The bell over the diner door chimed softly as the last patron of the morning rush walked out into the cold December weather. A few stray snowflakes drifted inside and the smell of the cold clashed with the greasy bacon and eggs. It was long past time for a break and some food. Rey pulled off her dirty apron and grabbed a plate of leftovers that won’t be used now that breakfast would no longer be served in ten minutes. No use letting the food go to waste. Some soggy hash browns, a handful of sausage and a half glass of orange juice left that wouldn't keep another day
Wandering to a back booth, the bell tinkled once more signaling a late breakfast customer or a very early lunch. With a sigh, she spun softly on her heel to give the usual greeting when the breath momentarily seemed to leave her. Standing there with flakes of ice in his long dark hair, stood a specter of another life she did not think she would see again. Ben Solo, the man who broke her heart.
He seemed a bit stunned as well, his eyes roaming her face and drifting down to take in her appearance. As his eyes fell to her middle his eyes narrowed and he stiffened visibly. A low rumble seemed to escape as he softly murmured
“It’s good to see you too, I see you have been doing just fine these days”
One hand subconsciously drifted to her middle and lay protectively across the growing bump that could no longer be hidden by a baggy shirt. If only she had left her apron on she might have been able to get away with it, but in her regular t-shirt there was no denying the roundness against her thin body
“Not that you care, are you here to eat or gawk at me?” The words tumbled out a little harsher than she meant them to, but it was worth it to see the pain cross his features momentarily before the mask of indifference was back.
“I’ll take two breakfast platters, crisp bacon, egg yolks soft and hash browns with orange juice” He moved quickly to a booth setting his briefcase down and removing his scarf.
“It’s lunch time, breakfast is not served after 11 am”
“It’s 10:59” came the dry reply “And you have a plate there for someone”
“Fine, take my breakfast by all means, SIR. You pampered brat” She dropped the plate in front of him with a huff and turned back to the kitchen, glancing up at the wall “Your other meal will be changed to the lunch special. It’s now 11 and breakfast is no longer being served”
Without another word, Rey scribbled up a quick order for the special and dropped it with Chewie before navigating to the back room where the office was located. Traitorous tears began to tumble down her face and her hands shook slightly. Stupid hormones. The tears quickly became sobs as she slid down the wall into a small heap on the floor, her knees thrown to the side to accommodate the rather large basketball like belly that now protruded.
A small hand grasped her shoulder
“Child, what is wrong?” Maz asked quietly. Rey had not thought to check where Maz had been
“HE is out there. I don’t know what to say” she hiccuped between sobs
“I have lived a long life, but I can tell you this. Hiding will not help you move on. It will only allow your feelings to fester until they take over like a disease. Your job won’t be in danger if you need to say some choice words to that idiot boy. One customer won't break us, and there is no one to hear what you say at the moment” a mischievous smile stretched across the small woman’s face.
“You can handle this. You are so strong. Now get out there and show that boy what he has been missing” Maz gently wiped the tears from Rey’s face and helped her stand again, brushing her hair with her fingers and straightening her shirt. The apron now tied across her belly made it less obvious, but not as much as she would have liked.
If only things could be easy
As Rey came out from the kitchen with her hands full, Ben was tapping the table impatiently. He had been joined by a rather large Amazonian woman with short platinum hair. She hadn’t heard the bell in the back, but as she surveyed the room she was relieved to find that no others had wandered in yet. There were papers strewn about the table and seemed to be having a rather heated conversation about something, but paused the moment Rey came close, as though she would evesdrop on something being said about her. A sinking feeling settled deep in her stomach. Maybe it was good she didn’t get to eat, it may not have stayed down today.
Ben looked up and huffed “Finally. This establishment is usually known for it’s food, obviously not for it’s service” The blonde woman looked up with a glare at Ben and Rey could swear she saw him wince as something thudded under the table. Good, she thought, let that woman teach him some manners. He glared at her a moment before shoving aside the soggy breakfast “And make another lunch special, this is obviously old”
Rey just nodded, holding back tears, trying to scurry back to the kitchen as quickly as possible. A new rush of customers seemed to stream in from the cold all at once. Maybe a party, maybe just a large family. The bell rang out and chattering voices filled the small dining area. Normally it would feel cozy, but to Rey the added people made it feel claustrophobic today. She needed some air, next shift didn’t start for a half hour. She just had to hold on for a little longer before she could slip out and never have to see his face in person again.
