elise in Angelina's eyes was a blonde goddess, her savior, keeping her sane when her entire world was falling apart."

"Rory..." Finally, I say something. But I sound incredibly weak. Man, I can do 180 easy during a debate but with my girlfriend one word is hard! Stop hiking my skirt...

"I love how she described it in spare detail, leaving the level of explicitness within our imagination." I roll my eyes back as my body humidifies. "I was sitting there listening like a good little girl, but I wasn't good at all."

Good about what?

Oh, no. She did not...

"I love the quiet comes the most, the ones no one ever notices. That I can keep in complete control and don't at all appear untowards to anybody. But in detail I'm imagining biting, scratching and those two women swearing and screaming into the Hartford night as they find themselves. They have that most umbilical of connections, a child growing in another woman's body. It's beautiful and inspiring, yet so raw to think that you can imagine yourself spilling that seed into her instead of the out of the way husband."

She did. In detail that would make Traci Lords blush. Well, legal Traci. You know, one of the parents at school looks like her, sort of...

"I saw it so much in your body, Par. You felt like you were a voyeur into that world. Hearing them make love, you wish you could have peeked into that bedroom and watched them go at it. Know how it feels to fuck someone lengthwise, your hand against their cleft as you push it in and out...in and out...feeling the force of her walls against her fingers. I see those hands now in my mind. I picture them dripping with cum."

I'm breathing heavily now, trying to bring the rhythm of my heart back down to normal. All I see though is a dark apartment and two of my teachers making love with spare sheets on their bed in the shadows. Nothing I should think about...

"I know you want to feel, Par. That you just want to let go and be free. You've been pushed down for so long but I'm finally opening your heart to these new things. You're doing the same to me. I wish you could know what it's like to not touch yourself, yet have the most divine of orgasms. That one you worked for, imagined for three days, three nights since your last one. It takes a trigger to let it go, and I think this is it."

"No...it isn't," How hard is it to understand what I'm thinking? You are driving a $70,000 piece of machinery! You need to control it! "We are on the road right now. I should not allow this."

"You shouldn't, but you are," she dares to affirm. "You're so damp right now...the heat's getting to you, isn't it?" Her hand moves abruptly from my thigh, towards the buttons of my blouse.

How did my hands get paralyzed from only Rory's small flitting touch against my breastbone? She unsnaps my tie, her eyes remaining on the road while her driving stays careful.

Her small fingers slide the small buttons of my blouse through each eyelet. "Paris, you're hot."

"I am..." Who am I, Stuart Smalley? I don't need self-affirmation of my beauty!

"You're aroused." She says this as her hand brushes across my left breast. OK, I can do this, tamp it all down and push it away. Don't give her any clues that you want anything from this and you want her hand back on the steering wheel.

"I...I...I guess I am." Damn it! My body has full control over the rational state of my mind. Four buttons down, my pink camisole was exposed. Fitting almost tightly, it hardly holds my curves in check.

"You feel lucky today, right? Kicking Francie's ass, winning the vote, getting what you wanted. Well..." I don't know how she's doing it, but she knows the Chilton shirt extremely well. Without as much as a glance every button is quickly undone until she pushes each half of the blouse out of the way to expose my camisole.

She finishes her hanging statement. "...you almost got everything that you wanted today."

Really, Paris? You had to make the clever farm girl your lover, the one who's revealing herself as seductive, silly and sexy under the cover of a repressed schoolgirl for so long? What have you gotten yourself into, young lady?

She stops at a traffic light, then smiles at me. "Tell me you didn't forget." Her eyes narrow and she gives me that dangerous once-over that could liquefy my insides, I'm sure.

"The funding...it passed. That was my goal for today." How could I forget that? It's been a big yellow caution sign since Francie dropped her first slur via microcassette last Monday. She lets her fingers undo the left cuff of my blouse. Suddenly I'm feeling a bit self-conscious about my 'war uniform'.

Namely, that one certain portion I usually wear was excluded to assert my alpha status in the room with her. I am showing, and suddenly feeling shy about that one choice as I felt her hand pull at the fabric of my shirt.

Rory humors me. "I know you wanted the funding. But I suppose you forgot to check your phone for my last text."

