Aki- This idea came to me and kept building so I had to write it down. This was supposed to be a one shot, but the plot got so long (I am going to split it into a two or three part story haven't decided yet). I will get back to my other story, I promise.


The Letter

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen," rang in a collective of somber voices throughout church building. Rory opened her eyes and observed the room all dressed in black.

"Please be seated," said the reverend from his pulpit and the crowd silently complied. The silence in the room was complete expect for the quiet sobs coming from the pew in the front of the church.

It was Liz, TJ on her right, holding her in attempt to comfort her, and Doula asleep in a baby carrier next to her. She was the only one crying aloud in the whole church. The chilling echoes, bouncing off of the walls and piercing each individual's being with worse torment then their own wails could have brought.

"We have gathered today to mourn the loss of one of our own though he only spent a short time here in Stars Hollow. More important is it to remember and honor the memory of the life of Jess Mariano, who was taken from us suddenly…"

Rory clenched her hands tightly in her lap wishing that her mom was sitting with her, even thought Rory had insisted she would be fine early. Instead Lorelai was a two pews in front with Luke. He had been extremely silent the last few days. Of what Rory could see, his head was bowed like he might be crying. Lorelai placed a gentle, comforting hand on his shoulder.

"In his two years spent living in this town Jess became infamous for pulling pranks and servicing in his uncle's diner without a smile, but despite that he became a part of this community…"

It had come to surprise to Rory when she had come into the church to find it filled with town locals that had never known Jess or even liked him! But here they where: Kirk, Lulu, Babette, Miss Patty, Andrew, Mrs. Kim, countless others, and most surprisingly, Taylor. Maybe they felt as if were their responsibility. An obligation to the town or the church or to the family dealing with the loss. Or maybe…maybe it was because they felt guilty because they never even gave him a chance.

"…His life could not be defined as easy…"

Across the church sat a middle-aged Italian looking man with a woman with short bleached hair and a preteen girl. The girl had tears running silently down her cheeks behind her thick glasses. The bleached blonde woman who stood between the man and the girl and both of their hands held tightly. Rory cocked her head to the side observing them. She had never seen them before.

Perhaps… a thought popped into Rory's mind. Could that be Jess' father? It could be, but she never met the man. Hell, Jess had not met him until he was eighteen. She wondered if they had gotten close while Jess went to see him. Obviously close enough for, what was his name that Luke mentioned one time, Jimmy to be invited to and come to the funeral. Jess never talked about it.

Wait, a voice in Rory's head sounded… Jess never had the opportunity. She thought about it and realized that she had only talked to Jess really four times since they had broken up. She felt a pang of guilt in her gut but did not know why.

Rory shook her head lightly side to side to clear it from wandering thoughts and turned her attention back to the minister. "We may never know what caused Jess' life to take such a drastic turn after he had finally become a successful author and partner in a small business."

A long sigh, one full of resignation and melancholy sounded from the pew behind her and she quickly glanced at the occupants even though she already knew who they were. Well, technically she did not know their names but she recognized them from her single visit to Philadelphia. They looked so… was guilty to weak a word. One so overused in such commonplace circumstances that it had now lost all real meaning.

There were two of them. One, a taller African American in his early twenties with a long slim figure and a defined face who seemed to be staring, eyes glazed over slightly from misery, at the front of the church. The other was a shorter, round-faced brunette who was keeping his head defiantly down. She was pretty sure he was the one who had sighed.

"We can only hope that the time Jess Mariano spent on this earth that he followed the same creed he wrote in his novel, The Subsect, 'Life is made up of a series of unexpected moments, from the commonplace traffic jam that makes you late for your doctor's appointment and to the spectacular time you run into that one person who changes your life in the most uninteresting place. When these moments come you can only do one thing and that is try to keep up and cross your fingers that everything will work out, even if you know it won't.'"

The reverend ended the service and everyone filed past the family, Liz, TJ, and Luke, who were standing at the front of the church. Rory stood back and observed as the townspeople gave their meaningless words of comfort like, 'I'm sorry for your loss' and 'I give my condolences,' with a few mixed in 'If you need anything just call. I can baby-sit any time.'

"Are you gonna' go up?" asked Lorelai, taking a place next to her daughter.

"No…I won't know what to say." Lorelai didn't prod any further.

Rory watched as Jimmy and company reached Liz. Their eyes connected in silence and they need not say anything because they understood something that no one else in the room did. Neither had been great parents but they both recognized something, they had lost their son. After a dragging moment of silence he gave his estranged ex-wife a hug which she returned.

Rory had a weird feeling. Jimmy was willing to face the woman he abandoned to deal with the suffering that came from Jess' death, yet she was afraid to address her ex-boyfriend's mother whom she had never talked to before. Maybe she could. Rory moved across the church to join the end of the line.

Jess' previous partners from Truncheon Books reached the front of the line. Rory was now close enough to hear the words shared between them.

"Mrs…," started the shorter of the two before realizing he didn't know her name. "Jess' mom," he amended. "We're sorry."

"Oh, it's okay. Horrible things happen," replied Liz in a not too convincing voice.

"No," corrected the taller of the two. "We're sorry we didn't see this coming when we should have."

"He was our friend," added the other, "We all lived together yet we didn't see it coming when we should of."

"No, don't blame yourselves, boys. Please don't," begged Liz, tears renewed. "It's not your fault."

"Omigod," Rory whispered to herself in realization. Everyone in this church blamed themselves for Jess' death. His Truncheon buddies thought they should have seen the problem coming and been able to save him. Liz blamed herself for being a bad parent and Jimmy blamed himself for leaving. The townspeople were ashamed that they never gave Jess a fighting chance or an ounce of respect. And Luke, Rory looked were he stood silently to the side of Liz, not looking anyone in the eye, he thought he didn't do enough.

Rory glanced back at her mother, hoping maybe to confide this to her, when she saw Lorelai looking downcast alone against the far wall, not her usual self at all. She felt guilty for she never knew him yet hated Jess anyway.

The boys from Truncheon were now coming down the aisle to the door, but the path lead them straight past Rory. The taller one nudged the other lightly with his shoulder, making him glance up and look at her.

"You're Rory Gilmore, right?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered much weaker and less-assured then she would have liked.

He glanced at his friend, "I get it now." That's all they said before the walked past her and left. Rory stood in line a moment longer before she became unexplainably dizzy and nauseous. She turned and ran out of the church, heels or no heels, without a word to anyone.