Something Like Redemption
"Because there's beauty in the breakdown."
-"Let Go" Frou Frou
The party is stuffy and drawn out as all these occasions are. Everyone laughs as though nothing is funny and talks as though everyone without six cars and a million dollar house is beneath them. Rory stands in the center of it all, laughing along with a few DAR members. The laugh isn't something familiar, and that makes her stomach turn over uncomfortably. She wonders if she would recognize herself if she were to look in the mirror.
When she was little, she would force her mother to stay up late nights telling her made-up fairytales about knights and dragons and princess who didn't always need rescuing. For years after her fairytale days, she still dreamed about having a fairytale of her own.
She has it now, and she's reflected many times in the last few days that it's not all it's cracked up to be.
Sure, there are good things. She has her prince, and she has her king and queen. She has servants who will come when beckoned. Her every desire is granted without hesitation.
But fairytales aren't much fun if you're best friend isn't there to share them with you. And they're no fun at all if you can't even find yourself to enjoy them with.
She doesn't know when it started, but the Rory she used to know has slowly begun slipping away until al she is left with is this anti-Rory who runs from her problems instead of turning to face them—the Rory who attend high class parties and has a boyfriend who has money practically falling out of his pockets.
"Rory, there's someone I want you to meet," Emily says. Rory plasters another fake smile on her face, and off she goes to meet someone whose name she surely won't remember after tonight.
Sometimes, it makes her want to scream. At her grandparents for trying to control her the way they did her mother. At Mitchum Huntzberger for saying those things (lies) that drove her to end up where she has. At his son for not pushing her when she need to be pushed. At her mother for walking away, for not calling. At the stupid DAR members for trying to fit her into a glove that's far too small.
But mostly at herself. For taking her grandparents' crap. For letting Mitchum get under her skin. For dating a boy who so obviously knows nothing about her. For letting her mother walk out of her life. For trying to be something she's not.
It's times like these she sees the monster she truly is.
"I'd like to present my granddaughter, Rory Gilmore. Rory, this is a dear friend, Mr. Julien Renard," her grandmother informs her. Looking at the small, delicate man, she feels the sudden need to curtsey.
"Pleasure to meet you." She feels no pleasure in her heart.
"The pleasure is all mine," Mr. Renard says. "Your grandmother says you're a very bright girl."
Truthfully, Rory is surprised Emily says anything about her at all, these days.
"Ah, modest, I see."
It used to be the truth, so she says, "A little."
"So are you in school?"
She hated that question, and for the longest time she couldn't figure out why. Now she knows it is because she should be in school, but that she's failed in that department.
"No," she answers shortly. "I'm not. If you'll excuse me, I need some air."
Walking out of the house that never feels like home, she thinks that now would be an appropriate time for a cigarette, if she smoked. The air outside is too cool for comfort, and it makes Rory miss the warmth that used to be home. It's not the first time she wonders why she ran away in the first place. All she wants to do now is run back.
But she can't.
Leaning against the side of the house, the air biting at her exposed skin, she wonders when she became this person—the girl who sneaks behind her grandparent's back to sleep with a boy who barely know more about her than her name and the name of her hometown. The girl who drops out of Yale without even consulting a pro-con list. The girl who doesn't speak to her mother, who goes out on the weekends and party's like there's no tomorrow.
The girl who never reads and completely forgets about her childhood best friend. The girl who dresses to be noticed and not simply for comfort.
She hates that girl.
She sinks to her knees at the thought because she never imagined she's been capable of hating herself. And the worst part about it is that she can't summon the tears that she needs to cry.
So instead she sits freezing, silently hoping she might die from the cold.
Because that would be so much better than feeling nothing.
A few days after the party, she sits in Logan's apartment, flipping through some stupid Cosmo magazine. Suddenly, he looks up and says the oddest thing: Logan offers to teach her to cook.
"Uh, well…" she begins, uncertain.
"C'mon, Ace," he urges her, using the nickname she hates, "It'll be fun, I swear."
Because she has turned into Submissive Rory who always does what her boyfriend wants, she finds herself agreeing. In a twisted way, it makes her feel guilty, as though she's betraying her mother by submitting to this. After all, Gilmore girls do not cook.
Then she remembers that her mother isn't speaking to her.
(She doesn't feel any less guilty.)
