"What?" Lorelai's mouth hung open while she stared at her daughter. As she sat on the steps of the gazebo that morning, trying to process the news that was just dropped on her lap, she couldn't help but still see her daughter as a little girl. Rory was thirty-two years old now; why then did Lorelai feel as if her daughter was way too young to be having sex, let alone getting pregnant? "With who?" she asked, her head whipping around.
"That's... not important right now," Rory said, a flicker of doubt in her eyes.
"Not important? Are you kidding?" Lorelai found herself on her feet, looking down on her daughter. "Knowing who knocked you up is pretty damn important. Almost as important as finding out what the hell the Backstreet Boys mean when they sing they want it that way. What do they really want? And in what way? Also, why are they still called Boys? You're in your forties. You're men!"
"Mom, sit down," Rory said, tugging on her dress. "You're drawing attention."
Lorelai sank back down on the steps, her chest tight, feeling as if clouds were casting a pall on her otherwise happy day. "Rory..." she began but her throat tightened up and she couldn't say more. "How?"
Rory looked down at her lap, where her hands were wringing together. "It just happened. I definitely wasn't planning on it."
"I didn't want this for you," Lorelai said softly. "I thought we'd done enough to make sure you didn't turn out like me."
When Rory looked up, her eyes were glittering with unshed tears. "I know. But, as it turns out, the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree."
Lorelai reached over and grasped Rory's hand. Her daughter was trembling—or was that her? "Oh, honey," she said with a sigh.
Rory stood up. "But you don't have to worry. I've already started making plans." She nodded, ever the optimist. "I've got it under control. I'll figure it out."
"No, kid," Lorelai said, rising to her feet. She wrapped an arm around Rory's shoulder and pulled her close. "We'll figure this out."
"I'm here, Rory."
Rory stopped, nodded. "Thanks, Mom." In that moment, she looked and sounded all but fifteen, and it just about broke Lorelai's heart.
Then Lorelai gasped, her blue eyes going wide in an effort to add levity to the moment. "It's not the Wookie, is it?"
"Mom, don't tell Luke," Rory said as they walked up the porch steps to the blue Victorian house. "Not yet."
Her mother's eyebrows drew together. "Honey, you know keeping secrets is how Luke and I broke up in the first place. Remember the whole April thing?"
"I don't mean forever forever. I just mean for a little while."
"Until when? I think he'll notice when you outgrow your jeans and start borrowing his." She sighed. "Rory, it's bad luck to start a marriage with a secret as huge as this. Soon the secret will grow and grow, probably at the same rate as your belly."
Rory touched a hand to her stomach. "I know," she said in a small voice. "I just need to figure out how to tell the father first."
Mother and daughter were quiet and efficient as they showered and dressed for the faux wedding that was to take place in the town square. The real wedding had taken place earlier, when Lorelai and Luke had decided to elope at midnight. This second ceremony was for the rest of Stars Hollow, for the townspeople who had been invested in the relationship between the diner owner and inn owner since the beginning.
Rory finished first and she waited at the bottom of the steps, feeling uncomfortable at the way her dress hugged her waist a little tighter than she was used to. But she wasn't far along yet—only nearing at the six week mark—and hopefully nobody would be able to tell.
Her mother didn't make a grand entrance in her white dress. She didn't strike a pose at the top of the stairs, or swoop down and swoosh her skirts around at the landing. Lorelai just descended with a thoughtful look on her face, her eyes fixed on Rory's, a million silent words passing between them. They may speak rapid fire outwardly, but inside they could have whole conversations in mere seconds. And right then they were agreeing to forgo thinking of the pregnancy and pretend, at least for today, that all was happy and shiny and bright.
So Rory pasted a happy, shiny, bright smile on her face and held out a parasol. "Ready to get hitched?" she asked.
Lorelai opened the parasol and twirled it over her shoulder. "As ready as I'll ever be."
They walked the short way to the town square, the same route they'd taken for what seemed like forever. It seemed fitting that they would take it now, as they journey towards their new lives. One as Mrs. Danes and one as a soon-to-be-mother.
They heard Babette's voice before they saw her. Her voice always seemed to precede her wherever she went. "Lorelai! Rory!" she said, running on the sidewalk and trying to catch up. She stopped in front of the girls, bending down and gasping for breath. "I don't know how you two walk so fast in those heels."
"Practice," mother and daughter said in unison. They glanced at each other and grinned.
"I can't believe you're walking in that dress! Oh, sugar. Why aren't you in a limousine or horse-drawn carriage?" Babette said, motioning to Lorelai's off-white princess dress. It was a perfect blend of simplicity and extravagance, both her Stars Hollow and Hartford sides showing.
"Kirk offered to pull me on a rickshaw but he's still asleep on my living room floor. Seems he went a little wild decorating last night," Lorelai said. "I figured I could use the fresh air anyway."
"Well you look beautiful. A real sight for sore eyes." Babette turned to Rory. "And look at you. You're practically glowing!"
Rory faked a laugh. "Thanks."
