disclaimer in part 1

[NOTE: (**This story originally started out with just 2 parts, but after some requests, I decided to continue it, so this is part 3 of the "Choices of the Heart" series.**)]

Choices of the Heart
by Gemini0123@aol.com

_ _ _


Luke and I broke away from each other, ending the most magical kiss
of my life. As we stood there at the bus stop smiling at each other,
he reached for my hand and laced his fingers through mine. "So, what
are you doing now?" he asked me.

I glanced down at the ring on my left hand and said, "Well, I guess I
have to go talk to Max."

"Are you going to call him?" Luke asked.

"No. This is pretty major. I respect him too much to do something
like that to him over the phone."

Luke nodded in agreement. "You're right. That's definitely a face to
face conversation. Well, call me when you get home?"

I smiled. "Okay."

Luke leaned in and gave me a kiss goodbye. "Bye." he said.

"Bye." I smiled as I watched him walk back to the diner, then I
headed home to change before going over Max's.
-*-

I walked into the house, tossed my keys on the hall table and
called, "Rory. I'm home!"

"In here Mom!" I heard from the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen
and found Rory and Dean sitting next to each other at the kitchen
table, books and notebooks spread in front of them. "Hey Mom. Dean's
here."

"I see that Captain Obvious. Hi Dean." I walked over to the table.

"Hey Lorelai," he replied.

I glanced at all the books on the table. "So, what is this? Are you
guys doing homework? Rory, you're done school. Please don't tell me
you're already doing next year's homework."

She smiled. "No, Dean still has a week of exams left. I'm helping him
study."

"Well that's nice of you. Did you guys eat?" I asked.

"Not yet," Rory said. "You want to order something?"

"Well, I'll leave you guys money so you can order something. I have
to go to Max's." I walked into the living room, leaving them at the
table. Rory followed me, and said, "Wait. What's going on? Did you
make a decision?"

I nodded. "I finally realized that my feelings for Luke are too
strong. I'm breaking off the engagement with Max."

A slow smile crept across Rory's face and her eyes widened. "Luke?
Really?"

I smiled and nodded. "Yeah. I already talked to Luke about it."

Rory gave me a hug. "I'm glad you followed your heart."

"Thank you. I'm really happy about this decision. I know I'm making
the right choice. But I'm not looking forward to breaking the news to
Max. He's going to be heartbroken. And that's just going to make me
feel horrible." I sighed.

Rory frowned. "Aw, I'm sorry. Is there anything I can do?"

I put my hands on her shoulders and looked her straight in the
eyes. "Yes. Never fall in love with someone, get engaged, then
realize you're in love with someone else."

Rory smiled. "I won't. I promise."

I smiled. "Good. Oh, here." I took some money out of my pocket and
handed it to her. "Order something."

"Okay, thanks." She gave me a kiss on the cheek and walked back into
the kitchen. I walked upstairs to change.
-*-

Forty-five minutes later, I was standing on Max's front porch, trying
to bring myself to ring the doorbell. I took a few deep breaths and
slowly depressed the button. A few seconds later, Max answered the
door. The initial look on his face showed surprise to see me, but he
immediately broke into a smile. He greeted me with a warm
hug. "Lorelai, hi. Come on in." I smiled and walked inside. He
closed the door behind me.

"Come on, let's sit down." He led me over to the couch. "Can I get
you something? A drink? Coffee?"

I shook my head. "Oh, no thank you. I'm fine."

He smiled. "So, what brings you here?"

I took a deep breath and turned to face him. "Well, Max, I've done a
lot of thinking. A lot. Really. I cannot even explain the amount of
thinking I've been doing. I've done more thinking this past week than
in my entire life combined. Like everyday, I would just sit and think
and think and think and. . "

"Lorelai." He interrupted, smiling. "I got it. You did a lot of
thinking."

"Yes. And, well, Max, I love you. You know that right?"

"Yes . . ?" He said, prompting me to continue.

"Good. Well, the thing is, I do love you, but after all of the
thinking that I did, I finally realized that I . . .I love Luke
more." I paused as I watched a wave of hurt come over his face.

