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( :) -mags)

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( :) -mags)


ON HER DRIVE back to Philadelphia, Marley Acosta almost crashed her car three times.

Approximately a month after Christmas, she was traveling along 95 in her little Camry, ready to get back to school and finish out the year strong. She'd packed up everything over the weekend, had said her goodbyes to everyone, and had done her last shift at Luke's last night. Possibly her last shift ever. She didn't want to talk about the way she bawled her eyes out leaving the diner yesterday.

She'd spent New Year's at home, where Courtney had dragged her to a party one of their classmates from high school was throwing. Marley ended up leaving right after the ball dropped, after she had made sure that Courtney would be safe getting home with one of her friends. There was a part of her that felt guilty leaving so early, but that feeling was fleeting. She didn't particularly enjoy the company of any of the people at the party, and she knew that nobody in the room would miss her presence if she slipped out.

(And Ryan Moreau had arrived fifteen minutes before midnight. So, Marley took that as her cue to exit.)

Marley never really liked New Year's Eve. Especially not when she was ringing it in with people she didn't care for. She decided that this was her punishment for rejecting Lauren's idea to have her come back to Philly early for a party that she and Chris were throwing and bring Courtney with her. That night was God's way of yelling at her for being a coward.

She hadn't seen Jess since Christmas, where she very briefly barged into Luke's to give him his gift. In her defense, she was a bit intoxicated and had Jacob and Emily waiting on her outside. The three of them had drunkenly decided to take advantage of the snow that was currently coming down outside and go sledding through the streets of Stars Hollow. Marley had thrown his gift at him in a similar way as he had done with hers yesterday, shaking the snow out of her hat and her hair as she explained what was going on outside. She chuckled as she watched him open the presents and respectfully decline her timid offer to join them, her smile getting more anticipatory as he saw what she had gotten him.

The bigger one gift was a leather-bound journal, something that Marley thought Jess desperately needed in order to become the obnoxious, pretentious author-man she knew he was destined to become. That, and he ran out of pages in his previous dinky little journal and she thought he needed a "big-boy" one.

The smaller was a box similar to the one her necklace had been in, but this one held a chunky silver ring that had teal carvings on the face of it. She'd found it in a vintage store when she went to London back in May and had immediately thought of Jess. He wasn't a ring guy by any means and hadn't worn any over the years, but as soon as she saw it, she knew. She wasn't sure what it was. It was just a feeling.

And evidently, her feeling was right. Jess had raised his brows when he saw it in the box, eyes flicking up to meet hers in surprise. Marley had smiled and shrugged. "I got it in London," she explained. "Saw it and thought of you. I know you don't like... wear rings or whatever, but yeah. It made me think of you. Forgot to give it to you when I came back, but figured it could be a Christmas present or something, so..."

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