The following morning, Whitley awoke to a little foot in her face and a knee in her side. Jasmine was so tall for her age. She was already 37 inches and in the 99th percentile for height despite being very thin. She got that metabolism from her father. While Whitley could eat anything, she was not so lucky as her ever hungry child. The knee in the side made her urge to pee stronger so she gently pulled away and ran to the bathroom hoping not to wake the baby.
With the flush of the toilet, it was too late. As she was washing her hands, she heard the girl cry "Mama! Mama!" a little scared since they were waking up in another new place the girl didn't recognize.
She called back to her and opened the door so the clumsy toddler could find her. "In here baby."
The groggy and wet diapered girl was satisfied with that but brought her sippy cup with her and said "Juice!"
Manners were a big deal to her. Her mother, God rest her soul, raised her with manners and despite the hellish situation she left with no sense of gratitude among the lot, she would raise her daughter the same.
"Ok. I have to change you and get us dressed but then we'll go down and get some juice baby. For now have a little water." She took the cup and washed it out in the sink then filled it with water for Jazz. "We have to go see how much the car's going to cost and hit the market for some food and diapers." She knew the toddler did not understand everything she was babbling about but just talking to her kept her quiet.
She rushed down the stairs toddler in tow fully ready to brave the still cold morning and thankful the snow stopped. She hated snow. But just as she made it down the stairs she heard a familiar voice "Where's the fire?"
"Oh Lorelai," she turned to meet the mesmerizing blue eyes. She didn't know why but she felt so calm around the older woman. "We're just heading over to Gypsy to see about the car."
"Oh, don't worry about that. I can call Gypsy's cell for you in a bit. But for now, let's have breakfast. I usually eat at Luke's because he has the best coffee but Sookie is the best chef in all the land."
"She co-owns this place with me. She's a great chef. You'll love her but maintain a safe distance. She's accident prone."
"Jazz is pretty clumsy too. She's so gangly. I hope she grows into it before people start to think I abuse her."
"That's a cute nickname . I never asked why you named her Jasmine?"
"Oh, well I told you my name's from Whitley Gilbert off of 'A Different World.' The actress who played her was Jasmine Guy. I liked the connection. So her name's Jasmine Coral Henderson. Coral is- er, was- my mother's name. I call her Jazz or more rarely JC."
"I more directly named Rory after me. Her name's actually Lorelai as well but I've always called her Rory. The feminist in me was thinking of how men do it so why shouldn't I. It also had a lot to do with Demerol than a well thought out naming process." They both laughed.
"Let's head into the kitchen to meet Sookie." Lorelai gestured.
"Um, that's nice, but Jazz has her coat on already and we need to go to the store for diapers and stuff."
"Oh don't worry. Sookie probably has some. She just had a baby and she has a 2 and 4 year old as well. She usually has a few in her purse because only Davey's potty trained. It'll buy time until after breakfast to go to the store. And as for the coat, it's easily removed." She bent down and smiled at the little girl who was feigning shy at her mother's leg and helped her get the coat off. "Can I pick you up?" she asked the girl.
"Up, please" Jazz responded with arms raised at Lorelai.
"Wow, she usually doesn't talk to any adults but me unless I tell her to. And she certainly never lets them hold her."
"I am very persuasive." Lorelai was joking but Whitley already knew it to be true as she was now being ushered into a kitchen where a woman in pig tails was yelling at a man in overalls about the pears being too big.
"No Jackson, I will not accept these, they'll be too watery."
"Sookie, they're the best ones around. I dare you to find any better."
"I could throw a stone and find something better."
"Fine!" the man resigned.
"Fine!" Sookie quipped. "See you at home?"
"No, I'll be at the farm shrinking my pears with the machine Willy Wonka used to use."
Then they kissed and he stormed out. Whitley was thoroughly confused. Did they love or hate each other? Lorelai saw it in her eyes. "Fighting over produce was the beginning of their romance. It's foreplay for them. We all just stay out of it."
"Hey Sookie! I'd like you to meet our newest hires. This is Jazz and she's going to be our Mascot. This is her mother Whitley and she's going to be our new night auditor."
Sookie looked at them both. Lorelai had filled her in on the situation but it was déjà vu to see the situation. "Good Morning! I'm so excited to have you both, especially this little one." She cooed at little Jazz.
"Hey wait, Michel doesn't know about the new hire yet does he?"
"No Sookie, he doesn't."
"Can I tell him? PLEASE! I just want to see if he turns more or fewer shades of purple than the time I wouldn't make him an egg white omelet."
Lorelai smiled, "Sure Sook, you can tell him. But first, breakfast please?"