He looked away. "Oh. . .Well. . Wow. . I guess if that's your
decision. . "

I reached out and held his hand. "Max, I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"

He turned back towards me. "Well Lorelai, I'd be lying if I said I
wasn't upset and disappointed. I'm just. . . wow. I'm a little taken
aback. This was not the answer I expected. I. . . I thought you loved
Luke only as a friend."

I nodded. "I know. I thought so too. But when I did a little soul
searching, I realized that was just what I was telling myself. Deep
down though, I want him as more than a friend. Please, Max, please
don't think I lied to you on purpose. I'm just realizing all this
myself. I absolutely didn't mean for all this to happen."

He nodded. "I know. I understand. You had a change of heart." He
sighed. "Well Lorelai, I do love you, and I want whatever will make
you happy, and so I wish you and Luke lots of happiness." He forced a
smile, but I could still see the hurt in his eyes.

"Thank you Max." I leaned over and hugged him. As I pulled back, I
said, "Oh, here. This is yours." I slipped the engagement ring off
my finger and held it out towards him.

He shook his head. "No, Lorelai. That was a gift for you. You keep
it."

I raised my eyebrows. Surprised, I asked, "Max, are you sure?"

He nodded. "Yes, something to remember me by."

"Oh Max, I could never forget you. Ever." I leaned in and gave him
another hug. "And hey, we don't have to stop hanging out. We can
still be friends, right?"

He smiled. "I would like that."

"Good. Me too." I smiled. "Okay, well I should get going."

"Oh, okay." He stood up and walked me to the door. "So, keep in
touch."

I smiled. "I will. I promise. Goodbye Max."

"Goodbye Lorelai."

I gave him another hug, then slowly turned around and walked out. As
I heard the door shut behind me, I felt tears start to fill my eyes.
I took several deep breaths as I walked to the car. That was
definitely one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, and
the look of hurt on Max's face is one that I would never forget. I
felt like such a horrible person, and I hoped that, one day, he would
find it in his heart forgive me.
-*-

Thursday
The next morning, Rory and I walked out of the house to get some
coffee at Luke's. As we stepped off the front porch and walked
towards the car, Babette came walking towards us carrying Apricot.

"Lorelai, Rory, morning sugahs!" Babette called.

"Hi Babette." I replied, leaning against the Jeep.

"Morning Babette. Morning Apricot." Rory smiled as she ran her hand
down Apricot's back.

Babette stared at me and smiled. I folded my arms across my chest and
smiled back. "Yes Babette?"

Babette smiled. "Rumor has it you were seen smooching Luke yesterday
at the bus stop."

I smiled and glanced at Rory, who laughed and said. "I knew it
wouldn't be long before everyone knew."

Babette smiled. "So it's true?"

I nodded. "Yeah. It's true."

She smiled. "Well, sugah, Morey and I are so happy for you. We knew
you too would get together eventually."

"Thank you Babette. We better get going." I opened the car door and
got in.

"Bye Babette." Rory said as she walked around to the passenger side.

"Bye girls. Have a nice day." Babette turned around and walked
towards her house. "Morey!" she yelled. "It's true!" I smiled as I
pulled my door shut. Rory closed her door and I drove us to Luke's.
We parked right in front of the dance studio. We got out of the car
and started walking towards the diner when Miss Patty stopped us.

"Morning ladies." She called. We turned around and walked towards
her.

"Hi Patty." I said.

"Hi Miss Patty." Rory said.

"Rory, aren't you finished school dear?" Patty asked. "You're up
early this morning."

"Oh, yes." Rory replied. "I'm finished school, but I'm working at the
Inn with mom today. I do that a few times a week."

Miss Patty smiled. "Oh, well isn't that nice?" She turned towards me
and smiled. "Hello Lorelai. You're looking lovely this morning.
There's a certain glow about you."

I nodded. "That's because the water in our house is contaminated with
radioactive materials, so I always glow for a while after I take a
shower. It's very helpful when I go out in the dark."

"Mm hmm," Miss Patty said as she kept smiling.

I glanced at Rory who was smiling. I sighed. "What did you hear?"

Patty smiled. "Oh dear. I heard nothing. But I did see something with
my own eyes," she said in a singsong voice.

