But she didn’t care; it felt good.
“Honey, what happened?” Lorelai finally asked, pulling both she and her daughter to the couch. Lorelai sat her devastated daughter down on one end of the couch and wrapped a blanket around her. Lorelai sunk into the couch on the opposite side.
“I…don’t know. I mean, we were having fun one minute, and then the next…he was saying…saying that he…” Rory couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence.
“Saying that what? Saying that he…was leaving the country to join the Peace Corps? Saying that he found God and he starts his monk training on Monday? Saying that he was a lesbian before the sex change operation? What?”
Rory wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, “Saying that he loved me.”
“Whoa…stop the ride, I want to get off. He what?” Lorelai was shocked, but not at all surprised.
“We were sitting in this junkyard…it was romantic, don’t ask…I said something, and he just turned to me and spit it out. And then he got mad because I couldn’t say it back. I tried to explain to him that I didn’t know what I felt and that it was still early, but he didn’t care. He just got really mad and drove me home in silence. I messed everything up, Mom,” Rory sniffled and buried her head in her arms, her elbows perched on her knees and her hair, sad and brown, making a curtain around her face.
“Hey now, Rory listen, you didn’t do anything wrong. I mean, imagine how you’d feel if you had just said you loved him without really meaning it. He might be upset now, but I think eventually he’ll realize what a favor you did for him. You can’t build a real relationship, especially not one with love involved, when you’re lying just to spare the other’s feelings,” Lorelai’s confident, reassuring voice soothed Rory’s frazzled nerves.
“I blew it. Dean was great. He was making me a car and everything,” Rory groaned.
Lorelai shook her head, as if to clear it. “I’m sorry, did you say he was making you a car?”
“Yeah, he…he had all these parts that he was putting together. He said he didn’t want me to take the bus anymore,” Rory explained the story slowly, like she was remembering it inside her head.
“And you let that man get away? That’s another $400 out of my pocket…”
Lorelai put a hand on Rory’s knee. “Oh honey, you know I’m kidding.” She paused for a moment of contemplation and then asked, “Okay, Super Chocolate Chunk or Tangy Toffee-Strawberry Delight?”
“What?” Rory was honestly confused.
“What ice cream flavor do you want? This, your first ice cream binging pity party, is your induction into womanhood, Rory Gilmore,” Lorelai announced before slapping her knees and standing up.
“Funny, I thought that induction was back in the sixth grade when blood started coming out of places it really didn’t belong,” Rory sassed before letting her mother pull her off the couch.
Rory sat in her Advanced Placement European History class, her pen tapping incessantly on the desktop, her eyes focused on the clock.
“Miss Gilmore,” Rory’s head jerked to look at her teacher, “While I appreciate the little drum solo you’re giving us, we do have a school band for that kind of activity.”
The pen stopped tapping. “Sorry.”
The teacher nodded and then continued speaking in her monotonous drone. “Hitler attacked Poland for the first time on what date…Miss Gilmore?”
Rory’s eyes grew wide and her cheeks grew red. “Umm, could you repeat the question?”
The teacher ignored her plea, instead calling on, “Miss Gellar?”
“September 1, 1939,” Paris answered easily.
When Rory heard the answer, she immediately knew what the question was, which frustrated her even more. Her brain just wouldn’t cooperate with her, and her mind wouldn’t focus, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t manage to pay attention in any class more than five minutes before losing herself in her own thoughts again.
And, of course, all her thoughts revolved around Dean. She missed him, she did. It had only been a few days, but if felt like so much more because she knew that he wouldn’t be meeting her at the bus stop and he wouldn’t call her up to ask her for help on his Algebra homework and he wouldn’t walk with her hand in hand down the streets of Stars Hollow to argue about the merits of Tolstoy.
“Miss Gilmore, what has gotten into you today?”
Rory once again jumped at the sound of her teacher’s voice. She hated that the teachers at Chilton never gave you the time you needed to…space, sometimes. She just wanted to go home and listen to her mother complain about Michel hanging up on some customer or Sookie setting her hair on fire.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Petterson. I…had a bad weekend. I’ll pay attention.”
