"Rory Gilmore. As I live and breathe."
Rory froze at the sound of the voice coming from her right side. She didn't have to see the person to know who it belonged to. It had been almost three years since she last heard him, since she last saw him. How was he here, in New York, in her city? This wasn't supposed to happen, they said goodbye, he had a life and a wife in London, maybe he had a kid now?
She woke herself up from her mental rant and realized that she had yet to turn and look at him. "Hi Logan, how are you?"
"I'm good, how about you? Are you living in the city now?"
"All good. Yeah, I moved here about a year ago. How about you, still in London?"
"Actually, no, I moved back 6 months ago. How have we not crossed paths yet? Come here often? I would never imagine Rory Gilmore hangs out at a kids' park. I'm watching over Honor's kids." He looked back in the direction of the park and pointed first to a little blond boy who was on a swing. "That's James, he's 7." And he turned slightly left to the sand pit where two little blond toddlers were playing. "And that's Claire, the one with the hat on, not the one with the pigtails. The other one doesn't belong to us." He said with a chuckle.
Rory's heart stopped at the scene. This could not be happening. She plastered a dead smile on her face trying to come up with an escape route, but as much as she tried, she couldn't. She could only hope he would leave. Fast. "They're cute. I bet you're the favorite uncle."
"Not hard since I'm the only one so far. Josh's sisters aren't married yet. But they're pretty cool kids. I can't believe you never met them. Well, Claire you couldn't meet, she's two, but James was around when... I had some pictures at the flat."
"Yeah, I remember, he was shorter though." Rory chuckled hoping for dear life that Logan would leave the park soon.
"Hey, but what are you doing here? You never answered. Did Paris shanghai you to babysit her kids again?"
And with that kismet, or karma, she didn't know, came running straight to her in the form of a pigtailed blond toddler. "Mommy, I hab owie." She kneeled on the floor to take the little girl in her arms and see what the great injury might be, while bracing for the impact coming from another blond head.
"Ace, you have a kid?!" Logan's voice was high pitched and he looked like he had been told he just lost all his money on a stupid bet against Finn.
"I Ace. She Mommy." The little voice said matter of factly from the floor.
Logan looked down to where the voice was coming from. He could only see the back of Rory's head, but the little girl was looking at him with a defiant face. And then he saw it. She was all him, except for her mother's big blue eyes. There was absolutely no doubt who this little girl belonged to, and Logan felt his world shift on its axis. He kept his eyes on Rory's head while she picked up the toddler in her arms, got up and turned to face him.
Rory had never seen such hurt in his eyes, not when she rejected his proposal, not when they said their goodbyes in New Hampshire. She knew in that instant that her stubbornness had cost him, them, dearly. And although everyone told her that she should really think about her decision, she was determined to do the right thing, but now, just looking into his eyes, she knew she couldn't have been farther from the right thing
"Rory?" Logan pleaded her name. He needed answers but he knew this was not the moment. There was so much he wanted to say but a knot in his throat would not let anything out besides her name.
"Logan, I... we should talk. Not here. I have to take Harper home. Can you do coffee this Saturday? You still have the same number?"
Logan could not stop staring at the little girl in Rory's arms. He wanted to know all about her right that instant, with only a look he wanted to take it all in, but he knew it wasn't possible. His heart broke again, for all that he knew he had lost, if there was any piece left to be broken. He didn't break the look from the little girl as he responded to Rory. "Harper? Yeah... Saturday is fine. Same number. Text me?"
"Okay. Saturday, I'll text you. Bye Logan. Ace, say bye please."
"Bye." The little girl said still with a challenging look on her face.
"Bye, Ace. " Logan kept his look on the duo and could still hear a little bit of their exchange as they stepped away from the park.
"Mommy, why man call you Ace? I Ace, you mommy!"
"I'm also Ace. Remember when I told you daddy used to call me Ace?"
"Yeah, but now I Ace."
"Yes, baby, now you're Ace."
It was a cool Friday afternoon in October, almost three years to the dot from their last goodbye in New Hampshire, Rory had been going every year since around the same date back to the Inn in New Hampshire for some time away. She would be going next week, if a wrecking ball in the form of Logan hadn't come back into her life the past Wednesday at the park. She pondered if they should meet at a public place or at her house, and she finally decided for a home meeting, if he was up for it. This was too much of a private conversation to have in public and she had so much she wanted to show him.
Hi, it's Rory, still up for that coffee tomorrow? I thought we could do it at my place, 4 o'clock, is that ok?