"No, I didn't, I--"

This delayed thinking thing? It's really getting old already. Here it comes, the sound of the SMS at 11:30pm last night as I'm just about to fall asleep. I knew it was from Ror, but I thought nothing of it at the time. I knew it was going to be a struggle, but there was a chance we couldn't get the funding.

But I did. The vote went through, and thus in the laws of text messaging, what Rory wrote and my bleary eyes barely comprehended, was about to hit me full force.

I don't need to get out my phone for a reminder. The electronic letters in that box on the phone screen flash in my mind so perfectly.

PB, you win the vote, ul b rightfully & deeply rewarded. <3 U, Ror

I thought she meant she'd take me out for dinner at a place with great homestyle mac and cheese.

But as she eyes me up and takes in my deep cleavage, the hunger she usually sates at Luke's is far from her mind. Her eyes are that dark blue, her socks down to her near her ankles, an intention to have my eyesight filled with her shapely legs.

Oh my God.

She looks at me, her gaze hot and hard.

The right turn signal is on. We're at our usual Hartford intersection to get home, New Britain and Ridgewood. Usually not using the signal leads us a mile south to the Route 9 expressway towards the south and to the Hollow.

A right turn is north. North towards the Avon Mountain area.

I live near Avon Mountain.

"You said Sharon wasn't home tonight, right?"

Was she...

That's right. I did on the way to school feel thankful that my mother had a date night in Manhattan with Mohegan Man. Which is more like her running up his American Express card at Barney's and Tiffany, but I digress. She wasn't going to be home...

"I called Mom already; we're all set." What? "I'm becoming thankful that I leave a uniform and clothes change in your trunk now, hon."

Uniform change? What did she mean she had a--

"Besides, you still owe me that opportunity to try out your private bathtub. The one with the waterproof HDTV and multiple jet settings?" She untucks the camisole from my skirt, and then blatantly moves her hand beneath my skirt. My muscles have tightened all up, and my body is losing all control. Fingers spider up my thigh, dampened with sweat. "Along with that library of yours; it makes Grandpa's seem like a bunch of books in dorm room milk crates."

Fuck...moving higher...higher.

"You were in heat last week. Now it's my turn to take you how I want to, Par." Damn, she knows I can't resist her when she's possessive. "When we get into the garage, our bags stay in the car. We won't be needing them tonight."

Fingers on the edging of my panties. My heart is beating at triple time. Where my mind is filled with fear of my mother discovering us, I know she couldn't get back to town before I got to school. Her liver and sex drive would never make it so. I will not think about her.

I can't. Not when Ror is so...

"I love it when you're dripping wet like this. Thinking about us, and Ms. Peters and Ms. Salmon. You don't have to hide it, Par. I know. And I understand how you feel." She dips another finger in, and as she sees the light turn yellow, quickly brushes both fingers against my clitoris, blood flowing through like the Columbia. I react with a very held back cry and gasp, my right hand gripping the side of the seat for dear life at what is about to happen. She stretches across and brushes a quick kiss against my lips before leaving me to hang with a few final words.

"People like to say make-up or anger sex is the best type of passion." She smirks. "I think they're wrong. Victory sex has to be the most awesome thing you can share with your mate. I thought I'd have to wait to share that with you until debate season because let's face it, you'll be monking it up in the five days of prep before debate, and so will I. All that held in tension and desire, we have to be stuck on one topic to defend or shoot down and can only feel relieved when a winner is declared." She takes her hand out of my space. "But tonight, we get a first crack at it. I get the feeling that we're not going to be either quiet or innocent."

She finally sets her hand on the steering wheel as she makes her right turn onto Ridgewood. I finally get to settle down.

But not for long. "We will have fun tonight, Par," she guarantees, laughing and prepared for what I never could have imagined all that time ago when I first took in this small town girl carnally. "Or should I say, you are going to get soo lucky, mia bambina?"

I settle back into my seat, my legs crossed, body tight, and pussy pounding. Picturing Peters and Salmon together...then the library.

And that bathtub.

Who would've ever thought Gilmore could top DuGrey in the fantasy setting department? He went with the car, the kitchen island and in front of a maid. That last one was of course mortifying because the youngest maid there is 37 and known me for six years. It would be like having sex in front of your sister.

