"Hurry up Rory! We have to get to the inn!"
"OK mom! Coming!" Rory cast one last glance around the room, making sure everything was in its proper place. Assured that everything was where it belonged, she skipped out of her room and straight into Lorelei's waiting arms.
"We are so late, hon. Do we have time to stop at Luke's? What am I saying of course we do." Rory smiled. Her mom was frantic. Today at the inn they were hosting two different events – a funeral, an then later on a wedding party. Rory loved the parties the inn held, mostly because she could eat all the food she wanted. And Sookie was such a great chef.
Rory was ten years old, and the world was a beautiful place for her; even when it wasn't so great she could escape into the world of her books and imagine that she was right there with her favorite characters. She explored the world of Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre, queens of England, adventurers from all times. But she rarely explored on her own.
When they arrived at Luke's, he was muttering to himself as he while delivering orders to the few customers that were brave enough to try Luke's when he was in a bad mood.
"She always does this, always," he grumbled to himself.
"Yes, I do always make quite an entrance, don't I?" announced Lorelei as she walked in with great bravado. "Luuuke, can we have some blueberry pancakes, and make it quick? Except not too many blueberries because then it might overwhelm the sens-"
"Not right now Lorelei, I'm just a little busy today. How about ordering something that's actually on the menu for today? I had pancakes yesterday, if you remember."
"Well yes but I was not in the particular mood for pancakes, and they are such a lovely breakfast-"
"Lorelei. Not. Now." Lorelei stared him down. She knew he'd cave eventually. She was right. "Fine. But only a few pancakes, and you're not allowed to count the blueberries, clear?"
"Jeez, what's gotten your undies all in a bundle? Run out of flannel?"
Luke sighed. "Liz dumped Jess on me for a week. Apparently she's gotten her big break, she finally got a job and she needs some time to 'get settled,' or so she says. I don't expect to see her for a month."
"Wow sorry Luke. Wait so your nephew's here? Where is he now? Maybe he can come and play with Rory at the inn, I need to keep her occupied somehow, we have a busy day today. It would take him off your hands for a while too," Lorelei offered. She thought Luke looked like he needed some time to relax. He had never been one for entertaining kids.
"Really? You sure it wouldn't be too much trouble? You don't mind?" Luke was worried Jess would get into trouble at the inn. He didn't want Lorelei to have to deal with that on top of everything else.
"Sure, don't worry about it. He'll have fun, socialize, explore Star's Hollow a little. It's no trouble at all," Lorelei smiled brightly. "Besides, if you don't accept, I'm going to ask for blueberry pancakes with only eight blueberries per pancake every day for the next three weeks. Imagine all the fun we'll have."
"Alright, alright, I accept," Luke smirked at her. "But you still can't count the blueberries today."
"Aw darn… Fine, you got yourself a deal."
Jess came down about ten minute later. He was a cute little kid with untidy jet black hair and the chocolate brown eyes of a dreamer. He peered innocently up at Lorelei, wondering why he had to go with her and her weird daughter instead of just staying with Luke. Jess was resentful; he wanted to go back to New York and be with his mom; at least she didn't make him do things he didn't want to do. Except, of course, this trip to Star's Hollow.
"We're going to have so much fun today, Jess. This is my daughter Rory. I hear you too have a lot in common, Luke tells me you like to read a lot. So does Rory," Lorelei grinned at Jess. He didn't return the smile. This looked like it was going to be a long day indeed.
When Jess first came down from Luke's apartment, Rory was smitten almost immediately. He was like a little angel coming down from above. She was speechless. Then she was worried. What am I going to do with him all day? she wondered. Rory had never had any friends that were boys before. She didn't know what to expect.
When they arrived at the inn, Jess immediately inquired if they had a garden or orchard or something. "Why don't you and Rory go explore, she knows this place back and forth" Lorelei suggested. Rory would keep him occupied, she thought. She'll keep him out of trouble.
Jess looked slightly put out, but he didn't say anything. Rory didn't notice his expression.
"Come on, I know the perfect place," she said excitedly. "It's my favorite spot in Star's Hollow."
She led him down a path along the lake, stealing nervous glances at him every so often. He was quite cute, she had to admit, but she couldn't think of a thing to say.
"Where are we going?" he asked her.
"You'll see," she said mysteriously. She wanted to surprise him.
They walked down the path until they got to the place Rory had in mind. There was a large elm tree on the side of the path, right beside the lake. "This is my ultimate favorite place to read, to sit, to relax, anything," she confided in him. She beamed at him. "Do you like it?"
"Sure. Now maybe you could go find your mom or something, or go find something to do. I want to read, if you don't mind." Jess was being a little patronizing, but this kid was annoying him. Couldn't she see he wanted to be alone? He hated this little town, and she was the epitome of everything it stood for.