“Well, good thing. Your parents are paying a lot of money for you to be sitting in that chair, so you should try.”
“Yes, Ms. Petterson, I understand,” Rory nodded obediently and turned her notebook to a fresh page. World War II, focus on World War II…Hitler, Germany, Roosevelt, Poland…ohh…Dean’s half Polish. Please, focus. There’s only 20 minutes left in the class period. I’m being such a girl about this whole thing. I just have to relax. Imagine Jews being tortured in concentration camps, what you’re going through is nothing compared to what they had to face. Jews probably didn’t even think about boyfriends. Well, maybe except Anne Frank, but she really wasn’t in a concentration camp in that book, so that doesn’t count.
Oh God, I’m going to cry, aren’t I? I’m such a girl! What would Dorothy Parker do? Write a poem about how ex-boyfriends annoy her. Ohh…Dorothy Parker, that’s what Dean and I read that night at Miss Patty’s.
Why does everything remind me of him? Because I’m SUCH A GIRL!
She shook herself mentally once before taking the forgotten pen once again into her hand to take notes. When the damned black pen produced no black ink, she disdainfully shook it with all her might. She watched as the pen flew out of her hand and landed on the ground next her.
As she bent down to retrieve it, she was surprised that another hand had beaten her to it. Already offered her pen back graciously. She slowly brought her gaze up past the giver’s hand to his jacketed arm, higher until Rory noticed the top button of the obligatory Chilton uniform unbuttoned to reveal a white choker necklace accentuating his defined collarbone. She pushed her eyes past that to the strong, chiseled, sun-dripped jaw and slightly upturned and glistening lips, until finally reaching his smoldering, charcoal blue eyes and intentionally sloppy blonde hair.
She snatched her pen from his hand quickly, trying her best to avoid the mischievous look in his eye.
His voice was barely perceptible when he spoke, his face turned toward the teacher at the front of the room. “Were you checking me out, Mary?”
It took her a moment to answer. She, too, used the guise of staring straight ahead to cover her talking. “Just biding my time until I had to look at your face,” Rory finally said, fairly satisfied with the answer.
Tristan shrugged his shoulders, an action that seemed to acknowledge her rebuttal without really showing it the respect it deserved. Any time she joked with Dean, he’d always…
Why am I comparing them? And why am I still thinking about Dean? Ah! I am such a girl!
Rory half-walk half-jogged to the nearest bathroom. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her nose was runny. She wasn’t the least bit attractive at that moment. So it was only kismet then, that Rory run head- first right into a hard body. Two hands immediately went out to grasp her forearms and steady them both.
“Whoa, whoa…” His fingers tightened around her arms before she roughly and unsteadily pulled away from him.
She looked up at his curious face a moment before taking another jump back. “Sor…sorry, Tristan. I have to get past you.”
Rory attempted to walk around him, but he once again stepped into her path. “No running in the halls.”
“Please, let me through,” she practically begged the command and Tristan seemed to notice that.
He ducked his head down so he could meet her lowered eyes. “Hey, are you okay, Rory?”
She turned her head from him and bit her lip, willing her tears not to fall. Her grip tightened around the straps of her backpack. “Why do you care? Just let me past you.”
She moved to the other side, and once again, Tristan was there. “Did Paris say something to you?”
She sniffled, “Shoot me if Paris ever affects me enough to make me cry.”
“Hey, hey, come on,” he touched his finger to right under her ear, letting it follow down her jaw line until he reached her chin, then softly tugged her face up, “What’s wrong?”
The gentleness of his touch made the dams inside her burst, and Tristan watched as two sloppy tears slid down her cheeks. Her anger and surprise and Tristan’s behavior caused her to push brusquely past him and run the remaining yards to finally reach the bathroom. “Leave me alone!”
She threw herself into the first stall and locked it behind her. Why did they have to serve tiramisu for dessert? Of all things, why did it have to be the dessert Dean bought me on Friday?
