Family Feudalism

Chapter 12

Rory opened her eyes enough to see she was in her own room. Sunlight streamed through her curtains and warmed her as she lay in her bed—it was far more comfortable than the hotel’s she’d slept on that week. She reached for her phone from her desk and checked for text messages. She didn’t have any since the last time she’d looked. She sighed and closed her eyes.

“I know I’ve only been to one other party here,” Tristan had said a week earlier as he put his shoes on and tucked his shirt in, “but this one is definitely my favorite.”

“It’s turning out to be one of the better ones. It might surprise you to know,” she’d told him while slipping on her underwear, “but this is not the first time I’ve almost had sex at a party.”

“Congratulations, you finally finished.”

She’d slipped her shoes back on and snatched the birthday card off the lamp table before meeting him at the door.

“But you really can’t surprise me anymore,” he’d said as they stepped out into the hall.

“At all? I’m sure I could come up with something.”

He’d shaken his head. “I really doubt it.”

“What if I had a tattoo on my lower back?” she’d asked, splaying her hands behind her to illustrate. “You’d expect that now?”

“A tramp stamp? I guess that would be mildly surprising,” he’d answered. When they’d reached the stairs, he stopped. “Wait, I should go the other way. It’ll look suspicious.”

“True, and I’m forbidden to you.”

He’d given her a coquettish look as he turned. “Yes you are.”

Rory opened her eyes again, grinning a little. She furrowed her brows and picked her phone back up. She listened to her voicemail, but didn’t have any new messages. So she pushed her blanket away and got up, heading for the answering machine in the hall. She was met with disappointment there as well, since the only message was from Babette. Rory scrolled down the contacts on her cell phone and dialed as she returned to her room to sit on her bed.

After a couple rings, her mother answered, “Dragonfly Inn.”

“Mom, hey.”

“Good afternoon, sleepy head. What time did you get in last night?”

“Around one. Then I couldn’t get to sleep right away,” Rory said. “It took me a little while to wind down and shut off my brain.” She glanced at her laptop bag on the floor. She’d probably spend the rest of the day pouring over it. She slowly asked, “Did anyone call for me while I was gone?”

“Anyone who?”

“Just anyone,” she said. “Maybe to ask if I was back yet, or when I’d be getting back.”

“Oh. Him.”

“Him who?”

“Him who, anyone who, isn’t all the same? Tristan did not call,” Lorelai said. “I haven’t heard from him since the party last week.”

Rory got up again and went to the kitchen, going straight for the refrigerator. “What’s wrong with you?” She peered at the shelves, which were mostly filled with cake of assorted flavors.

“Nothing.”

“You sound like Grandma.”

“Do not compare me to her,” Lorelai said firmly.

“I wasn’t. I was just making an observation.” Rory took a plate of cake and sat it on the table. She got a fork and didn’t bother with a clean plate, instead digging into a piece of red velvet.

“Either way, once was enough.”

Rory frowned. “Someone said you were like Grandma?”
“Someone, anyone, him. And it wasn’t said so much as implied,” Lorelai said. “But I turned it around on him.”

“Good for you,” Rory said. “So he didn’t call you at all?”

“No. But I’m not the one he slept with either, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise,” her mother said dryly. Changing the subject, she asked, “What do you want to do tonight? I’m thinking we should get food from Luke’s, and then bring it back home for a movie night.”

“It’s Friday.”

“I know.”

“We have to go to Friday night dinner.” Rory added, “I think I’m going to drive separate.”

Lorelai scoffed. “You are so transparent. But we don’t have to go,” she said. “Mom called yesterday. She said I could skip since you’re out of town.”

“But I’m back now.”

“She doesn’t know that, and I don’t plan on telling her. I need a break from crazy.”

“Grandma never lets you off the hook just because I won’t be there. Why would she do that?” Rory asked.

“I have no idea. I only know she canceled tonight, and I wasn’t about to argue with her.” Lorelai greeted customers. “Hey, I need to go.”