"YAY! Ok, I'm making brioche stuffed French Toast with my peach sauce. Go have a seat and Mike will bring it out to you."
"Delicious. Let's go before someone gets hurt." She said pulling out an empty pink sippy cup.
"Um, can I maybe get Jazz some milk first?" She was a little embarrassed to ask but knew her baby was hungry.
"Oh sure." Lorelai grabbed the milk from the fridge and filled the cup. They then went and took their seats.
Once they were seated, Lorelai could see how awful Whitley felt. "Hey, so I know you could have gotten breakfast elsewhere," she lied "but I wanted to get through some new hire stuff with you and to give you the lay of the land. Since Sookie's part owner she needed to meet and sign off on you."
"Oh, alright," it did make her feel better but she didn't buy the breakfast excuse. "So where is this Michel?"
"You lucked out. It's his day off. You'll start tomorrow on the front desk. This afternoon, you can help me finish inventory. I was so tired we stopped after dinner last night. And oh gosh… what was that number we left off on?"
"Wow. Nice memory."
"I remember a lot of things. I just lose stuff- my phone, keys, sippy cups, things I'm currently holding in my hand; haven't lost Jazz though."
"Well that's great. Your memory will do me good… So, the new hire paperwork. Do you have your IDs and stuff for you and the baby? After 90 days, health insurance is included."
"Yeah, it's in the car."
"Perfect. We can do this when you get back after breakfast then." Lorelai said as Mike handed them their plates.
"I do have a question."
"Go ahead sweetie."
"I don't have anyone to watch Jazz right now and I can't afford much. Do you know of any daycare or anything that accepts DES government subsidy?"
"Of course. I forgot to mention I called Lane- she's my daughter's best friend- and she has twins who are about a year old. She said she can watch them this week. She owes me for letting her band practice in my garage for 3 years. I swear she's great. She'll love watching little Jazz."
"Are you sure? I can't pay her much- really anything until I get paid. I don't want to be a burden."
"Sweetie, no. It's no problem. Lane has the whole kid thing covered. Bryan's going to help her part of the day. He's in her band and was the one who delivered the pizza last night. Lane and Zach have a gig out of town on Friday and Saturday and while her mother Mrs. Kim will be watching the boys. She did ask if you would be comfortable lending a hand? Obviously 3 kids is a lot but I think you'll be fine. Mrs. Kim is very traditional though. She took 18 years to warm up to me as a single mom so she will be a tough cookie to get along with but she needs the help."
What kind of small town is this that the pizza guy is in a band with the best friend of the Innkeeper's daughter who can watch my kid? She wondered. She wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth right now. "Ok. I'd be happy to help if you don't need me at the Inn." Lorelai nodded and texted Lane to let her know.
"Moving on. Pay is biweekly and if you have a bank account direct deposit is a day earlier. I can tell you don't want to accept the room for free so it'll be deducted at a weekly discounted employee rate until we find you a suitable place to stay. You'll still make enough to get the basics but money will be tight. You did say you get food stamps and cash assistance so that should help. If you need help with budgeting, I'm no accountant but I've had to do the starving single mom bit before."
"Thank you, Lorelai," was all she could muster. She wasn't a crier but she came close to losing a tear right then. She had a plan. This woman talked incredibly fast but she was actually great at following along to it.
"Mama, Buddy. Want Buddy."
"Want Buddy, what?"
Want Buddy, PLEEEAASE." The little girl batted her incredibly long eyelashes.
"Here you go baby." She removed the stuffed toy from her purse and satisfied the toddler who was now sticky from the pancakes , bacon and eggs in a smiley face Sookie made for her.
"What a well-mannered little girl she is." Lorelai marveled.
"My mom always taught me to be respectful. I want her to be like my mom." She said flatly.
"I'm sure she will be. And like you too." Lorelai caught her eyes to reassure her and then moved on. She could tell the mom thing was a sore subject and she wasn't ready to talk details yet. "I'm going to call Gypsy. Did you want to take this angel upstairs to wash up while I do?"
"Yes." She said and then guided the tot upstairs.
This time on her way back downstairs, Lorelai let her know the car was ready and Gypsy said she could pick it up at any time. Whitley was unaware, but breakfast was partially a stall tactic to make sure that Luke had made it to the mechanic's shop before her.
She walked up to the shop where Gypsy had just closed the hood on another car. The baby was on her hip because she couldn't keep her out of the snow and she wanted to get out of the cold as fast as possible.
"Oh. Hello there!" Gypsy greeted. "I finished work on the car a little while ago. Do you want me to tell you what was wrong or do you prefer to be blissfully ignorant?"
"I'll go with blissfully ignorant as long as it's fixed. How much is it going to cost me?"