But with this, not one boy in the entirety of Chilton can ever grab my heart again. This is not going to be a quiet Tuesday at all. I leave on the shirt and button it back up, but not before leaving her one warning.

"Are you sure you're prepared, Gilmore?" I dare. "I can be quite...passionate about my victories."

"How passionate?"

"Let's just say if debate season turns out to be a shutout, we're never leaving the bedroom." I give her a smoky glare, satisfied with my comeback.

She wants to be this way? I can dish it out just as well. My confidence is coming back in droves and there's no way she can top that. No way at all--

"Well then." An innocent smile. "I look forward to see how you master debates."

Ahh, wordplay. Just the thing I love when it comes to flirting with Gilmore. I shake my head and tsk her in response.

"I master them in my sleep," I respond.

"Oh, do I ever know." She presses her foot on the gas pedal a little more, letting a few more RPM's pour into my purring kitty of a car. "I heard you mastering debates all summer in your sleep. You knew how to ace them."

"I'm a natural. But mastering debates by myself? It just isn't the same without a partner." I'm not even touching her and I know what nerves I'm pinching in Ror. "A partner who's learning how to show her true colors, coming out of hiding and as of today, began to really come out of hiding." I love doing this for her. "A girl who with just her withering stare, made her opponent sit up and take notice that her liver isn't lily at all, but full of bile. Poisonous bile they best stay out of the way of. I even thought as this debate was going on that maybe, I could stand back and have her take lead on the first one with Wesleyan?" I am making her nervous, I know. But I have to set this up before I quickly change my mind. "It's going to be a tough topic, certainly, when it is revealed as after break is over. But I'm confident that if my partner can null her opponent's arguments in a high pressure situation like that, she can take lead on the debate team."

There was silence for the next half-mile, as I expected. Offering up lead chair in the debate was something I didn't even consider up until this moment, I admit. I am a control freak and I have to know my destiny, whatever it might be. Putting Rory in charge could already threaten a perfect record right on the first match. Even if it was Wesleyan, the pushover school of the conference.

But I have to do it. This isn't about her getting perks just because I'm her lover or anything. She has to learn to lead. I see her as a leader in some aspect of her life. If only someone could tell her that.

She ponders my words for awhile, and hesitates. I know it's pressure to have to lead on the debate, but I know she can do it.

"You. You want me to lead off...the first debate?"

"Yes. Yes, I do," I state confidently. "I have full confidence in you to do so. If you do well, we split debate-leading for the year."

"But what about Brad?" Damn it, don't remind me. "He's going to be on the team this year too. Surely you want to offer him some lead chairs."

"I will, in time. But I want you to lead this first one. Please, for me." I plead with her to do so. "I promise you in the meantime, I will make it worth your while."

More time to ponder. She likely has some conditions to do so. I wouldn't expect it any other way.

"Two things." OK, I guess I can handle two things. "No lectures on WPM. If I lead, we go at my speed. It'll still be fast, but I want to stretch our arguments to a leisurely pace."

"Fine." I shook my head, but still agreed.

"Brad will get equal time with us. He is joining our team and I expect him to not be pushed off because his debate skills are a little weak."


"No, Paris. Brad is Madeline's boyfriend. If you're mean to her, Maddy will never let you hear the end of it. Be kind to him? Please?"


"Paris Eustace." She grits out my middle name. Damn, I better comply.

"Fine, Brad is our teammate, not someone I tease." I settled into the seat. "I don't understand it though. I know he loves the stage, but why does his debating need so much work?"

"I don't think it's his fault. He's a born actor so he still feels like he has to throw for a touchdown each time he makes a point. That's what tripped him up at Hillside."

"All he needs to do is advance the ball."

"Yes, but he's intense. Like you are with the paper."

"I suppose." I sigh, looking out the window at the passing scenery. I feel prickles along my skin at the fact I will be alone tonight.

Alone in the house...with Rory.

"What did you tell Lorelai when you asked if you could stay over?" Why do I ask? Am I nervous that Lorelai is going to find out--

"Oh, this morning when I asked?" Wow, she had more confidence in the vote than I thought. "I told her she didn't want to know."

"That's it?"

"Par." She smirks as she looks at the road. "I ran out of project excuses long, long ago. I think my mom is smart enough to know we're not watching a History's Mysteries marathon or debating whether the Mercator or Lambert projection presents the surface of the earth better on a map. She invented sneaking out, so trust me, she knows that we are both...physically active."