"Seems moving back agrees with you."
"I'm not back," Rory protested as they began to walk again.
Rory's nerves began to fray with each step they took toward the square. Laughter and light conversation floated along on the breeze, the townspeople now sitting on white chairs facing the gazebo. Her mother hadn't been exaggerating—Kirk had gone insane last night, decorating with twinkle lights and hanging flowers. It was beautiful and crazy and completely over-the-top. On second thought, it was perfect for Lorelai.
Then she spotted the groom standing at the top of the steps, hands clasped at his front, a wide smile on his face. But it was the person standing beside him that drew Rory's eyes, this man that she once knew as a boy.
Jess Mariano was taller now, more muscular and scruffier than that smooth-faced skinny boy she knew way back then. Young Jess had been aimless, full of insecurity, and was completely deficient in expressing himself. She didn't know much of this older, albeit sexier, iteration of her old boyfriend but, at the very least, he appeared to have his act together. Unlike her—no home, no job (her non-paying gig as the Stars Hollow Gazette's editor notwithstanding), and absolutely no clue what to do with her life.
She blinked, realizing she and Lorelai were standing at the end of the aisle. The town troubadour was already playing his song and the guests were all twisted in their chairs, staring at the Gilmore girls.
"Guess it's my turn," Rory said, setting her parasol down and starting down the aisle. She looked around at the happy faces of the people who had had a hand in raising her, who'd all celebrated with her during the high times and wept with her during the low. Her eyes swept around and up, to the man who'd always played a sort of father figure in her life, actively avoiding looking at his nephew, even if she felt his eyes on her.
She didn't know why but, at that moment, she was sure she'd break down and cry if their eyes were to meet. Chalk it down to hormones.
Fifteen minutes later, the bride and groom kissed and were declared married for the second time that day. Lorelai and Luke turned to the guests and were greeted with whoops and shouts. They didn't even make it back down the aisle; they were swarmed as soon as they stepped off the last step.
Rory faded back inside the gazebo, taking it all in with a sense of unease in her stomach.
She turned to find Jess approaching her with a concerned crease to his eyebrows. "Yes. I'm fine," she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
"You're not okay," he said, his frown deepening as his dark brown eyes looked her over. "You're pale and sweaty."
She wiped at the sweat beading on her upper lip. "Just a little tired, I guess, from being up all night."
"Come on, let's sit a sec." He touched her elbow and led her to the curved bench.
She sat down, folding her arms over her stomach, trying her hardest not to gag as the scent of the flowers assaulted her nostrils. Had there been this many flowers last night? Were they multiplying somehow?
The deep, rich timbre of Jess' voice reached through her panic attack and calmed her a little. It struck her then that the presence of the boy who'd once caused her immense stress now had a soothing effect. "Are you having a panic attack?" he asked, dipping his head to look at her more closely. "Rory, talk to me. What's wrong?"
She shook her head, swallowing down the bile rising in her throat. "I don't know. I just need to get out of here." She jumped up, already halfway down the back steps of the gazebo by the time she could finish her sentence.
Jess fell right in step beside her. "Rory, talk to me. What's wrong?"
She bit her lips together, scanning the area. She made it as far as Luke's diner before she doubled over and threw up into a potted plant. Jess stood in front of her, shielding her from the rest of the town as she emptied her stomach into the hapless bush.
"Come on," he whispered and whisked her inside. Luckily the diner was empty, all the customers currently celebrating across the street, and they were able to make it through the diner and up the stairs to Luke's old apartment without being seen.
She stopped just inside the doorway to the apartment, taken aback at the sight—nothing had changed in nine years. The furniture was still in the same place she saw them last over nine years ago. Somehow she'd thought Luke would have taken all of his things once he moved in with her mother.
But she didn't have time to consider it further. She ran to the bathroom around the corner just in time for the second wave of vomit to rise.
She retched into the toilet, the thing growing in her belly seemingly punishing her for being so callous and careless with their lives. She should have never reconnected with Logan, should have broken it off the moment she learned he was engaged. But she had been impulsive and full of self-importance, not realizing that the higher you fly, the harder you'll hit the ground when you fall. Now here she was, kneeling in a bathroom, facing a toilet.
My, how the mighty have fallen.
She leaned her head on her arm, self-hatred burning her throat. Odette. The other woman's name was Odette. Or, to be more accurate, Odette was the fiancee.
Rory threw up some more at the thought of bearing the title of The Other Woman once again. First with Dean, now with Logan. She should have learned her lesson the first time around and yet here she was, pregnant with a man who was getting married in a week.
She pushed up off the toilet and got to her feet, rinsing out her mouth at the sink.
"What is wrong with you?" she asked her splotchy reflection in the mirror. But try as she might, she couldn't come up with a reasonable answer. Gone was the girl with the grades and the plans of the big future; the person who stood in her place was lost and downright terrified of what tomorrow would bring.
From behind the nearly-opaque glass of the door, she could see Jess' shadow pacing back and forth. She ran her fingers through her hair, took a deep breath, and readied herself for what came next.