petitos grasshoppertje – Yea, I think writing old Jess wouldn't be very pretty.
Alas, all things must come to an end. I enjoyed writing this story for the most part, and I thank all of you for reading. I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on the story as a whole, or just this chapter.
Jess entered the room with a sigh. He knew she knew that it could harm the baby only a month-and-a-half from being born, but she hadn't cared lately. And she wouldn't listen when he asked her politely to give it up, when he firmly requested that she break the habit, and when he informed her that as the husband and father, he was telling her not to do it again. She still refused to listen to him, and had gotten quite angry with the last one. And that is where they found themselves at 1:31 on a Saturday morning, in the former pure white guest room that they had converted into a navy blue nursery for their expected infant. Him standing heavily in the door, her tracing little yellow stars from a stencil to the wall with a thin paintbrush.
"Rory, for the thousandth time, the paint fumes are bad for Peter." She looked up at him with a sheepish smile.
"I'm trying not to inhale too deeply." He rolled his eyes, and ran a hand through his messy hair with a yawn.
"Come back to bed. You both need sleep."
"But we don't have much time left, and it needs more stars."
"It HAD stars. You were the one who decided to repaint the wall a darker color, and start again with the stars."
"They were messy before, and it looked like a girly room. This time I'm not doing them freehand, and we know the sex now."
"There's still more than seven weeks before the due date. Why, why, why do we keep having to get up in the middle of the night for your impromptu painting sessions?"
"I want everything to be perfect when he gets here." She got to her feet a little stiffly with the help of a chair. Halfway through her third trimester, she was looking very pregnant indeed, but it somehow didn't mar her figure. She was still slender little Rory underneath the baby pounds. Jess' eyes traveled over her form with a mixture of pride and annoynance.
"Please let me do it. If the paint fumes don't make him dizzy, you holding your breath will."
"Not a chance in the bad place; you helped with the first set of stars. Mama's taking over this time around." He crossed his arms, tired. He really just wanted to get back to bed, and get her away from the nursery. He'd have to hold out on the first one for a little while to accomplish the second, though.
So he closed the door behind him, sat in the old rocking chair they'd pulled out of Riley's room the previous week, and watched her paint for about twenty minutes, focusing on the way she bit the side of her lip in concentration as she painted with her right hand, the left protectively holding her stomach, as if trying to coax out of Peter an opinion concerning what would be his room.
Peter Wesley Mariano. That was the name they'd finally agreed upon, after months of pouring over books. They had resorted to books this time for the first time. Jane Elizabeth had been born from an Austen novel on the nightstand at the time of conception, and a name in the Danes family that was now present in every generation. Riley was the name of a waiter who used to work at a coffee shop the couple had visited almost daily for a summer, and they had been offhandedly talking about what a nice name it was with him one day. Of course, that was the day Rory missed her period. Charles was an old Gilmore name. Now they had run out of family names, and fate didn't step in to lend a hand. Jane had become obsessed with The Princess Bride lately, though, and had begged her parents to name her baby brother Wesley. A nice name, but it wouldn't really suffice for a first name, they'd thought. No offense meant to anyone named Wes out there, but they had agreed that it would be his middle name, and grudgingly dug out the baby name books people had been giving them all along the pregnancies. It got petty, immature, and almost violent for a while there. They'd flipped coins, drawn cards, and rolled dice, circling or crossing out names according to the numbers rolled. It was ridiculous, but no other names were falling into their laps from above. Until the name Peter had been crossed out in three books within fifteen minutes. Divine interference, telling them that they were being dumb, and here was a name already. The method and results were treated as a joke at first, but they'd quickly grown into it. Peter. Our son, Peter. The baby, Peter. The kids' brother, Peter.
Jess' loud yawn broke the contemplative/creative silence.
"Honey, go to bed. I'll be there in like five minutes."
"My ass. I'm staying here until you come back with me." She sighed and spread her hands. One of them had the paintbrush in it. Jess prayed that no miniscule amount of paint had flicked off the brush onto the warm blue of the wall. She'd have a fit.
"This is why I snuck out of bed; so as not to disturb you."
"What disturbs me is that you're obsessing about this. And that I'm going to have to boot up my evil computer tomorrow to re-re-reprint out the site on why paint fumes are bad for the baby, because you've taken and destroyed my previous copies, which I only printed out for YOUR benefit, loving husband that I am."
"I'm not huffing it, Jess. I'm just painting. Cheese and rice." Sighing, Jess lifted himself from the slightly wavering chair with his arms, and took the paintbrush from her hand. "Hey!" He bent down and scooped her up as she issued a little shriek. "Unhand me, mister!"
"It's past your bedtime, little girl. And you'll wake up the kids."
"Jess! I need to paint!" By this point, they were already exiting the room. Her bare feet dragged against the white and gold striped wallpaper on the hall walls, as she squirmed in protest. "How are you doing this? Me and the baby? You're a small guy, Jess," she hissed quietly as they passed Riley's silent room.
"If it's any consolation, my biceps are in great pain right now. As is my self-image."