"You mean sexually active?"

She hmm's in my direction and doubts my thought process. "How active do you want to be tonight, then?"

"What is your definition of 'active'?" I challenge.

"Well..." she smiles. "I would have to say I'd love it if you lost your voice by tomorrow morning."

"That's it?" I decided to play with her a little, moving my hand up from the cupholder to dare a touch on her thigh. But she was on to me right away. I wasn't even able to get it over the console before she took it and shook her head in disapproval.

"I'm sorry, hon. You're just going to have to wait until later to get that frustration out." I glare at her, hard.

"Why can't I let it out now?"

"Well, you could," she suggests. "But I just want you to know, good things come to those who wait." Her focus stays straight on the road. "You have plenty of good things coming when we get to the Manor."

"What kind of good things?"

"I can think of quite a few things." Her hand is back over the console line, on the outside of my thigh. "If you want to really know though, I want us to be so active tonight, you'll have to wear two undershirts to hide the sexual marks I plan to leave on you."

"What about you? I know you've only got one in the trunk." I laugh a little, daring her to respond.

"Don't tempt me, Gellar." She sighs, her fingers pushing even higher up my skirt. "I'm just going to tell you right now to expect the unexpected. She digs her nail in hard against my skin, and I react with a shocked gasp. "I have my plans already, but you're not going to know a thing."

I feel the tip of the nail almost pierce my skin. Her words and that one action result in me clenching my legs hard as my inner muscles clench and let a push of fluid slide out from between my legs, sticking the satin against my mons.

"You've surprised me for too long. Tonight..." I'm feeling very dizzy, anticipating. That swell against my bra returns.

I'm in for big trouble.

"I get full reign to reward you for kicking Francie's ass. Just imagine tonight as if it was February, we won the debate, and Sherrie and my dad were nowhere to be found. If we had celebrated and realized that spark was there. Except I'm turning the tables, mia."

I can't say a word at all. My body is fully frozen, my mouth dries, and there's no way to respond.

"The secrets you hold are becoming mine, Paris. They're ours now. Feel free to let yourself go tonight. It's just you..." She brings the finger she dug in out from my skirt, and against my lips. I can't believe she's being this seductive. "...and I. So if you're wondering how active we're going to be tonight. Don't. Turn off your mind, let yourself go, and just know that you're loved. I love you, and I will show you how much I do in the Manor until we're so tired, exhausted and famished. We won today, and you deserve to celebrate." She brushes the finger against my lips, and then goes back to driving in silence.

Because I can't say a word. I can't move a muscle. Until we get home, I'm nothing more than paralyzed. My body can only rest in anticipation for what is about to happen within the walls of my childhood home.

I can't even dare a glance at the girl. I'm that enamored with her. Only four weeks ago she strutted into my house confidently and killed the last thoughts of an innocent lesbian relationship, she keeps surprising me. I don't know what's going to happen tonight. My usual grasp on control has completely disappeared.

Yet? I'm not in a panic. There's no temptation to mainline Xanax into my bloodstream to keep myself calm. If this was happening in another relationship, I'd be in the middle of an argument with screaming and possible violence.

Is it possible I'm getting off on being controlled?

I don't think it is possible. It's a definite.

Dr. Birnbaum would be proud that my trust issues are finally melting a little.

Although if I dare mention that it was because my lesbian newspaper advisor had hot pregnancy sex with her surrogate that lead to everything, I don't know what would happen. It's like a freakin' domino effect!

Oh dear, remembering Ms. Peters at the end of the meeting near me...

I am in this deep...

Later, we're up in my bedroom. Texts are all over the table next to the computer area, along with sheets of looseleaf and the remains of a dinner consisting of something which allegedly were chicken wings dipped in a spicy sauce (apparently named for Buffalo) and we're...

Looking at old photo albums.

What, you were expecting something sinful? Well, to be honest, I was myself. I was half expecting to be near my usual post-coital zombie state at this point of the evening.

But then as Rory was exploring the house she found the cache of photo albums my father keeps in his den. Mostly because it's a convenient place to put them all, but it was mostly to keep them protected from being a part of any divorce settlement where we were all sure my mother was going to digitize a select few photos of my younger years and throw out the rest because they reminded her of fashion stages she now curses going through.

