It was the first snow of the season and Lorelai was taking her walk through Stars Hollow. It was a little more bittersweet this year; only this past June her daughter headed for the hills as far as she could be from her on the campaign trail for Barack Obama. Of course she knew Rory didn't do it to hurt her, but she still felt something missing. For the first time, she was just her and not responsible for the maturation of another human being.
Sure Rory went to college, but only a few miles away and she needed Lorelai so much in that period of time because she was just barely dipping her toes into the water when it came to life experiences. But now, she was just her. Her only focus was growing herself and her relationship with Luke. She'd always fancied herself mature because of her rules when Rory was growing up, but she realized those were walls protecting herself and the Gilmore Girl bubble. Because she'd had them, she made a lot of mistakes- with Christopher, Max, Alex, and so many before that. But Luke, he was her forever and so she was both forced and blessed to focus on herself in Rory's absence.
As she walked up the gazebo and sat with Luke's coffee for a minute, she was thinking about all of this and she sent out a silent thank you to the universe for how blessed she was as she looked at the sky from the steps. She then made her way back to the Dragonfly Inn to relieve Michel while she planned to do inventory. He was quickly out the door and she was left to her duties. She was expecting it to be quiet as the storm meant that there weren't many people there for the night and there weren't likely to be many check-ins. Thu,s she was deep in concentration when the front desk bell rang startling her.
"Excuse me, do you have an inexpensive room for the night?" A very young woman's voice asked as she walked out. Lorelai's piercing blue eyes inspected the situation and realized the girl couldn't be older than 19 and she had a young child clutching her leg. Old enough to stand and walk, the child must be around 2. The young lady had two bags, one of them being a light green diaper bag and the other a cheap black rolling suit case in addition to her purse. She recognized this must be a teen mom.
Feeling like there was an important sense of urgency in this young woman's big brown eyes, Lorelai lied, "You're actually in luck, there was a cancellation today and they'd already paid for the room so you're welcome to stay the night for free." She turned and grabbed the keys to room 7.
"I… I don't want charity" she shivered as she pulled the tot close to her.
"That's good, because this isn't charity. But I'll tell you what, if you feel guilty about accepting the already paid for room, you can help me with my inventory when you get settled."
"Really? Well Ok. We need to get warm first. My car broke down and a nice sarcastic woman named Gypsy sent me here saying she'd have it repaired in the morning. I can be down in an hour if that's alright? Jasmine is exhausted so she'll go down no problem." She accepted the key and pulled the toddler up on her hip. The baby was happy to snuggle into her mother's shoulder.
"Let me grab your bags." The young girl started to protest but something in Lorelai's stare made her realize it was futile so she accepted and followed the older woman up the stairs. "What's your name?"
"Whitley. Whitley Henderson. My mother was crazy hormonal at the time she was pregnant with me. And heat stroke might have been a factor as she and my dad said it was one of the hottest summers on record. Anyway, she was obsessed with this TV show 'A Different World' with a snooty character named Whitley Gilbert and she decided that was my name."
"Lovely choice. I'm Lorelai Gilmore." Lorelai stopped in front of the room and waited for the young lady to open the door.
"Thank you Mrs. Gilmore."
"Oh please, call me Lorelai. I'm not a Mrs. Not yet. But I hate any titles that make me feel old." She stressed.
"Okay. Thank you, Lorelai. I'm just going to get this one ready for sleep and I'll be right down." She smiled.
Lorelai left the room with a myriad of questions spinning in her head. Who is this girl? Why is she here tonight? will find out.
While she waited, she called for Pizza and then called Luke to have some burgers and fries… and coffee delivered. She figured the girl would be hungry and it wouldn't hurt to simultaneously annoy Luke that she also got Pizza. She also wanted him to see this strange girl in person.
Whitley unzipped her daughter's coat, then hers, and felt the baby's skin to see if she was cold. She was in a really thick coat with mittens and a beanie along with the hood from the coat and snow boots which actually made the girl a little sweaty and she was decently warm. She was relieved. She changed the girl into PJs, got her into a fresh diaper for the evening, then pulled out a 'Clifford the Big Red Dog' book to read. Then she slid the 22lb kid under the covers.