Ok by me. Text me the address please?
He was so cold and straight to business. She knew this would be a tough conversation but she expected some warmth from him, as minimal as it could be. They had loved each other once, she was sure. And although she knew she had screwed up, she hoped that he'd understand. Maybe they could even be friendly some time down the road. For their daughter.
At 4 o'clock on the dot her doorbell rang and she got up to get it. They exchanged cold 'Hi's' and she let him in and directed him to the kitchen island where stacks of photo albums and journals had been left. He took a sit in one of the stools while she arranged for two mugs for the coffee to go with the plate of cookies that were already on the kitchen island. Neither was looking forward to start this conversation.
Rory was leaning on the island counter looking at Logan, he had his head down and his eyes closed. She took a sip of her coffee and decided to start the conversation. "Logan, I..."
"You hid her from me. My daughter. Rory, I, we have a daughter and you hid her from me. You… you didn't tell me. I have a daughter... and… and she doesn't know me, Rory. Why?" His voiced was cracking when he was speaking but only when he lifted his head Rory could see the tears rolling down his face that now matched hers. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Logan, I'm sorry. I don't know if you'll ever be able to forgive me. I know I screwed this up but please believe me that I thought I was doing the right thing. I was so shaken, so depressed, so alone… I thought I was doing the right thing. I really did. I didn't listen to anybody. My mom, Luke, Lane, my dad and even Paris, they all told me I should tell you but I just couldn't. I thought I would just mess up your whole life, no need to turn your life upside down, as mine did. Hormones are a bitch, let me tell you. I thought I had it all figured out, that I didn't need you, that we didn't need you. I never stopped to think if you would need us. I had tunnel vision. I don't know what else to tell you." Rory pause for a few seconds. "I thought I was doing the right thing..." Her voice had turned into a whisper now.
"The right thing? Rory, the right thing? God, Rory. I love you. I loved you!" Logan corrected himself quickly. "I'd drop everything and anything for you in a heartbeat. And that's with no kids." Although Logan wasn't screaming, rage was raw on is voice. Rory could almost feel each of his words as a stab to her heart. "You didn't give me a choice. How could you do that? Did you hate me that much?" From all the rage she had felt coming from him a moment ago, his last words were pleading, hurt was now dripping from each word.
"Logan, no! I never hated you. I love you." She didn't correct herself and he noticed. "But you were getting married, we were cheating on people, Logan! For all intents and purposes we were cheaters, our baby was a product of cheating, and I could never force that burden on her."
"She's not... she's not a product of cheating. Don't say that."
"But it's what it is. Logan, it's a fact. I got pregnant while you were engaged. I had a relationship too. We were cheating, we knew it then, why try to make something different of it now? I know it gave me Harper, it gave me the best thing in the world, but that doesn't change the fact that we did something wrong. How do you think your parents would have reacted? How would freaking society and the gossip mags treat her? She'd have a scarlet letter on her from birth. I didn't want that for my, our baby. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I wrote and re-wrote pro-con lists, and I'm so sorry that this happened, but not letting the branding of my baby from birth as a mistake won every time."
"But you didn't let me have a say in it, Rory. You don't know what would have happened. You don't know. You… You didn't tell me. I understand your reasoning, I do, but you didn't even give us a chance. How do you expect me to overcome this? I'll never get to see her firsts." Logan's voice was cracking again. She almost couldn't bear to watch him crumble like this. She knew they had hurt each other before, not that she was keeping count, but this was something that she knew it was hard to forgive, to overcome. Logan sniffled and straightened up, "I want in, Rory, I want to know my daughter. You cannot cut me off and keep me out. You can't." He said assertively.
"Yes, I'd never cut you out… not now. I'm sorry my stubbornness and my mistake has costed you this much. Logan, I really am. Do you believe me? You don't have to forgive me, but do you believe me?"
"Here." Rory slid a photo album and a journal towards Logan. "I wrote it all down, documented it all. For you and for her. Deep down I knew this day would come, I just didn't know when. But I wanted you to know everything about her. And I wanted her to know everything about you too so I wrote to her too, about you, about us. They're all numbered and each photo album matches one journal. You can take them, they're yours."
Logan took the photo album and the journal and opened them, on the first page of the photo album was one ultrasound image and a photo of Rory with her top a little bit up and facing sideways with '6 weeks' written below. He stroked his fingers several times over both pictures. "Can I stay here and look at these? I might have some questions."