"I'm having your baby, and you won't even let me paint a few stars on the wall. I don't like this controlling side of you," she scolded lightly.
"Rory, I'm putting you to bed, because A. It's good for you and the baby, and B. Because you're the one who wanted to have your family over tomorrow, and if you're cranky, you'll blame me for 'letting you stay up so late.'"
"No, I won't."
"There's precedent, honey." He pushed their door open with his backside, and repeated the movement once they were inside.
"What time is it?"
"That's not that late. Party boy like you, this is early in fact." Jess laughed as he deposited her gracefully on the bed, taking care not to jostle her stomach.
"I think my party boy days were over the first time a baby spit up on me." He circled the bed and climbed in on his side, shedding his pants as he did so.
"Hold your horses, buster. Weren't you just telling me I needed to get to sleep?" He rolled his eyes as he switched off the light on the stand next to him.
"I'm hot from carrying you all the way down the hall. Close your eyes." Rory obeyed as he pulled their soft comforter over her body, and felt first his hair, then his skin as he cozied up to her shoulder, draping an arm over her belly. She smiled at the comfort he offered by such a simple gesture, and waited until she felt his breathing slow to the point where, after over six years of sleeping with him, she knew for a fact that he was asleep. Then, with the stealth she had acquired after much practice, she slipped out from under his arm, out of bed, and down the hallway to the nursery, where she resumed her painting.
Rory hugged her mother as Lorelai entered their foyer, with Luke and Matti in tow.
"Hi! Luke made his famous cheesy bread, and I brought it!"
"Sounds delicious, I wish Jess could cook." He playfully scowled at her from where he was standing in the entryway to the dining room, leaning against it and holding Jane. She stuck her tongue out at him as she took the bread from Lorelai, and led them towards the back of the house. "Dad and the girls are already here. He brought a new fiancée. Her name is Delilah. She's very pretty. But not as pretty as you," she answered the question Lorelai had just begun to open her mouth to ask. Lorelai beamed at her daughter in her salmon-pink maternity sundress.
"Can I touch the baby?" Matti asked hesitantly, ambling forward. They reached the kitchen, and Rory put the bread on the counter next to two different salads that Kathy was still adding seasoning to.
"Kathy, we've got cheesy bread! Go ahead, Matti." Her little brother smiled as he reached up and patted her stomach.
"Tana can't find Riley," Kathy commented as she took something out of a cupboard.
"Jess, go help her before she has another breakdown." Jess, who had followed them into the kitchen, put Jane down and headed for the back staircase. Rory opened the sliding door to the patio and walked out, followed by her mother, brother, and daughter. Luke stood in the middle of the room, looking at where Jess had disappeared from view.
"Not a day goes by without a rousing round of Where's Riley?" Luke nodded slowly, and followed the girls and Matti outside.
"Luke! Nice to see you again, buddy," Chris said as he held out a hand for Luke to shake. In a flowered cocktail dress, sitting in the seat next to him, was a wiry lady with wispy blonde hair, smiling at the new arrivals.
"Hi, you must be Delilah. I'm Lorelai, it's nice to meet you."
"You too." Finished with the customary introduction-to-Chris's-new-lady, Lorelai sat down next to her husband. The others joined them, and Lorelai and Rory kept up a running, light conversation until Tana and Jess came out of the house, carrying between them a toothpaste-covered little boy.
"Found him in our shower," he threw over his shoulder to Rory as he placed Riley in his boosterseat, and sat down beside him. Kathy joined the group at the chair closest to the door, ready to both serve and eat. And the family dug in.
A few weeks ago, Rory and Jess had celebrated (in unrepeatable ways) their sixth wedding anniversary, and the birth of their baby was less than two months away. Chris and his daughters had been unable to make it for two separate family dinners, so, ever the negotiator, he had proposed an intermediate date. Lorelai had much to say on this subject, such as that refusing to bump Nina's playdate to a different day so as to make time to see his eldest daughter and her husband was rude, to say the least. But Rory had asked her not to say it here. Chris wasn't fond of Jess, and Jess of Chris. The two did not like to be around each other, but Jess didn't purposely try to avoid Chris. Chris purposely tried to avoid Jess.
Six hours later, Rory was trying to help Kathy clean up from the early dinner, but the housekeeper found her assistance to be more of a hindrance than a help.
"Rory, go snuggle with Jess or something, you've already broken two dishes."
"No, I want to help you."
"Honey, that would be helping." Huffing, Rory threw down her towel and exited the kitchen. She found Jess in their library, trying to decide between Dickens and Dickinson.
"Kathy threw me out of the kitchen again," she said with a pout. He turned around with both volumes in hand to see her standing in the doorway, arms crossed.
"She has enough to do without having to clean up after you."
"It's not my fault mom didn't raise me to be kitchen-savy!"
"If you're looking for something to do, it's almost Janey's bedtime."
"Ug, I'm getting too big and sluggish to jump over furniture and chase that little girl in circles around the front yard."
