Lorelai felt miserable after work. The last thing she wanted to do was go to dinner. She went straight to Jess’s room but he wasn’t there. He must have been feeling better. Guess Friday Night Dinner was still on. Too bad, Lorelai really wanted an out today. Before she went upstairs to get changed Lorelai called Jess’s phone cell phone but there was no answer. She sent Jess a page asking him to call her back then went upstairs. She opened her closet. Nothing in there appealed to her. She didn’t deserve to look good. She was a terrible person. She pulled out a frumpy purple dress that she knew wasn’t her most flattering outfit and put it on.
She went to the couch and put the TV on while she waited for Jess to come home. They had to leave in about ten minutes, so she was sure he’d be back soon.
Lorelai turned on the TV to entertainment news. Madonna and Guy Ritchie are engaged. The Rock will be some movie called the Scorpion King. Loveline is getting canceled.
Lorelai reached over to the coffee table and picked up a pack of Twizzlers. Slowly she ate them strand by strand as the colorful lights of the TV flashed in her face.
The house phone rang. Without taking her eyes off the TV Lorelai reached over to the end table next to the couch for the cordless phone.
“Hello,” she said absentmindedly. She barely even thought about how late Jess was. Madonna’s rock was just too shiny and memorizing.
“Where are you?” Emily Gilmore asked on the other line.
Lorelai was snapped away from the TV. She looked at the phone in her hand.
Jess! She was still waiting for him. She looked at the clock. It was ten past seven. “Sh--” she almost swore but caught herself. Emily would not have appreciated that word.
“Oh my God,” Lorelai said. She stood up and ran toward the door.
“Where are you?” Emily repeated.
“Something came up,” Lorelai said.
“Can we reschedule?”
“Absolutely not. We had an agreement, Lorelai, that you would come weekly to a Friday night dinner. You’d come promptly for drinks then you’d have a meal with us. You didn’t hold up to your end of the bargain.”
“I can’t deal with this right now,” Lorelai said. She hung up the phone and drop it on a desk by the door. She grabbed her coat and ran out of the house.
Lorelai got into her jeep. She had no idea where Jess was. Maybe he woke up and felt better, but once he went out he got sick again and was passed out somewhere. Lorelai’s mind always jumped to worst-case scenarios when it regarded her kid. She took a deep breath and tried to think of logical locations that he would go to. He probably just lost track of time like she did.
She drove down Plum and parked the car haphazardly and crooked in front of the curb of Dave’s house. Sprinting, she ran up the walkway and knocked frantically. Mrs. Rygalski took way too long to answer.
“Lorelai?” she seemed surprised.
“Jess here?” Lorelai could hear the panic in her voice. Lorelai didn’t like to think of herself as a woman who panicked easily but she was only kidding herself.
Mrs. Rygalski poked her head out of the house and looked around the front lawn, as if she was on some sort of prank show and was looking for the cameras. Lorelai tapped her foot. She didn’t have time for this.
“He was here earlier,” Mrs. Rygalski said. “Spoke to Dave for a minute or two before leaving.”
“Thanks,” Lorelai turned to leave.
Mrs. Rygalski grabbed her arm and stopped her. “Did you know he smokes?”
Lorelai’s stomach dropped. What? No, not her son. He knew better than to do something like that…didn’t he?
“I don’t want that kind of influence around my son,” Mrs. Rygalski said.
“I’ll talk to him.” Lorelai pulled her arm out of Mrs. Rygalski’s reach. She couldn’t worry about the smoking, not right now. She needed to focus on finding Jess first, and making sure he was alright. For all she knew he was dead in a ditch. She ran back to her car and slammed the door shut. Where to now? Lorelai had no idea. She racked her brain.
One name came to mind. She didn’t think Jess would be there but maybe this person would have an idea. Maybe they could comfort her and calm her down. Lorelai drove to Luke’s.
The diner was still open. Lorelai came in in a huff. Luke was behind the counter. He looked up at her. His brows furrowed.
Lorelai looked around at the patrons in the diner. They all looked at her. There was no Jess in sight, like she predicted.
Luke came from around the counter and met up with her. “Are you okay?” he asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be at your parent’s?”
“How did…how did you know I had dinner with my parents tonight?”
“You told me yesterday. Also, Jess mentioned it a little while ago.”
“Jess has been here? When? Where’d he go?” she shirked the words, not paying attention to the watchful eyes of the town’s gossipers eating their dinners.
Luke looked over to a table in the back that sat Miss Patty, Babette and Mrs. Cassini. “Let’s talk in the back.” He put his hand on her back and guided toward the storeroom. Lorelai had never been back there before. It was filled with a ton of food. Any other time she would have felt like she was in Heaven. Right now it was more like she was living in Hell.
“Jess was here a little earlier. Maybe an hour ago. He didn’t come home? He said he was going to head back home.”
Lorelai shook her head. “I guess he’s just late, not missing. Maybe avoiding dinner with Eva and Adolf all together. He’s not picking up his phone but.....I guess this is all pretty typical for him...am I overreacting?”
“Do you feel like you are?”
Lorelai shrugged. “I just don’t like not knowing where my kid. Being late to come home is one thing, but just taking off on me? He’s never done that before.”
Luke walked out of the storeroom. He walked through the diner and out of door. As he walked out Caesar asked what was happening but Luke ignored him.
Lorelai ran to catch up to him. “Um...you know what to do,” Lorelai called back to Caesar. She followed Luke through the door. Luke was already halfway down Main Street by the time she caught up with him. He was walking near the pond next to the high school.
“What are you doing?” Lorelai asked.
“Looking for your son.”
“You seemed concerned.” It was a simple answer but it meant the world to her. Luke would stop what he was doing at the drop of a hat to take care of her and Jess. This went beyond friendship. Reached over and grabbed his hand then pulled him into a hug, pressing her wet eyes into his flannel shirt. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Luke’s body went stiff as a board, but then he patted her back softly three times.
Lorelai pulled away. “So…I guess I should let you get back to searching. I should probably go home in case he comes back or calls.
Luke reached out and pulled a strand of hair away from Lorelai’s wet eyes. She started to lean in toward his face but Luke then pulled away and cleared his throat. “That’s probably a good idea. Go home. Do something to relax. I’ll find him and make sure he gets home. Promise.”
That promise meant the whole world to her. Even if he wasn’t successful at least he cared enough to try. That’s more than most people would have ever done. Hell, that was more than Chris would have ever done. Jess didn’t know how lucky he was to have someone like Luke watching his back, but Lorelai did, and she would make sure Jess learned it.