The more people came in, the more snow was dragged inside as well and soon the floor grew slick and wet. Rey was rushing about taking orders when a misplaced step caused her to lose her balance as her center of gravity had been vastly changing. Hands flailing out on instinct she grabbed the closest thing she could find purchase on. Unfortunately the platter fell with her to the floor with a crash, drinks spilling down her front and broken dishes caused a loud shattering sound in the small diner. She sat a moment in a heap on the floor checking herself for any damage, but a sore hand where she had braced and a bruised ego seemed to be the only collateral.
Only two patrons looked up, one laughed and pointed, the others dark eyes watched her for a moment before leaping from the table to grab her from the middle of the sharp disaster around her. A warm hand held her arm as he guided her from the wreckage, into the back room once again, drenched and sticky.
“Are you alright?” His anger temporarily forgotten, Ben’s face soft, full of concern and all too close to hers
“I’m fine, I can manage on my own” she all but spat, stepping back a few steps, unsure what else to say. How dare he act like her Ben after everything that had happened. Her
“Clearly you haven’t gotten any more graceful” The clipped tone back and his posture stiff once more. Dropping her arm, he brushed himself off and turned, reaching for the door handle and turning it slowly as though he wanted to avoid leaving
“At least this time you didn’t abandon me” She quickly realized that her last thought had tumbled from her mouth instead of staying inside her own head
Ben froze, letting go of the handle once more allowing it to click shut again “I abandoned YOU? You ran off with your new lover and obviously wasted no time starting a family and replacing everything we had together!” His voice was hardly above a whisper, though came out harsh and accusing as he pointed at her belly.
Maz burst through the door harder than usual, thumping right into Ben, causing him to step back in shock, rubbing his forehead where it had made contact. She looked up and grunted before turning to Rey
“Go wash yourself up girl, your shift is over anyway. Second shift is here to relieve you. And you boy” She pointed her finger at his chest threateningly “ I should have known it was you. You better make this right. Don’t make me call your mother! We still play cards once a week” The harsh tone was no less scary coming from such a tiny body than it would be from someone four times her size. What Maz lacked in height she more than made up for with intensity.
Rey brushed past Ben, knocking into his shoulder as she tried to get by in the small area
“Who are you to talk about abandoning?” He angrily whispered as she moved by “You are the one who left” Rey stopped, confused.
“How can you even say that? I came home to find all of my stuff left on the side walk with a note! The key didn't work! You even changed your phone number? You didn’t want me, so you threw me away just like my parents.” Rey was all but shaking at this point. Her pent up anger and sadness flowing from her in one tirade.
“You couldn't talk to me about it? You just woke up one day and decided you didn't care for me anymore! How dare you come in here and be cruel to me! Did you come here to rub salt in the wound? Bring your new girlfriend around to show off how much you’ve upgraded since you got rid of me? Does she know? How she will eventually get thrown away too by the mighty Ben Solo once you've grown tired?” Her voice had steadily grown into a shout, but Maz just went to work at her desk as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening
Ben stood for a moment processing what she said
“Wait, how can you accuse me of leaving you? You left me a note, I still have it! You can’t lie your way out of this one!”
“Wait, do you still have that note? Because I kept the one you left me. It was on top of my stuff, someone ransaked it, but it was pinned to a shirt on top. You signed it, so what is really going on here?”
Ben thought a moment before slowly reaching into his back pocket and pulling out a single piece of paper that had been folded and looked as though it had been carried around for a while. At the same moment Rey reached into her pocket to pull out an identical page, folded and creased many times over. A few coffee stains and tears had left the page stained, but readable. Embarrassment washed over her by having to admit she had kept it with her every day to remind herself of where she started and apparently he had done the same
As they held them side by side, a realization dawned on them. They were printed on the same paper, printed in the same font. The words used were almost identical other than accusations thrown at each other.
“That’s not my signature” Rey piped up. “It looks similar but someone signed that for me, I don’t write my R like that. It’s a habit I’ve had for a long while, I’m surprised you didn’t notice” She couldn’t help the anger slip through
“That’s my stamp I use with my initials for documents at work, We use it when signing off unimportant work that my secretary can do for me. I didn’t write this” He looked into her watery eyes and spoke softly this time “I think we need to go somewhere and have a talk, a serious one. I suspected some foul play in my life from Snoke, but this is way more than I expected”
“Wait, your boss?” Rey. “That withered old man had something to do with this?”
