Rory woke up early the next morning feeling lighter than she had in a long while. It was as if the worries that had been weighing her down yesterday had disappeared over night. As she dressed, she felt calm and careless; unconcerned about her turbulent relationship with Dean and her workload that accompanied the upcoming school week. She wondered how long the feeling would last.
Paris greeted her as she emerged from her bedroom. "Doyle said that if you don't have that article in by tomorrow, he's going to fire you."
Wow. A record-breaking seven and a half minutes. A deep seeded urgency filled Rory as she struggled to remember if she had begun her second draft yet. Relief flooded through her as she recalled completing it before the last Friday night dinner.
"He can't fire me," Rory said. "It's voluntary to work on the paper. Anyone can join."
"He can take away your beat. He could stick you on sports."
Rory's eyes widened. "He wouldn't."
"I know nothing about sports. I am the anti-sports girl. To this day, I still do not understand why all football players do is run back and forth across a field. How useful as a sports reporter would I be?"
"You wouldn't be," Paris said briskly, grabbing her coat off the rack. "It would be your punishment. Don't underestimate Doyle," she warned, scooping up a pile of library books. "To make up for his dwarflike height, he's three times as vicious as someone of normal size."
"I'll remember that," Rory mumbled as Paris disappeared into the hall. As soon as the door was shut, Rory jumped over to her computer and opened up her article. Pulling a folder of notes into her lap, she began to reread her draft to assess how much work it needed. It wasn't too bad, she decided. After a couple hours of work tonight or tomorrow morning, it would be presentable.
She sighed, rubbing her eyes. She wanted her writing to be more than presentable – she wanted it to be thought provoking and awe-inspiring; something worth reading. Lately though, she doubted her ability to provide any of the above, let alone all three. It always felt as if she didn't have enough time to write that one extra draft that would turn her acceptable article into an extraordinary piece of work. A part of her wondered if she was purposely sabotaging herself; not allowing the time to try harder. She couldn't fail if she didn't have the chance.
A knock at the door interrupted her mid-sentence, breaking apart her thought flow. She stared forlornly at the paragraph she had been typing, unable to remember what she had wanted to convey. What was her point again?
The door opened but she didn't notice, having temporarily forgotten the original knocking. She was too absorbed in staring at the computer screen as if the right words would suddenly appear. Jess walked over to her seat and tapped her on the shoulder. Her folder of notes hit the ground as she jumped in her chair.
"Am I interrupting?" he asked, watching her pick up the scattered pieces of paper.
She bounced back into an upright position, a look halfway between annoyance and surprise on her face. "Nope. You didn't interrupt." She shoved her folder between two textbooks leaning against the wall. "I was just finishing."
"You sure?" He had an amused glint in his eyes, put there by her strange antics.
"I'm sure." She did a quick save before closing her laptop. She swiveled in her seat so she could see him properly. "Find my room okay?"
Jess rubbed the back of his neck, showing a flicker of discomfort. "I've been here before."
"Oh yeah." She forced a smile, remembering his unexpected return only a few short months ago. The night had been awkward and painful, but it had gotten them where they are now, and that was what counted. "You ready to see the rest of Yale?"
"Let's get to it."
She jumped up, eager to show him around her school, the place where she lived, ate, and studied; her current home away from home. She wasn't sure why exactly, but she wanted him to be a part of it.
"What do you want to see first?" she asked. "The commons? We could go to Beinecke Library, or the Sterling Memorial Library. It's the largest one on campus."
"Whatever you want."
"I have to take you to the paper," she said, mostly to herself as she led him out the door. "Do you want to go to the art gallery? The British Art Center is right across the street."
"This is going to be a long day, huh?"
She shut the door, shooting him a grin. "I hope you wore comfortable shoes."
"I don't think I ever walked this much in New York. And I lived there for seventeen years."
"Don't be such a baby," Rory chastised, leading him through the entrance of Sterling Memorial Library. "I do this everyday."
He stopped them before they could go any farther. "You circle the campus three times everyday?"
She had taken him past Beinecke Library, across Prospect Hill, and through the University Commons. She didn't know the meaning of a direct route, but instead dragged him places as they occurred to her. They had walked through the Old Campus at least three times before she decided to bring him into Sterling Memorial Library. It was well past three, by now. It looked as if their lunch date would be for dinner.
"Four," she corrected, grinning. "How do you think I keep my slim figure?"
"By not exercising and eating artery clogging food?"
"Funny," she replied, her face stony. "Now come on." She spun around and began to walk backwards, throwing her arms out in a grand gesture. "Welcome to the temple of learning and cathedral of knowledge."
"How many pamphlets about Yale have you read?" he asked, following her to the stairs.
