Story: Change of Scenery
Disclaimer: I own no rights to anything Gilmore Girls related. I just write for my own amusement.
Description: Set in Season One, up to P.S. I Lo…. Rory goes to her grandparents to escape all the drama that has gone on in her small town life of late. But she isn't so quick to return as she was in the show. A spin on if Rory had more of a season 6 sized emotional meltdown in Season 1. Trory.
AN: This is the last regular chapter. I will be posting an epilogue shortly. Sorry for the delay—we're selling our house and we've been packing and insanely busy. Writing got put on the back burner for a bit. Thanks for reading, and I'll try to get the last part up ASAP.
The three Gilmore women were sipping drinks while Lorelai told some story about Michel getting into a slap fight with the new florist in Stars Hollow over the best arrangement of summer flowers for the reception desk. Rory focused more intently on the ice cubes in her glass of soda than her mother's recounting, as not only had she heard her mother's version of events, but she'd been in the room during the altercation.
"I have to say, I rather agree with Michel. Orchids and lilacs are far more pleasant than carnations. Carnations are filler flowers. Surely you have the budget in an upscale inn to avoid putting out filler flowers or weeds."
"Mom, daisies are not weeds. Please tell me we are not going to have that argument again."
"I just think it's odd, for someone who was brought up in the midst of good taste, to have such a fixation on cheap flowers."
"Daisies are happy!" Lorelai countered.
"Daisies have certainly never made me happy. What about you, Rory?" Emily redirected the conversation to engage her granddaughter.
"Rory got her own flowers this week," Lorelai half-sang, beaming at her daughter.
"What kind of flowers did Tristan send?" Emily asked.
"Just sunflowers," Rory said with a shrug, playing down the significance to her.
"Your favorite," Emily said with a nod. "You have to love a man that pays attention."
"But not one that approves of daisies," Lorelai said haughtily.
"So how is Tristan doing in France?" Emily asked Rory, ignoring Lorelai altogether.
"Fine. He's always busy and happy, and he really seems to enjoy all the production they have him learning."
"Wine-making is fascinating. We took a tour once of some vineyard in Massachusetts, and they took us through their whole vinification process."
"I bet it's a lot more interesting when you're swilling back the free samples," Lorelai mused.
"Well, there was that," Emily admitted. "But it was nowhere as good as what Janlan Dugrey produces. Their quality is unmatched."
"A lot goes into it and the business end," Rory agreed. "I'm glad he's enjoying it, but part of me would be happier if he didn't sound like he was so content to be there."
"He's still planning to return for fall semester, isn't he?" Emily asked.
"He was supposed to be back before the next summer session, but he's really enjoying things out there and pushed his arrival back another four weeks," Rory said glumly. "I know in the grand scheme of things it isn't that long, but I just miss him."
"It is hard, when all you can do is talk on the phone," Emily said. "Even though I keep busy when Richard travels for work, I do miss him."
"She has me," Lorelai said. "We've banded together this summer while our men are away, haven't we?"
Rory shook her head at her mother. "I'm not sure doing my homework at the Inn while you work constitutes as banding together."
"Well, I for one have kind of enjoyed the free time. After all, it's my last hurrah before I become a married lady," Lorelai pronounced.
"Yes, Lorelai, how are the wedding plans?"
"They're all done. Invitations went out this week," she said proudly.
"I got ours. I was planning on going shopping for your present next week. I was hoping Rory would agree to accompany me, but I wanted to get your approval first."
"Why, yes, I do like cars. Anything Italian will do," she cooed.
"I'm not asking your permission to buy you a gift, but to borrow Rory for a while."
Lorelai frowned. "How long is a while?"
"A week. You do have your mid-summer break coming up, don't you?" Emily asked her granddaughter knowingly.
Rory nodded. "Yes, but what kind of shopping trip takes a week?" she pondered aloud.
"The expensive kind," Lorelai supplied.
"Actually, I was thinking that it had been a while since I updated my fall wardrobe, and I've always had such luck with clothes in Paris. The French designs flatter my figure."