"Which was?" I prompted her, as if I didn't know what she was about
to say.

She lowered her voice. "Well, I saw a certain diner man and a certain
inn manager doing a little hooking up on a certain bus stop."

Rory laughed. I gasped. "A little hooking up? Patty, please. It was
just a kiss."

"Well, what happened with your engagement dear? To Max? Was that his
name?"

I nodded. "Well, Patty," I said seriously. "After a lot of thinking,
I decided that there really wasn't enough room in our house for me,
Rory, Max, and Max's hair. It was too darn big. So I decided to go
with Luke, because, you know he wears the hat all the time, so it
keeps the hair from protruding from his head like massive wings."

Miss Patty laughed. Rory gasped. "Mom! Oh my God!"

I laughed. "What? It's true. The man had major hair issues."

Rory shook her head, smiling. "Still, that's mean! It wasn't that
bad. And he did cut it recently so it wasn't that wide."

I nodded. "I know. I know. Let's go eat breakfast."

"Wait, wait, wait. You're kidding right? What really. . " Miss Patty
started.

"Bye Patty." I interrupted. I grabbed Rory's arm and pulled her
towards the diner. "My God. I didn't think Luke and I was that big a
deal."

We walked into the diner. Several customers glanced towards us, then
started whispering. I sighed as I led Rory to an empty table. I
looked around for Luke, ignoring the townsfolk who kept smiling at
me. I didn't see Luke anywhere, but unfortunately I saw Taylor
walking towards me. I looked at Rory, who opened up a menu and held
it in front of her face.

"Lorelai, good morning." Taylor said.

I looked up at him. "Hi Taylor. Yes, it's true."

He smiled. "I knew it. Thank you." He started to walk away, but then
he turned back. "Lorelai, you know, you might be able to convince
Luke to add a couple flower pots around here, maybe some holiday
decorations, some colorful posters, maybe some. ."

I held up my hand. "I got it Taylor. I'll work on it."

He smiled. "Great. Thanks." He walked back to his table. I looked
towards Rory, who was still behind the menu. I reached over and
grabbed it out of her hands, and found her giggling to herself.

"Something funny?" I asked her, smiling. She shook her head, still
giggling. "You better stop that. Or I'm telling everybody that you
used to watch ALF."

She gasped. "Mom, you wouldn't!"

I smiled. "I would."

She put on a serious face. "No more giggling."

"Thank you." I glanced around again, wondering where Luke was. He was
probably in the back helping the cooks since the breakfast rush is
always so busy. I sighed, staring at the kitchen walkway, as if
telepathically sending him signals to come out of the kitchen.

Suddenly he walked through the kitchen doorway carrying several
plates. He delivered them to three men at the counter, then walked
back to the coffee maker. He grabbed the pot, then busily walked from
table to table refilling mugs. As he neared our table, I suddenly
started to feel tingly inside like a schoolgirl with a big crush.
While he was filling the mug of a woman at the table next to us, he
finally looked over at me. He smiled and gave me a wink. As the
tingly feeling increased, I smiled and gave a little wave. He
finished at that table, then walked over to us.

"Hey guys," he said, smiling.

"Hey," I said, suddenly feeling shy.

"Hey Luke." Rory said. "Two coffees please."

"You got it. I'll be right back." He walked back to the counter. I
sighed.

"Mom," Rory said. "You are so cute!"

I looked at her. "What?"

She smiled. "You are just staring at him like you're 10 years old and
he's `New Kids on the Block.' "

I frowned. "Ugh. Please tell me you're kidding."

She laughed. "I'm not kidding. And it's adorable. Oh, shhh! Here he
comes."

Luke walked back with two mugs and placed them in front of us. "Here
you go."

I stared up at him and smiled. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." He smiled. "So, have you been . ."

"Getting stalked by the townspeople? Yes."

He laughed. "Yeah, me too. I'm sure they'll stop soon."

I raised my eyebrows. "What?"

He laughed. "Yeah, you're right. I guess we'll get used to it. Well,
I better get back to work." He reached over and gently touched my
cheek with the back of his hand. I practically melted as he
said, "See you later?"