"Normally it would be $300 but I'm only going to charge you for parts this time which lucky for you I got for bupkiss because I had a used part handy from one of my junk cars. It's just $40."
"Uh… Oh. That's too nice. I can't-"
"Don't worry about it. You just said you're blissfully ignorant and word around town is you're staying for a while?" Whit nodded. "Based on the age of this car, I will have plenty of time to gouge you for my services. The discount will keep you coming back."
"Thank you. Why is everyone in this town being so nice to me?"
"You happened to break down in Mayberry kid. Stars Hollow is that freaky suburbia that no one thinks really exists."
"Alright, well thank you." She said handing Gypsy the money and exchanging it for her keys.
She drove around the town with the baby for a little while because it was an easy way to get her to take her mid-morning nap. When Jazz opened her eyes and popped up like a pop-tart, she stopped in front of a place called Doose's to get some groceries and diapers. Mostly everything she got was tailored to the little one's palate. She'd just try to snack on what her daughter got bored of.
After shopping, she walked out of the market at the same time as Lorelai was leaving Luke's. "Oh, hey! How'd it go with Gypsy?"
"Great. Too great. I feel like I already owe half this town a favor and I haven't been here 24 hours."
"Trust me, they will collect. You are one of the prettiest people to just walk in here with a gorgeous child (second to me) and they're going to probably use your face as a town billboard within a week," Lorelai joked and Whitley politely laughed.
"Hey, it's actually good I'm catching you here. If you're done shopping, we can walk the baby over to Lane's so we can get started."
"I have my car, and it's cold. I hate snow."
Lorelai looked mock offended. "Well snow and I are best friends. Plus it's not far at all. Just across the square. We can load your groceries up and grab the diaper bag then saunter over."
"Alright, I guess."
They made it to Lane's and for some reason she wasn't expecting a Korean girl. It was probably the rock band/married-with-twins description. It just seemed too- rock and roll. Also, this seemed to be the whitest town in America. But Lane was nice and she really adored Jasmine.
"So this is Steve and this is Kwon," she motioned to two babies playing on a blanket on the floor. Whitley removed her daughter's jacket and when she placed her down she immediately went to the other babies to play.
"She hasn't been around a lot of other kids. I think they intrigue her," she smiled. It was nice to see her baby just being another kid. Other than the visit to the Play Land, Whitley hadn't taken her out much. She was pretty trapped in that house.
"Thanks again Lane, you have my cell and Whitley's if you need anything. We've got to get going."
The rest of the afternoon was spent doing inventory. Sookie brought them turkey sandwiches and homemade kettle chips with pickles but other than that, it was just Lorelai and Whitley the whole time. Lorelai was very chatty and she quickly learned about everyone in the entire town and Lorelai's daughter Rory. She talked really fast but Whitley would interject with questions.
So your daughter isn't Luke's? The way you talk about their bond, I thought he was. No, her father Christopher is from my parents' world and he wasn't ready to be a dad.
I get that, Alex only ever bought one thing for Jazz. That's her favorite toy too.
So if your parents were rich, why not stay? I was young and I thought running away was the only way to raise my daughter on my terms. I was right, but I wish I hadn't cut my parents off entirely.
So this Mia who took you in, that's why you're being so nice to me? Yes and no. I do want to repay kindness but you had the same look in your eyes I did. I just see a lot of myself in you.
Why did it take you so long to finally date Luke? He was in Rory's life from day one and I was afraid for her to lose another father figure. Plus, I was guarded. I could not bear the thought of losing him. The two times I did lose him were some of the darkest times in my life.
You were engaged before, are you going to marry him now? I don't know. Maybe… we've been back together a few months and he's my forever but marriage has been unlucky for both of us.
You must be exaggerating Kirk and Taylor. They both can't be that eccentric, can they? Oh, they are. There's a town meeting on Thursday. You should come. You'll see. Words do this no justice.
Finally they were done and it was dinner time. Lorelai suggested they go to the diner after picking up Jazz. Lane said she was pretty good all day except she screamed for 15 minutes when she couldn't find Buddy. Luckily, Kwon was sitting on him and she calmed down.
As they were almost out of Lane's, Lorelai got a phone call and panic was written all over her face.
"Lorelai, what's wrong?" Lane asked.
"It's Luke," she cried. "Cesar says he's collapsed in the diner. He was clutching his stomach and then he was on the ground. The paramedics already have him in the ambulance and Cesar's closing up shop."
"Can you watch Jazz a little longer? I'll take Lorelai to the hospital," Whitley offered and Lane quickly agreed. Whitley placed her hand on the small of the older woman's back and ushered her to the car.