"You want to take Rory to Paris?"
"She could do with a few new things as well, and I hate travelling alone. Your father is going to be gone for another two weeks, and it would allow us to have a little bonding and get you a nice gift as well. It works on several levels."
"Grandma, that sounds amazing, but would we by chance have any free time to see any other parts of France?" she asked, unable to stop herself from mentally traveling the distance from Paris to Provence.
Emily smiled knowingly. "I did extend a line to Janlan and Grace, and they've already offered their hospitality to us should we find ourselves in the area."
Rory all but leapt out of her seat as she turned to Lorelai. "Mom?"
"Oh, like I can say no now. All you've done since that boy left is mope. If your grandmother is willing to ferry you over there and watch you like a hawk for the duration, I suppose that would be alright," she said, causing Rory to shriek happily and throw her arms around her mother.
"I'm so pleased this worked out so well," Emily murmured.
"I can't believe it. I understand why he's staying longer, but I wasn't really looking forward to waiting another month to see him."
"I'm just glad I don't have to bear witness to that reunion. The kissy noises alone are enough to make me queasy," Lorelai groaned.
Emily shot her daughter a look. "They're young, Lorelai. Surely you of all people remember what it's like to be young and in love."
"Because I'm engaged and still quite youthful myself?" Lorelai asked.
"Please, you're hardly young now," Emily came back.
Lorelai opened her mouth to respond, but Rory cut in. "Grandma, does Tristan know you were setting this up?"
"Not that I know of, why?"
Rory smiled with satisfaction. "Could we keep it a surprise?"
Emily returned the smile. "I don't see why not."
"Is this it?" Rory asked her face plastered to the window as they turned off the road and into a massive estate entry. There were a number of buildings placed around the grounds all set way back behind the rolling acres of the vineyard.
"I should hope so. We've been in the car far too long, if it's not the right place we're getting out to stretch our legs anyway," Emily said.
"It's a long trip," Rory acknowledged. "I can never thank you enough for bringing me all the way here for a few days."
"I'm happy to do it. I know Tristan means a lot to you."
"He does," Rory said quietly.
"It's surprising, isn't it?" Emily asked, breaking the short silence in the car.
Rory turned to her grandmother. "Being here?"
"Being in love," Emily stated simply. "Before I met your grandfather, it never occurred to me that anything could derail my whole life like that."
"Grandpa derailed you?" Rory asked, surprised at the admission. It had never occurred to her that Emily Gilmore's life had turned out other than just as she'd planned.
"Oh, heavens, yes. I had plans to join my sister in Paris and study art history and marry a Frenchman."
Rory nearly laughed. "You wanted to marry a Frenchman?"
"Yes, one that took me openings and galleries, and we'd stroll along the Seine, and host parties. And even when I first met Richard, I believed I would leave for France the moment I graduated. After all, he was engaged and our paths were set. We knew exactly what we wanted, independently of one another."
"So what happened?" Rory asked, knowing the feeling all too well.
"We fell in love. It disrupted everything. He called off his engagement, I put off my graduate program, and the next time I went to Paris, it was as his wife."
"Do you ever regret not going to school in Paris, like you wanted?"
"I couldn't fathom a future without Richard after being with him for such a short time. I couldn't consider leaving and letting him stay and marry someone else."
"Mom isn't happy that I'm considering other schools because of Tristan," Rory said freely, feeling oddly connected to her grandmother.
"Your mother loves you very much, but she's never been in love like that."
Rory shifted in her seat. "Not even with Dad, you don't think?"
Emily set her jaw. "I think if she were, she would have married him. I've always hoped she'd find someone to love."
"She's marrying Max," Rory said, with only a little hope in her voice.
"Yes, I suppose she is," Emily said primly. "He seems like a nice man."
"He is. He's a great guy."
"Good. Well here we are. Are you ready to surprise your young man?"
Rory couldn't suppress her joy. "Definitely."
A man came out of the main house at their arrival and Emily conversed with him in easy, fluid French about their bags and their being expected by the Dugrey family. Rory asked one simple question, no translation needed. At the sound of Tristan's name, she was pointed toward the vineyard to the east. She waved and offered gratitude in French and English and left her grandmother to get settled inside.