I could care less though and I'm thankful I still have them. Though I went kicking and screaming into looking at them (I think the term 'over my dead body' was used at one point in the conversation), we eventually ended up in my bedroom looking over the wedding album of my parents, looking at happier times which mainly involved blackmail material on my father.

"He never wanted me to know about this, did he?" I laughed as Rory pointed out a picture of him wearing a mauve leisure suit paired with a shirt which had a collar bigger than a parrot's wings dancing to what I could easily assume was disco. "I never thought of him being into disco."

"Everyone was into disco in the 70's," Rory tried to assure me. "Mom had her disco records taken away after Emily thought she was, uh, you know, when she was listening to that one Donna Summer song."

"Still, it's my father. A reasonable man. He surely did not idolize John Travolta."

Rory reminded me who Daddy was. "Your father, the massive dork? Didn't he own one of the first Rubik's Cubes?"


"And then he made sure you were among the first kids in the state to own a Nintendo and a Super Nintendo. Even though you really didn't care and he was mostly getting it for himself because he's a Mario geek. C'mon, he has crystal Luigi cufflinks!"

I rolled my eyes at the revelation and shook my head. "And that he's proud of that is a little troubling."

"Better admitting that than my mother, who has a lucky Rainbow Brite doll overlooking her office." She smiled. "Face it, Par; our parents do uncool things that were cool in their time."

"So there's hope that Madeline's kids are going to think she's weird for her Britney memorabilia collection?"

"She'll probably defend it to the day she'll die, seriously. But...I think you're more neutral. You really don't have many out there likes because you're just more quiet."

"I just can't get behind fads though," I told her. "I don't know if that makes me odd or just a little staid."

"Well, I know for me, it makes you a little more approachable and quiet. Sort of like you hold these things in and it's up to me to unlock the mystery of what makes you smile or drives you up a wall." She set her hand inside of mine and gave me a glance, keeping me calmed. "I love that you just do things for yourself, rather than the crowd."

I paused for a moment, trying to figure out what to say. "I...I, um...thank you." I couldn't really say anything more because I felt so shy about everything between us. I didn't want to ruin anything with a misplaced comment or just by seeming unsure. Which I was looking over all of these albums of myself growing up.

I had never really taken a look at them beyond using them in research for genealogy for research and the like because I am the type of person who doesn't like to dwell on the past. My heart doesn't allow me to look back because I know I'll be reminded of my heartbreak in the past.

Especially of Sharon. I hated lingering on memories of my mother and I dreaded what would happen when Rory hit that point. I tried to hide the album for 1989 but she eventually found it at my feet.

"Why so shy about looking at this? Did you dress as a clown for Halloween?" She laughed and opened it up, not at the beginning of the year like I hoped, but near the middle. "I'm sure what's in here isn't so..."

She stopped suddenly as the page came down. Instead of the silly picture of me in an awfully flowery Passover dress, she came upon a picture of me I always hated being reminded of.

In the foreground was my father, sitting next to me in a rumpled suit, looking every bit tired, like a man defeated, holding my left hand. The background showed my mother being distant, staying away from the both of us.

I was the focal point of the picture.

My head was bandaged. I was barely cognizant of my surroundings. I was in a hospital bed at General with high rails surrounding me, my frail little four year-old frame looking like I had just gone through a botched invasion of Kandahar. The reminder of it all sent me back to the fear I felt for years that I know will never go away.

Rory's jubilant mood took on a sudden pallor and she looked at the other pictures on the page, of bandages and bruises, my anguish, a summer of hell that no summer camp experience would have ever topped.

"What...what happened?" She looked at the entire layout of pictures covering two months of my life where I didn't know if I would even have a life in the future. "You...why did you...how did you..." She was in incredible disbelief. "I thought...oh my God."

"I almost died, Rory." There, it was out there. "I don't like talking about it because it's in the past. Something I don't like to dwell on."

"But, what happened? How did this happen?" She searched for an explanation. "Honey, I never knew." She held onto my hand and I could see tears begin to fall.

I could easily take a hard line and tell her that it was absolutely none of her business and she didn't have any business asking about it at all, lock up the albums and have her go home.