I nodded. "Sure. Bye."

He smiled at me. "Great. Bye." He looked at Rory. "Bye Rory."

"Bye Luke," she replied. Luke walked back towards the counter and
disappeared through the kitchen doorway. I sighed, then glanced at
Rory, who was staring at me while sipping her coffee. She pulled her
cup away from her mouth and said, "Ten years old." I smiled and
sipped my coffee.

Twenty minutes later, Rory and I pulled up to the Inn. We walked in
the front door and right to the front desk. I grabbed a stack of
folders and handed them to Rory. "Okay, hon, can you work on the
filing for awhile? Things are stacking up in here."

"Sure." Rory took the pile of folders and walked into my office to
sort the files.

I started going through the stack of most recent mail when Michel
walked over to me and started watching me. I turned to him and
said, "Yes Michel?

He smirked, and in his usual smug tone, said, "Not that I care in the
very least, but is it true that you have dumped the pitiful daisy man
for the pitiful coffee man who cannot afford a razor?"

"How could you possibly know about that?" I asked.

In his regular slow, monotone voice, he replied, "I did not want to
know this information, but when I was in the kitchen, there were
several people discussing this. These people do not have interesting
lives of their own so they like to gossip about others."

I shook my head in disbelief as I walked towards the kitchen. "Are
there no other important issues to discuss in the whole world?" I
said aloud to myself.

I pushed open the kitchen door. Sookie was in the corner surrounded
by three waiters. When she saw me walk in, she said something and
they all quickly dispersed.

"Lorelai! Hi!" Sookie walked over to me excitedly. "What's up?
Anything new with you? How's life?"

I stared at her questioningly. "Sookie, please tell me you're not the
one who's in here discussing me and Luke."

She squealed and giggled. "You and Luke? There's a `you and Luke'?
Really?"

Her giddiness made me smile. "Yes, there is a `me and Luke.' Why is
everyone so fascinated about it?"

"Lorelai, come on. We've been waiting years for you two to get
together. Everyone has seen the attraction there. We're just excited
that you've finally realized it."

Once again, I had to shake my head in disbelief as I said, "This
whole town is just filled with gossips. What is wrong with these
people?" I walked over to the coffee shop and poured myself a cup.

Sookie followed me. "So, now seriously, honey, what happened with
Max? I heard you didn't like his hair."

I laughed. "Oh my God, I can't believe you heard that already! Word
travels faster than the speed of light around here." I sighed. "No,
it wasn't his hair. I love Max. I really do. But I love Luke more.
That's it. Nothing else. Spread the word."

Sookie smiled. "You guys make such a cute couple. I've thought so for
years."

I smiled. "Thanks. Bye Sookie."

Sookie giggled and said, "Bye!" I walked into the lobby, smiling to
myself. "People around here are crazy." I walked into my office to
help Rory with the filing.

Friday

The next day, Rory and I stopped at Luke's for coffee on the way to
the weekly Friday dinner. Rory waited in the car while I went in. I
walked up to the counter, where Luke was wiping it down with a
sponge. He looked up at me and smiled. He put the sponge down and
said, "Hey. Hold on a sec." He walked to the sink and washed his
hands. Then he walked back over to me. "What's up? Aren't you
going. . ?

I interrupted. "To hell, otherwise known as my parents house? Yes. It
should be a blast. We just stopped for coffees to go."

"Right. Okay, hold on." He filled up two paper cups, secured the
lids, and placed them on the counter. I handed him some money and
said, "Keep the change."

He smiled. "Thanks." He reached down and took my hand in his and
gently stroked the top of my hand with his thumb. "Call you later?"

I smiled. "Yeah, we should be home by 9."

He smiled. "Okay, great. Talk to you at 9."

"Sounds good." I reached out, grabbed his collar, and slowly pulled
him towards me. I leaned forward across the counter and gave him a
kiss on the cheek, and whispered in his ear, "Goodbye."

I stepped back and saw him smiling. "Bye," he said. I smiled, grabbed
the two cups, and walked out to the car.
-*-

Forty minutes later, we pulled up to my parents' house. I
reluctantly got out of the car and Rory and I walked to the door. I
rang the doorbell, secretly hoping they'd forgot about dinner and
went out for the evening. No such luck, as moments later my mother
answered the door. "Hello! How are my favorite girls doing?"

