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Chapter 27 – All good things must come to a bend
Taylor looked unbelievably puffed up and proud.
"This looks very nice, Rory," he said, taking a stroll between the shelves in the back. Rory followed him at the same pace. She looked back at Jess, who was ringing up the third sale of the hour. Jess rolled his eyes. Rory winked at him conspiratorially. "My only concern is, of course, that you're entrusting this well-established Stars Hollow business to that small-time crook you seem to be so fond of."
"Have I shown you the Historic New England Architecture section we have?" Rory asked, steering the conversation away from conflict.
"Oh, you must stock up on the lovely photo-book from Steel and Waverley. It's sure to be a favorite among the tourist crowd."
"Show me which one," Rory said, leading the way to a section near the window.
Annie ran out of the children's section, holding a flat, orange book in her hand. Triumphantly she jumped up and down. "I found it. You'd hid it," she told Jess, with a pout.
"What, you don't like scavenger hunts?" Jess asked.
"I don't like you hiding my stuff," Annie said.
"That is not your book," Jess countered.
"Is now. You said if I found it, I could get it."
Jess conceded, shaking his head. "Fine. But I can't ring it up until the end of the day, so I'll put it here behind the register for you."
"But I wanna read it now."
"Then I guess you'll have to stay behind the register too."
"Cool!" Annie exclaimed, finding a spot beneath the counter that housed the register. Jess laughed. Annie reminded him of Lily.
It made him wonder. What Lily was up to. Whether Jimmy and Sasha were still together.
It seemed so long ago, that trip to California, his first parting with Rory. He'd gone on a quest to find his father and he found instead a life that had gone on in spite of him. Jimmy had a family, a family dynamic where Jess hardly fit. He would've given anything to have a place in that house.
Jess ruffled Annie's hair and looked at Rory, who was still talking up Taylor.
Maybe he had a place of his own now.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
They had a room now, something Jess found incredibly daunting.
He hadn't had a room of his own in over two months, and now that he had one, it wasn't just his, it was Rory's as well. And Rory had an amazing capacity to take over and invade every space she entered. Amazing.
Jess marveled at the tiny discoveries he made everyday. Like, she'd chosen their sides of the bed. Or that she meticulously pushed toothpaste from the bottom of the tube up. She would hang her discarded bras on the inside doorknob of the bathroom and wait until a few days had passed so she would have two or three to rinse out instead of one. She took off her socks in her sleep, and after a few days he would have to rescue them from under the covers and toss them in the hamper because his feet kept bumping into her socks.
This was a level of intimacy he hadn't anticipated but that he welcomed.
At night, when Annie went to sleep, the house went quiet. They would sit in silence for an hour or so, reading, and then Rory would start with her midnight confessions. It was a project they had started and dropped, started and dropped, but the house allowed them to begin again. She would tell him something about her life in the time they'd been apart, describing every place she'd been to, every ravaged face. She would tell him of war, of famine, of children. She would speak of blood and shrapnel and the inability to cry or the need to stand perfectly still in the middle of all that mess. She would cry.
When she finally fell asleep, he would write. On the back of a receipt or on the white page before the title page of a book. There was a fictional Rory, carrying out the actions that Rory already had, embedding them with meaning. There was a fictional Rory moving through life while the real Rory slept.
Word by word, fictional Rory was catching up with the time and place of the real Rory, until finally, he had scribbled the last word on the back of a carton coaster.
He didn't write the end, because there was no need.
All he needed to write was the truth.
In the end, the girl goes home. The only way to oneself is to go back to the start.
Exhausted, he fell asleep among scraps of paper filled with blue ink.
- - - - - - - - -
Jess woke up to find Rory covered by the same scraps of paper that had surrounded him when he fell asleep. She was carefully placing them one on top of the other, silently, while big tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Rory," he started, stretching from the sitting position he'd slept in. The couch was uncomfortable as hell, he noted, making a mental note of getting a better one as soon as they could afford it. "It's not finished..." he added, walking over to the place on the floor where she sat, cross-legged. She was still in her pajamas, thought it might just be noon.
"Of course it isn't," she said, looking up at him. She held a bunch of post-its on one hand and a bunch of receipts in another. "That's why I'm editing it."
Jess kneeled in front of her, amazed that she could be smiling and crying at the same time. "Are you ok?" he asked, trying not to sit on any of her just-organized papers.
Rory nodded, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "It's just... you know me. You made me human." She let the small pieces of paper fall from her hands, a multicolored rain unto her knees. She placed her hands at both sides of his face and drew him near, for a kiss, for a reward, for a thank-you. A post-it stuck to his skin. "I think I can write again," she adds, giddy.
"I think you always could," Jess replied, unsticking the post-it from his chin.
"I think you'll get published," Rory said.
Jess shook his head. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I wrote this for you. The only person that needs to read this already did. Purpose has been served."
Rory tilted her head to one side and smiled with a wisdom Jess had only ever seen when she had an evil plan afoot. "You can include that in your dedication. You, my friend..."
"Friend?" Jess interrupted.
"Sshhh... Don't derail my train of thought."
"Wasn't trying to."
"You are getting published. Just see if you can stop me."
"Stop you? Wouldn't dream of it."
- - - - - - - - - - -
The diner was fully into the breakfast rush when Jess and Rory arrived with Annie in tow. But the hustle and bustle of the diner wasn't what called their attention the most.
What stood out was Luke, physically fighting with Lorelai so that she wouldn't reach the coffee pot.
"You are not!" he said, his voice booming. His arms were outstretched, keeping her at a distance.
"Oh, come on, Luke. It's a Gilmore tradition!" she countered.