She walked down dusty rows through lush twisting vines, heavy with fruit. She was glad of her sneakers and long pants as dry dirt covered her lower legs as she walked in search of a familiar figure.
She turned down to a wider path between the rows and saw him examining the base of the vine on the other side of the row. "Hey, thanks for the flowers."
He looked up, suddenly startled, and slowly rose to standing. "You came all this way to thank me for the flowers?"
She shook her head, and he crossed the path to pull her into his arms. She squeezed him back, relishing in the feel of his solid body against hers after far too long.
"How did you get here?" he asked as he kissed the side of her head.
"It was Grandma's idea. She's at the main house with all our stuff she bought in Paris. We can't stay long, just a few days."
"You get to stay a few days?" he asked in wonder.
"If it's okay with you," she countered.
He kissed her in response, and she lifted herself up on her tiptoes to ease the strain on his back. When he pulled back, he didn't let her go. His words came out into her hair. "I'm sorry I couldn't make it back this week."
"Hence the flowers. It's okay. It's better, this way we both get to be here. It's stunning," she said as she glanced around the grounds that surrounded their field of view.
"This is just part of it. There's a lot more."
"You could show it all to me," she suggested with a smile she couldn't contain. "We should have time."
"I will. I just can't believe you're here. Why didn't you tell me?"
"It wasn't even my idea. Grandma suggested it last Friday and Mom agreed, and suddenly I was in Paris watching my grandmother command an army of salespeople and we bought Mom this beautiful antique clock that I think she'll actually love for a wedding present, and now here we are."
"I like the last part best," he said with a smile that mirrored hers. "How was Paris?"
"It far exceeded my expectations. I knew it would be beautiful and historic, but it has this undercurrent to it, just walking down the street was invigorating."
"Did you check out the Sorbonne?" he asked.
She tucked her chin and glanced up at him. "We did stop by. Grandma's sister knows someone who teaches there, and we met for coffee. The program is very competitive."
"So are you," he pointed out proudly.
"You're coming back here for good as soon as you graduate, aren't you?" she asked. She'd never seen him so comfortable. Back in Hartford, he had always been confident in a swaggering manner, but she could see a general discontent as if he weren't wholly at ease underneath all the entitlement he was blessed with. In less than five minutes she could tell a difference in the way he held himself, in the way he held her.
"We'll work on your mom together, maybe she'll let you come out next summer for more than a few days, and unsupervised. She'll be married by then, and more comfortable with us."
"I knew you loved it here, but to see you here, to see how happy you are, already making plans to be back in the future," she said, tears of joy or sadness or both springing to her eyes.
"What's the matter?" he asked, his thumbs rubbing up and down on her arms as he held her at arms' length to see her face.
"You don't have to come back to Chilton, not for me," she managed, for what felt like the hundredth time.
"Rory, stop. I am always going to come back for you. It doesn't matter where I go, if I'm not with you I won't stay long."
"But you love," she began, only to have him cut her off.
"I love you. This place is wonderful and there's a lot to learn, more so if I want to come back and be able to jump into things next summer, so I stayed to do that. If you need me to come home, I will."
"I don't need you to," she said, not convincing herself or him.
He studied her. "Is everything okay?"
"I miss you. I know this summer is just like last summer and all the other summers before that—me and mom hanging out, enjoying the longer days and less time in school. But nothing feels like it used to be. She's making all these wedding plans for a wedding I'm not sure she wants to be a part of, and you're not there, and it all feels off."
"I thought you said she was excited for the wedding."
"She says she is. She always says she is, but he's been gone as long as you have and it's like she doesn't really miss him. She talks to him on the phone, but unless someone asks her about him or the wedding, she never brings him up."
"That's weird, right?" he checked.
"By comparison, I talk about you so much that Lane offered to man a kissing booth to fund a collection in town to get me a ticket to come see you because she's tired of hearing me tell her how much I miss you."