"Sure. I'll start another pot. Would you prefer tea?"
"No, coffee's fine."
Rory excused herself and went to sit on the couch. She took a book with her to read but she could not read beyond the first few lines. With her open floor plan she could see Logan sitting on the stool at the counter and she just watched him as he went through the books. Sometimes he chuckled, other times he sighed. She could almost tell when he was just smiling at something, even if his body didn't move. Their daughter's life was not yet long but Rory did write everything to the last detail of not only big events like her firsts, birthdays, start of school and even their move, but also the little everyday things. After a couple of hours, she was lost in thought when Logan turned to her after being quiet the whole time.
"Where... where's Harper?"
"She's with my mom, she comes every now and then to spend some time with her. They go to the park, window shopping and ice cream eating. You know, grandma things. They should be back soon." Rory said, looking at the kitchen clock. "Do, do you want to stay? Eat with us?"
Logan looked a bit dumbfounded. He was mentally deciding if he should stay or not. He decided to stay since he had calmed down and besides wanting to see his daughter again, he also wanted to talk to Rory and know more about them. "Yeah, I'd like that, if it's okay with you? And your mom?"
"She knows you're here. She'll drop off Harper and go home, that's usually how it goes, it's a long drive back to Stars Hollow so she almost never stays for dinner."
"Okay. Can… can I ask you? About her?"
"Of course. Anything. I think I pretty much wrote everything down but you can ask me anything."
"How did you feel, when you found out? You didn't write about you..."
"I was shocked. In denial for a while. But at some point I felt at peace. I knew I couldn't have you, but in a way, I had a piece of you with me forever, so I was ok."
"Why Harper? I always thought if you'd have a daughter she'd be a Lorelai."
"Well, she is, Harper Lorelai Gilmore. I thought about it almost up until her birth but I wanted her to have something from you, as stupid and little has it might sound, so I only looked at baby names that started with H. I don't know... my head was all over the place at that time so it made sense in my mind. I almost named her Harper Lorelai Leigh, as in my Leigh not Harper Lee's Lee, I thought the word play was brilliant. But even my mom thought it was too much. I was dead set on her being a bookworm from birth, I'd accept nothing less. But my mom put some sense in my head. Off course she'd love books, she was my daughter after all, she'd grow up around them anyway."
Logan chuckle at Rory's little tirade. "That would have been some name, yeah. I know how baby naming can get out of hand. Honor changed baby names a few times with her two. And I get the H thing. Thank you."
"This is hardly thank you worthy..."
"It is. I know it must have been hard for you. I'm hurt that I was not included, but I understand. We were hardly in the ideal situation. I get that. I just wish we didn't have to be... that I could have been there for you. For both of you."
"You were, in a way. I tell her all the time since she's born that you love her."
"I do, Rory. I didn't even know it was possible. I haven't spent any time with her and I just know I love her so much. Do you think she'll like me?"
"I know she will. She does already. She asks about you, well about her daddy all the time. I told her he had to be away for work and one day he'd come see her. I'm glad you're here now."
"Me too. I want to see her. Everyday. I want to pick her up from school, take her to the park. Put her to bed. Rory, I want to be here for her everyday."
"Yeah, you can be here anytime. How... how about your work and... and Odette?"
It had come to that moment they both were avoiding but that had to be done.
"Well, I'm based in New York now, not traveling as much. And... me and Odette divorced, it was finalized almost ten months ago. It was never going to last. We both kind of knew it... we tried it for both our families sake but it just wasn't right. After coming back from New Hampshire I almost broke it off, but I was weak, I thought you wouldn't want me either way so I just went with it. We were never in love and after a little over a year we talked and we knew it wouldn't happen so we decided to divorce. We didn't want to have a loveless marriage only for society show and to produce descendants, we thought our hypothetical children deserved more and so did we. I told her about you, you know? She said I was crazy for letting you go. Told me to get in touch with you again once the divorce was finalized but I just couldn't do it because I couldn't stand the thought of being rejected by you again. I wouldn't survive it and I knew it." Logan was gazing the horizon, sitting on the couch. Rory had sat on her legs and was facing Logan while he talked.
"I almost did call you once. If I knew then... I had decided to call. I wrote a speech and all. Then I thought how stupid it would sound so I scraped that and wrote bullet points. I set it up on my grandfather's desk next to the phone. I had decided I'd do it the next day. So the next morning I get up, go down for breakfast and start to read the paper. And there it was, your engagement announcement. And I lost it. I was in bed for three days until my mother came and dragged me out of it. All my resolve went away and I never thought about it again. Not about you, I thought about you every day. I just completely erased from my mind that telling you was even a possibility, you know?"