She cursed herself for being so stupid as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
Then she cursed Tristan for being so arrogant and for touching her like they were…friends or something. Because she and Tristan DuGrey would never, ever…even if the he was the only person left on this planet except the members of O-Town…EVER be friends. Ever, she added, for good measure.
She walked out of the bathroom stall a moment later, splashed some cold water on her face, pinched her cheeks to mix the red of her eyes with her whole face, and left. She decided she couldn’t go back into that horrible excuse for a cafeteria, instead opting to go into the library and read some more of her book.
She walked calmly down the hallway, holding her head up and retaining the most dignity she possibly could. She arrived in the library some moments later, placing her backpack on one of the tables and pulling out her book, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong King.
She opened up to where she had left off, somewhere in the second chapter, amidst talk of the narrator’s dream of becoming a Chinese swordswoman.
“So I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”
Rory’s eyes slowly appeared above her book.
“You were upset and I didn’t mean to make it worse,” Tristan went on.
She laid her book on the table gently, making sure not to lose her page. “How did you know I was here?”
He gave her a look before answering, “It seemed a reasonable assumption considering you read a book a day.”
She crossed her arms defensively and corrected, “A book every two days.”
He raised his hands in surrender and smiled, “Fine, you win.”
“Was there something you wanted, Tristan?” Rory asked, she really wasn’t in the mood to look at him.
He shook his head, his smile waning, but still there. “Nope, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry about not letting you get passed me today. And…for whatever happened to you.”
She sighed and picked up her book. “It’s not about you, Tristan. Not everything is, I know that’s hard to believe.”
He took a step back, “Now, now Mary, no need to break out the claws. I’m going.”
And he did. Leaving Rory staring at his back in confusion.
“And people, if I get 10 Mona Lisa’s, I will be one angry teacher. And anger does not help your grades.” Mr. Klein smiled and clapped his hands together once. “All right,” seriously, he said that a lot, “You can all organize your portfolios a little bit while I look through your requests here and pair you off.”
Rory went up to the counter where they stored their portfolios and rooted around in the bin full of them until retrieving her own. She took it and went back to her seat.
Opening it up, she leafed through all the drawings and pictures she had stored in there. There was a limit of 5 pieces due in their portfolios by the end of the quarter, so they had to begin to narrow down the choices of all the projects they had made throughout the past nine weeks.
Rory smiled faintly at her favorite picture. It was a charcoal sketch of the front of her house. She had drawn it sitting across in Babette’s front yard. It showed her mother outside on the grass, fixing the hinges on the front door. Rory had thought it was really good, but she had only received a B on it.
Twenty minutes later, Mr. Klein called the class to attention and began reading off the list of partners.
“All right,” he started, no—really, “We’ve got…Arlene with Reagan, Webber with Polly, Rory with Tristan, Dan with Colleen, Adam with Nancy…” Mr. Klein rolled his eyes and the class snickered at the couple of Adam and Nancy, Nancy and Adam, holding hands in the back of the classroom.
Everyone except Rory, whose head was dropped into her hands as she rubbed her temples. She and Tristan. Because that Monday just couldn’t get any worse.
The final bell
Rory tucked her hair behind her ears and swung her backpack onto her back as she, and the other 20 or so students in the class, filed out of the room. Once she was in the hall, she leaned back against a group of lockers and kept an eye on the door.
When she saw Tristan walk out, she approached him. “You asked to be partners with me?”
He smiled teasingly at her and shrugged his shoulders. “I guess so.”
“Why would you do that?” Rory demanded.
Tristan took a moment to ponder that, and then answered, “Well, you’re probably the hardest working person in that whole class. And I want a good grade on this assignment.”
Rory opened her mouth to protest, but closed it again when she realized she couldn’t argue with that. She let out a resigned sigh. “Whose house are we going to?”
“Since I’m the one with the car, why don’t I just go over to your house?” He suggested reasonably.
She eyed him. “We’re going to need a lot of time to this done, we’re probably going to have to meet all week. Is six okay?”
His grin was wide and arrogant. “Sounds good to me.”