“I’ll see you later,” Rory said before hanging up. She wondered what her grandmother was up to. The only thing that came to mind was a dinner arrangement Quinn had mentioned at the party. Rory got up to start a pot of coffee, and while she waited for it to brew, she dialed Emily.

“Hello?”

“Grandma, hi. How are you?”

“Fine. Are you back home?” Emily asked. “Did your mother pass along the message about tonight?”

“Yes I’m back, and yes, I just got the message. I’m kind of disappointed though,” Rory said, sounding the part. “I was looking forward to dinner tonight.”

“I’m sorry, but I had to cancel,” Emily said quickly. “Something came up, and I won’t be able to host dinner.”

“Mom said it was because I was out of town.”

“Yes, you were, and then something came up. So I just canceled. It was unavoidable.”

“What came up?” Rory asked innocently, starting on a second piece of cake, this time chocolate.

After a couple seconds of silence, Emily evasively said, “I’m having some guests over, and I can’t cancel on them, it’s too late.”

Rory narrowed her eyes suspiciously, poking at some extra icing with her fork. “Who is it?”
There was an extended pause, then, “Just a couple of people.”

“Well, you have guests sometimes and Mom and I still come. They’re usually nice, too. I always enjoy them,” Rory said. “It’s not the pope, is it? Because then I’d understand. Mom would make all kinds of off color jokes about his hat and ask if she could ride in the pope mobile.”

“No, it’s just a couple of regular people.”

Rory pressed on, “If it’s okay, I’d still like to come. We didn’t get to have dinner last week because of the party, so we could make up for it. Mom doesn’t have to come, she already made other plans anyway.”

Her grandmother took her time deliberating. Very slowly, she finally said, “Okay, I guess it would be all right if you came to dinner.”

“Great, I’ll see you tonight. Bye Grandma,” Rory said before hanging up, self-satisfied.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Tristan was sitting in his car that evening, parked in front of Emily’s house. Again. Why was he always here? It was stupid, she didn’t even like him. She was just punishing him. Since he was the first one there and had no intention of sitting through a forced conversation with the Gilmore matriarch, he turned his radio up and laid his head back. He closed his eyes for a few minutes, and didn’t open them when he heard a car pull into the driveway.

A minute later, there was a sharp rap at his window. When he opened his eyes, his head jerked back and his heart jumped into his throat. He opened his window.

“Surprise,” Rory said, leaning over with her hands at her hips. “And you thought I couldn’t do that anymore.”

“You’re back,” he said. “I didn’t know you were back.”

“Clearly,” she said evenly.

He looked from the house back to her. “This isn’t what it looks like.”

“Oh? What is it then?”

“It’s a set up with some girl a week after I had sex with you. And all in one convenient location.”

Sardonically, she said, “You’re right. It looks much different from what it is.”

“You’re very cute when you’re jealous. Has anyone ever told you?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” she said. “You obviously agreed to dinner again because you wanted to.”

“No, you weren’t there,” he said, pointing a finger at her. “Emily and I had words, and she backed me into a corner.”

Rory narrowed her eyes. “You drove yourself here. And on my night with my grandmother.”

Emphatically, he said, “Exactly. Why would she say yes to Friday when everyone who’s anyone knows it’s her family time? She’s on a mission and you aren’t going to get in her way.” After a second he said, “I was going to call.”

“Sure.”

“I was. Later tonight, even.”

“Uh-huh.”

“It’s been a week,” he went on. “Any sooner and I’d look desperate. And needy.”

“I don’t think a week is the traditional rule.”

“Now you’re tradition? You left the country afterward. Not just the party, but the country,” he said. “To me,” he said, gesturing toward himself, “that doesn’t scream ‘I had a nice time and would like to see you again’. Does it to you?”

She crossed her arms, but her glare downgraded to a grim expression. “Maybe not to some people.”

“The only thing I have to go off is you aren’t casual girl. You’re just lucky I listen,” he said. He was about to take his key from the ignition, but she leaned closer to his open window.

“What are you listening to?”

He turned it up slightly. “Carrie Underwood.”

“Really?” she asked, with a disapproving tone.

