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Sentences and Stars

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The sun had barely peeked over the horizon by the time Rey had stuck her keys into the door of her small bookshop Sentences and Stars. Her scarf was pulled over her mouth and nose, but small wisps of her breath still showed in the cold air of the early morning. Only a few cars were on the road and she knew that Poe wouldn’t be in for another couple of hours to help with the small flow of traffic that goes through the bookshop everyday.

She walked through the door, flipping on the lightswitch, walking behind the counter and setting down her bag. She placed her keys inside of the drawer behind the desk. Rey reached out and powered on the computer and scanner. She went to the back room and entered the pin into the safe, pulling out a lock box of cash and bringing it up to the front, where she deposited some in the register to be used as change before returning it to its home. The heater had finally kicked on, so Rey shed her coat, beanie, and scarf, placing each item on her chair behind the counter.

Rey moved onto the kids section, where they held readings for kids daily. She plugged in the light-up stars and planets, and unrolled the rug from where it was against the wall because she had vacuumed underneath it the night before. She pulled out the chair that they did the readings on and scattered the small cushions they had for the kids out on the rug. Rey moved onto the adult section, where she flipped over the chairs that were stacked on the tables and turned on the lights in the small coffee bar they had there. She pulled out the muffins and bagels from the fridge, and pulled out the syrups and cups. She got out the bin of wrapped cookies and displayed them as well.

This was the routine that she went through during her turn opening in the morning, turning things on, flipping the open sign on the glass door, and setting everything up for opening. Then, she would sit in her chair and read whatever book had come out that week that was already stocked on their shelves. Poe would come through the door in about an hour, bell chiming to inform her of his arrival with Finn at his side, chatting about whatever topic they had been discussing on the way here. Though they had a free pass to be late that day since their anniversary was the night before and that’s why Rey closed and opened. Usually, the three of them alternated closing and opening so they could either get home earlier or sleep in later. But Rey had both opened and closed, so they owed her a couple of drinks at the bar after work.

So, she propped her legs up on the counter and laid the book against her thighs, getting lost in whatever world was chosen that week that she didn’t hear someone at the cash register until they cleared their throat.

“Oh!” She exclaimed, placing her bookmark in and shooting up from her chair. “I am so sorry,” she apologized, taking the book from him and scanning it. “No one is ever here this early and usually my coworkers come in and talk so loudly I actually stop reading.”

The man before her smiled at her and for Rey finally took the chance to look at him. The top of his hair was held back in a small ponytail with small wisps of it brushing along his cheekbones. Normally, Rey didn’t like that type of hair style, but wow could he pull it off. A small smile tugged at his lips at her obvious distress.

“It’s alright,” he forgave. “Whenever I get lost in a good book, it’s hard to pull me out.”

“It’ll be $14.50,” Rey told him, looking at the screen before glancing at the title of the book. “That’s one of our newer ones, came in yesterday. Big fan of poetry?”

The man looked sheepish and nodded as he handed her the money. “Yeah, it’s a hobby and a passion.”

“Thank you,” she said as she deposited the money and placed the book in a small paper bag. “I hope it’s a good book then.”

“I can guarantee it will be,” the man nodded as he backed away with the bag. “Thank you.”

“Have a good day,” she called as he pushed open the door.

“You too,” he nodded at her as he left.

It was a good day, indeed.

 

Rey glanced up, keeping herself more alert in case any other early bird customers came through, as Poe and Finn walked through the door, laughing. She grinned at them, standing up, hoping that there would be coffee in their hands.

“Where’s the coffee?” She complained. “You said that you would get me coffee.”

Finn frowned. “Yeah, but I can make it here.”

“That’s not the same,” she argued. “Buying me coffee makes me feel special.”

Poe rolled his eyes. “We’re buying you drinks tonight,” he hung his coat over his own chair and grinning at his husband. “Besides, Finn makes the best coffee.”

Finn beamed at Poe and leaned over the counter to give him a peck on the lips. Rey groaned loudly from where she had flopped back in her chair.

“Why do you two always have to do that to me?” She threw her hands up. “I’m single and hate it!”

