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I performed poorly on my exams, and because of that, I lashed out even worse than before. The first week after my second academic year had ended for summer I went full time at the bar, and was even taking double shifts so I wouldn\ have to go home. When I\d get back to the apartment in the early hours of the morning, I\d sleep on the couch suppressing the violent anger at seeing Jaxon\s things littered everywhere in disorganized fashion around the place.

Jeez, I couldn\ even remember the last time we made love. There was f*king, which we still did occasionally, but not making love. My only goal was to reach my orgasm as quickly as possible. I stopped pleasuring him, and stopped letting him pleasure me orally.

There were days I was semi-happy and we\d spend it together out and about. I found that doing things outside of the apartment distracted us from fighting. He took my temper tantrums even in public in stride, and tried to be as understanding as possible. But I could see the weariness in him, and the sharp intake of his breath when I lashed out in anger. He was always trying his hardest to cool his anger and prolong his patience.

The last straw was at work one night. Jaxon still came around every now and then, and that pissed me off because he would always look at me and expect me to just abandon my work for a few minutes to pay him attention. I was particularly angry at him this day because he\d ruined my brand new blouse by throwing in his freshly grease ridden work shirt into the washer before I turned it on. That was a bitch fit that resulted in me kicking the washer and cursing him off despite his promise to buy me the exact same one.

’’It\s not about getting another one!’’ I\d screamed at him, feeling the swell of that anger in my brain. ’’It\s the fact you just don\ f*king think, Jaxon.’’

So with that rage still coursing through me, I did something I would later regret for years to come. A few tables away from Jaxon, I allowed a man to chat me up. I was used to flirtation, and some guys had the audacity to reach over and grab my backside when they were drunk, but I\d never ever given them the time of day. I hated the sleaziness in every encounter of flirting at the bar during my shifts, but knowing that this night in particular Jaxon was watching me carefully, I couldn\ help but want him to get jealous.

I don\ even remember what the guy looked like, except that he had dark eyes and black hair. When he said, ’’Hey, beautiful,’’ I smiled a charming smile in return and responded with, ’’Hello, stud.’’ What ensued was a night of fun flirtation.

’’You usually talk this way to your customers?’’

’’Only the lookers.’’

’’Well, I certainly feel lucky tonight.’’

He\d stop me when I walked by, make suggestive remarks about what he wanted to do to me, and all the while I encouraged it. Then he began following me around, meeting near the front of the bar, touching me lightly on the arm, at one point sliding his hand down my back and stopping just above my ass. It felt wrong even then, but I wanted to rile Jaxon up.

There was a storm in his expression as he helplessly watched on, but he never got up and sorted the man out. He just watched me, brokenly taking in my borderline cheating right in front of him. Surely something like this couldn\ get me angry. But it did. How could a boyfriend watch on and not intervene? Why didn\ he get up and sort this obviously intoxicated guy out, or at least threaten him to back off?

He did nothing but watch with dead eyes, ignoring everything around him. At some point, he\d gotten up and left, but I hadn\ seen it. I turned after a while to the table he\d been sitting at only to find it occupied by other customers.

I ignored the guy entirely after that. When I went home, I was unsure of what I\d find. Would he silently stew and ignore me? Would he start an argument? What was I coming home to?

There was unease in my footsteps to the front door. A gut feeling told me to turn around and walk away, maybe go and see Lexi and spend the night at her apartment to blow off some steam. Jaxon had every right to be pissed off, and I didn\ want to be in the midst of it. This was ironic since he was always my target during my rage fits.

When I walked into the apartment, I threw my purse on the kitchen counter and looked around. All the lights were still on, and I could hear the sounds of the bathroom pipes bellowing. Jaxon was in the shower.

I strolled to the living room, taking in the strange look of cleanliness. In fact, now that I\d taken notice, the whole apartment was sparkly clean. No dishes in the sink, no laundry on the floor, no clutter of mess on the lounge coffee table, no food or crumbs on the couch. When had he done this?