"Rory, do we have strange children, or are they all that way?"
"It's your genes. I'm convinced of it." She plopped down onto the loveseat across from the gorgeous fireplace that they never used. He placed both books back on the shelf and joined her, slipping an arm around her shoulders.
"You snuck out of bed again last night, didn't you?" he whispered in her ear.
"Apparently my ninja-like stealth wasn't as stealthy as I thought it to be."
"You minx. It's bad for the baby. Probably WHY Riley and Jane are hyperactive little Houdinis."
"That can't be proven." He kissed her temple as he pulled away, and looked out the window facing the shoreline in the distance. They didn't live directly on the water, but it was only a short walk from the house to the sandy beach. Riley ate sand, and Jane always tried to dive under the waves despite the fact that she could not swim, so the family didn't get to visit the ocean as often as Rory and Jess would have liked. When they'd first moved in, they had frequently taken night strolls along the tide line, and continued to do so sometimes even after Jane was born. The habit had faded out when they lost touch with one another, and had not yet been picked up again.
"Ror, wanna go for a walk?" She was silent for a few moments, and then turned on him.
"Are you telling me I look fat?" With a laugh, he pulled her to her feet.
They loosely held hands as the sand moved beneath their feet, slowing down their progression.
"Today was nice," Rory said as they watched a wave break against the ground a few yards from them. "I like the girls. They're so adorable."
"They're alright. I prefer our girl."
"I can't believe she's going to be five soon."
"I can't believe we're going to be parents of three soon."
"I can; I've done almost all the baby shopping."
"And we've been married for six years. I never thought I'd get married, much less stay married for six years."
"Well, you were only faithful for three of those years," she commented offhandedly. She felt his fingers tighten on hers, then slacken to the point where he almost dropped her hand. She turned to him and used his arm to pull him into a hug.
"I'm sorry. That wasn't meant as an attack."
"I thought we agreed we weren't going to talk about that anymore."
"Jess, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking about it, I just said it."
"Why do you have to do that? Things are going perfectly, and you bring that up. Are you trying to hurt me, or are you just lashing out subconsciously."
"I'm really doing neither, Jess. I just don't have a problem talking about it. I know it happened. There's no reason to pussyfoot around it."
"But I don't want to have to think about it. I don't want to have to remember on such a constant basis how much I don't deserve you." She pecked him on the lips.
"You did it; maybe you deserve to remember." He shook his head at her, wounded. "That came out wrong. I was a bitch to you during those years. I know I don't deserve you either. But I don't have a problem talking about it, because I trust you, and I know you won't judge me based on those years." He sighed, and wrapped his arms tight around her.
"I'm the one who doesn't deserve you, not the other way around."
"No, I don't deserve you."
"No, I don't deserve you."
"Aren't we cute?"
"Popularity would have a field day with this conversation."
"I'm still not rescinding my statement."
"Me neither." They resumed walking, arms still around each other.
"Hey Jess? As long as we're having a nauseating conversation, when did you know I was the one?"
"When I saw you run out of your bathroom in a tiny towel, screaming about a spider."
"You knew then?"
"Not at that exact point, but upon reflection, I feel that there's something special about when we met. Maybe my memory is messing with it, but I'm convinced that I had some sort of inkling or feeling at the time."
"Huh." She walked on with a smile. "That's strange."
"Why is it strange?"
"Because I hated you then."
"Then when did you know I was your knight in shining armor, Rory Mariano?"
"I don't even know. It was such a gradual thing."
"Aww, that pains me a little."
"It does not, you know I love you." She reached up for another kiss, but instead of it being a light brush like she had planned on, he held her head in place with his hand.
"I believe your cutting off my airflow is bad for the baby, Jess," she said once he himself stopped to take a breath.
"Huh. Then we probably shouldn't do that."
"Probably not." They waited a minute before resuming their activity, walking as they kissed, back towards the home where their kids were being put to bed at the moment by a very hassled Tana.
She thought about the weighted subject they had been discussing as they strolled onto their property. It was still hard, being a mom and a wife and a daughter and a sister and an employer and a boss and a public figure. Sometimes, it was so hard that she felt like a tension-filled balloon, ready to burst with the slightest prick. She had no idea how she'd been able to ward off pricks during these times. Maybe she was a stronger person than she'd given herself credit for. Or maybe it was all luck.
Of course, she thought, looking at Jess, sometimes it wasn't so hard. Sometimes things with Jess and the kids and her family just flowed, stemming from an unknown source, catching Rory happily in their waves as she drifted along complacently, peacefully. She'd been to see Drella twice since the fateful appointment, once with Jess, and once by herself. There were many things she still had yet to admit to herself. There were many things she'd discovered. But overall, in the past few months, she considered herself to be a job well done. She was learning how to redirect pressures and stress, and calm herself down during those tense moments. Maybe she'd burst in the future. Maybe she'd grow into keeping this positive outlook up. She didn't know. But if Jess had promised to stay by her side through thick or thin, through bursting or blossoming. And she had the warm feeling in her gut that he really would this time.