“What? I think a couple of her songs are about a younger me.”

She arched a brow.

He went on, “It isn’t gangster rap. I could only listen to that ironically.” He paused for a beat, eyeing her, and then added, “Same goes for you. She’s the all-American girl next door. What’s not to like?”

“It’s so—”

“Mainstream?” he asked rhetorically. “Just because a lot of people like something doesn’t make it bad.”
“It doesn’t make it good either.”

“You’re such a snob. Like my mom, but worse. At least the stuff she listens to isn’t obscure junk no one’s heard of.” He took the key out and opened the door.

Rory had to take a step back. She crossed her arms again and looked at him pensively rather than offended like he thought she would. “How do you know what music I like?”
He shut his door. “I just know stuff. Call me observant.”

Appearing less frigid, she asked, “How did you move from Mom’s good side to the doghouse in the same night?”

Tristan cringed. “We had a few words too. I was thinking on my feet, and I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I just started arguing the other side.”

“As a general rule of thumb, don’t compare Lorelai to Emily. She doesn’t like it,” Rory said. “You might have to get her backstage passes to make up for it.”

He shook his head. “I don’t think I’ll be able to swing that.” He looked up at the mansion and exhaled. “I guess I should stay late and have a heart to heart with her. I should have brought my birth certificate.”

“To prove your lineage?”

“No. Proof of my age. I do not need her to handpick women for me and then supervise. I’ll see whoever I want, even if her psychotic grandmother hates me for no good reason.”

“Grandma isn’t psychotic,” Rory argued.

Tristan looked back at her, giving her a quick once over as he did it. “You are so presumptuous. I could be talking about anyone’s psychotic grandmother. They’re a dime a dozen.”

She took a step closer to him and gripped his tie, slowly sliding her fingers down. She wasn’t using much pressure, but he was still drawn closer. “Oh really?”

He inclined his head toward her and kissed her, backing her against his car. She wrapped her arm around his shoulders. He broke the kiss after a moment but held on to her. “Okay, Emily’s the psycho.”

Rory grinned a little and slid her cool hands to his smooth cheeks. “Don’t commit a crime, they’d catch you, easy.” She tugged on his tie playfully and dropped back on her heels.

“I know. It’s happened before,” he said, letting her go.

He offered his arm, and she took it, saying, “Oh, she’ll like this.” When they got to the door, Rory pulled her arm away so she could press the doorbell.

He asked, “So what are you doing later tonight—after?” She wouldn’t get called away, he told himself. And if she did, it would be okay. He would not be disappointed about something he knew could happen.

Grinning, she faced him, so they were an inch apart when the door swung open.

Tristan looked at their host and smiled a big genuine smile. “Good evening, Emily.”

She was startled to see both of them. Her eyes flickered from Rory to Tristan and back. “Did you come together?”

His smile widened.

Before he could answer, Rory said, “We just got here at the same time.”

“Yeah,” Tristan agreed. “We definitely didn’t arrive together. I didn’t even know she was back in town until just now.”

Emily stared at him for a second, her jaw clenched. Hastily, she opened the door wider and said, “Won’t you come in?”
“I would love to, thanks,” he said. He kept his eyes on her as he pushed Rory by the small of her back so she’d go before him. “Ladies first.”

They followed Emily into the living room. “What would you like to drink?” she asked, heading for the drink cart.

“Martini,” Rory said as she sat on one of the couches.

“Scotch,” Tristan said. He sat next to her.

She put a hand up to whisper, “If she liked you, she’d have complimented your drink choice.”

He whispered back, “I can live without superfluous praise.”

As she mixed the martini, Emily asked, “Did you have a good flight?”

“It was long and the inflight movie was terrible,” Rory answered. “It definitely wasn’t as nice as traveling on a private jet.”

“Well, not everyone can travel so lavishly.” Emily turned and stopped short when she saw he’d sat right next to Rory. Recovering, she handed them their drinks and sat in front of the fireplace.

“It’s getting really nice out,” Rory said. “Summer will be here in no time.” She addressed Tristan, “You might have to put in a pool after all.”