"Mama, Buddy. Want Buddy." Jasmine pleaded. So she got up to look for the small stuffed light grey puppy toy her kid had grown so attached to. At first she panicked hoping it wasn't in the car but she let out a sigh of relief when it was in the bottom of her purse. It was the only thing Jasmine's father ever gave to her.
After settling her in, it took only 15 minutes to conk the child out. She'd been at Play Land at McDonald's all day. Whitley sat at the table watching her child play so innocently all day deciding what to do. She just couldn't deal with where they were anymore. She had to escape.
Out of the diaper bag, she produced a baby monitor and sat one side on the night table next to her sleeping tot then took the other with her as she turned out the light leaving the bathroom light on and door cracked so the baby wouldn't startle if she woke up. She headed downstairs.
A knock on the door let Lorelai know either her food or Whitley were there. She opened her office and it was Whitley.
"Hey Whitley!" She smiled. "Do you go by Whitley?"
"Yeah, I do. Or you can call me Whit. I get Whitney all the time which drives me up a wall so if you ever forget, just call me 'Whit' or 'hey you'" the young woman joked.
"I'll stick with Whitley for now, but I may come up with a completely different irritating nickname for you. That tends to be my habbit."
"Okay. Well I'm ready for duty sergeant," Whitley saluted. "I've never done inventory so you'll have to explain it to me."
"Oh it's simple. I'm going to count stuff and I have a short attention span so I'm going to need you to remember any numbers I call out." She then handed the girl a clipboard exchanging it for the baby monitor which she sat on a space in the shelf. "After I get a final count, write it in on the line next to the item name over here. Then tell me the next item on the list so we can begin counting that. Any questions?"
"No ma'am" she saw Lorelai wince and remembered the whole age thing. "Sorry, I was just raised to always use titles with anyone older than me by more than a couple years."
"It's alright," Lorelai rolled her eyes. "Let's get started with shampoos."
They were enwrapped in their counting when the service desk bell rang. "Remember 1472. Let's go see who's here," the blue eyed raven-haired woman instructed.
"Hey Bryan. Hi Luke" Lorelai said as she kissed an older man in a blue backwards baseball cap and green coat. The other man looked to be about 22 or 23 and had on glasses and was a dorky kind of cute Whitley decided. He handed her a pizza box and smiled as she realized she'd been checking him out and she flushed a little.
Lorelai handed him a $20 bill and said to keep the change then Bryan took his leave, turning back to smile at Whitley. She hadn't noticed the exchange as she was distracted by banter with the man she had just been kissing.
"Why'd you have me bring burgers if you were ordering Pizza?" He asked.
"Well, don't you see there are two people here? That means I needed two restaurants, DUH!" he just rolled his eyes at her and then realized he'd been so focused on his beautiful girlfriend he hadn't noticed Whitley.
A little flustered he said, "Oh, uh hi. I'm… Uh"
"This is my boyfriend Luke," She finished. Then she whispered in Whit's ear, "He might not have gotten to the point if I didn't say it." It made Whitley giggle.
"I heard that." He again resumed his annoyed tone. "Yes I'm Luke Danes. I own the diner in town 'Luke's'" he extended his hand to her and she accepted.
"Whitley. I'm just here for the night earning my keep." She responded flatly. This prompted Luke to give Lorelai a questioning look.
"Hey Whitley, why don't you go in the dining room over there and get started on the food? I'll be there in a second. Luke and I just need to passionately make out first." She said pointing to the dining area. Whitley obliged knowing that wasn't what was going to happen but entertained that the make-out comment turned Luke 7 shades of red.
"Did you have to say make out?"
"How else would I get the pleasure of embarrassing you? Besides, I do want to make out before you leave."
"Lorelai," a serious tone finally escaped the man's lips. "Be serious for a moment. What's up with this girl helping you."
