Charles knew the moment she saw him, the moment she realized it really was him. Her sparkling blue eyes went from surprised to pissed in 2.5 seconds. He thought he might have seen a flash of longing in there too, but that wasn’t possible. She hated him. She always would.
Becca stormed across the diner as Charles packed up his things. He had spent long enough there and knew he wouldn’t be welcome any longer, even though he kept ordering food and coffee and paid more than enough for the free refills he received.
Charles slid his laptop into the messenger bag he carried and swiped the table clean of the papers he had scattered around then flipped the bag closed as she reached his table.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“I was just leaving,” Charles stammered. He’d never heard such fury in her voice, not even on the day she’d told him to leave and never come back.
“I never wanted to see you again. How did you find me?”
Charles sighed heavily and forced himself to look in her eyes. That small indulgence, a glimpse of the woman he once imagined she’d become, made his heart swell to the point he thought it might explode. God, he loved her. As much as he ever had. Not that she knew how he felt. He lost the right to tell her years ago.
“I live around the corner from here. I’ve been coming here for years. You stumbled upon me. Until you started working here I had no idea where you were or what you’d been up to. I stayed out of your life, just like you told me to do.”
Becca winced at his words, something that made Charles flinch inward. He didn’t want to hurt her, he never wanted to hurt her, but that was all he ever did with Becca.
He’d wanted to look her up over the years. It killed him to not know where she was and how she was doing, but the promise he made to her outweighed the other promises he’d made that night. Even if it crushed him to keep his promise to her.
“You’ve been watching me,” she said, not exactly a question.
“I still care about you, Becca. I promised Jeff-”
“Don’t say his name,” she growled. Charles saw the tears in her eyes and watched as her chest rose and fell rapidly, fighting off the emotions he knew were swirling within her, emotions he himself was fighting at the same moment.
“I’m sorry. I’ll go.”
Charles left $50 on the table, making sure it would cover his food and leave the waitress a hefty tip for dealing with him all day, then walked away from Becca. Again.