Poe laughed at her and Finn shook his head as he went to make their coffees.

“Your husband just… fell into your lap and I’m still awaiting my prince charming,” she told him.

“You’ll find someone,” Poe told her as he turned on his computer, entering his user and password. “Did we have anyone come in?”

“Yes!” Rey shouted, leaning up with a grin. “He was so cute!”

Finn chuckled from across the room, slightly obscured by bookshelves. “Did you stare?”

“I do not stare,” Rey protested.

“You stare,” Finn and Poe said.

Rey rolled her eyes.

“I know,” Poe feigned a pitiful smile. “It sucks to have people know you.”

 

The next day, Rey was walking down the same street she took everyday to work, but about an hour later since she got to sleep in. Her earbuds were in and Never Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship playing through them. She closed her eyes for a split second, enjoying the smell of bacon wafting out of the cafe that she was next to when someone crashed into her.

She gasped at the feeling of hot coffee seeping through her jacket.

“Holy shit!” The man before her exclaimed as he watched her strip of her jacket. “I am so sorry!”

Rey recognized him as the man from the bookshop the day before, but she was more worried about her jacket. “It’s alright,” she smiled at him. “Nothing a quick wash can’t fix.”

“I am really sorry,” his brows frowned. “I didn’t see you.”

Rey shrugged and noticed that her earbuds had fallen out in her hurry to take off her jacket. She pulled them up off the ground by the cord, tucking them into her pocket.

“No harm done, truly,” she reassured him folding her jacket over her arm. “Besides, I wasn’t looking where I was going either.”

“Look, let me buy you something,” he requested. “I feel horrible about bumping into you.”

Rey laughed. It was like music to his ears. “No, it’s fine!”

“Please,” he begged.

Rey sighed. “Alright,” she gave in.

He smiled and lead her into the shop. “Thank you.”

“Shouldn’t I be the one thanking you?”

“Well, you’re soothing my guilt and I thank you for that.”

She smiled at him as they sat down at a table.

“By the way,” he turned back to look at her. “I’m Ben.”

“Rey,” she introduced herself. “So, how are you enjoying that book?”

“I finished it already.”

Rey’s eyes widened in surprise. “That fast?”

He shrugged. “I like reading.”

She nodded with a small smile. And I like you.

 

Before they parted, Ben wrote down his number on a napkin, handing it to Rey once they were out the door.

“In case that stain doesn’t come out,” he told her. “Text me and I’ll replace it.”

Rey opened her mouth to protest, but Ben held a hand up. “Please.”

She nodded, pocketing the napkin. “I guess I could.”

 

(***)***-****
Hey, Ben, it’s Rey. The stain came
out just fine! :)

Ben
Great! :)

 

Ben smiled to himself as he placed his phone down on his nightstand, turning off his light and laying down on the pillow, thinking of the beautiful girl he’d met that day.

 

“He wasn’t flirting with me,” Rey told Poe as she placed the burgers she’d picked up for dinner on his kitchen counter. “He was just being nice.”

Poe rolled his eyes. “Oh sure, he wanted to pay more than he already did because he’s a ‘nice guy.’”

“You know not everyone is as much of an ass as you are,” Rey informed him with a smirk.

“I am not an ass.”

“You are such an ass,” agreed Finn as he came over with three beers in hand. “Luckily for you, you’re an endearing ass.”

“And luckily for you,” Poe turned around to face Finn. “I have an endearing ass.”

Rey laughed. “Why can’t I have what you two have?”

“You can if you texted Ben and asked him on a date,” Finn told her with a smirk.

“That’d be weird though. We barely know each other.”

“That’s how it works,” Poe said, taking his burger out of the bag. “If you don’t do it, you’re out of luck.”

“Okay, you and Finn were friends for years before either of you got the balls to ask the other out.”

“Actually, neither of us asked each other out,” Poe smuggly told her. “We just started making out and going out without you.”

Finn flicked his husband on the forehead. “That’s not helping our case, dumbass.”