The thought causes her to be distracted during her lesson, but Logan never seems to notice. She doesn't know why he would; he doesn't really even know her.
Driving home that night, she passes by a little rundown sign that read, "Stars Hollow: 5 Miles" in faded letters. Her fingers itch as she passes it, and she almost turns to head back to her old (real) home.
She stops herself, though, because she knows she's no longer welcome there.
She hasn't stopped thinking about Jess since he left her standing outside that restaurant with sudden doubts about what the hell she was doing with her life. It's ironic that it had to be Jess who got her to start thinking straight again.
She reads his book in a day (something she hasn't done in far too long). Her favorite character is a girl named Juliet—sweet, driven, almost too smart for her own good, and very naïve. Almost like her at seventeen.
That fact almost makes Rory cry because Jess writes her too well.
As she closes the book, she has an overwhelming need to see Jess, to touch him, hold him, hell, even kiss him. Maybe because she knows her relationship with Logan is failing, or maybe because he is one of the few links to the old Rory that she still has. She just knows she needs to see him now.
So she look up his address; she is surprised to find that he lives in Philadelphia. And then she jumps in her car and drives.
She ends up at a little old ship with "Truncheon Books" printed above the door. Cautiously, hesitantly, almost brokenly, she knocks her pale, white hand against the door three times, half-hoping he won't answer.
He does. His hair is a mess from sleep, and she suddenly realizes that she looks ridiculous, too—dripping wet from the thunderstorm outside.
"Rory," he says, confused. "What—?"
She covers his mouth with her hand and steps inside slightly.
"Please, no questions," she begs desperately. "I'm so sick of all the questions."
She sees in his eyes that he understands, and that drives her to kiss him. He tastes the same—that musty taste that she always thought was cigarette smoke, but now she realizes is just him. It intoxicates her, that taste.
They make love everywhere that night—pressed in between bookshelves, in his bed, on his floor. Though "make love" is hardly the appropriate term for it. Put bluntly, they have sex—yes, they fuck.
She knows in her heart that fucking Jess isn't going to save her soul, but she figures she's probably condemned, and he tastes something like redemption, anyway.
"I love you," she whispers, and she's not sure if she's telling the truth or not.
Either way, she's gone before the sun comes up, without so much as a not of apology. Something tells her that Jess expected as much. He does, after all, know the most about running.
It makes her feel a little less alone in the world.
Driving out of Philly, she realizes she has nowhere to go. She is certain, now, that she can never speak to Logan again, and she has no intentions of returning to her grandparent's house. She has only one option left.
She turns and drives toward Stars Hollow.
She can hear the sounds of the TV coming from the living room as she trudges up the steps. It figures that nothing has changed while she's been gone, and it comforts Rory a little.
Lorelai answers when she knocks and is obviously shocked to find her daughter standing on her porch. The two women (girls) stare at each other silently for a few moments. Lorelai's eyes water. Rory wishes hers could.
"I screwed up," Rory says after a moment, her voice hoarse, "and I have no idea how to fix it."
She's inside and on the couch within seconds. Lorelai takes her in her arms the way she did when Rory was younger, and Rory spills out all the things that have gone wrong, and the apologies come soon after in abundance.
After a while, Rory is silent, sitting there with her estranged mother. Needing to say something to fill the space, she mutters, "I slept with Jess." Lorelai says nothing because there's nothing left to say. Sometimes, silence can be both a blessing and a curse.
"I just never thought I'd make so many mistakes," Rory whispers. "He was a way out."
Lorelai touches her hand and stares softly into her daughter's eyes. It affects Rory more than any words could because her mother is the queen of mistakes, and Rory knows now how fully she has let down not only her mother but also her best friend.
Taking a deep breath, she lets it all go. All the artificial airs and impulsiveness and hatred of herself. She lets it float away and attempts blindly to cling onto what was once good: the laughter, the books, the coffee, the small-town fairytale, the love that her mother gave her.
A million things flash before her eyes: the sight of Luke's on a crisp spring morning, her mother's disappointed eyes as she looks at her from the behind a glass wall. The boyfriend who doesn't know enough about her to know what she needs. The townies who have helped raise her. Paris's look of disgust and disbelief. Jess, who tastes of redemption.
Lying in her mother's arms, Rory's pretentious walls fall down and the tears roll down her cheeks in sweet release.
They taste something like redemption, too.