It wasn’t supposed to rain today. The thought kept playing over and over in her head as she trudged down the street from the bus stop. She was only a few miles from Hartford and it had been dry there, the sun shining brightly as if it was just trying to remind her what a mess she was in a perfect world. Rich and beautiful, that was her family, as with many in Hartford. She was meant to be the great heiress to a fortune, the intelligent young woman that would go to college and get her degree, then catch a rich husband, settle down with two point four kids, and live like her parents did now. It was their plan, never Lorelai’s own. Of course, she hadn’t exactly planned what was happening to her now either.
Pregnant. Barely sixteen years old, preparing for a catillion and school exams, sneaking out of her bedroom on a Friday night to see her boyfriend. That was Lorelai’s life up to now, and then everything changed when she realised she was having a baby. Her parents were going to kill her, or worse they were going to start running her life like a well-oiled machine, lying to the neighbours, forcing her and Christopher to get married. It would be a disaster, at least Lorelai thought so, or she might think so, if she could straighten out her head even a minute.
Pulling on her hood to keep it over her head, even hiding her face as much as possible, she trudged on down the street. Lorelai didn’t feel the water soaking into her pants or sloshing into the sides of her shoes. They would be ruined, but then what the hell wasn’t right in this moment? It felt like her whole life was in pieces and all Lorelai could do in an attempt to keep sane was carry on walking, thinking, wishing the world away for a while.
“Hey, Liz, come back here!” said a voice too suddenly, a hand grabbing onto Lorelai’s shoulder.
Instinctively she flinched away, threw back her arm to strike at what might be an attacker. She turned in time to see a boy that couldn’t be much older than her as he leapt back and away from her flying fist.
“I’m sorry,” he said immediately, looking into her pale, mascara-streaked face. “Really, I am, I thought you were my sister. She has a similar jacket and she ran out earlier... I’m sorry,” he explained, folding his arms as the rain continued to pelt down on him.
He wasn’t even wearing a jacket himself, just a big plaid shirt that was getting soaked through, and a backwards baseball cap. On any other given day, Lorelai might’ve thought he was cute. Right now, all she had in her was an urge to cry, and so she did.
“Oh, geez,” muttered the mysterious stranger, as he watched the girl that was definitely not his sister cry openly into her hands.
When she turned to start walking away again, he knew he couldn’t let her. She wasn’t from Stars Hollow that was for sure. The place was small enough, you just got to know everybody, and he would remember someone as pretty as her.
“Hey!” he called after her, mindful of touching her even when he caught up after the last time. “I, er... I’m Luke,” he explained when she glanced at him. “Do you wanna come inside a while? You look like you could use a cup of coffee or something...”
He gestured over his shoulder and Lorelai frowned.
“You wanna buy me coffee at a hardware store?” she asked, sniffling from the cold and her crying jag both, even though she knew her mother would tell her it was a horrible habit. “You’d probably have more luck getting a hammer or some shellac.”
“It’s my Dad’s place,” Luke smiled kindly. “He works long hours, he keeps the coffee handy in his office. You just look like you could use a hot drink and somewhere to hide out from the rain?”
Lorelai opened her mouth to refuse, but honestly, now that she thought about, she was cold and wet through. Even if she didn’t care about her own health, she ought to consider the life inside of her. This baby didn’t deserve to die because she gave herself a thoughtless case of hypothermia. Besides, this guy seemed nice enough. What was the worst that could happen in a sleepy little town like Stars Hollow? All at once she nodded her head and hurried after Luke as he headed into the hardware store.
The guy Lorelai presumed to be Luke’s father was serving a customer when they went in and didn’t bat an eye as they headed out back and then upstairs. Lorelai started to wonder if she’d been very dumb coming in here. Shivering as she was from head to toe, the warmth that started to seep into her in the old shop was at least comforting, but she knew what would come next. As soon as she got to the office door she stalled. Luke looked back at her from the desk where he was checking the coffee was still hot and began pouring it into two mugs.
