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Part One

There he was, standing in line at the coffee shop. Megan’s coffee shop. The one she had frequented at 8 am every weekday since she moved to the city. She almost didn’t take the job for this very reason: the small but very real chance of seeing him again. It had been two years without a sighting. She’d almost become complacent. Almost.

Rather than risk a confrontation, Megan kept walking. He was close to the front of the line. A loop or two around the block should be enough to avoid him. This was her coffee shop. It took so much trial and error to find a place that made her a latte just right, with staff that were the right amount of interested in their customers - enough to get their order right, not enough to try and make awkward conversation. She wasn’t going back to the place where the owner held her up all morning, regaling her with stories of her clowder of cats. She was determined to protect her peace.

As she rounded the corner and peeked into the window, Megan smiled, sighing with relief. He was gone, as was the line, and she got a few hundred extra steps into her day. Despite the brief reprieve, her shoulders remained lifted with tension. Was this a one-off? Why was he in this neighbourhood? She wasn’t sure if she could take the drumbeat of a troubled heart every morning.

The barista started her order before she had even approached the counter, barely concealing his eye roll as he did. She pulled out her card and tapped the machine, took her drink from the counter with a slight nod in the direction of the staff and turned to leave. This was how Megan’s working day always began, and she was content with it. But today, she just couldn’t walk out and keep going. She had to know. She turned on her heel and tried to smile politely at the barista, knowing that her smile looked more like a grimace to most people.

“That man that was in here. The one with the long hair? Has he been in before?”

The barista eyed her with mild curiosity. “I don’t know. Why?”

“No reason. I just… I…” Megan couldn’t tell him why. It wasn’t his business. And she couldn’t wholly explain why it was so important to avoid him. She just knew it was.

“Well, if you wanted to stage a little meet cute, he’s sitting over there.” He smirked at her as she visibly froze.

Shit, she thought, why didn’t I check the tables? She turned slowly, hoping the barista was lying. Who sits in a cafe at this time of the morning? No one, that’s who. And yet, as she turned, her eyes locked onto his. Big, brown, beautiful eyes, full of recognition, kindness, and hurt.

I should run. Run, get on the next train to the farthest town, and never return. I can’t stay now, can I?

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