"You talked to Lane about me?" he asked, pleased at her admission.
"Of course. She's my best friend."
"What kind of stuff do you tell her?"
Rory shrugged. "I don't know, everything."
"Everything?" he pressed.
"Maybe not every last little detail, but more than I tell my mom," she explained. "Why?"
"It's nice to know you miss me, I guess. That you're driving your friend insane all because you can't distract yourself from thinking about me."
"Careful, your ego will eclipse the sun, then all your grapes will die on the vines," she warned.
He kissed her forehead, amused at her comeback. "Your mom's probably just nervous. Aren't people usually nervous before they get married, cold feet and all that?"
"I wouldn't know, but I guess that could be it. My grandmother said that once she met my grandfather, she couldn't stand to think of a future without him in it. I can't help but wonder if Mom feels the same way about Max."
"I don't know the answer to that," he said as he took her hand and started to walk the path back toward the outbuildings. "But I do know the feeling."
She beamed up at him, squinting to block the sun's rays in order to focus on his face. "You do?"
"Well, then I'm glad I took an application while I was at the Sorbonne."
He pulled their joined hands up and kissed the back of hers as it remained intertwined with his fingers. "Let me show you the rest of the grounds."
"Are you sure this is okay?"
"This is our land, of course it's okay," he said as he carried the basket stuffed with food up the hill.
"I know that, but it's my last day. Isn't it considered rude not to eat with my hosts at the main meal of the day?"
He turned to look over his shoulder at her, as she continued after him at a lagging pace. He stopped to let her catch up. "My grandparents are fully aware that you're here to see me and they're probably surprised we've spent that much time with them and Emily as it is. They love you, they don't think you're rude."
She paused, taking the break from walking. "When you said up the hill, I didn't think we were going to be climbing a small mountain."
"It's not a mountain, it's just a little steep in places," he corrected. "Besides, walking is good for you."
"I don't walk that much at home. Everything's different here."
"Different in a bad way?" he checked.
"Not at all. Taking a break from work mid-day, having a big meal, being outside this much, it's all nice. I don't feel like I'm monopolizing all your time."
"I'm glad you're enjoying yourself," he said as he put down the picnic basket. "I hope you'll want to come back."
"Is that an official invitation?" she asked, glad for his offer and the fact that it appeared they were done with their hike.
"You're welcome here whenever you want. Especially when I'm around, but I'm pretty sure my aunt is ready to adopt you."
"That would be awkward, since that would make us cousins," she cringed.
"Worse than awkward," he agreed. "If you're going to be a part of this family, there are better ways. God, not that I mean," he said, the horror of the implications hitting them both.
"No, it's okay. I know you didn't mean now or even later, but," she said, not ready for anything other than a potential shift in her college plans.
"Sorry. I find my mind is working much further into the future than I'd like lately. I don't want you to think that I'm ready for that. Or that I don't want you to be around when I am, but right now I'm just glad you're here. That sounded lame."
She smiled. "But I get it. I'm glad too, to be here now. And to have a nice idea in mind, for later," she added.
"Maybe we should eat," he suggested.
"It's harder to talk with food in our mouths," she agreed, helping him unpack the basket. "Did you pack this?"
"I did, all swiped from our pantry, which is filled to overflowing with local cheese and meat and various sundries."
"I love the food here," she said, happily taking a sandwich for herself and handing him one.
"Is that all you love?"
She scrunched up her nose as she looked around them. "The view's pretty good, too."
"And the company?" he inquired.
"Passable," she teased.
"Lucky for you, I brought something to make being alone with me more bearable," he said, pulling out a bottle of wine.
"You didn't bring it because it was the closest thing in reach on your way out the door?" she asked.
"That too," he said, opening it nimbly.
"You don't need to loosen my inhibitions to get me to say how I really feel."
He put down his glass and scooted across the grass to her. "How do you really feel?"
She fixated on him, rather than the amazing scenery surrounding them. Everything about her life could change, and it would just as much had in the last few months more times than she could keep track of, but she knew that if she focused on him that she could find some kind of stasis. "Lucky."