“You coming in?” he checked.
Lorelai visibly squirmed.
“Maybe,” she said, breathing in deeply and loving the smell that came to her nose. “I just... I want one thing to be clear before I do,” she said definitely. “If this conversation turns into ‘let’s get you out of those wet clothes’ or anything similar, I’ll be out of here so fast, you’ll think Speedy Gonzales went through, and I swear you’ll be a crying heap on the floor from the force with which I will kick you before I leave.”
Her eyes flashed when she spoke, so determined and just threatening enough to make Luke pay attention. He wasn’t afraid, after all, she was just a skinny little thing and he was the local high school track champion. She couldn’t hurt him, well, probably not anyway. Of course, his intentions never tended the way she meant in the first place.
“Hey, I’m not... I did not invite you up here for that,” he said just as definitely as she had spoken herself. “I was trying to be a good neighbour or whatever, offer you a place to hide out ‘til the rain is gone, get you a a nice hot hit of caffeine, that is all I’m offering.”
Lorelai felt bad for accusing him, even worse when she reached out to take the mug of coffee he had brought her and then felt the need to retract her hands. Caffeine. The sweet, glorious drug she had already become so addicted to. She was pregnant now, so that was out. No coffee, unless it was decaff, and this stuff wouldn’t be, she was sure.
“Um, no,” she said awkwardly, putting her hands into her pockets. “I’m sorry, I... I should go.”
She turned to leave, not knowing where she was going to run this time, but there had to be somewhere, anywhere that was better than home.
“It’s still pouring out there!” Luke called after her, prompting her to stop at the top of the stairs, and turn to see him framed in the doorway. “You’ll get sick.”
“Why do you care?” asked Lorelai.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Maybe because you seem like a decent person. This crack-pot town doesn’t have many of those, and I kinda don’t wanna see something bad happen to the first intelligent person I’ve met in years,” he smiled.
Lorelai laughed a little at his joke, at least she assumed that’s what it was. He really did seem like a nice guy, and heading back out into the rain didn’t appeal, not even a little bit. At least inside was warm, even if she couldn’t drink coffee right now.
“You have anything else hot to drink?” she checked. “Maybe hot chocolate?” she tried.
“Um, I don’t know...” Luke said awkwardly, adjusting the baseball cap on his head as he looked back into the office. “Come in, sit down, I’ll be back in like two seconds.”
“Oh, okay,” said Lorelai, moving past him into the quaint little office. “But where are you going in the next two seconds?”
“Well, two is pushing it, but I can run pretty fast,” he smirked, looking kind of proud. “Stars Hollow High Track Champion,” he admitted, pointing a thumb into his own chest.
“Wow,” Lorelai smiled a little, hoping she sounded impressed.
Truth was she was kind of underwhelmed. Track wasn’t a sport in her opinion. Football players were pretty hot, but the running types never thrilled her. Christopher wasn’t really a jock at all. Lorelai frowned suddenly at the random thought she wished she hadn’t had, one hand going absently to her stomach. Thankfully, Luke was already gone off on his errand and didn’t notice.
Alone in the office, Lorelai wandered aimlessly around, running her hand along the desk, picking up various items and trinkets only to put them right back where she found them. It was definitely a quaint little place, and not just this office either, the shop downstairs, and the whole town, she noted as she stared out of the window. Almost immediately she looked, she saw Luke running back towards the store. He had to be soaked through, since he still hadn’t put on a jacket or anything, but that didn’t seem to bother him. Depending on the kindness of strangers was not something Lorelai was used to doing, but honestly, anyone and anywhere was better than dealing with Richard and Emily right now.
“Not exactly two seconds but...” Luke was grinning as he appeared with a can of hot chocolate powder that had been hidden under his plaid shirt as he ran back.
“Thank you,” Lorelai smiled politely, taking a seat on what seemed to be the only available seat by the desk, whilst Luke fixed her drink for her.