“I’ll think about it,” he said. “That actually reminds me, I got furniture for my basement this week.”

“Yeah?” Rory asked. “How does it look?”

“You can come by and find out for yourself.” The corner of his mouth turned up. “My house is right on your way home.”

“Yes it is,” she agreed, taking a sip of her martini.

Perturbed, Emily said, “I never could put furniture in the basement. There can be such problems with mildew and things start to smell musty.”

“No, I think his will be okay,” Rory said. “It looks good. The whole house is really coming together.”

Tristan added, “And all mildew has been taken care of.”

“How nice,” Emily said. When the doorbell chimed, no one moved. “The maid will get it.”

They continued to sit. Tristan took a casual sip of his scotch. Rory gave a tight smile.

When the maid didn’t walk by and the bell rang a second time, Emily impatiently stood. “I guess I’ll get it myself.” She looked from Tristan to Rory again, as though willing them to move away from each other.

When she was gone, Tristan said, “I hope you aren’t expecting me to wander upstairs to meet you again. It would be too noticeable with such a small crowd.” Then he added, “But I could probably be persuaded to feel you up in a back room.”

Rory tilted her head closer to him. “You’re digging your hole deeper.”

He chewed on some ice. “So get your swim suit and I’ll put that pool in.” He added, “Make it a two piece.”

They could hear Emily greeting her other guest. When she returned, she wasn’t only accompanied by Quinn, but also by a man. Tristan didn’t recognize him from the party, but he would have fit in with the others, with his suit and tie, and he was obviously refined.

“Who’s that?” Rory asked without moving her lips.

“He’s for you, silly,” Tristan whispered back.

“Rory, have you met Quinn?” Emily asked.
In her normal speaking voice, Rory answered, “Yes, last week at the party.”

“Oh, what a disaster that was,” Emily said lightly, as though she was in no way responsible.

“I don’t know,” Tristan said. “I had a really good time.”

Ignoring him, Emily introduced Rory and then gestured to the man. “This is Xavier Thompson. He’s visiting family for a couple days. So I just had to invite him to dinner.”

“Where does she find these guys?” Rory muttered.

Tristan quietly answered, “A warehouse just outside Hartford.”

“No, that’s where you live.”

Emily looked at them sharply. “What are you two laughing about?”

“Nothing,” Rory said quickly, still smiling.

Tristan stood to shake Xavier’s hand and introduce himself. But he didn’t move to the other couch as Emily probably wanted. He sat back down next to Rory, forcing the other two to sit across from them.

As Emily prepared the newcomers drinks, she continued her introduction, “Xavier works in New York for Random House.”

Tristan whispered to Rory, “Oh, jackpot.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Later, they were halfway through the main course, and Emily was only marginally happy with the situation. She somehow managed to separate Rory and Tristan, seating him next to Quinn and her by Xavier. But getting them as far away as she could didn’t stop them from grinning at each other throughout the various conversations.

Rory pointed at Tristan, “Guess what Taylor Doose wants.”

“Who’s Taylor Doose?” Quinn asked.

Tristan answered, “Her town’s selectman. I suspect he uses his position for his own self-interest.”

“He tried to sue my mom’s inn when he got food poisoning,” Rory explained. “But Tristan came to Stars Hollow and figured out it was something from Taylor’s store. So he dropped it.”

“I think he just needed to be taken seriously for once,” Tristan said as he cut his meat. “So what does he want? Something from Luke?”

“Yes,” she said with a big smile.

“Who’s Luke?” Xavier asked.

“My step-dad,” Rory said. “It turns out Taylor wants to expand his old fashioned ice cream shop. Mom said he brought it up at the town meeting last week.”

“The shop that shares a wall with the diner?” Tristan asked.

“Yes, exactly,” she said. “He wants to put in a self-serve area. But they’d have to tear down the wall to expand. Threatening Mom with a law suit was the only way he could think to get it.”

Quinn asked, “He couldn’t just ask your step-father?”

