Author's Note: I would like to thank Heather (xphilehb) for the beta and for being my sounding board for this fic. There's no way I could have done this without her.
She took one last look at her old home before climbing into the jeep. The remainder of their things was crammed tightly in the back. The movers had already taken most of their belongings earlier in the day. She looked over at her daughter, who had her forehead resting against the window. She couldn't tell if Rory was crying or not. Lorelai touched her shoulder lightly. "You ready, babe?" she asked, half not expecting an answer.
Rory nodded slightly, but didn't remove her gaze from the glass. "Let's go," she responded softly, reaching her hand up to wipe away an escaped tear.
"Aww… sweetie, everything is going to be fine. You know that you can come back whenever you want," Lorelai said, trying to soothe her daughter.
"It's just hard. Everything is going to change." Rory finally allowed herself to meet her mother's gaze. She took a deep breath. "But change can be good," she resolved.
Lorelai smiled. "Change can be very good. One thing won't change though," she added, watching the expression on her daughter's face change to one of curiosity. "You and me. We're in this together. Like always."
Rory allowed herself to smile for the first time in days as her mother started to drive away. "I love you, Mom".
She patted Rory's knee. "I love you too, kid."
The drive to Stars Hollow was mostly silent. Rory was intently staring out the window, taking in the passing sights, leaving Lorelai to her own thoughts. As they grew closer and closer to the small town, Lorelai felt herself becoming more and more nervous. What if her daughter didn't like the town? What if her daughter hated their new house? It was nowhere near the size or stature of their old home. She knew that Rory didn't care about those kinds of things, but she couldn't shake away the fear.
Rory had been very busy at Chilton lately, leaving Lorelai to make all the plans for their new home. Stars Hollow had felt like home from the moment she arrived. It seemed to invite her in, wrapping around her like a warm blanket on a snowy evening. She had instantly fallen in love with the little two bedroom house. It was the kind of house that she had always dreamed of having. Small and cozy. Not at all like the big and cold ones that she had been living in all of her life. When Lorelai had described it to her daughter, Rory had agreed that it sounded perfect. So why was she suddenly so scared? 'Because now, it's actually real,' she thought.
She took the exit to Stars Hollow, and not before long, her daughter was seeing the town for the first time. It was just as charming as she remembered it. The storefronts looked welcoming. The citizens were out and about, chatting in small groups here and there. A group of little girls was practicing a dance with ribbons near the town's gazebo as their instructor – a large, friendly looking woman – looked on. She saw her daughter's face light up as Rory took in the same images. The knot in Lorelai's stomach was beginning to loosen a bit.
"The town's so cute," Rory observed. "Umm… Mom?"
"Why is there a grown man stuck up in that tree?"
Lorelai looked in the direction her daughter was motioning towards, and sure enough, there was a man, struggling to free himself from a large tree. Unfortunately, it seemed like he was getting more and more tangled with each of his movements. She shook her head. "I have no idea." She watched as one of his shoes bounded to the ground. "How did he even manage to get up there? Weird."
Rory laughed. "I think that I might like it here if we always get this kind of entertainment."
Shortly after, they arrived at their new house. "Here it is," Lorelai announced. "I know that it's small and nowhere near what we used to live in…"
Rory jumped out of the jeep. "But it's so cute!" She ran to meet her mother on the other side of the jeep. Throwing her arms around her, she exclaimed, "I love it, Mom!"
"Wait until you see the inside before you jump to conclusions," she reminded her daughter, returning the embrace. However, her nervousness had disappeared completely. Why had she been so worried? Sure the house was going to need some work, but it wasn't exactly something out of a horror movie either.
She watched as Rory raced through the front door, only to return a few moments later, bursting with excitement. "Where's my room?"
Lorelai joined her daughter. Maneuvering through the many boxes piled on the floor, she led her to the room right before the kitchen. "Right here." The movers had already placed Rory's furniture in the room.
She watched as her daughter plopped down on the bed. Lorelai could see the wheels in Rory's mind turning as she planned out which of her books would go where. "You can decorate it however you want. We'll go shopping as soon as..." she trailed off. 'As soon as we have the money,' her mind screamed at her. The only money she had agreed to take in the divorce settlement was child support payments for Rory and enough cash to cover the cost of her new house that she couldn't pay for out of her meager savings. Lorelai hadn't even accepted her ex-husband's offer of alimony payments. She refused to take any more money from him. She wasn't going to stay dependent on Christopher – sixteen years had been long enough. She was going to make a new life on her own. She would find a job and support herself. But how could she deny Rory the things she would want simply because she couldn't afford them? None of this was her daughter's fault.
Rory seemed to read her mind. "Don't worry about it, Mom." She gave her mother a bright smile. "It's great."
Lorelai smiled weakly at her daughter. "We'll be able to do something soon. I promise." She walked out into the kitchen. Coffee. She needed coffee. Where was her coffeemaker?
Rory followed her mother. "I'm starving. What can we make for dinner?" she asked as she opened the refrigerator. An empty refrigerator. "Right, we need to go buy some food."
"And do what with it? Stare at it?"
Rory rolled her eyes. "Mom, we have to eat something. You have to be hungry. You're always hungry."
"Speak for yourself. You ate more than me when we had our Willy Wonka night last week," she reminded her daughter.
"That was once. You're the one who finished off a whole pie last night at dinner," Rory stated. "And then, you claimed that you were still hungry. I'm just an amateur compared to you."
"Ahh, but I will teach you well, young one. One day, you'll be able to eat the entire selection of chicken on the Chinese menu in one sitting. I will be so proud." Lorelai pretended to wipe a tear away.
"Yes. And then, you will have to get a forklift just to move me off the couch." Her stomach grumbled. "Now, I'm really hungry."
"I did see a diner back in town..."
Rory grabbed her mother's hand. "Perfect! Let's go before we waste away from starvation."
"Rory, you just reminded Mommy that she ate an entire bakery last night. I don't think we're going to waste away anytime soon," she stated, attempting to stop her daughter from pulling her arm off as she tried to drag her out of the house.
"The diner probably serves coffee," Rory tried.
Bingo! That was the path to Lorelai's heart. "What are you waiting for? Let's go!"
To be continued… Please review!