"Great Grandma." Rory said as we entered the foyer. I nodded in
agreement. My mom led us to the living room. As we sat on the couch,
my mother said, "Excuse me. I'll be right back." As my mother left
the room, I looked at Rory and we shrugged at each other.

I took my compact out of my purse and opened it, looking in the
mirror. "Hey. Do my eyes look like one's bigger than the other?" I
asked Rory. I stared at her and opened my eyes really wide. She
studied them for a moment and said, "No, I think they're all right.
Do mine?" She opened her eyes really wide. I looked back and forth
between them and said, "No, yours are good too."

"Good, thanks," she said. I folded up the compact and slipped it in
my purse just as my parents both entered the room. They were each
carrying a wrapped box with a big white bow on the top. They placed
them down in front of us smiling.

"Whoa, Mom, Dad, what is this?" I asked them.

They both smiled at each other. "Just some things for you and Rory,"
Mom said. "Open them."

Rory and I looked at each other and smiled. "You first." I said to
her. She started to unwrap her gift. She lifted off the lid, reached
inside, and pulled out a pale blue satin sleeveless dress with dark
flowers embroidered across the chest. Rory stood up and held it in
front of her. "Wow, Grandma, Grandpa, thank you. I love it. But what
is this for?"

They smiled. My dad said, "Wait, let your mother open hers first."

Rory sat back down next to me and watched me as I started to open my
gift. I reached in the box and pulled out a wedding veil. I held it
up, questioningly glancing towards my parents.

"That was mine," my mother explained. "And also my mother's and my
grandmother's. Now, you don't have to wear it on your wedding if you
don't want to, but it is tradition to pass it down as an engagement
present."

I smiled. Before I could say anything, my dad said, "There's
something else in that box, too."

I reached in and pulled out another small box with a card attached. I
pulled the card out of the envelope. "Congratulations on your
Engagement", the front read. I opened it up and read it. At the
bottom, my mother had written, "Lorelai, we are very happy for you
and wish you lots of happiness in the future. And while we don't say
it enough, we are indeed very proud of the person you have become.
Love, Mom and Dad."

Tears welled up in my eyes. I put a hand over my mouth. "I
just. . .Oh my. . . Wow. . . Thank you. But I. ."

"Don't say anything yet, Lorelai. Open the small box," my mother said.

I unwrapped the small box, and found a string of pearls with matching
earrings and a bracelet. "Those were also grandmother's, passed down
through all the women. Another engagement tradition."

I wiped my tears. I took a deep breath. "Mom, Dad, I . . . "

My dad interrupted. "Wait, there's one more thing we want to say. We
know that you don't ask for favors often, and that you would never
ask us. But you are our daughter, and we love you, and if you let us,
we would be more than happy to help you pay for your wedding." I put
my hands over my mouth. My parents stared at me smiling. "And we
would like you to bring Max along to dinner next week for a little
get together. Rory can wear her new dress."

I picked up the card and stared at it, reading it over and over. I
looked up at my parents, who were staring at me smiling. I glanced at
Rory sitting next to me, an uncomfortable smile on her face. I took
a deep breath. "Mom, Dad, I am extremely touched right now. I can't
thank you enough for all of this. But there's something I need to
tell you."

Their smiles faded slightly, but not completely. They both sat down
on the couch across from me and stared at me with curious looks. "Yes
Lorelai? What is it?" my dad prompted.

I clasped my hands in front of me, fiddling them nervously. "Well,
see the thing is that I'm . . . . well, I'm not engaged anymore. We,
sort of . . . technically broke up."

Their smiles faded completely this time, and my dad said, "Goodness.
What on earth happened?"

My mom repeated it. "Oh my, what happened? Tsk. I knew that man was
not good enough for you."

I rolled me eyes towards my mom. "Whoa, Mom, first you never even met
him. And second, he didn't break it off. I did."

My mom let out a small gasp of surprise. "What? Why would you do such
a thing? You seemed so happy."