 

Rey thought about what they had said the next night. Maybe she should ask him out, you know, take a leap of faith and hope everything will work out. She chewed her nails. She was dressed for the bar that she had yet to ask Poe and Finn to go with her to for trivia night. Perhaps she could ask Ben instead…

Hey, Ben. It’s Rey

(maybe he hadn’t saved her number)

I was wondering if you would
like to go with me to trivia night
at the Jedi bar?

BEN
Sure!
When are you going?

 

Rey sighed in relief that he hadn’t thought she was a total weirdo and sent him the time (which was in about an hour so she could go and get a little buzzed before he arrived for confidence reasons.)

 

Ben arrived at the bar exactly on time, searching for Rey. He found her sitting at a tall, two seat table. He stopped to admire her. Her hair was still in the three buns that she always had at the back of her head and she was wearing a white cropped sweater with black jeans. She was stunning even when she looked so mundane.

Rey turned her head towards him and grinned, waving him over. He gladly obliged and sat on the stool next to her.

“What type of trivia is this anyways?” He asked after ordering a water.

“Literature,” Rey answered enthusiastically.

Ben sighed in relief. “Basically the only thing I’m not useless in.”

Rey nudged him with her shoulder, a playful smile on her face. “I’m sure you have talents other than reading.”

Ben shrugged. “Not really.”

She opened her mouth to say something else, or perhaps to answer a question, but a man hopped up on stage with a microphone.

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to trivia night!” People cheered and clapped, including Rey. Ben gazed at her and smiled. She caught his gaze and grinned even wider before turning back to the front. “Tonight is literature night, which means we’ll be asking all book related questions. A person is coming around with white boards and markers. There must be teams of two to three, and if you’re sitting at a circular table, you are automatically in the game. There will also be a card and stand coming around, so you can have your name displayed.”

Ben saw someone come and place a basket with everything they needed. Ben took out the whiteboard and marker while Rey got out the pen, paper and stand. She wrote something on it and showed it to Ben. He bust out laughing.

“Seriously?” He asked her as she put it on display.

Rey shrugged. “It’s funny.”

“For each question, you will get 45 seconds to answer. Team with their board up first that has the right answer gets the point, which will be tallied on the screen,” the man announced, stepping back and gesturing to the projected timer and team names that were somehow already typed up. “Let’s begin.”

They cheered.

“First question!” It went silent. “Who was the first Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature?”

Rey didn’t need to consult Ben before scribbling down her answer and shooting the board up in the air. The man came over with the mic, looking at the board and announcing, “Team ‘I Put the Lit in Literature’ gets the point with the answer of Gao Xingjian!”

“Second question: What was the working title of Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone With the Wind?”

Ben was beginning to think that Rey only needed another team member because her board was the first up with the answer Ba! Ba! Black Sheep. They got another point.

“Fifth question,” the man said. Rey and Ben had only lost one point and were in the lead. “What famous literary character offers this sage advice: ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’?”

Rey cursed. “I don’t know this one.”

“I do!” Ben exclaimed, taking the board from her and scribbling down HAMLET, earning the two of them another point.

“A fan of both plays and poetry?” Rey asked with an impressed smile.

“Most poets write plays,” Ben told her.

“Which of Shakespeare's plays features a sorcerer named Prospero?”

Ben took the board from her once more and wrote THE TEMPEST, which was, of course, correct.

“Not a fan of plays?” Ben asked her.

Rey rolled her eyes and took the board back.

 

REY
You seem to like poetry a lot.
Write any of your own?

BEN
Meh. Not much.
Nothing good, anyway.

REY
Many of us tend to critique our
own work more than is actually
deserved.

BEN
It’s not just me who says so.
Who told you that its bad?
A couple of publishers I took it to.
All of them rejected it.

REY
Well, maybe you’re the next JK
Rolling.

BEN
?

REY
She went to twelve publishers before
someone wanted to print HP. You
just have to find the right one.

BEN
Perhaps…

REY
Thanks for coming with me tonight.
I really appreciate it.

BEN
No problem. I had fun.

REY
I’m glad.
Well, I gotta open tomorrow.
Goodnight, Ben.

BEN
Goodnight, Rey.

