Genre: Romance, Angst
Time Frame: Post Series
Characters: Rory, Jess
Summary: When you were seventeen you traced your initials next to his in the margins of your books. Now, years later, you retrace the erased smudges and don't copy the sloppy hearts.
Notes: Last night was a 'Girls Night In' and consisted of watching as many episodes of season six that we could stay awake for. And between throwing Skittles and Fun Yuns at Christopher and yelling at Rory to get her act together, I realized just how much I enjoyed grown up!Jess. So, of course, the fickle muse decided she needed to spill out some Lit angst/fluff. Blame her, not me. Sheesh.
When you were seventeen you traced your initials next to his in the margins of your books.
You were a bright little thing with chipping nail polish on your fingers, and careful lists hidden here and there – pulled over the clumsy hearts that you'd pass you fingers over carefully, reverently. Your pleated school skirt would fan out over your legs as you'd curl up on his uncle's couch next to him. Your text books would be open and strewn everywhere as you did you lit work out loud. Silly little smiles would paint your face when he'd comment aloud on the finer points of your professor's curriculum. He said few words, and yet their larger thoughts seemed to fill up your essays for pages upon pages.
He'd thumb through your books, one at a time, not commenting on the penciled in hearts. Instead he'd write his own comments on your much loved copy of 'Romeo and Juliet' and your barely tolerated copy of Hemingway's best short stories. You'd nibble on your pencil's eraser, and watch him out of the corner of your eyes as his cramped, spidery script would fill the pages with his thoughts. Later, after he was gone, you'd pour through them, passing your finger over the spinning letters that stopped just short of your own looping hand. Sometimes they would pour over each other, entwined, and you'd just engrave the initials harder so they would show through.
Later you would loop your arm through his and comment on the thoughts he left. While he was eloquent in prose, his words were few and clipped in actuality, and so you talked enough for the both of you. The words would frost on the dying autumn air, and drown out the whispers that the town gave upon seeing you together.
They were easy to ignore until he left, and you then spent nights erasing every word he had written from your books. Tears would blotch some of the pages and your eraser would tear the fondly fingered dog ears until you finally threw them all in a forgotten corner of your closet, vowing never to look at them again.
Months later, Paris pulled out your copy of Hemingway for a project, and says nothing about the lines that had survived your pain. An icy look, and a faintly curled lip in disdain fade as she says crisply, "He has a very nice style."
You agree with a sharp nod of your head, and go back to the pop tart platter your mom had placed out earlier. You think that this is what moving on feels like, and you think it feels good.
When you are almost twenty one - full of the world, and so very far from being grown up - you see him in your grandmother's driveway. He is smooth of speech and eloquent in thought, and you feel so very young alongside the obvious maturing he has done. The permanent twitch of his fingers, as if he were always writing thoughts on the air, was gone - as was the restless shuffling of his feet while he spoke to you in real sentences with real feeling.
He then pressed a book into your hand, and you poured over it in less than an hour. The dedication is short - "For she who believed," and you find a little pang in your chest upon reading it. It's short story, not even a hundred and twenty pages of medium size print – but alongside the size ten Times New Roman font there are pages upon pages of penciled in words. Spiraling in the margins, there was everything from comments on inspiration to old inside jokes you know that only you and he would ever understand.
The next day you look over a list of the few bookstores who held the book in stock, and you buy one. As soon as you are home you flip it open, and in the clean, unsullied margins you write your own thoughts in response to his. When the margins held no room you got out neon colored sticky notes, and continue there.
You don't ever plan to show it to him, but if you ever do, you imagine he would appreciate the gesture.
When you are twenty-four, quite grown-up and writing in pen on legal pads instead of pencils in book margins, you see him again.
Your mother is finally marrying the man she's truly wanted for as long as you can remember, and you are back from Barack Obama's campaign trail to celebrate with her. As obvious maid of honor, and she-who-must-constantly-supply-the-bride-with-caffeine, you run into him more times than you could count, and soon you stop trying to keep track. He's Luke's best man, and a careful truce is drawn between the two of you, just for these few weeks.
It's freezing outside, and you step into Luke's Diner for coffee as per the bride's orders. Jess fills up two extra extra extra large cups for you, and so driven you are in your mission that you don't even notice when his book falls out of your bag.
A moment passes. "Still have this?" he says, and you look up in confusion.
"Have what? . . . Oh, yeah. Of course I do," your words come out a bit too fast as your heart jumps in your throat. That copy was not the one he left with you, but the one that you filled with your own words. For a moment you find yourself torn between wishing that he'd open it and see and hoping that he'd never notice.
Your hands dig into the sides of the styrofoam cups with more force than was necessary, but you say nothing.
He smiles, and puts the book down.
"Here's your coffee," he says past the smile, and you take the cups and your bag with a flaming face.
Three days later the wedding is upon you. Your mother had planned it so you could get time off during the holiday season like everyone else, and Stars Hollow is a winter wonderland under a fresh coat of pristine white. All around you you see unsullied margins - waiting beginnings, you like to think as you fix your mother's veil for the hundredth time.
Lorelai has always loved the snow, and now, you see why, just a little.
You walk down the aisle draped on Jess' arm, and you can admit that it feels nice - really nice even, to walk with him like this again. His fingers entwine with yours a little more intimately than needed, and your heart is thundering in your chest like you are seventeen again.
At the reception you sit down alone, and feel where your name is next to his on the wedding card. You don't draw a heart in pink around it, but you do trace it over and over until you could feel ridges from where you engraved it. In a silly little moment you thought about the box of books in your closest, and you imagine retracing the initials there too.
Jess comes to you a moment later, and in words spoken so softly that they might as well have been written in the blank spaces around their names, asked, "Do you want to dance?"
You do, and for all the world the dance feels like a beginning. Your mom smiles softly from where she had buried her head in her husband's shoulder, and this time you feel no shame as you smile back. Even the town's whispers don't fill her with dread anymore. They are merely thoughtful now, curious as to what happened to the winter-shade-boy and the cotton-candy-girl that they all used to know.
They grew up, you want to tell them, but you don't. A giddiness was rising up in you – the seconds after making a wish, and the aftereffects of a perfect cup of coffee, and this time you welcomed it.
So, when he asked for another dance, it was easy to say yes.
And together, you imagine another margin was being filled.