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i was scared of pretty girls and starting conversations

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At lunchtime, Rory Gilmore always finds some secluded corner of table, pulls out a book, and reads. Apparently the mean streets of Chilton are too much for Pollyanna to handle. Apparently there’s literally not one person who walks these hallowed halls who’s worthy of Miss 3D Disney Princess’s time.

Paris understands that most of her classmates regularly reach levels of moron that are frankly offensive to society, but that doesn’t mean that some public school priss is allowed to just swoop in here and act like none of them are good enough for her.

Maybe that’s what’s up with the whole reading thing. Maybe Rory Gilmore knows that she doesn’t fit in, that she’ll never fit in, and she’s trying to compensate by projecting a general vibe of ‘Look, they taught me to read real good in Stars Hollow.’ See Spot shun.

Paris counts how many books Rory Gilmore goes through per week. Usually four, sometimes five. None of them school-related. Who is she trying to impress, exactly? Even if this is a prestigious school, it doesn’t mean that any of the students actually want to spend their time on books. Not when they can talk about parties and who’s making out with who and oh my gosh, JT is so dreamy I’ll just die. Blah blah blah blah.

Paris doubts anybody else even notices how many books Rory Gilmore is reading. So really, Rory Gilmore is wasting her time.

The only other person who really bothers to notice her is Tristan, and that’s just because Tristan wants to hook up with her.

(Of course he does. Rory is pretty, in that innocent, doe-eyed, skin-like-porcelain, smile-that-could-light-up-a-dark-room kind of way. Paris wouldn’t have expected teenage boys to love that—aren’t they supposed to prioritize boobs and clown makeup above all else?—but when you look at Rory, it makes sense. Like, what boy isn’t going to stumble right on into lovestruck idiocy over that one?

Or at least Paris figures. Apparently not everyone agrees.

‘I don’t get why he’s so into her,’ Madeline said last week. ‘She’s cute, but, like, not hot.’

‘She’s not?’ Paris said without meaning to, and then dug her fingernails into her palms.

Luckily, Madeline didn’t notice. Noticing isn’t really Madeline’s thing.

‘No way,’ Louise said authoritatively.

‘Oh,’ said Paris.

‘Boys love a challenge,’ Louise said. ‘Even if the challenge has seriously shapeless hair.’

‘I guess,’ Madeline said, wrinkling her nose.

Paris didn’t say anything else.)

Sometimes Tristan will swoop over and mutter something in Rory’s ear. Rory always goes frigid and answers him with a look on her face that roughly translates to ‘go die in a fire.’

If Rory Gilmore were anyone else in the entire world, Paris could respect that. Girls at Chilton don’t tell Tristan to pull a Miss Havisham. It’s like a law or something.

After a few weeks of Tristan hovering in her personal space, Rory starts bringing a walkman with her. When lunchtime hits, she busts out the headphones and the book and her transformation into Chilton’s very own Boo Radley is complete.

“She could at least try to fit in here,” Paris says one day, looking across the cafeteria at ol’ Boo and scowling.

“With us?” Louise frowns. “No thanks.”

“No, not with us,” Paris says impatiently. “But what? Does she really think she’s gonna get by here acting like she’s better than everyone else?”

“Maybe she’s just shy,” Madeline suggests, then shrugs and goes back to discussing, like, a thrilling shade of nail polish.

Paris watches Rory – until Rory looks up, like she can feel the watching.

Her eyes are big and blue and curious.

Paris’s heart seizes up like it does when she dreams about being underprepared for a pop quiz. A few seconds too late, she puts on a sneer.

Rory rolls her eyes and lets out an annoyed breath that sends a few strands of her hair flailing forward. Then she looks back down at her book and gets all lost to the outside world again.

Paris wonders if she ever talks to anyone about what she reads. No one at Chilton would want to talk about books unless grades were involved, that’s for sure. And there’s no way literacy has made its way to the general populace in Podunk Cutesy Town.

Paris wonders if Rory ever feels lonely.

“Whoa Paris,” Louise says. “Who are you looking at?”

“Duh,” Madeleine says, nodding in Rory’s direction.

Paris feels the sudden, acute urge to vomit. Then she realizes Tristan is at the table behind Rory’s, chatting with the other guys, and her stomach—her whole existence—settles.

“You should cool it on the piney face,” Louise tells Paris authoritatively, like she has a doctorate in Warping Yourself For Male Attention. “Boys only want what they can’t have.”

“Or sluts,” Madeleine adds sagely.

“Or sluts,” Louise agrees.

“Shut up,” Paris scowls, and doesn’t let herself look up from her lunch tray until the bell rings.