"I remember that. My mom insisted on the announcement because we were hosting an engagement party here in the states. We had been engaged for months but my mom wouldn't budge. I wish I had stopped it. The announcement. Things would have been different. Maybe..."
"Logan, don't. It was my fault. I would have chickened out. If it wasn't the announcement something else would have made me change my mind. I'm sorry. I was the only one that could have done something different."
There was silence between the two for a while. Logan was processing everything, and Rory was thinking about what could have been. They had both relaxed on the couch, each with their heads resting to a side of the couch just looking into nothing.
"What is she like? Does she sleep ok? Is she a picky eater? What's she into?"
"She's the greatest kid, Logan. She's so sweet and she just smiles at everyone. It was always like that since she was a baby. She was the happiest baby, barely cried. I have videos, lots of videos for you. And she is my little bookworm. She only sleeps after we read a story, but she sleeps through the night. We read every night and she loves her books. She tries to read them and it's the funniest thing. She knows some stories by heart at this point so sometimes when I'm reading she just repeats word by word. She eats everything. Even her vegetables, thanks to Luke. But her favorite thing is Luke's blueberry pancakes. And she loves everything Disney, the princesses are her favorite. All of them. She's the coolest kid."
Logan had the silliest and loveliest smile plaster on his face. "She sounds amazing, Ace. Claire loves her princesses too. It gets very pink and sparkly sometimes around her. Do you think they'll get along? They're so close in age, Claire is just a little older, she turned two in April."
"I think so, they seemed to get along at the sand pit the other day at the park."
"Oh yeah, by the way, why Ace? Why do you call her Ace?"
"Oh, I don't know... I guess just one more thing of my twisted pregnant mind. I missed the nickname, I guess. I don't really know how it started, but it just did and it stuck, so... She gets confused sometimes, when people call her Harper, kind of like at the park when she told you she was Ace and I was mommy."
"Will you tell her who I am?"
"Yes, she's seen you in pictures but I just don't think she connected the dots in her little head at the park."
"I meant today. I kind of want her to know who I am and why I'm here."
Rory looked nervously from Logan to the window at the city skyline outside. She wanted him there; she wanted to give her daughter and her father everything she knew she took from them. But she wasn't sure if she had it in her to do it so soon. Since their meeting at the park on Wednesday, she felt like the days had gone by in a blurry. She was functioning on autopilot, happy that he would be back in their lives and at the same time afraid of what was to come. Would Harper take it well, would Logan really stay in their daughter's life? What would the Huntzbergers' reaction be? Would he ever be able to forgive her? Could they ever be a family, even if it was not in the traditional sense? She knew in her heart that this was the right thing to do now.
"Yeah, we can tell her today. I'm not exactly sure how to approach it but I think we can do it. Together. I want her to know you, Logan."
Rory's phone pinged and she picked it up, she was waiting for Lorelai to drop off Harper and they had agreed to text to touch basis. "This is my mom, she's downstairs with Harper, I'll go get her. Could you order us something to eat? The take out menus are on the island drawer, just pick out whatever you feel like. I'll be right back."
Logan saw Rory leave and for a moment, his heart stopped. He was going to see is daughter, not for the first time, but they would be introduced for the first time as father and daughter. He went to the kitchen island, pulled out the menus, and called the restaurant with the order. He randomly picked up one of the photo albums he had been going through before with all of his daughter's life detailed almost by the day. Rory was right, she was always smiling and happy. There were photos of her at the park; in Lorelai's front yard in a little kiddie's pool; sitting at the counter at Luke's; at the zoo and the Children's Museum; at the beach with Emily; in the middle of moving boxes; at the supermarket… and she always, always, had the happiest smile on her face.
He froze at one picture of Harper and Rory smiling at each other. What if this was a mistake? What if Rory was right and involving him in his daughter's life would only bring her suffering? He was not married anymore but as ditsy as the society wives were they could put two and two together when this came out. They'd know he had to have been with Rory while engaged to Odette. Would this really mean that their precious baby would be side-eyed for the rest of her life? She was so innocent; they wouldn't do that, would they? Logan's panic was rising from his stomach and he went to have a glass of water as he heard the door open. He could hear Harper's muffled voice recounting to Rory what she did with Lorelai. This was it.