 

Their second date was at a carnival that was in town, they went on a ferris wheel and kissed. Their third date was at a restaurant and Ben went to her apartment after. Their fourth date was at his place, a nice modern apartment that had a TV with surround sound; they watched Star Trek. Their fifth date was in a haunted house when Halloween rolled around and Rey realized she was falling fast. Their sixth at a brewery and Ben realized he had fallen.

By the time their seventh date had rolled around, they had known each other for about nine months now. Ben had met Poe and Finn. Rey was told that Ben didn’t have anyone for her to meet, how he was at odds with his parents and didn’t have any good friends. Rey had told Ben how her parents were murdered. Neither of them had truly opened up about their pasts.

It was a picnic.

There was red wine, sandwiches from a nearby restaurant, and a red and white checkered blanket laying on the grass. Rey was gazing at Ben in adoration as he recited the end of a poem he had written.

“That was wonderful,” she smiled. His heart still fluttered every time she smiled.

“Thanks,” he ducked his head down and blushed.

“So,” Rey tilted her head in curiosity. “If you don’t write poetry for a living, what do you do?”

“I’m a lawyer,” he told her, gut sinking. “Nothing too big.”

Rey hummed.

“What?” Ben raised a brow. “Do you have something against lawyers?”

Rey shook her head. “Not really. I’ve only had one experience with them, but it was shit.”

“Who was it with?”

“Snoke & Pal.,” she told him and Ben had to keep the fear on his face from showing. “They were the ones that
defended my parents’ murderer and got him off.”

“Oh,” Ben said. “Well, not all of us are like that.”

Rey smiled at him. “I know.”

And Ben wished that he hadn’t been one of those lawyers.

 

Rey found out about Ben when she was at Poe and Finn’s, washing the dishes while Poe put the food away. The TV was on, talking about a murder trial that the defendant had been declared not guilty.

“Lawyer Kylo Ren does it again,” the lady was saying. “And the firm Snoke & Pal. is quickly rising in the ranks of criminal defenders with a total of seventy cases either dismissed or declared not guilty.”

Rey looked up as the face of Kylo Ren was zoomed in on, one of the first clear shots. His hair was pulled back as always in a tight ponytail at the back of his head. He was wearing the black suit he always had on. Rey noted that he looked a lot like Ben… she looked closer and gasped.

On his lip was the scar that she had traced over so many times with her fingers and her lips. She would have never known it was him had it not been for that scar. She took a step back in shock and the cup she had been washing slipped out of her grasp and shattered on the floor. Poe shot up from the couch in shock as Rey ran out the door.

“What was that about?” Finn asked as he came out of the bathroom.

Poe looked at him, concerned, and shrugged.

 

Ben walked out of work in his civilian clothes, rubbing a hand over his face from the stress of the last case. At least it was over, but that didn’t make him feel any better about himself. He was halfway down the street when his phone rang. He smiled down at it. Rey.

“Hey—”

“—Snoke & Pal.? Really?” She cut him off, sounding angry and hurt. “Why didn’t you tell me you worked for them?”

Ben frowned. “Rey, what do you—”

“Cut the shit. I know you’re Kylo Ren, the guy that gets a lot of bad people out of jail time. Why didn’t you fucking tell me is what I’m wondering! No, not that! Why are you even working for them in the first place!?”

“Rey, I can—”

“No. I don’t want an explanation,” he swore he heard her voice crack. “I don’t even know why I fucking called.
Don’t call me again. Don’t text me. We’re through.”

The dial tone sounded and Ben pulled away from his phone, heart breaking in two. Little did he know, that was
how Rey was feeling too.

 

Ben tried to contact her. Text her, call her, and he even went to her shop. It was closed early and opened late. She was avoiding him and it looked like her friends were too. He just wanted a chance to explain himself, to explain why he was working for such notoriously evil people… but he didn’t know the answer to that himself. So, he kept going to work and stopping by the bookstore, which he finally caught open.

He smiled in either relief or anxiety and walked into the shop. It was late and there was no one else there except for Poe, who looked up with a retail smile that turned into a scowl as soon as he saw Ben.

“Get out,” he demanded.

