Isabella stood across from the diner and silently observed her brother, she noted the distinct change of hat from the blue cap that Lorelai had given him years ago, the one that he never took off, had now been replaced by a black cap that just didn't seem to fit. She sighed. How things have changed, and she had only been gone a couple of months. Though she had been in constant contact with her brother, the weight of everything that she knew only came crashing down at the sight of him. He looked exhausted, defeated. The tower of strength she had grown up in awe of was now only a shadow of the person he used to be, and it broke her heart. All she wanted to do was hug him, but at the same time, she knew it would kill him for her to see him the way he was. He was after all, her hero and have been since childhood. He had pretty much brought her up after their mother died when she was only a baby. Though she loved Liz, it was Luke who was her whole world, and for him she was always grateful. He had strength like no other, and it worried her to see him looking the way he did. After taking a breath she crossed the road. She found him staring at her as she walked in. She smiled and gave him a small wave before walking through the doors.
"I had wondered how long you were going to stand there before coming in?" he said with a grin coming from behind the counter with his arms spread wide. Isabella flew into his arms and hugged him tight.
"Missed you Kid!"
"Missed you more big brother!"
At fifteen she was only three years older than April, his daughter. It angered her to think that Anna would assume that Luke would not want to have kids, nor be capable of taking care of a child when he was in fact raising her on his own.
"What no lecture for not announcing my arrival?" she asked surprised. Isabella had been in France for a couple of months for an exchange program. She had left shortly after April had shown up at the diner. Which blew her socks off. Isabella was so concerned about it's ramifications that she offered to stick around. Of course, Luke would not hear of it.
"It's not like it's going to help, none of my other lectures have. Besides, I got the reminder from your school to say that you're all coming back on the school van."
"Figured as much. April coming in today?" she asked, aware of their arrangements.
"This afternoon. Hey you hungry? I can make you some breakfast. You're looking well Squirt. Europe agrees with you. Have you grown a foot?"
"No thanks Luke, my stomachs all whacked out from the time zones." She replied smiling at this observation. After so many years this trip was the longest time they were ever apart, and though he was hesitant to let her go to begin with.
"So, how's things?" she asked carefully. Luke dropped his gaze, and led her to the counter chair, grateful that the diner was empty.
"Hard." He answered. Isabella covered his hand with hers.
"She around much?"
"I haven't seen her much since that night. She went away for a few weeks, and ever since she's come back it's like she's just shut down, she won't see me. If we run into each other, she'll be polite. She certainly hasn't set foot into the diner since. I can't reach her." He muttered helplessly.
"She's hurt." Isabella said quietly.
"I know, but I don't know how to fix this if she won't let me in."
"You're going to have to give her time Luke." Luke nodded knowingly.
"Glad to have you back you know?" Isabella met his gaze and smiled.
"Glad to be back." She replied hopping off the counter chair to hug her brother, wrapping her arms around his waist. Luke hugged her tightly.
Isabella went for a walk and found herself in front of the Dragonfly Inn. A part of her was so excited to be home, to see her friend Lorelai, and the other part of her was hesitant as she didn't know what the reception would be. She didn't want Lorelai to think that she was there to meddle in what was going on with her and Luke. Instead of going in as she normally did, making her way straight to either Lorelai's office or the kitchen where she inevitably would be, she just stood there.
"Are you waiting to huff and puff before you blow it down?" a voice whispered behind her. Isabella turned to see Lorelai standing behind her. Lorelai was on her way back from the stables and she had been watching Isabella from afar for almost ten minutes. Isabella gave her a hesitant smile. Lorelai saw the tears that were beginning to form in Isabella's eyes and pulled her into a hug.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know if I should come and see you. Whether you'd see me." Isabella babbled.
"Hey, kiddo. You never have to wonder if I will see you, or want to see you. Whatever is happening between me and your brother, that doesn't change what we have. You know that right? You will always have a place in my life. Always." Lorelai promised looking into Isabella's eyes seeing the vulnerability and fear beneath them. Isabella was three when Lorelai had come into their lives and could not remember a time when she wasn't around. She was the strongest female interaction she had. She was like a sister to her. Isabella told Lorelai most things.
"Why don't we go into the kitchen and see what Sookie is baking?" Lorelai suggested tucking a stray hair behind Isabella's ear. Isabella agreed and walked arm and arm into the kitchen with Lorelai.
"Hey Egghead. Welcome back." Sookie greeted throwing her arms around Isabella.
"Hey Sook! I've sooooo missed your cooking!"
"Way to go with the suck up Kid!" Lorelai teased, to which she answered with poking out her tongue.
"There's peanut butter cookies fresh out of the oven Egghead." Sookie said pointing to the counter whilst throwing Lorelai a concerned look. Lorelai just gave her a slight nod in reassurance. Isabella grabbed a cookie and sat on the stool as she had done countless times before, but it was different. Something was evidently different and it bothered her.
"Ugh, I should go. Thanks for the cookie Sook." Before either of them could protest Isabella ran out the kitchen visibly upset at the change in dynamics and friendship,
"I should go after her, but I don't know what to say Sook." Lorelai said regretfully.
"Poor kid, she must feel like a child going through a custody battle."
"The thing is I can't say that nothing has changed. It has, and unfortunately that alters our relationship too. Despite the fact that I don't want it to."
"It's not her fault you and Luke are where you are,"
"I know that Sook, but I can't just go back to what we were. So much of who were are is intertwined with Luke and I, and right now, everything is too raw for me to distinguish between the two."
"I know honey. I know."
When Isabella got back to the diner, she went straight to the apartment. Luke who had been in the kitchen had not seen her come in, and it wasn't till he came upstairs and found her asleep did he realise she was back. Her room had been extended so that she was able to share half with April when she stayed over. Luke was going to wake her to get her to eat something but decided against it as she looked peaceful in her sleep.