“He’d get a no,” Tristan said, as though he knew these people from his brief visit.

“Yeah,” Rory agreed. “But if Mom thought it was a good idea, Luke might be persuaded.”

“I can’t imagine someone as anal as him letting other people serve themselves though,” he commented. “But it looks like you were right. He just wanted something from Luke, not Lorelai’s money.”

“Yup,” Rory said, a triumphant glint in her eye, as though they were sharing some inside joke.

He added to the rest of the group, “I lived in what was basically a small town for four years, but it wasn’t nearly as kooky as Stars Hollow. If you ever stumble in and a guy carrying a brief case tries to sell you a trombone, run away.”

He was quite chatty this evening, Emily thought. A far cry from the last time he’d attended dinner. He was even enjoying himself. Probably because of all the attention from Rory.

“Speaking of trombones,” Rory said, looking at Tristan, “did you know your mother is sponsoring Quinn for the symphony committee?”

“I did not.” He glanced at Quinn. “That’s nice.”

“We’re going to the ballet next month,” Quinn told him.

“Excellent. That means I don’t have to go with her. Have a good time.”

“I’m sure I will,” she said. “I’ve been trying to convince Cecilia to be more active in the DAR. She’s a member, after all.” She looked at Rory. “You are too. Have you ever considered returning?”

Emily, uplifted by the suggestion, said, “We would all love to have you back.”

Rory finished chewing and answered, “I’m really busy.”

“And always leaving the country,” Tristan muttered.

She glanced at him with a slight frown.

“Well, you should think about coming back,” Quinn said encouragingly. “Every time you’re mentioned, someone brings up the functions you organized. Like the USO themed fundraiser.”

“Right,” Rory said, looking back to the blond woman. “I advertised on the internet to sell tickets.”

“It was quiet ingenious,” Emily said. “I didn’t agree with all her menu changes, but it turned out to be a huge hit.”

“Thanks,” Rory said with a modest smile.

On the other side of the table, Tristan looked at Rory and commented, “And you said you never learned how to plan parties.”

She glanced up at him with an overly sweet smile. “I’m just full of surprises.”

“You sure are, Mary.”

To Emily’s bewilderment, Rory didn’t protest. If anything, she may as well have winked at him, the way the corner of her mouth turned up and her eyes smiled.

He glanced at Emily. “Sorry. You know what they say about old habits.”

Next to him, Quinn frowned and sat her fork down. Her gaze shifted slowly from Rory to Tristan and silently formed an ‘oh’ with her lips, apparently coming to some sort of conclusion. She lifted her napkin and patted her mouth with it, before glancing between the two again.

“Anyway,” Emily addressed Xavier, “we had to turn people away from the fundraiser, since Rory did so wonderful advertising.”

Tristan smirked slightly and turned to the man to ask, “So what does someone in the marketing department of a major publishing house do on a day to day basis?”

Quinn also addressed Xavier, “Yes, tell us. It sounds fascinating.” She gave him her full attention.

Emily frowned. What was she doing? He was obviously perfect for Rory. And Quinn was here to have dinner with Tristan again. Calm down, Emily told herself. Quinn was just brought up with good manners. She was only making polite conversation.

“I do a lot of administrative work, like preparing summary reports for the sales department,” Xavier answered. “And sometimes I’m a liaison to booksellers.”

“So you don’t get to help decide what books get published,” Rory said.

“No, that’s the editing department. I help promote the ones that made it through the gate.”

Tristan took a drink of water and commented, “Reading through manuscripts would be like a permanent vacation for Rory.”

Eagerly, Emily turned to her granddaughter and said, “That’s true. You would be perfect for that kind of job. I’m sure Xavier has contacts in the editing department.”

“But I would have to move to New York City,” Rory said, taking a bite of asparagus.

“It’s not that far away,” Emily said, liking the idea more as she thought about it. “You could live in the Upper East Side. You almost did once.”

“But that was a long time ago,” she argued. “And I’m not really interested in living there anymore. I like it here. I still get to come to Friday night dinners.”