“So, I don’t mean to pry but if you wanna talk about this bad day I gotta assume you’re having...” he said, without turning to look at her.
“I wouldn’t know where to start,” she laughed painfully, one hand playing idly with the stapler on the desk, picking it up and dropping it down from all of half an inch up. “Do your parents try to control you?” she asked suddenly.
“Not really,” Luke shrugged. “My Mom was great, she just... she just wanted me and Liz to be whatever we wanted to be,” he explained. “But since she died, Dad is... he doesn’t know how to deal with us, honestly,” he sighed, bringing Lorelai’s hot chocolate over to her. “He tries.”
“Thanks,” she said, taking her drink in both hands and revelling at the warmth of the mug against her hands. “My parents just think I need them to make every decision for me. They think because I’m barely sixteen I don’t know anything, but I do. I know more than they do right now,” she said, eyes seeming to almost glaze over as she stared into her hot drink.
Luke wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t even know this girl’s name, never mind who her parents were or what they were like. They certainly didn’t seem to be of any use to their beautiful daughter.
“They don’t... I mean, they don’t hurt you, do they?” he asked awkwardly, his meaning clear to Lorelai.
Lorelai smiled at his concern as he sat down on the edge of the desk near to her.
“No, nothing like that,” she promised, taking a sip of her chocolate. “I don’t think they mean to be so overbearing or crazy,” she rolled her eyes. “It’s not been so bad, but I just know when I tell them the latest news... My life is going to change forever, and they’re going to want that change to be so way different to what I want. I don’t know how I’m gonna deal,” she explained, a wobble coming back to her voice and tears filling her eyes.
“Well, I don’t know you that well... or at all, really,” Luke said awkwardly. “But you don’t seem like the type of person that’s going to take anything lying down.”
Lorelai snorted a laugh at the irony, something he could never understand. Taking things lying down, in the more literal sense, was what had got her into this position in the first place. She turned her face away as the tears started to course down her cheeks again.
Luke didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t so bad at dealing with girls, but he wasn’t exactly Casanova either. People said having a sister made you better with women, gave you a better understanding, but Luke didn’t think so. Liz acted so crazy and was such a pain in the rear, besides she was just a kid. Girls like this were different, but Luke still didn’t understand them, and he had no idea what to do for the best when they started crying.
“Hey, um... I’m sorry, I don’t actually know your name,” he said then, apparently only just now realising she had never told him.
It hadn’t seemed to matter until now.
“Lorelai,” she admitted, swallowing hard as she dragged a hand across her face.
“Lorelai”, he repeated, handing her the balled up handkerchief from his pocket. “That’s pretty.”
“Thanks,” she told him, perhaps for the compliment as much as something to wipe her face on.
They sat there in fairly comfortable silence for a few moments. It took Lorelai a while to notice his arm had crept around her back in a comforting gesture. She figured that’s what it was. Luke didn’t seem to be putting the moves on her, after all, she had warned him not to. Besides, he just seemed so sweet and genuinely caring. He pulled her in out of the rain and made sure she was okay when he didn’t even know her. That was kind of extraordinary in this world where most people were all out for what they could get from you. Lorelai smiled a little.
“You’re a good guy, Luke,” she told him, looking up to meet his eyes. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you any different.”
With that she got back to her feet, straightened out her damp clothes and looked towards the window. The heavy shower had passed, the sun breaking through the clouds. It was time to go home.
“You leaving already?” he asked as she took a step towards the door. “Because you can stay a while...”
“No, I can’t,” she told him with a shake of her head, making damp curls dance around her shoulders. “As much as I don’t want to, I really have to get home, deal with my parents,” she rolled her eyes. “But thank you, seriously. You helped a lot,” she promised him.
The next minute she was gone from his sight. Luke sat staring into the empty space before him and sighed. He figured he’d probably never see Lorelai again, and wondered at how heavy that made his heart.