"I'll never tell." She winked. "Now, we are currently walking in the second largest library in the United States," she explained brightly. "Completed in 1930 and named for John William Sterling, Sterling Memorial Library is fifteen floors worth of books. We're talking about 3.75 million volumes, Jess."
They emerged on the second floor, and she led him to the Starr Main Reference Room, talking his ear off about the non-circulating collection that was housed inside. Jess was amazed at the shelves of books they passed, the rows and rows of them. Were there really thirteen more floors of this?
A few minutes later, she ran out of things to say about the dictionaries and reference books, and brought him to the next floor. There were similar stacks of books, never-ending rows that spanned each side of the room. Rory led him down the center, past scattered individuals with books in their hands as they took notes. Most had cups of coffee in front of them to keep them going. All of them look stressed.
"Wow, I'm surrounded by knowledge. I'm overwhelmed," he deadpanned, leaning closer so Rory could hear him.
She shot him a disproving look. "You should be. Look at all this." She made another sweeping gesture, something he had seen several times today. It was beginning to grate on him – this place, her excitement. Her eyes lit up as she spoke; a childish smile never failed to appear as she showed him a familiar place. She had this connection here, this plan. When she walked around Yale, she saw her future.
He thought maybe he was envious. Not of college but of the idea; the path. She had something. What did he have?
Without warning, unless her startled "Oh god!" counted as one, Rory grabbed his wrist and tugged him into the stacks. She all but slammed him against the bookcase and froze in front of him, her hands resting on the shelves on either side of his body. Her eyes were fixed on where they had just been standing. Paris walked by, at least seven thick hardcovers balanced in her arms. Rory turned back toward Jess once Paris had disappeared.
She seemed rather oblivious to how close she was standing, but he was all too aware. He had an idle hand resting on her hip; a subtle move to left, and he could easily slip his fingers beneath her shirt.
"She's gone," Rory announced, stepping back. If she picked up on the awkwardness, she said nothing, but the blush on her face did not go unnoticed.
"I know Paris has that Mrs. Tingle thing going for her, but was that really necessary?" His voice sounded normal, but his fingertips burned with wonder.
Rory glared. "Yes, it was. She knows who you are."
"And I'm supposed to be the invisible man."
"She would ask too many questions," Rory rationalized. "She'd poke and prod, demanding to know why I allowed you around again."
Jess looked thoughtful for a moment as if considering to ask her why she did let him back in. But he knew better than to ruin a good thing.
"Then she would probably tell Dean for 'my own good'," Rory air quoted. "Dean would explode and the ramifications would be deadly."
Rory nodded. She didn't want him to be a secret. He was the one who asked her not to say anything after he moved back. This was all his doing. "Plus, Luke would find out, although I still don't know why that would be such a bad thing."
Frustrated, Jess hit his head against the shelf behind him. "Luke and I ended on good terms. There is absolutely no need to screw that up."
"I love how you're convinced that you have this inability to maintain a healthy relationship with anyone. The world will not end if you talk to Luke." Rory stuck her head out of the stacks and looked both ways. The coast was clear.
"So what's next?" Jess asked, happy to see that Rory was switching gears.
"How about dinner?" She leaned in as if to tell him in confidence. "I don't think this campus is safe for you anymore."
She grabbed his wrist and pulled him out behind her. He stared down at her hand as they walked, wondering if they had finally crossed into some semblance of normalcy where touching didn't have to hurt.
"We should do this more often," she said as they descended the stairs. "Hang out, I mean. We usually only talk on the phone but today was…"
"Good," he filled in for her.
"Yeah," she agreed. "Good."
She knocked and waited. Kyle opened the door a moment later, dressed in a snazzy tux complete with an outdated bow tie.
"I was just on my way out. I've got a seven o' clock and a nine. Wait 'til these two girls see me work my magic."
Rory smiled, swallowing a snicker. "You going to a dance?"
"Movies," he corrected, a 'duh' expression on his face.
"Oh. Of course."
"Dean's in his room. Have a good night." He winked before closing the door behind him.
Dean appeared a second later, having heard her voice. "Hey." His grin was wide. She smiled back, blushing. He was so happy to see her. "This is a surprise."
"Yeah, I just wanted to stop by and see you. Maybe watch a movie? This week is going to be so busy. I didn't know when I'd see you next."
"A movie sounds good." He held out his hand, and she took it, following him to his bedroom.
She felt a pang of guilt at her half truth, but she had no other choice. She couldn't explain that she had to see him again, just one more time before the long stretch of the week. Too much time apart cleared her head and allowed her to think reasonably. Without him, it was easy to spot the flaws, the holes in logic. Sometimes it was heartbreakingly clear how wrong they were for each other.
She kissed his cheek and snuggled against his chest as he flipped off the lamp, leaving the movie as the only source of light.