I nodded. "I know. I was. I was very happy. But then I realized
that. . . there was someone else who made me happier." I glanced at
Rory, who smiled.

"And just who might that be?" my father asked.

I stared at my mom for a second as I could practically see the light
bulb go off over her head. "Luke. It's Luke isn't it?"

I smiled and nodded. My mom smiled at me. "I knew it. I knew you two
would get together eventually."

My dad sighed. "Well, I don't know who this Luke man is, but I guess
if that's who you want, it's good you realized now and not after you
were married."

"You're absolutely right Dad." I glanced down at the gifts. "But I
thank you so much for all this stuff. Should I just . . . "

"No, you keep it. It's yours now," my mother said. "And you keep that
dress Rory. It will look beautiful on you."

"Oh, thank you Grandma. Thank you Grandpa." Rory replied.

"Yes, thank you Mom, Dad." I stammered. "For everything. I
just. . .wow, thanks for understanding everything and. . . you
know. . .just, thanks." I smiled at them.

They both smiled. "You're both welcome. Now, why don't we go see if
dinner's ready?" They both walked into the dining room, leaving Rory
and I on the couch.

Rory looked at me and grabbed my hand. "Wow. Was that hard for you?"

I nodded. "Yes, very. I can't believe they did all this."

Rory smiled. "I know. What did the card say?"

I smiled. "That they're proud of me." A tear slipped down my cheek. I
brushed it away.

Rory smiled and gave me a hug. "I am too."

I smiled. "Thank you." I wiped my eyes again. "Whew. Okay. Let's go
eat." We stood up and walked into the dining room, our arms linked
together.
-*-

Rory and I arrived home from dinner at quarter to nine. We both
changed into pajamas and met back on the couch to watch some TV
before bed. At a little after nine, the phone rang. Expecting it to
be Luke, I jumped up off the couch and ran to answer it. "Hello?" I
said, hoping only to hear his voice.

"Hey. It's me."

I smiled. "Luke! Hey!" I wandered back over to the couch and fell
onto it. "I miss you." Rory smiled at me and walked into the kitchen.

"I miss you too. I'm still at the diner, but there's no one here. I'm
pretty bored."

"Ooh, okay. Need some phone company?"

"Yes please. How was dinner? Did you tell them?"

I grunted. "Ugh. Yes. Luke, you wouldn't believe it. Before I could
tell them, they gave me engagement presents!"

"You're kidding."

"Nope, and they were such sweet presents. Stuff from my great
grandmother, things she wore at her wedding. And. . . ya know, it was
just strange. They were so excited for me."

"Oh. So after they gave you everything, then you told them?"

"Yup."

"And what did they say?"

"They were surprised, of course. But my mom was happy that it was
you."

I could hear the shock in his voice. "Really?"

"Yeah. She's always asking me about you. And my dad just said that
it's good I made a decision now and not after the wedding."

"Yeah. Gotta agree with him there. Oh, hold on a second." I reached
up and grabbed a few strands of hair and started wrapping them around
my finger. A few seconds later, he returned. "Okay, I'm back. So I
was thinking that. . ."

"That maybe they should gather up all the contestants from every
reality show ever made and ship them off to Bora Bora to live in an
isolated community so they can never bother us again?"

He laughed. "Yes, that was exactly what I was thinking."

I laughed. "Great minds think alike."

"So, anyway, I was thinking that maybe we should actually have a real
date soon. I mean, we've never officially had one yet."

I smiled. "No we haven't. Good idea."

"Tomorrow night? My place, 7 o'clock?"

"Your place?" I smiled. "Are you gonna cook me something?"

"Maybe . . . You'll just have to wait and see."

"Okay. But who's going to watch the diner?"

"I already asked one of the waiters to close up tomorrow night."

"Oh, okay. I'll see you tomorrow then."

"Great. Goodnight."

"Goodnight."

I hung up the phone, smiling to myself. I sighed, thinking about our
first date. I ran into the kitchen to tell Rory about it.
-*-

Saturday Night

As I stood in front of Luke's front door, I pulled out my compact and
quickly checked my face and hair. Satisfied, I put it away, then
glanced down at my dress to make sure it looked all right. I took a
deep breath and knocked on the door. I could hear footsteps inside,
and as they neared the door, I suddenly felt a mixture of nervousness
and excitement.