Jess looked at Rory with questioning eyes, but Rory could only shrug. There were too many traditions to know which one Luke and Lorelai were fighting over.
"She's not a Gilmore. Therefore, it's not gonna happen!" Luke argued.
"Ah, but she's an Honorary Gilmore. They participate in traditions too."
"They've been like this all morning," April said, leaning into Rory. She was still wearing glasses and her hair was still all over the place, but gone were the braces and the lisp that had characterized her as a girl. College had given her a worldly air, even if she was a worldly nerd. Stars Hollow seemed to balance her out, and she slipped into her role as a Danes Diner Girl effortlessly.
"What's it about?" Jess asked.
"Coffee," she ascertained. "Is it ever about anything else?" April picked up Annie and hugged her tightly. "So, kiddo, you ready for your first day of school?"
"Yes, I am," Annie replied, grinning. She had only known April for a week but she'd fast grown to like her. "I got notebooks and pencils and colors and a ruler."
"I love first days of school," April reasoned.
Rory nodded right along with her, reminiscing. "The inevitable nausea."
"Not knowing what to wear," April chimed in.
"You are all insane," Jess interrupted, making his way over to Lorelai and Luke.
"Yes!" Lorelai exclaimed.
"No!" Luke ordered, still keeping the coffeepot hostage.
"If I can take you two away from your morning fight for two minutes, I have two bottomless pits that need feeding. And getting some coffee in Rory's system might be good, too."
"No coffee for any Gilmores, honorary or otherwise. Not today," Luke grunted.
Rory protested from the table. "How is this my fault?"
"He just doesn't understand us, babe. We are the printed word, he the illiterate - " Lorelai explained.
"She wants to give Annie coffee," Luke interrupted.
Jess raised his eyebrows in outrage, his eyes boring holes into Lorelai. "Are you insane?"
"It's her first day of school," Lorelai explained.
"Grade school, not grad school," Jess countered. "You're not giving my kid coffee until she turns eighteen and that's final," he added, maybe a little too loudly.
The diner got really really quiet.
Luke took a look around at the gaping mouths. "Well, that ends that argument. What'll you have?"
It took Jess a second to get back on his game. "Uh, pancakes all around, orange juice for Annie and me. Coffee for Rory, if the prohibition's lifted."
"You just made Lorelai Gilmore stop talking. You say it, I cook it. On the house," Luke answered. He laughed at Lorelai's open-mouthed confusion and shook his head as Jess turned fifteen different shades of red.
April smiled at Rory and bumped Jess's shoulder. "What did I tell you? First day of school is always special."
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Jess and Rory walked at either side of Annie, each holding one of her hands. The small, red-haired girl walked as fast as she could, pulling them along with her.
"Huh," Jess said, looking sideways at Rory.
"Yeah," Rory answered, laughing.
"My kid, I said," Jess repeated.
"And she is," Rory volunteered.
Jess shook his head. "I'm not sure how I feel about this."
"And here I assumed you had it all figured out," Rory joked.
"If it helps lighten the load, you could say our."
"Hour?" Jess asked, confused. Annie was pulling harder at his hand and it was distracting. "Annie, slow down, it's uncool to be early."
"It is not uncool to be early," Rory countered. "Our. As in our kid."
"Our kid," Jess repeated.
"I mean, I'm going to be here and we get along, Annie and I, and I want to help you out. Not that I know anything about kids."
"I don't either."
"Well, you are a couple of years ahead of me."
"Our kid." Jess smiled. "I kind of like how that sounds. Does feel a little lighter. Like I could blame you if she needs therapy in the future."
The school building came into sight. Annie doubled her efforts to get them to speed up, turning to face them as she pulled, her arms crossed in front of her.
"Good," Rory said. "Because I think you should lower the median age for our kid's coffee consumption. I mean, she is an Honorary Gilmore."
Jess was about to protest when Annie finally had it. "If you two don't hurry up I'm going to drop out of school," she exclaimed, letting go of their hands and standing perfectly still, arms crossed over her chest.
Jess could do nothing but laugh. "I'm not sure Principal Merten will be able to handle that." He lifted Annie up onto his shoulders and gave Rory a lopsided smile. "Hold on, kid," he said, taking off on a full run, towards the school.
For the first time in his life, he wasn't running away. He was running towards something.
And he was being cheered from the sidelines, by a woman with impossibly blue eyes, who was laughing heartily.
This time, running?
It felt a lot like being home.
Hey, All!! It's been quite a ride.
I started writing this story as my first in the GG fandom and I am grateful to have found so much support and love for the characters and their plight. I hope this ending doesn't seem too rushed. It is, of course, the shortest chapter I've published since the prologue, which makes me thing this chapter might be more of an epilogue, but anyways. By the time I started Chapter 24, my hands started itching to wrap The Kid up so I could get started on the sequel.
I actually already have a couple of the scenes for the sequel written out and will start posting it ASAP. It's called All grown up and it jumps about eight or nine years into the future. We meet a high-school student Annie, along with a whole new generation of Stars Hollow kids, but the focus will still be on the relationship between Jess-Rory-Annie and their surrounding family interactions. Luke, Lorelai, Lane, Dean, Lindsay, April and the Senior Gilmores are all to make appearances. Hopefully, you'll find this future universe interesting.
So please, tell me what you've thought, and in a few days drop by and take a stab at All grown up. If you have me on your author-alert list, you'll get a nifty message when I publish the new story. I don't guarantee you'll like it, but I will try to stay true to these characters. Also, if you're itching for a read, drop by some of my other stories and tell me what you like and what you hate. I'm always open for suggestions, so you can also leave me some prompts in the reviews section.
And as always, thank you for reading. Without you guys, these are words in the wind.