"You feel lucky? Is this a girl thing about being able to realize your Parisian shopping dreams?" he teased.
"Paris was great, but I'd rather go back with you. It doesn't matter where I am, it's better with you than without you."
"Funny, that's how I've been feeling."
"You don't say," she said with a grin as he abandoned the food and leaned the rest of the way into her. His lips met hers, slightly salty from the walk and sweet from the sip of wine he'd just had. She lay back in the lush grass, relishing in his touch and trying not to wonder if anything could change how she felt about him right in that moment. He slid one knee between her legs as his arms rested on either side of her, encasing her. She sighed with contentment into the warm air as he lips grazed slowly across her bare shoulder.
"Are you sure you want to go back? I'm not even sure I want to go back," she admitted.
He lifted his head to look at her. "I'll be back before the wedding, unless you really do stay."
"Only one of us is an emancipated adult," she said. "I have to go home."
"And as said adult, I get to choose where my home will be."
"And you really want to go back to Hartford over here?" she asked, still not convinced.
"I really want to be with you," he said, lowering himself back down to her lips again. She arched up into him, giving into the overwhelming need to be with him too. She might not be legally of age, but she had learned to make decisions for herself. Being there with him, on her last day in France, she couldn't worry about what would happen once they were back in Hartford or what might happen with college plans, or any of that. At the moment it was enough that she was exactly where she wanted to be.
"You're a million miles away."
Rory tore her gaze out the window and looked across the table. Between them was the normal assortment of items—plates laden with their favorite diner fare, condiments, silverware that they'd not need, and of course oversized mugs of coffee that were filled to the brim, thanks to generous top-offs. She smiled sheepishly. "Not a million miles."
"I get you for three more days, that's it. Then boys invade our lives for good."
Rory picked up her cup and took a sip. "You make it sound like they're aliens who plan on destroying life as we know it."
Lorelai sniffed. "Well, men are from Mars after all."
"Since when do you read outdated self-help books?" Rory asked. "Did you and Max have a fight?"
"What? No, of course not. Max is great. Max has been great. I mean, we're both busy. He might have been a little miffed that I forgot to make him an extra key."
"A key?" Rory echoed.
"To our house. Which will soon be his house as well," she explained.
"When is he finally going to start moving his stuff in?"
"He was going to start this weekend, but I didn't make the key and he brought a load of stuff and I wasn't home, so he was understandably frustrated. But we worked it out."
"Meaning you made him a key."
"I did, but I haven't given it to him yet. He had meetings all day at school."
"So you're procrastinating. I thought you wanted Max to move in."
"Okay, I believe you," Rory relented easily, sensing her mother didn't need the full-court press on the issue. "So you're okay that I'm not around on Friday?"
"Emily herself gave you the night off. Who am I to override that kind of permission? Though I am starting to think Tristan is paying her off. "
Rory smiled. "I just hate the idea of him not being met at the airport. His grandparents aren't coming home for another couple of weeks."
"Yes, and let me tell you how thrilled I am that you'll have his grandfather's giant house all to yourselves," Lorelai groused.
"You trust us, remember?" Rory reminded.
"I do trust you, but I also know that things at our house will be a big adjustment. What if you don't want to be there and take off again? Not that I was thrilled about you taking off to hide out at your grandparents, but to know that you have the option of staying with your emancipated boyfriend? It doesn't make your mother feel very good."
"I'm not going to move out when Max moves in."
"But you admit it will be weird."
"Having a guy in the house? Yeah, a little. But at least he's a guy that cooks."
"True. And he's very neat and tidy."
"You say that like it's a bad thing. You might not have to search for your car keys for twenty minutes every morning," Rory suggested.
"He won't be in charge of my keys. I'll still be in control of my life."
"I'm not sure losing your keys every day signifies being in control of one's life," Rory teased.
"You lost your keys again?" Luke asked with a sigh as he came around with the coffee pot.
"I found them," she said in self-defense.
"Please tell me they weren't in your ignition again," Luke said wearily.
"Nope. They were in the takeout drawer."