When she saw the familiar smile, the twinkle in his eye and the mischief simply oozing from his body, she sighed again. “I’ll give you directions.”
Her mother thought for a moment before pointing her finger at Rory and smiling in victory, “Kevin Williamson could announce that he’s making a Scream 4 starring post-Party of Five Jennifer Love Hewitt, and the entire world will be forced to watch it over and over and over again,” Lorelai said.
“Now that’s just wrong,” Rory responded.
“Just putting things into perspective,” Lorelai defended herself, “We should get caramel popcorn.” She stared down at the yellow, buttery kernels in her hand.
“I’ll add it to the shopping list,” Rory said.
“Thanks, Mom,” Lorelai smiled and laid her head on Rory’s shoulder briefly.
“No problem, honey, just clean your room once in a while.”
“What time is he supposed to get here?” Lorelai asked.
“We said six, but I wouldn’t put it past him to show up late.”
“Ohh, a rebel, huh?”
“Definitely without a cause,” Rory agreed.
“Does he have a motorcycle?” Lorelai asked, her eyes lighting up.
Rory rolled her eyes and passed the popcorn back to her mother. “I don’t know…does Mercedes make motorcycles?”
Lorelai put a handful of kernels into her mouth and mumbled, “Point taken.”
At 6:15, the doorbell rang and Rory pushed herself off the couch to answer it. As she was walking, she turned around and saw Lorelai right on her heels.
“Mom,” she hissed.
“Sorry, sorry,” her mother stopped walking.
Rory continued toward the door and stopped abruptly, causing her mother to slam into her back. “Mom!”
“I’m just curious,” she whispered loudly.
“You’ll see him when he gets in the house,” Rory called back.
“I want to see his motorcycle,” she whined.
Rory rolled her eyes and opened the door. Tristan stood in the doorway, one shoulder leaning against it, the other supporting his backpack.
“You’re late,” she said.
“Did your motorcycle breakdown?” Lorelai asked sagely behind Rory.
“I…got lost. Motorcycle?” Tristan was confused.
Rory backed up to let him walk into the house. “Ignore her. She’s consumed enough coffee to make a mono patient an insomniac.”
“Good to know,” Tristan said, then turned to Lorelai, “Tristan DuGrey, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Lorelai stared at his outstretched hand a moment before glancing at Rory in shock and then shaking his hand. “Lorelai Gilmore, Rory’s mom.”
“So we’ve all met. We can work in the living room, Tristan.”
Tristan pushed himself off the wall and followed Rory into the house. Rory had all her work already set up in the living room. There were extra paper, pens, the sheet the assignment was written on, her portfolio of work and all the materials they received in the class throughout the year.
She sat down on one end of the couch while Tristan sat next to her. A little too close. Rory moved away from him.
“Do you have any ideas about what we’re going to do?” Rory asked. She clenched and unclenched her hands, the proximity of Tristan to her making her incredibly nervous and uncomfortable.
“I thought we could…maybe have you pose like Rose in Titanic. You know, arm above the head, lips all pouty,” he grinned lasciviously, “Topless.”
“Tristan, take this seriously! I need a good grade on this assignment in order to keep an A in this class,” Rory admitted.
“I know I’d a give a picture of you like that a good grade,” Tristan answered.
“God, Tristan, can you pretend to care about this? We have to get started. Who’s going to be the artist and who’s going to be the subject?”
“I’ll paint the picture and you can pose for it,” Tristan said.
“It sounds so dirty,” Rory grumbled, crossing her arms in front of her chest, “You remind me of one of those nude photographers.”
“You’ve had experience with nude photographers?” Tristan leered, moving even closer to Rory.
When their shoulders touched, Rory jumped off the couch and nearly tripped over the coffee table in a hurry to get away from him. “Don’t touch me. God! You make me sick!”
It was that moment that Lorelai burst in from the kitchen. “Who’s hungry?”
Both teenagers turned to look at her.
“Come on, we’ll go to Luke’s, get a cheeseburger and fries, relax, and then you can come back and work. What do you say?” Lorelai asked.