Thankfully, Xavier said, “New York isn’t a long drive. You could probably still make it.”

Turning to Emily, Tristan asked, “Just out of curiosity, how often does she miss your dinners—even living close as she does?”

Rory frowned at him again and answered, “Not that often.”
But he held a hand up to her and kept his eyes on Emily. “How often?”

Hesitantly, Emily said, “Well, she misses weeks at a time on occasion.”

He nodded once, glanced to Rory, and then quietly returned to his plate.

Defensively, she said, “It really isn’t that much. And I don’t miss on purpose.” She turned to Emily, concerned. “You know it isn’t on purpose.”

“Yes, I know.” But like Tristan had a moment before, Emily continued with her dinner. She knew Rory was telling the truth. Still, it would be nice if she finally settled down and left her mother’s house. Living farther away would be a small sacrifice.

Abruptly, Rory turned to Tristan to say, “You have to leave the country for work too sometimes.”
He drank from water before he said, “I know. In fact, I’m leaving tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” she asked, tone less defensive.

“Mm-hmm. Luxemburg and Italy this time.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Quinn said.

“Yeah, it’ll be great,” he said, somewhat flatly.

“How long is your trip?” Rory asked, looking down at her plate.

“Until Wednesday.”

“Oh.” The wind apparently blown from her sails, she said, “I guess running into each other at the airport was a one-time thing.”

“Probably,” he agreed, returning her bleak look. Quickly, he added, “But that’s okay.”

Mustering up a slightly more optimistic attitude, Rory said, “I think the last time I was in Luxemburg was when Mom and I backpacked through Europe before I started college.”

“The two fitness gurus backpacking?” he asked doubtfully.

Rory’s mischievous grin returned. “We practiced before we went.”

Quinn asked, “How?”

Rory finished chewing her last bite of pasta and paused for dramatic effect. “We put our backpacks on and walked to the diner.”

Tristan smiled and shook his head. “Of course you did.”

“The diner again,” Xavier commented. Justifiably confused, he asked, “How far of a walk is that?”

“What is it?” Tristan asked Rory. “Five minutes?”
“Or ten. It depends on how hungry we are.”

They smiled at each other again. So this was it, Emily thought. Rory had obviously made her choice. Francine was the clear winner. Her act of self-interest involving two random people was getting results. Tristan couldn’t be distracted by anyone else. And Rory was no better. Nothing Emily did was stopping them from careening toward—wherever it was they were going. His house later tonight, apparently.

When a cell phone rang from someone’s pocket, Xavier checked his, but shook his head. Emily looked at her granddaughter disapprovingly. Couldn’t she get through a few hours without having that thing buzzing away in her pocket?

“It’s not mine,” Rory said.

Across the table, Tristan was frowning down at his own phone. He glanced up. “Uh, it’s me. I think I need to take this,” he said before standing and stepping out of the dining room.

Emily looked around at the plates, and seeing they were mostly empty, impatiently said, “Where is that girl? She should have brought dessert by now. I’ll go check to see what the holdup is.” She stood and left the room, passing Tristan as she went.

“When?” he asked into his phone, brows furrowed. “I never got the paperwork . . . Two weeks ago? Where was it sent?” He ran a hand through his short blond hair. “No, I’ll go look first.”

She continued into the kitchen and found the young maid leaning up against the cabinet, reading a magazine. “Sarah,” Emily said pointedly. “We’re all finished with dinner. Come take our plates and serve dessert.”

The maid looked up quickly and sat the magazine down. “Yes, ma’am,” she said, hastening to do as told.

Emily followed her out of the kitchen, and passed Tristan again, still on the phone.

“Can you meet me at my office? I need to talk to you.” While listening to the response, he cast his eyes upward. “Fine, I’ll come by the house then.” He hung up and turned to find Emily. There wasn’t much color left in his face. “I’m afraid I have to cut the evening short,” he told her.

“Is everything all right?” she asked.

A silent second ticked by. “I think it will be for you.”

Emily knit her brows, having no idea how his phone call would possibly affect her. She followed him back to the dining room, where the maid was collecting a stack of plates.