Rory was leading Harper in the house by her hand. After she dropped her keys in their place by the door; she put Harper's backpack by the side table and bent down to talk to her daughter. Her front door didn't face the kitchen and she couldn't see Logan, and he couldn't see them, but she knew they would be heard. So she decided to do it then so she could have some semi-alone time with Harper, watch her reaction and prepare for possible outcomes.
"Hey Ace, did you have fun with Grandma?"
"Yesh. We go to pawk and I go on swing and Gadma push I so high!" Harper was on her tippy-toes and had her arms stretched as far as possible above her head.
"Really? And you weren't afraid to go so high?" Her little dear devil was afraid of nothing, just like her dad.
"No. I stwong. Gadma said. And then we had ice cweam. Twhee scoops." Now Harper was lifting three little fingers to Rory.
"Wow. Three scoops. Such a big girl having three scoops. Did you share with Grandma?"
"Yesh. We shawe. But I eat mowe." A huge grin opened in Harper's face.
"Well, I hope you are still hungry for dinner. There is a surprise for you." Rory's face was showing her anxiety; she hoped Harper wouldn't pick up on it.
"Supwise? Fow me?"
"Yes, baby, it's for you. Do you remember daddy? The picture I showed you that we keep with Grandpa Richard's picture?"
"Yesh. Daddy wowk. We love daddy, wight mommy?"
"Yes, we do love daddy and daddy loves us. But daddy doesn't have to work far away anymore. So he came to see you. Do you want to go see daddy?"
"YESH!" Harper screamed and Rory's anxiety dissipated. She got back up, took her daughter's hand in hers again, and went to the kitchen area to meet Logan again.
Logan had heard everything and couldn't stop the tears forming in his eyes. He quickly brushed his knuckles in his eyes to dry them up and prepared to face them as they entered the kitchen area.
As soon as they were face to face, Logan's gaze shot down to Harper and all Rory could see in his eyes was love and adoration. The same that could be seen in hers if anyone else was there to immortalize the moment. Rory felt Harper hesitate for a moment and looked down to her daughter. "Ace, everything ok? That's daddy, do you remember the picture?"
Harper looked intrigued, she half hid behind Rory's leg and was taking turns looking up to Rory and to Logan. "Mommy?"
"Yes, that's daddy. Do you want to go give him a hug? I'm right here, I'll go with you."
"That man call you Ace, mommy, at pawk."
"Yes, it's daddy."
Harper was looking pensive, even at a little over two years old she was an old soul and could amaze her family with little comments and attitudes. She turned to her mother decidedly and said "I be back. You wait." And she turned in the direction of the hallway that took to their rooms.
Logan was looking puzzled in the direction of the hallway. "Is she okay, Ace? Should I go?"
"No, she's ok. She might have gone to get the picture to compare. She likes to be sure."
"O-okay. I ordered spaghetti and meatballs, I hope that's okay. It was James' favorite when he was around two. Claire is in a yellow foods only phase now, I thought that would be hard to achieve for dinner on a short notice."
"Harper loves it too, it's perfect."
And with that Harper was walking back to the kitchen with a little stack of papers in her hand. She looked like a toddler version of a business woman and Logan couldn't stop a chuckle. She went straight to him and extended her hands and her stack of papers to him.
"For me? What is this?"
"I make these. Is me, and mommy, and you. Gadma helped."
"Thank you, I love it." Logan was browsing through the drawings with a silly smile on his face. He couldn't be happier even if these colored scribbles on blank pages were million dollar bills.
"You go wowk again?"
"No, Ace." He lifted his look from Harper to Rory. "I'm not going to go away to work again. I'm staying here near you. Do you want me to stay with you?"
"Yesh. You stay me and mommy."
The doorbell rang and Rory went to get their food for dinner leaving the newly acquainted father-daughter duo alone. She felt her soul lighter. She felt that after all they went through, they would be okay. Everything was as it should be now. She knew since the start that this little girl was the best thing that had happen to her, only seconded by her dad, and she couldn't be happier that they now had each other. She now knew she made a huge mistake back then; that maybe Logan would never really forgive her, but he did understand and he wanted to be there for his daughter. That was enough for Rory. She could see the bond they already had. She could hear them giggling from the kitchen. She made a point of letting her daughter know she was loved, so loved, not only by herself but by her father too, because even though he didn't know about her until now, she knew that he loved her. And for as many mistakes as she could have made, she knew that that was not one of them.