"It wouldn't be a scavenger hunt if you put them in the same place twice," he said as he poured more coffee into her cup.
She smiled up at him. "See? He gets me."
"Yes, but he's not crazy enough to agree to live with you," Rory pointed out.
"I don't think Max would like it much if Luke moved in," Lorelai said wistfully. "At least not until he sees how handy he is with a hammer."
"I'm sure Max has his own hammer," Luke muttered before leaving the table.
Lorelai frowned. "I'm not sure Max has a hammer."
Rory glanced between Luke, who was already with another customer, and her mother. "He'll have to get one. You can't expect Luke to keep coming over and fixing things for you once you marry another man."
Lorelai didn't look pleased. "But we'll still be friends."
"Friends, sure, but ones who don't flirt and constantly do favors for one another."
"You make it sound sordid and complicated!"
"It's a little complicated," Rory reasoned.
"We argue more than anything, really," Lorelai countered.
"That probably needs to stop too," Rory added none-too-gently.
"Would you like me to stop breathing, as well?" Lorelai asked, harassed.
"I just think Max isn't going to like you relying on another man so much."
"I don't rely on Luke. I mean, he feeds me and has the good coffee, so I guess in that regard I do."
"I bet Max will make breakfast and dinner," Rory said.
"Yeah," she said with a far-away look of her own. "I bet he will."
Rory eyed her mother, realizing now was a bad time to ask her about what she's planned to discuss and her mother was primed to change the subject to anything that didn't involve her. "It'll be fine."
"I know. Hey, didn't you want to ask me something?"
"It's okay. Another time," Rory insisted.
"No, come on. It's just you and me."
"But if you don't feel like it," she hedged.
"Rory, come on. What did you want to ask me?"
"Well," she began hesitantly. "Since you guys will be going on your honeymoon, and you weren't keen on me staying home alone the whole time," she said before pausing at her mother's concentrating frown.
"I thought we agreed you'd stay at your grandparents."
"It's an option, but before I could ask them, someone else offered their hospitality."
Lorelai steeled herself. "Lane?"
Rory winced. "No, not Lane."
"Rory, no. Not for a whole week."
"You let me to go France for a week," she tried.
"Yes, with Grandma, to stay at his grandparents' estate, with many adult chaperones around. Not for a week, alone in his house by yourselves."
"He's emancipated, and you know I'll be fine," she continued.
"Regardless of his legal status, you're my sixteen-year-old daughter."
"I know, but," she said, stopping as she couldn't argue her age. "You trust us."
"Under normal circumstances."
"We won't do anything we haven't already done," Rory stated the obvious, whether it helped or hurt her case.
"That does not make me feel any better," Lorelai said with a shake of her head. "Why can't you just stay at Grandma's—it's near him, and you'll get to see him plenty."
"I know that I'm still under your house and rules, and that you get a say in my life, but I should get a say, too. I'm old enough to make decisions about what I want. You have to be okay with letting me."
Lorelai stared at her daughter, who was in very many ways grown up. She'd argued that fact to more than one person, Max included. It was easier to remember when Rory's decisions didn't involve a week at her boyfriend's house. "You'd have to check in with me. Every day. And swear on a stack of Cosmos that you'll be very, very safe. And if anything at all happens, you'll go straight to Grandma's."
Rory nodded eagerly. "Of course."
"And that if I am not happy with anything that happens in that week, Tristan will have to either flee the country or face my wrath. Or both."
"I think those terms are amenable."
"And I can go back to glaring at him when he comes over."
"Let me keep some of my old ways. I have to give up arguing with Luke and half my closet space and my daughter's innocence. Give me something here."
"Fine, you can glare at Tristan."
Lorelai perked up. "You do still love me."
"Mom, I'll always love you, no matter who you marry or where I live."
Rory smiled at her mom. "Maybe we should move to the counter and play some bagel hockey. If you have to give up arguing with Luke, you should go out with a bang."
"Now I know you love me!" she exclaimed, as they grabbed their coffee and purses and moved to the empty counter space to set up their favorite diner game.