Tristan stopped at the entrance. “I have to go,” he told the others. Rory looked up and he focused on her and added, “I’m sorry.”

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

He hesitated before he said, “It’s fine.” He addressed Xavier, “It was nice to meet you.”

After they all bid him a good bye, Emily said, “I’ll see you out.”

Neither said anything as they walked to the foyer. When they reached the front door, he tonelessly said, “Thanks for a nice evening.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

After dessert, Rory was sitting in the living room again, slightly anxious. She’d decided to stay for after dinner drinks. Someone had to have that heart to heart with Emily. The task fell on her shoulders by default. She glanced at her watch as her grandmother entered the room.

“They’re going to go get coffee,” she said, exasperated, having just seen her last guests out.

“Quinn seemed to like Xavier. They’re both very nice.”

“Yes, well, last week she liked Tristan. I had no idea the girl was so flaky,” Emily said, going to the drink cart.

“You know Grandma,” Rory said. “It was nice of you to think of Tristan and introduce him to Quinn, but he’s actually never had any trouble finding girls. And I’m not sure she was such a good fit for him anyway.”

Emily looked at Rory warily, perhaps finally getting tired of all this. “Why not?”

“For one thing, I think she’s too young for him.”

“She graduated from Vassar last year. That’s only a seven year difference.”

“That’s a pretty big difference. She’s really young.”

Emily didn’t say anything for several seconds. Finally, she asked, “What age do you think would be better for him?” She handed over a cocktail.

Rory took a sip and answered, “Maybe someone his own age.”

“I just thought they’d be good together.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think you’d have to get to him better to know who’d be good for him.”

Again, Emily didn’t say anything.

Rory looked down at her drink and swirled the ice around before looking back at her grandmother. “Xavier was very nice, and he has an interesting job. In fact, all those guys at the party last week were nice, and respectful, too. They all had successful careers and were from good families, right?”

“Yes,” Emily said slowly. “And they were highly educated. Not just anyone can keep up with you.”

“Sure. So really, anyone who meets those standards—which are understandably high—would get your stamp of approval, right?”

Hesitantly, Emily said, “I suppose. I don’t use a rubric to add up scores.”

“Of course you don’t,” Rory said. “I’m just saying, you’re not asking for much. So hypothetically, I could find someone on my own who you’d like.”

“I suppose,” Emily said again, and not enthusiastically.

Quickly, Rory added, “But I always appreciate everything you do for me. Really, thank you for everything you’ve done. I just think I can manage without all the introductions.”

It was silent for an extended period of time, as Rory let her words sink in. Emily looked pensive, like she couldn’t quite figure something out. Finally, she shook the ice around in her glass before looking back at Rory and changing the subject, “Well, I’m glad you could come tonight.” She averted her gaze. “I’m sure you have other plans tonight.”

“Oh, well, nothing special,” Rory said. “But I think I will head out.” She sat her drink down and stood. “Have a good night, I’ll see you next week.”

“Yes, I’ll see you then,” Emily said.

Rory saw herself out of the house, and checked her phone as she got in her car. She didn’t have any messages, so she dialed Tristan. As she pulled out of the driveway, she listened to his voicemail kick in. She hung up and tossed the phone in the passenger seat.

It took her ten minutes to get to his house. It was dark, inside and out. But she still walked up to the porch and knocked on the door. She waited a couple minutes, not surprised when no one answered. She took out her phone and dialed his number again. Since he still didn’t answer, she left a message.

“I want the record to show, you were the one to leave dinner before it was over tonight,” she said. “And you’re the one leaving the country tomorrow. This officially makes you a hypocrite, and I want you to know. I took it upon myself to talk to Grandma before I left, and at the very least, she didn’t insult you. That’s progress.” Rory went on, “Now, I am at your house, because unless I misunderstood something, I was invited. I don’t know where you had to run off to, but when you get home, I will not be sitting on your front stoop. I don’t want to look desperate.”

Satisfied she showed him, Rory hung up the phone and headed back to her car.

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