Rory looked skeptical, “I don’t know…”
“I could use some food,” Tristan answered after her. It seemed obvious to both women that he was just trying to disagree with Rory. Rory cared, Lorelai didn’t.
“See, Tristan’s hungry. I can’t have guests in our house starving. What kind of a hostess would I be?” Lorelai asked.
“The kind that loves her daughter?” Rory suggested.
Lorelai waved her hand dismissively. “Daughter, Shmaughter. I want coffee.”
They sat down at a table, making them the second party in the little diner. Luke walked over to them, a pot of coffee in his hand.
He eyed Tristan speculatively a moment before demanding, “Who are you?” He looked at Lorelai for assistance, nodding his head at the blonde boy, “Who’s he?”
“Luke, this is Rory’s partner for a school project, Tristan. Tristan, meet Luke, King of all that is Subtle,” Lorelai introduced.
Tristan held out his hand, “Nice to meet you.”
Luke returned his handshake, but he did it with a scowl on his face. “Yeah, the feeling’s mutual.”
“Cup of coffee, please. Now,” Lorelai demanded, smiling.
Luke went back to the counter a grabbed a cup. While he was there, he called, “Rory, you want one too?”
“Yes please,” she said.
“What about your friend?” Rory flinched at the implications of the word ‘friend.’
“Do you want coffee?” She asked Tristan.
“Uh, yeah, I guess,” he answered.
Luke walked back with three cups and filled them each with the regular coffee. As almost an afterthought, he added, “Oh, the…uhh…price on the coffee went up fifty cents.”
Lorelai’s eyes widened and she looked at Luke like she was looking at a traitor. “How could you do that to me?”
He got defensive. “I can’t help it, the manufacturer is upping the price.”
Rory and Lorelai spoke at the same time. “Damn capitalists.”
Tristan furrowed his brow. “You’re anti-capitalist?”
Picking up the coffee pot and shaking his head, Luke looked at Tristan. “Don’t encourage them. Please.”
He quickly exited to the kitchen.
“We’re anti-capitalist,” Lorelai confirmed.
Tristan gave them a long look. “Does that make you…socialist?”
Both women shook their heads.
He licked his lips. “So you’re…communist?” The word came out red.
They shook their heads again.
“So…what are you then? Anarchists? I don’t understand,” Tristan said, and then rubbed the back of his neck.
Lorelai looked thoughtful for a moment before answering, “I think, as for as politics go, I’m more of an agnostic.”
“I really didn’t know that term applied to politics,” Tristan responded.
“Oh sure, ‘agnostic’ is a universal word,” Lorelai told him helpfully.
“Well that’s…good to know,” Tristan said slowly.
“What do you want to eat?” Luke called from behind the counter, effectively ending the conversation.
“Cheeseburger and fries for Rory and I,” she yelled, “What say you, Tristan?”
“Same thing,” he said quickly.
“You eat cheeseburgers?” Rory asked, genuinely surprised.
Tristan gave her an amused look. “Yeah, I eat cheeseburgers.”
“Like real, greasy cheeseburgers? With ketchup and mustard and onions?” Rory was hard-pressed to believe this new information. It made Tristan seem too normal.
“Yeah, real cheeseburgers. Why is that so hard to believe?” He knew exactly why it was, but he wanted to hear her say it.
“Because…of the…money,” she stuttered, “And, you know, you having it.”
“So naturally all I eat is caviar and sushi?” He asked.
“No, you weren’t…necessarily…limited to seafood. I mean, there’s steak tar-tar and lamb and things like that too,” she said meekly, looking down at her hands.
Luke and Lorelai were perceptive enough to notice the look of adoration that passed over Tristan’s features briefly as he watched Rory squirm.
“I’m actually a hotdog person, myself. Mina, our cook, makes them for me and my sister when my parents are out of…” he trailed off when he noticed the look the women at the table were giving him. He felt the class difference weigh down on them. “I can…make my own hotdogs too, though.”
“No, no, I believe you,” Lorelai said, “Who can’t make hotdogs?”
“You?” Rory suggested, causing both she and Tristan to laugh.