In the middle of my contemplation, he walked out of the bedroom in nothing but a towel draped around his hips. I hated that I never stopped to take in his beauty in that very moment. He was hotter than the burning embers of hell, and I hadn\ complimented him in what felt like an eternity. His wet hair, now over an inch passed his chin, was dripping in water, and when he stopped in a strange stiff stance to regard me, it started pooling into a puddle at his feet.

’’I\ll clean it up,’’ he said quietly, noticing my gaze on the puddle. His voice was strangely cool, and his face reserved, hidden in an emotion that I couldn\ put my finger on. The air was heavy with uncertainty. It made my chest constrict. This was the calm before the storm.

’’When did you clean up?’’

’’Been cleaning up for days actually, but you never noticed.’’ His voice now sounded accusatory. I immediately went into defensive mode.

’’What, am I supposed to notice everything you do?’’ I retorted.

’’You seem to notice every single tiny thing I don\ do.’’

’’What\s your point?’’

’’You drag me down for my wrong doings, and never praise me for what I do right.’’

’’What, do you want a cookie, Jaxon?’’

’’No, Sara, I don\ want a cookie.’’

I rolled my eyes at him as I walked past him, but he grabbed my arm gently and turned to me. ’’Why did you do it?’’

’’Do what?’’

’’You know what.’’ His eyes searched my face, and his pain now had broken through his reserved countenance.

’’Why didn\ you stop it?’’ I bit back, glaring at him.

’’Is that what you wanted? You wanted me to react violently? What do you get out of that, Sara?’’

’’A demonstration that you care.’’

’’I demonstrate I care about you every damn day.’’

I ripped my arm out of his grip. ’’Well, don\ you worry, nothing happened because I\m not like you. I wouldn\ let a random person kiss me, and whatever the f*k else you did with her.’’

’’You know I did nothing,’’ he angrily rebutted.

’’Whatever, Jaxon.’’ I made my way into the bedroom and he followed, stopping at the doorway as I took off my flats.

’’Do you enjoy hurting me?’’ he asked, gripping each side of the door frame so tightly, his knuckles went white.

’’Oh, here\s another sob story,’’ I grumbled.

’’You do, don\ you? Why? What have I done?’’

’’Nothing. You never do anything around here.’’

’’Nice change in subject, but on that note I have long hours at work, Sara. Then I stay up most of the night waiting for you to come home while I\m shattered.’’

I faced him now, clenching my hands in fists, and gritted out, ’’Well, I work long hours too, Jaxon. No one is forcing you to wait up for me, or to go and stalk me at f*king work. I\m busy all the time now. I\m bettering myself.’’

’’And I\m not?’’

’’You\ve never accomplished shit in your life,’’ I spat out, raking him up and down with disgust. ’’I\m busting my ass off so I can become a lawyer, so that I can go places in life. And what are you going to end up doing? Look after cars in some dodgy garage your whole life?’’

He took a deep breath, and his chest shook, as if breathing was suddenly difficult. ’’So now it\s a problem with what I do?’’

’’It\s a problem that you don\ want to do better.’’

’’Since when is status so important in life? I know I won\ be earning a million dollars a year, but it\ll give me what I need, earn me enough to take care of us-’’

’’I\ll be earning my own way,’’ I interrupted him, crossing my arms across my chest. ’’I won\ need your pennies. I\ll be depending on myself.’’

’’What is this f*king obsession with depending on yourself all the f*king time?’’ His voice rose in frustration. ’’We\ e a couple! We\ e meant to take care of each other. That\s why I came here. I wanted to do this all for you, told you that there was no pressure, no reason for you to work because I had money-’’

’’Money you made by being a criminal! That\s ironically all you have ever been good at! Breaking and entering and stealing other people\s hard earned income. How could you think for a second I would be fine with using up that kind of dirty money?’’

He closed his eyes momentarily, took a deep breath and opened them again. Calmly, he said, ’’I understand the apprehension, but I\ve completely stopped doing shit like that in forever. Give me some credit on that at least.’’

’’That\s what you say! Who the f*k knows what you\ e up to? You could be thieving any time you want right now, f*king girls behind my back too. You could up and leave me any day without the decency to tell me!’’