Luke pulled open the door and greeted me with a warm smile. He looked
fabulous in a black suit and black shirt, coincidentally the ones I
picked out for him just weeks ago.

"Hey," he said. "Wow. You look great."

I smiled. "Thanks. So do you. I knew you liked being GQ'ed up like
Regis."

He laughed. "Come in." I smiled and walked inside. I gave him a kiss
on the cheek and placed my purse on the table by the door. He walked
me to dinner table, which was already set for two, complete with
candlelight. A bottle of wine sat chilled in a bucket on the side.
Luke helped me push in my chair, and then he walked over to the
counter and finished the meal.

"Wow, dinner smells wonderful Luke. Smells Italian. What is it?"

He smiled. "It's chicken parmagian with angel hair pasta and French
bread."

My eyes lit up. "Mmm. Sounds excellent."

He walked over with two plates. "And here's salad to start." He sat
down across from me and smiled. "Wine?"

"Yes please." He poured two glasses and handed one to me. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." He held up his glass. "To our first date, may it be
as perfect as you."

I smiled shyly as we tapped our glasses together. We started on our
salads, and then moved on to the main course. As we ate, I realized
that this was not like any other first date I'd been on. There was
no "get to know each other" conversations. Since we already knew so
many things about each other, we talked like an old married couple.
We told each other about our day, we talked about Rory, and about the
townspeople who kept gossiping about us. Just light easygoing
conversations.

After we finished dinner, we moved to the couch. He sat down first,
and I sat down next to him, leaning against him, resting my head on
his shoulder. He had one arm wrapped around my waist and with his
other hand, he reached down and clasped my hand. We sat that way for
a few minutes in silence, just enjoying the moment. Then I
said, "Luke?"

"Yeah?"

"How long have you liked me? I mean, really liked me?"

He laughed. "A very long time. Let's just leave it at that."

"You liked me when you were with Rachel?"

"That's why she left."

"What?" I asked, surprised.

"That's why she left. She knew I wasn't in love with her anymore. She
knew I was in love with you. She could see it."

I smiled and leaned up to give him a kiss. Then I rested my head back
on his shoulder. "Luke?"

"Yeah?"

"I was single for a long time. Why didn't you ever ask me out?"

"I thought you would say no."

"Oh. So how come you were always so gruff, always lecturing me,
always teasing me. You never let your soft side show."

"I don't know. I didn't want it to seem so obvious that I liked you,
I guess."

"Oh." I paused. "Luke?"

He laughed. "Another question?"

I smiled. "Yes. Just a few more."

"Okay. What?"

"Remember that conversation at my house about you being a loner?"

"Yes."

"Did you really mean all that?"

"No. Not all of it. It was party true though. I didn't like living
with Rachel. But not because I wanted to be a loner, just because I
wanted. . . well, I wanted it to be you."

I smiled to myself. "Really? That whole conversation was indirectly
about me?"

"I guess you could say that."

I paused for a moment. Then I picked my head up off his shoulder and
stared at him. "Luke?"

He smiled. "Yes?"

I gave him a kiss. "I love you."

He smiled and kissed me back. "I love you too."

I rested my head back on his shoulder and shut my eyes. He gave me a
kiss on the top of my head, then he started smoothing my hair with
his hand. As I sat there with Luke, I felt calm, peaceful, and
protected, but most of all, I felt happy. I wondered what he was
thinking, and I hoped he was as happy as I was.

After awhile, I lifted up my head and said, "Well, I better get
going."

"Oh, okay. Did you walk? Want me to walk you home?"

"No, I drove. Thank you though." I stood up and he walked me to
door. I grabbed my purse from the table and I pulled out my keys. He
opened the door for me. "Luke, thanks for dinner. I had an incredible
time."

He smiled. "You're welcome. And so did I." He leaned forward and
gave me a kiss. "Goodbye."

I smiled. "Goodbye." I walked out of the apartment. As the door
closed behind me, I sighed, hoping that every date with Luke could be
as perfect as that one.

continues