“Rey, don’t you watch the news? A few months ago I exposed Snoke and his criminal ring he was running behind the scenes at Solo enterprises. He was arrested for fraud along with a slew of other things they found out about once they started investigating him. He hung himself in his holding cell before he could be sentenced. I took over the company and I’m building it back into the legitimate company it once was.” He paused for a moment to allow her to absorb it all
“He had a hand in controlling all of his employees lives, he had cameras in some peoples houses, and meddled in affairs he had no right to. I suspected he had something to do with you, but at the time I thought he was just helping me get over you” He looked back to Maz, who was not doing a very good job at hiding her eavesdropping, but continued anyway.
“He hired a moving company to move me into a penthouse closer to the office while I was in China. When I got to the airport he had a chauffeur waiting for me that brought me to the office to debrief. I had a new cell sitting on my desk that had a new number, he said it was part of an upgrade throughout the company for the best employees. The keys to my new place were there as well. He took my old cell since it was a company phone, but it was dead. I couldn’t check it before I handed it over. That’s when he gave me the letter claiming you dropped it off at the office. He said your stuff was gone when they moved my things, which seemed very creepy that he was going through my residence, but I was so upset with thinking you had gone that I couldn’t think straight. He said you had brought Finn along, that he saw you kissing on the way out the door. Everything in me just crumbled”
Rey started to object but the words just wouldn’t come. Tears kept rolling and she couldn’t help the sobs that escaped periodically.
“So he split us up?” She all but whispered. “Why would he do that to us?”
Ben hesitantly reached out and gently touched her arms before pulling her in close and enveloping her in a warm hug. They both allowed themselves a moment to just breathe each other in. His cologne was the same as ever and his shirt was incredibly soft. Her tear slowed and she was able to stand up a bit straighter
"I'm so sorry sweetheart, I should have seen the signs. I was so focused on exposing him, I worked with my mother, the FBI, it was all over the news. The big story of the century. I should have realized you would never have just left like that, but when I saw you out there today, obviously moved on, I couldn't help but let my old anger come back. Please forgive me?" He pressed his nose into her hair, holding her close and rocking back and fourth
“Ben, I am covered in juice and drinks. You don’t want to wreck your expensive clothes” Rey laughed a little trying to push back, but his arms only tightened around her, before squeezing her one last time and allowing his arms to drop
“I don’t care one bit, but you probably want to change. Can I take you home and after you get changed we can talk more? Now that you don’t want to kill me? I owe you a meal anyway since I took yours”
Rey started to smile before reality seemed to fall around her all at once, leaning against the wall. That heavy feeling back in her chest and stomach
“Won’t your girlfriend object to you hanging out with your ex fiance?” Her reply is dry and sarcastic, but it was better to broach the subject rather than avoid it
Laughter seemed to bubble out of him, a welcomed sound bouncing around them in the tiny room. He leaned forward, one arm on the wall behind her, inching closer to her ear
“She’s not my girlfriend, far from actually. She’s my associate and we are working on rooting out any other employees that were loyal to Snoke. She won’t care if I disappear for the day. In fact I think she will welcome the break. After I lost you, I became a workaholic and hardly left the office. I was more than a handful too with my temper. You were always the one to balance me out" He stepped back, realizing he had invaded her space more than a little bit
Hope seemed to bloom in her chest. “Okay, I guess you can come home with me while I change, but I don't want to talk there. We can go anywhere else but there”
Ben’s face fell, “I won’t bother your boyfriend or maybe husband? I just want to talk if that’s okay. We can stay there if he doesn’t want to deck me. Maybe I can meet him”
Now it was Rey’s turn to laugh. Her whole body shook, her arms pressing into her sides. Confused, Ben simply waited for an explanation
“There is no boyfriend, dummy, and as for husband that was supposed to be you. But that never happened. My friend Finn that Snoke claimed I was with is engaged to my other friend Rose. He was there helping me get my stuff when, well I thought you threw me out. He may want to deck you but they live across town. It's just me. I just don’t want to have to stay at my place while we talk”
Ben smiled, motioning for her to lead the way out to the car and saving a quick goodbye to Maz “So what you are saying is you are single Miss?” He winked and she felt her face flush. That’s the man she remembered and loved once. Maybe he wasn't gone like she previously thought