But there was no way I could really do that. A part of knowing me was knowing that story. I can't hide the past, no matter how blunt and harsh it was, especially with someone who wants to love me for who I am.

I stayed silent, wanting to gird myself for the story. I remember telling it to Birnbaum once when we were establishing our patient-doctor relationship and leaving the office through the back because my emotional state was nearly broken as my father held me in the car and told me that it would always hurt him also.

I took the album and moved towards the bed, asking Rory to come with me. She sat next to me and I asked for her to hold my hand as I looked down, not wanting to see her emotions as I went through the entire process.

"Please, do not stop me," I warned. "Because if I do freeze up...I don't know how I'll continue this." She nodded with understanding and I began to free my soul.

"So, as established by the album, I was four. It was Memorial Day evening, 1989. I was looking forward to the next year, my second in the gifted kindergarten of Chilton Country Day, while I only had a few days yet in the existing school year. I was concentrated on finishing the year on a high note, and..."

It was ten in the evening, three hours after my self-assigned bedtime. I was excited to go back for the final part of the year with Mrs. Coughlin (or as I called her, 'Missy Cough Land') and was in the middle of a dream. It involved the Care Bears, a rainbow and somehow the Transformers invading Care-a-Lot and trying to impose their form of martial law upon all of the Bears and the Cousins, and inexplicably because I had watched them earlier in the days, the "Beverly Hills Teens". I blame Tristan's overly-imaginative scenarios with his robot toys for making sure my dreams were Hasbro-sponsored back then.

Suddenly, I felt myself roused awake. I heard laughing in the background. Drunken laughing. Voices filled with false accents and mounds of insincerity.

At the time my father was in the USSR, taking advantage of glasnost to sell his company in the slowly opening (and soon to be relaxed) markets of the communist East. That left me alone with my mother, and despite my father's insistence, she had given Francisca the entire weekend off after he left, explaining 'I don't need you'. I had spent nearly the entire weekend stuck in my bedroom playing with dolls, only brought out to be shown off or to eat things which my father had the good sense to avoid feeding me and to parade around the women of the DCW.

I looked forward to the last two weeks of school. An advanced project that was sure to knock the socks out of the rest of those simpletons in my kindergarten. This was going to be my time to shine. Francie Jarvis was a big meanie-head for pushing me in the sandbox and I was going to show that dumb curly-haired girl who was boss!

But I couldn't think about that. I was awake now and hearing unfamiliar terms to me. Women talking about something I made out as 'cock size' and 'impotence'. I heard the latter term in a pitch for a drug my father rejected out of hand, as he prided himself as running a family company. They kept me awake and then I heard...

"Shit! We're outta wine," my mother proclaimed. "And rum. I thinka needa get more! Fran, watch the brat while I go--"

One of her friends broke in. "Shar, you sent that dirty woman home for the holiday."

"I did, right? Fuck me!"

The next few moments were a blur until I heard heels come down the corridor, and then I closed my eyes. I was used to this by now; occasionally she'd run out of whatever her choice drink of the week was and when Daddy wasn't home, she'd drag me to the liquor store with her to pick some more up.

Usually she was not very drunk. Just enough to get by in the days before MADD got .08 approved. But she opened the door.

"PARIS, YOU LITTLE BITCH! GET UP, MOMMY NEEDS SOME MORE HENNY!" I tried to fake sleeping, but then I suddenly found myself roused awake.

By her pushing me off the bed. I felt the impact as my head hit the nightstand. I felt a little woozy but quickly recovered, though I'm sure it didn't help. She dragged me up by my hand.

"Mommy, I'm sleeping!" I cried. "I got school in the morning and Daddy says a good night's sleep, it means a good day!" I looked into her blood-rimmed eyes and knew immediately that reasoning wasn't to come this evening.

"Fuck him! Never mind, a Russian hooker's probably doing that for him!" A bad laugh at her joke and then I sensed this was going to be a scary journey as she dragged me out, not even letting me change, much less put on shoes. "Renee, protect the house," she said to her friend. "Momma's gonna be back with a party pack!"