"I don't know Luke. Maybe it's the snow. I told you I smelled it this morning. Anyway, her car's being fixed by Gypsy in the morning and she has a baby, a toddler- Jasmine. She's gorgeous Luke! Her creamy brown skin and big brown eyes with light brown curls and she's tall just like her mom. I haven't asked a lot of questions but she had that look in her eyes."
"The baby did?"
"No. Whitley. She had that look. It was the 'I'm too proud to ask for help but I need it' look. It was the look I gave Mia. I had to help her and her daughter."
Luke sighed, "Of course you did; and that's why I love you. How can I help?"
"Go by Gypsy's when it opens and make sure she gives the local discount, make out with me, then walk away slowly so I can enjoy that nice butt."
"I'll do the first thing, and I'll kiss you, but keep it PG. And I'm walking out backwards because you are a handful tonight."
He kissed her and she grabbed his butt. "What? If I can't see it, I had to grab it. By babe, love ya." She watched as he really did walk out backwards. God she loved that man.
Lorelai joined Whitley in the dining room to find she hadn't even gotten a plate. She was just idly looking at text messages on her phone with a worried look.
"You're not hungry? Because I will eat all of this myself."
"Oh, well I just. I didn't chip in and I didn't want to eat your food."
"Oh, sweetie. It's no big deal. Luke's my boyfriend so I only pay him 50% of the time and Bryan gave us the garlic knots for free because I'm such a frequent customer. Plus, consider it an employee meal. I'm working tonight so this is a write-off. Hey, do you want a soda? I can get you one from the kitchen."
Whitley knew refusing would be futile. She'd just met this woman but she could already tell that Lorelai Gilmore could talk anyone into anything. "Do you have coke?"
"Yes, one second." Lorelai disappeared into the kitchen and quickly returned with a bubbly glass and a straw. "Dig in, kid."
As they ate, Lorelai began peppering Whitley with questions building up to the bigger stuff.
Where are you from? Stamford
How old is Jasmine? She turned 2 in September
How old are you? I turned 18 in July.
Oh, I had Rory (my daughter) when I was 16. She just went on the campaign trail after she graduated from Yale.
Where are you headed? Not sure; just needed a change of scenery.
Why are you alone? Well my mom just died 3 months ago and my dad was never really around so I was living with my ex-boyfriend, Jasmine's father, and his parents but they made it clear they were only housing us out of obligation. I was only allowed to stay by turning over my food stamps. I couldn't get a job because they wouldn't watch her and I wouldn't trust them to anyway. Today my food stamps and check came through for us and I just couldn't give it over to them again. She kept getting diaper rashes because I couldn't change her as much. We were going to stay in my car tonight but it broke down and it was cold because of the snow. It'll take all of the money I've squirreled away including what my mom left me (just the car and like $400) Now I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I could call my dad and ask for money but he pretty much disowned me when Jasmine was born. He already had the perfect family he traded me and my mom for when I was 9."
"Oh" Whitley realized. "I don't know why I just unloaded all of that onto you. You're just so easy to talk to and you were a teen mom too… and I don't know. I'm, I'm sorry." She hung her head. Despite all of the emotion unloaded, she wasn't a crier. She wasn't the type to wallow in self-pity. Maybe it was also a protective layer to not feel anything fully when she talked about it.
"Oh, honey, it's alright." Lorelai pulled her close and rubbed circles on her back lightly with her nails. It had an instant calming effect that she could physically see in Whitley so she continued as she thought about everything the girl said. How could everything come so full circle? "You have a job here if you want it. We need an auditor. Michel can train you for the next couple of weeks. Room 7 is open for now but we'll look into better options for you to stay and we'll figure this out. I can help you."
Whitley was astonished at what she heard but wasn't used to any kindness of this sort. She didn't have any other options but she had to ask, "Why?"
"Because I was a little younger than you when I walked into an Inn just down the way. I was holding a one year old baby in my arms and it was raining. I marched up to the counter and asked for a job-any job- and a woman in my position helped me. It's full freakin' circle and I'd be honored if you'd let me help you."
"Ok." was all she could say. She didn't know what else to say and she didn't have any other options. She couldn't let her daughter freeze in her car because of pride and she needed this. They needed this.