“Wait,” Ben tried.

“No,” Poe pressed, coming around the counter, ready to shove him out. “Rey doesn’t want you here, I don’t want you here.”

“Please! I just need to explain!”

Poe looked in his eyes. He genuinely believed that Ben was a good guy, not one of those bastards over at Snoke & Pal.. But there was something there, something more than what he presented as due to his job. Poe had seen that look in himself years ago, before he had met Rey and Finn. He sighed, backing up and navigating around him, locking the front door and flipping the sign to Closed.

“Fine,” he crossed his arms and leaned back against the counter. “Explain.”

Ben sighed in relief. “Okay, um, I don’t know where to start.”

“How about the beginning?” Poe deadpanned.

So Ben told him about how he got into league with them, about his past and his inability to get out. Poe frowned pitifully.

“Tell all of that to Rey,” he advised once Ben finished. “She’ll understand.”

Ben looked desperate. “How do you know? I’m surprised you’re not running away right now. I’m a fuck-up who works with horrible people for no real reason.”

Poe rubbed his forehead. “I can’t tell you Rey’s story. That’s not my place. But I can tell you that Rey, Finn, and I all come from harsh backgrounds. We’ve all done horrible things. Personally, I ran drugs across the borders for a good portion of my life, drugs that hurt people—killed people. Finn was taken in by the mob and killed to get by when he was young. Rey will understand. You just need to talk to her. Explain to her, tell her everything that you just told me. Trust me, we all get it. You just haven’t gotten the strength to get out yet.”

 

And so Poe told Ben that he could find Rey here tomorrow night and explain. That’s how he ended up across from Rey, the two of them sitting on bean bags.

“So you wanted to explain?” She asked, face stone cold, but Ben could still see the hurt behind her eyes. “Get on with it then.”

Ben sighed and dove right into it.

“I was young, fresh out of law school with no experience and no marketable skills. No one would hire me for
whatever reason. I guess they just didn’t think I was good enough,” he gulped. “So, I drank. A lot. I went to parties and got high. My dad picked me up one night when I was smashed, so wasted I forgot how to walk. He was chewing me out, not paying attention to the road when it had just snowed. It was icy, we slid and crashed into a tree. The driver’s side was the most damaged, and I was too fucked to call 911. He died before they got there.”

Rey frowned and didn’t resist the urge to reach out and take his hand, rubbing her thumb along it for comfort.

“I blamed myself. My mom blamed me. So, I moved here and started applying. My family hated Snoke & Pal., so that was the first place I’d applied to. I knew that if my dad were alive, he’d forgive me. He’d say something about how it’s not my fault he wasn’t being more careful and I thought—I still think that if he hated me, he wouldn’t say that. I took the job because I wanted them to hate me like I hate myself. And I guess I stay there because it’s the only thing I have left. I cut ties with my mom and I don’t have anything to fall back on…”

“You have me,” Rey told him as soon as he stopped talking. “You have me now, and Finn and Poe.”

“I can’t see why you’re so forgiving,” Ben grimaced. “Why don’t you hate me? Anyone else would.”

“I can only assume Poe told you his story. Mine’s a lot like that. I stole car parts for a living when I was younger,
got involved with some bad people. Turns out the car ring was a front for human trafficking. I can’t begin to comprehend how horrible I feel for playing a role in that, but I forgive myself because I didn’t know, I was too young to know,” Rey explained.

“I’m older, I should know better.”

“We all learn things throughout our life, you’re just learning your lesson know,” Rey advised. “You know what you have to do?”

“Yeah…”

Rey watched over Ben’s shoulder (more like his bicep, he was a lot taller than her) as he emailed his boss that he would not be coming back to work and to send his paycheck to his P.O. Box. He turned around to face her and Rey lunged at him, smashing her lips to his, hands moving up to grab hold of his face. He returned the kiss with as much passion.

They pulled back, panting and staring at each other with the same amount of love and devotion. Rey smiled sweetly at him.

“I love you,” she told him, stroking his cheeks with her thumbs.

He gazed at her with so much affection he thought he might explode with it. “I love you too.”