To this day, I wonder why the three women in the room never questioned her state. I never saw them again, probably because of what happened later. I was pulled out by my now sore left arm and thrown into the front seat of my mother's Audi 80 roughly. I don't remember most of the details except I was in fear of my mother in that moment. I was also slapped for the mere suggestion we put on our safety belts. Though it was dismissed with a "Whatever, you little snot," she still did and I did, thank God.

I remember bad singing to what was playing on TIC, a Phil Collins song by her. How fearful I was when she took turns way too fast. How I was too small to take down the windows and cry for help.

What I do remember is her taking the turn from Main onto Farmington to get to the store at full speed. How she then took another turn and decided to head to another store and headed towards the feeder ramp towards Route 84.

In the wrong direction. At what I remember by feeling and a speedometer glance, was 97 miles an hour.

I remember screaming, crying, trying to do anything a child my age could do to get her off the path, to slow down. Only to be shouted down that she needed her 'fix'.

Horns honking. I peeked up. I could see that we were nearing the 'big road'. I was a mess.

She continued and then I felt an impact. I felt my center of gravity shift away from me towards the dash. My mother? She was completely unaware.

I was. I felt my head collide as what I knew later was a contractor van collided with Mother's car. Then I was thrown back. Then I felt my arm break. And then...and then...

Another collision with the dash. God knows what would have happened without that seatbelt, but my doctor told me when I was older I was the luckiest little girl to have survived such a thing.

Survived, being a relative word. The impact was so severe that it took until morning rush to clean up after everyone had been run to General. I don't remember much of the week after that, until I woke up to my father, concerned for me as I opened my eyes for the first time since the crash.

It did a number on me. Glass in my head. Broken arm. Bruised lungs and a couple of cracked ribs. My upper body took the brunt of it all. For a child of my size to survive all that NOT in a car seat, was amazing.

I took the brunt of everything. My mother? A few facial injuries from the glass and a sore forehead from slamming into the steering wheel. She was out within three days.

My father still is haunted by the accident, which is why he authorized on-duty chauffeuring 24/7 for me from that day on. My mother lost her license for seven years. But this was in the days where DUI's were still treated somewhat humorously by the media. Despite putting me through a year long hell of rehab and causing me to motor through staying caught up at Country Day, all she got from the courts, despite all she did?

Thanks to her high-paid lawyers, somehow she wormed out 300 hours of community service, AA, a large fine and a slap on the wrist from the judge. My father pleaded with the judge for jail time. My entire paternal side pleaded for justice, but money talked.

Their marriage was fractured for a year, Fran taking more care of me. Mother still lived in the house but was not allowed near me. I still heard her voice that night, all of those names. My father swore that he would protect me, always.

He has. But he still loves Sharon deep down. Thus, by eight she was back in my life full-time, PTA meetings and all. She thinks I have forgiven her. Fuck, sometimes I swear she thinks I completely forgot about that dark Memorial Day night where she almost killed me. I still fear her whenever I see a drink in her hand.

AA never took. She treated the entire exercise as a weekly session to try out her 'stand-up act'. The court considered it done and she moved on despite God knows how many rounds of rehab my father tried to get her in, and eventually it was one of the issues that finally pulled him to push for the divorce.

An issue that was 'proof' he was 'controlling' of her 'lifestyle', thanks to the smart talk by her team of lawyers.

I still remember that accident. Almost every fucking sickening moment of that impact. I get cold chills thinking that the woman who borne me into this world and was supposed to protect me from everything in the big and scary world, instead almost took me out of it.

That's why I have to cling to Dr. Birnbaum as the only sane woman outside of the Gilmores that I can trust implicitly with my life. Why I hide my heart deeply. Why I'm a daddy's girl. Why I cannot love without being scared that it could be taken from me in the blink of an eye.

I'm still that scared little four year-old girl inside, still scared that I'm going to feel the back of my brain splatter against my skull one day even in the middle of a building.

It's also why Memorial Day is my day of hiding from the world and why I insist on being stone sober except when I'm absolutely sure I'm not about to grab any keys, and why I man the soda table at parties.

It's also why rejection from Harvard is not my biggest fear.

My mother is.

I told all of this to Rory, wondering how she would react. If she would patronize me. Or pity me. I admit, telling her that story, took nearly an hour and a half to tell. I also cried and broke down too many times to count, and had long periods of silence as I struggled to remember every detail.

