She faked an excuse, and followed him out of the cafeteria. History started in 15 minutes, and she was determined to use this time to have the talk she had rehearsed in her head hundreds of times over the last 36 hours.
They had kissed on Saturday. KISSED. And then, confronted with the finality of her relationship with Dean, she had run out crying. But she had spent the weekend reviewing her emotions. She was sad her relationship with Dean was over. He had been a perfect first boyfriend and she was sorry to lose that friendship. However, this sadness was superseded by 2 stronger emotions. 1. Anger at Dean- how dare he punish her for not being ready to say “I love you.” Did he want her to lie to him? She wasn’t ready, and he was too proud to be patient. So forget him. And 2. interest in Tristan. She chuckled to herself as she ran after Tristan. Yes, this was an accurate description of the emotion, and it still surprised her. She hadn’t expected to feel this way, but the kiss had meant something to her, and she had realized over the weekend that she wanted to know if it meant something to him as well.
Tristan stopped immediately and was taken back to see Rory catching up to him. True, he had just been thinking about her. Had thought about her the entire weekend, and was on his way off campus to do some more thinking. But seeing her in the flesh running after him still took him by surprise. By second nature, his walls immediately went up, and he arrogantly responded
“Oh, you’re stalking me now.”
Rory’s reaction was predictable, given how many times they had played this insincere back and forth. She rolled her eyes and spit out
“Oh how you wish.” But then she kept looking at him, and with all sincerity said, “we need to talk.”
But Tristan wasn’t ready to be sincere, and while he knew she meant about the kiss he countered, “about what? Do you need my schedule so you can stalk me more easily? See, I’m on my way back to my room. Would you like to stalk me there?”
“No,” Rory responded, still with measured sincerity. “About what happened on Saturday, about what it meant.”
Tristan could tell Rory was feeling uncomfortable, but he had been too guarded for too long for this to have much effect on him. “Oh the kiss. Of course. You mean, the one that ended with you crying? I’m not interested in a repeat if that’s what you wanted to talk about.” A part of him wondered why he wasn’t more concerned with how he felt, and what he wanted, but he remembered ruefully all the times his father had drilled into him “win at all costs,” and how in his household, winning was more important than relationships, more important than happiness. Tristan went to leave figuring he had gotten the best of Rory Gilmore.
Why was he being so difficult? Could he seriously not have one sincere conversation? She was just about to give up and let him walk away, when she saw a hint of sadness in his eyes at her supposed defeat. Suddenly, and only for a moment, everything became clear. It was all an act. She didn’t know why and could not understand the purpose, but she knew that she had seen the real Tristan on Saturday, and that it was worth fighting a little to see the real Tristan again. Plus, who did he think he was blowing her off. She was here to have a real conversation and get a real answer, and she was going to get what she wanted.
“Stop it, Tristan.”
Her tone made him step back. And when she started walking towards him with that fire in her eyes, he stepped back again and again until his back was against the wall. He had only seen that fire one other time, and in this hall, there was no Mr. Medina to save him.
“Stop it,” she repeated. Glaring up at him, she motioned her finger. “If you want to continue this – whatever this pathetic exchange is – then fine. You can continue to be sarcastic, and I’ll continue to be annoyed, and you can spend the next 3 years at Chilton tormenting me, and I’ll spend the next 3 years trying to avoid you. But if you’ve been thinking about that kiss and what it could mean for us as much as I have, then you can drop the act, and we can actually figure out if there’s anything between us that’s worth pursuing. Up to you. See you in History.”
And with that, she turned on her heel and walked back towards the cafeteria.
Tristan was left reeling. Rory liked him? Was willing to pursue a relationship? Wanted to get to know him? Wanted him to be himself? Tristan couldn’t remember the last time someone cared enough to fight past his act. His parents certainly didn’t care, as long as he stayed out of their way until they needed to parade him around at a party. His friends were only interested in money, and whose parents made the most. And all of his other girlfriends, if you could call any of them that, were mostly interested in the status their relationship with him brought. Tristan fought with himself. To admit that this had been an act, to make himself vulnerable, was it worth it? At the start, Rory had just been a game. She seemed like all the other girls that pranced the halls at Chilton, and in the beginning he was sure that before long, she would be just another notch in his belt. Had that changed so much? It must have happened too gradually for him to really notice. When had his teasing her become the best part of his day? When did he start looking forward all weekend to being able to taunt her on Monday? He hadn’t really put it together until they kissed, until he realized he actually cared what it was that made her cry, until he felt that rage that someone had made her sad. He found himself walking towards history, his plans to ditch the rest of the day completely forgotten.
He was still fighting with himself as he walked into the classroom. Weighing the sacrifices of being in a relationship with the benefits of having a true companion to share his life with. When suddenly he realized she was watching him and turned to meet her gaze. Suddenly his mind was made up. He wanted to be with this girl. This shy, unassuming, beautiful, smart, witty girl. And he wanted her to know him. Wanted her to care about him. Wanted to show her how much he could care about her. He took his seat diagonal from her. And whispered her name. “Rory.”
She turned around warily. He hadn’t given her an answer, and she wasn’t sure what to expect. If he said something arrogant, and cocky, she was sure her heart would break just a little. But she had been through enough of that in the last week to know she would survive, and move on.
“Rory, can I take you to coffee after school? There’s a coffee shop I think you’re gonna love on the way back to Stars Hollow. And then I can just drop you off at home after.”
Rory’s face lit up. He had chosen her, them. She remembered she was in history class, and thought momentarily that she should curb her excitement, her happiness, but she didn’t care. “Yes,” she smiled at him, “that would be really nice.”
It felt just as good to finally ask her out as it did to see her response. Those beautiful, clear, honest blue eyes, looking at him with excitement and promise. He didn’t care that half the class was staring at him with their mouths hanging open. He was taking Rory Gilmore on a date. And he knew the real him was going to knock her socks off.