Rory was hurt. "Oh. Okay, I suppose I could do that." She slowly turned and started to walk away.
Jess regretted his attitude immediately upon seeing her face. He hadn't intended on hurting her feelings; he just didn't want to be bothered. "Wait. Come back. You can stay here and keep me company if you really want, I guess."
She didn't want his pity. "No, it's okay, I'll go. Don't worry about me."
"No, I want you to stay. Please do."
She hesitated. "You sure? You're not just saying that?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Please stay."
Rory walked back to the tree. She gazed at Jess. "Do you know how to climb trees?" he asked her. "I mean, have you ever climbed one this big before, or do you just sit under it?" He was curious.
"Climb? But isn't that dangerous?" The idea was foreign to her; she never took risks like that.
"Come on, live a little. It's just a tree. Here, I'll show you. I can't believe you've never climbed a tree before, it's so much more comfortable to read from up there."
Jess lifted himself onto the branches and started climbing. He made it look so easy, moving with a liquidity she could never see herself achieving. In a matter of seconds he was already about 15 feet high. Rory stared up at him apprehensively. "I'm not sure about this…" she said. He detected a slight note of panic in her voice. He smiled. She was kind of cute when she was nervous.
"Come on, it's easy. I'll help you." He reached down and offered her his hand. She glanced at it, then at him. His eyes welcomed her into them. She smiled.
She grabbed his hand and he pulled her up. She started climbing slowly up the trunk of the tree, trying as hard as she could not to look down. She kept gazing steadily into his deep chocolate brown eyes, moving towards them in earnest.
She slipped. Rory tried to grab hold of the tree, Jess, a branch, anything that might save her, but she fell. Hard. Her right elbow connected heavily with the ground in a crunch of pain she hadn't been expecting.
Jess's eyes were as big as saucers. "Oh no, are you okay??? SOMEONE GET HELP RIGHT AWAY!" he called out to the surrounding area. He looked around. No one was in sight. He ran as fast as he could back to the inn and found Lorelei. "Come quickly, Rory fell!" he told her.
Lorelei turned white. "Is she hurt? What happened? Rory!" Lorelei ran down the path and found Rory laying in the grass. "Honey what happened? What hurts?" Jess stood off to the side. He felt guilty. He had told her to climb the tree, it was his fault she was hurt. He could have let her go, but he had to tease her and make her jump through hoops. He felt ashamed of himself.
Then Lorelei turned to him and demanded, "What did you do to her? Did you hit her or something? What kind of kid are you, to do something like this?"
Jess felt a surge of anger welling up inside. "It was an accident, I didn't do it on purpose. She was climbing the tree and fell, it's not my fault!" He knew this wasn't entirely true, but her assumption that it was all his fault made him want to prove that he wasn't exclusively responsible; she was the one who wanted to stay, after all. "Maybe if you taught your daughter had a bit more common sense she wouldn't climb trees knowing she's never done it before!"
Jess was furious with Lorelei, and he knew that she was livid with him. He turned and stalked back to the diner in a huff. "What do these small town people know about anything? I don't need this, I'm going home," he muttered to himself.
When Jess got back to the diner, he told Luke what had happened. Luke was silent for a while, then went upstairs and called Liz. Jess was still angry about what had happened, more at himself than anyone else.
Lorelei stormed into the diner, rage apparent in every pigment of her countenance. "Luke! Where are you, we need to talk NOW!" She caught sight of Jess sitting at a table. She glared at him. "This is all your fault. I tried, I was nice, I wanted you to have a good day. Rory is a good girl. She has never gotten in trouble. Ever. Suddenly you show up and she lands in the hospital with an injured arm."
Jess looked away. Maybe if she wasn't so immature… he thought. But he knew he was kidding himself. Rory was more mature than he'd ever be. Instead, he said, "It was an accident. I was trying to help her. It's not like I pushed her or anything. We were just climbing a tree."
"Rory doesn't climb trees."
Suddenly Luke walked in. "Your mom is coming tomorro-" He stopped. "Lorelei. How's Rory? I'm sorry, I knew this would happen, they're from two different worlds, they don't mesh well."
Jess cut in, "Can everyone stop blaming ME? Rory wanted to climb the tree. I was TRYING to help her, this is NOT my fault." He stomped angrily from the room.
Luke looked at Lorelei, but had a hard time meeting her gaze. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.
"I know, Luke. Just get him out of here, soon," she warned him.
"Don't worry; I'm bringing him home tomorrow. Based on what happened today, I think it's safe to say he won't come back any time soon."
Lorelei relaxed. "Got any coffee?" she asked. "Cause I could really use some."
"Sure," and with that he poured her a considerable amount of coffee, and they promptly decided never to mention the day's events again.
Little did they expect what would happen in just a few short years…