She kept her word. She didn't say anything. She just listened. Understood. Processed and focused.

I went into that night thinking we were going to make deep and endless love to celebrate the victory. But it all changed in an instant.

Rory held me when I needed the support. My hand, my head, anything. She helped me through the first telling of my story since I first saw Birnbaum. My face was a mess and my chest hurt as I felt my voice become raw going over details. Finally, I finished, and she did all she needed to do for me.

She cried with me, held me, and then laid a simple kiss on my lips, touching her forehead to mine, and then pulling back my hair slightly. From the memory of my story she parted my scalp to find the only visible sign I had ever been in a horrible wreck fourteen years ago, on the left side of my head, veiled by my hair. It has faded over the years into a thin pink line, but I still feel it there. Every day I still know it's there, the glass cutting pretty deep on impact. She kissed the scar and whispered how she loathed that anyone could ever hurt me in that way. We just held each other, up close, her helping me through the returning emotions and guiding me through them.

We did make love this evening, but not in the fun way. It was more a comfort that I needed, and she was slow, promising me that if we could find a way to get back here, we could have our 'fun night' tomorrow night or Wednesday. We looked at the albums a little longer as I worked through our emotions before we cleaned up for the night, put the finishing touches on our work and headed upstairs to my bedroom.

"Love you," she whispered as she helped me undress. "Paris, I will love you no matter what has happened to you in your life. I'm not going to leave you easily at all." I shuddered as she was sensual and quiet with me as we fell into bed.

I needed no release this evening. All we did was undress, hold each other and contemplate how far we both had come in the last month. I pointed out to her where the rib had jutted after the crash, the only sign a little white indent just below my breast. I no longer felt as if I was vulnerable and easy to bruise. Rory was treating me as if I was human, with full emotions that actually exist within me and who loves me, no matter the emotional or physical scars I might carry upon myself.

There is one sad thing, however, that I'm finding quickly about this relationship.

I can no longer sleep well without her. Or the sound of her voice. The night before I barely had three hours altogether.

Tonight with Rory wrapped around me, it will be a full and deep eight. The scent of her skin, the way she whispers sweet nothings in my ear, reminds me that what I did will be forever remembered by future student body presidents...

I was prepared for a fight that was easily losable. If I inserted my opinion into one part of my appeal for the vote, it was lost. If I commended someone too much, that would have been a death knell. I had to get through this, but it wasn't my battle to start with. It was Rory's. I was just the Powell to her Schwarzkopf, the one not actually on the battle line, but who had to shepherd the plan of attack. I took the responsibility of saving the funding, but it had all of Rory's hallmarks. That is why I ceded to her arguments and did not argue for her. She had to push this across the line with her own declarations, but it was all in my hands after all the speeches were done.

I still can't believe I got a 10-5. I know we wanted 11-4, but at best that was a stretch. A 10-5, from Lemon. Fucking Lemon, the lackiest lackey that ever lackied. She gave me the vote I needed and used it to break off from Francie's hyperbole to make herself her own woman.

We did it. We saved the funding.

Fuck, we got them more funding. And it was still approved. I still don't know how to feel.

Mainly because I have no feeling left in my body.

The memory would have been a rightful reward enough, a defining characteristic that will cement my Chilton legacy. I can be proud that when the archivists look back, they'll see me as the savior.

Only in record though. This was mostly Rory's victory. Nora knows that, along with Ms. Peters. We will reveal that in due time, but for now I will bask in the afterglow.

Laying in my bed with my girl,  after a night of confiding in her about a past I could not even bear to tell Tristan, I finally feel at some level, I do relate to Rory's younger years. Her mother struggled, yet was strong and guided her well.

My mother had no guidance, but I had a strong family and servant system to help me see the way. If not for Francisca, I would be a lesser woman.

As I slide against Rory and take her tight against me, rubbing her stomach through her camisole, all I can think is I'm relieved that we no longer must hide in fear of our sexuality, at least in one room in our school.

But the battle will go on. I have so many students who still need to know where Rory and I stand, but that bridge is still far away. Closer by is my mother's reaction to my sexuality.

With Rory supporting me through, I have no doubt that she will ease any pain I might have about coming out.

But, it's the pain from Sharon that I now must begin to worry about...

Part 22

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