’’I would never cheat on you!’’ All patience escaped him now, and he looked wild with anger. At that point, I\d never seen him so dark before except for the time at my house when he\d defended me against my father. ’’I never have! I\ve never deceived you! I agreed that night in bed after Prom to be yours and only yours! You can blame me for everything else I\ve done wrong by you, but you can never say I cheated!’’

’’I see you flirting with girls all the time,’’ I lied, and I really wasn\ sure why I was lying either. Maybe it was to get a reaction out of him, and maybe a side of me wanted to believe he was doing it.

He was in disbelief, gritting his teeth so loud I could hear them. ’’I\ve never flirted with anybody. Nor did I ever try to rile you up with jealousy by talking to some f*king drunk dimwit.’’

I\d heard enough. I didn\ want to be confronted about the guy at the bar. I went to leave the bedroom, but Jaxon wouldn\ let me through. ’’Move!’’

’’No. You\ e going to talk this through with me, Sara. Every time we argue, you flee and I let you go. It has never done us good, either. You just get angrier and angrier.’’

’’Shut up and move, Jaxon!’’

’’No. You\ e going to talk-’’

’’What is there to talk about?’’

’’US!’’ he growled, leaning down to my level so that we were face to face and inches away. ’’You\ e going to tell me where my girlfriend is!’’

’’Among the crowd of girls you\ve f*ked, where do you want me to point?’’

His eyes widened. ’’You\ e such a bitch.’’

’’Yeah, well at least I\m not a f*king loser like YOU!’’ I attempted to duck under his arm, but he pushed his body in front of me. ’’Jaxon, I swear to f*king God, MOVE!’’

’’We\ e going to talk.’’

’’No, we\ e not! You can\ force me to talk to you!’’

’’Well, then I\m not going anywhere. You think you can constantly have your way, well f*k that, I want to have my way once in a while too, Sara.’’ He was saying all of this while I was hopelessly pushing him. ’’Stop acting like a banshee, and just calm down.’’

’’You can\ force me in here!’’ He\d never been so glued in the doorway like this before. In previous fights, he\d stand there and attempt to talk reasonably, but if I told him no, he\d move aside and let me through. ’’Move or I\ll call the police!’’

’’And tell them what?’’ he sneered, ignoring how harder my shoves were getting. ’’Stop flailing, Sara...’’ Out of hysteria for not getting my way, I made my hands into fists and punched him like mad on his chest, screaming for him to move. He took the punches like a champ, moving one hand to his chest to block them. I tried knocking the towel off of him with my leg, but he ducked and weaved me like a pro, knowingly protecting himself.

’’I hate you!’’ I screamed, and then I grabbed the arm he was using to block the doorway with and dug my fingers as hard as possible into his flesh, clawing at it as deeply as I could. He hissed and grabbed me by the shoulders, telling me to calm down as I attempted to knee him in the balls. He shoved me into the door, knocking me breathless for a second as the back of my head thudded.

’’What is your f*king problem?!’’ he hollered, looking down at his arm. ’’You don\ try and hit me again, Sara. Don\ you f*king dare!’’

’’Or what?’’ I breathlessly retorted. Some loose strands of hair were over my face and eyes, and I must have looked like a panting madwoman on a high.

His face went dark as he bore his eyes into mine. ’’I\ve let you get away with this far too long. Hurt me again, Sara, and I\ll defend myself.’’

I scoffed and pushed him hard again. He barely budged, but I knew the physical contact was grating more and more on his patience. He was about to lose it. And I wanted him to.

’’What are you going to? Are you going to hit me?’’ I slapped him on the chest with both hands. ’’Go on! I dare you! Hit me!’’

’’Stop it-’’

I slapped him hard against the face, and that was the last straw. He grabbed me by the shoulders and squeezed hard;his face went bright red, coming at me until he was inches from my face. I tried to squirm away, but he overpowered me. ’’Stop it,’’ he begged hoarsely, and I could feel his breath against my face. Desperation scraped out of him, making him shudder against me. ’’Stop it, Sara. I love you. Stop this.’’ He tried to overcome his anger by kissing me, and when his mouth touched mine, I\d gone off like a rocket.

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