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Those fiery eyes turned into a storm as he stalked to me. ’’You\ e f*king crazy.’’

’’Why am I crazy?’’

’’How the f*k would I have been happy when you walked out on me-’’

’’I know you were-’’

’’I gave you every f*king piece of me!’’ Now he was standing in front of me, leaning down at my level. I could feel his hot breaths against my face and see the veins protruding from his neck. ’’I gave you my heart and you tore it to pieces. Abandoned me, left to rot while you disappeared off the face of the earth. You were gone when I needed you the most! You never came back in five f*king years-’’

’’I went back a month later,’’ I interrupted sharply, looking into the blue depths of his eyes and witnessing, for the first time in days, the shattered soul I was responsible for breaking. ’’I went back because I missed you, and to beg for you to take me back and you were gone.’’

He shook his head sceptically, and I cupped his chin with my hand to stop him.

’’Don\ look at me like that! I did! Some couple was living in our apartment, and you were gone. I got Lexi to call your mom up and she told her that you were working overseas, that you were happy!’’ My voice broke at the end as more tears erupted from my eyes. Saying this all out loud was like re-opening a wound and rubbing salt all over it.

His face went still as he regarded me. He was so mercurial, I couldn\ tell what he was thinking. I dropped my hand and let him soak up the words while I hastily wiped away my face.

’’Did you really come back?’’ he asked gently.

’’I wouldn\ lie about something like that.’’

’’Why didn\ you call Mom yourself?’’

’’And tell her what?’’ I scoffed in disgust with myself. ’’That I physically hurt her son every time I got angry? That I was treating you like shit all because I had it in my head that you were going to break my heart any minute? That I clawed you so f*king hard I can still see the scar on your face right now!’’ It was true. Barely noticeable, I saw the faint line just above his jaw. ’’You remember what I did to you. If I told her that, she would have hated me, and back then I thought for sure you\d have told her. You\ e right. I was a coward running away because I didn\ want to face up to what I did. So tell me, why the hell would it have made a difference if I talked to her instead?’’

’’Because she would have given you the truth.’’ The weighted words came out hushed. He stepped away from me and moved his head up so that it was facing the ceiling. His whole body was suddenly shaking.

’’What\s wrong? What truth?’’ I asked worriedly.

Looking back down at me with an eerie empty face, he quietly said, ’’I was remanded into custody a couple weeks after you left. I went through an initial hearing, then a second hearing, and I pled guilty to a f*king crime I didn\ commit. Then I was sent off to a maximum security prison for twenty f*king months of my life.’’


It was as if someone had put a bullet through my chest;a searing pain in my heart at this new revelation. Confusion and shock were at the forefront of my emotions.

’’You went to prison?’’ I repeated. ’’For... For what?’’

’’Trevon had been using my place as a f*king dumping ground,’’ Jaxon muttered as he walked over to the bed and sat down again. He had his eyes pinned on his clasped hands. ’’I let him stay after he\d gotten evicted from his place because he hadn\ been paying since Lexi had taken off with you, I assume.’’ He looked up at me and I nodded.

’’Anyway, the police were tipped off and they flooded into the apartment one night and arrested both of us for possession of a deadly weapon. There were two unregistered guns he\d stashed in the laundry closet, and then they discovered my stash of money I\d put away from my teenage crimes, and with Trevon selling dope on the side, it was the easiest case for them to put together. The f*king cop that arrested us had a real problem with me and of course it didn\ help I had a smart mouth back then. I was his number one target. And then suddenly there was a bag of heroine under my mattress that was so f*king obviously planted there. Cops, I tell you. They\ e either good, or they\ e out to get you.’’ With a sigh, he rubbed his eyes and mumbled, ’’There was no point in fighting the charges.’’

’’How do you know that? You could have.’’

He shot me a doubtful look. ’’There was no way I could get out of that. If I pled not guilty, then it\d have been an uphill battle trying to fight a bunch of charges that were virtually impossible to get out of. Plus, how the hell was I going to afford a good attorney? Mom had nothing at the time. I knew the sentence would be lenient if I just pled guilty. That\s what my’’ - he made a distasteful look -’’government appointment lawyer told me, anyway. So on the second hearing, I pled guilty and the judge sentenced me right there on the spot. Three years at Winthrop Maximum Security Prison. I was literally hauled away right then and there to start my sentence.’’

I slid down the wall and onto the ground, hauling my knees to my chest while trying to wake up from this f*ked up dream. Prison? He\d been in prison all that time?

’’Why did Lucinda tell Lexi that you were overseas?’’

’’Why the hell would I want anyone to know I was in prison, Sara?’’ He raised an eyebrow at me as if I was dense in the head for asking such a question. ’’I was obviously ashamed, and so was Mom.’’

’’Winthrop Prison?’’ My voice left me temporarily as I gasped in the shock of it all. ’’That\s the nastiest prison around.’’

He didn\ respond to that, but his eyes looked haunted and his lips thinned.

’’Jaxon...’’ I exhaled slowly. ’’I had no idea, Jaxon. All this time I thought...’’ I crawled over to him, shaking as badly as him, and reached out to touch him. Before I could, he got up and walked to the opposite side of the room.

’’I don\ want to talk about that part of my life,’’ he coldly stated, turning his back to me. ’’I want to talk about why it took you five years to come back here.’’ When I didn\ offer an answer, he shot me that familiar glare. ’’I looked for you when I got out. Do you know what that was like?’’

I gulped painfully. ’’I thought you\d moved on-’’

’’You weren\ listed anywhere. You had no profile on any social website I could find - and believe me I looked. Do you know how hopeless a person feels when they type in \Sara Nolan\ in the search engine and find themselves looking at nine million results and none of them are you?’’ He shook his head in irritation. ’’Not even your mother had your updated phone number when I went to her the day I was free. So, either you were trying to hide yourself from anyone that\s ever known you, or you were dead. Do you know what that was like, thinking that you might have died somehow and I wasn\ there? Do you know how many nights I stayed up in my f*king cell wondering what the f*k happened to you? Five f*king years later you come and it\s not because you want to see me, or even Mom for that matter, but because you\ e here to clean up your dead mother\s house. I went to that funeral and you weren\ even there. Do you know how hard that was?!’’ He shouted the last line, gritting his teeth as his eyes bore a hole through me.

’’And on top of all that, you\ e with some f*king hot shot guy, driving around in his expensive car, looking happy as hell while I endured five goddamn years of misery! You haven\ the faintest idea the shit I\ve have to do while you\ e prancing about with your f*king giddy smile on your face!’’ He looked just about ready to explode, but he stood his ground and continued the seething glare.

’’I wasn\ happy!’’ I cried, sagging on the floor with my back against the bed. ’’I was miserable! I hated my life every day. I cried myself to sleep every night. I dreamt of you every time I closed my eyes, and I regretted walking out every second until I started getting help.’’ I took a few calming breaths because my teeth were chattering.

’’I hate that I left you like that, but I was sick in the head. I was turning into my father, turning into that violent, angry person who enjoyed inflicting pain on others because it gave me a rush. You go on like I did what I wanted to do, but leaving you was the last thing I ever wanted to do.

’’I don\ even remember the trip I took with Lexi. Every day I was on a different bus, but I wasn\ mentally there. I was constantly revisiting the last day I had with you, how I hurt you by flirting with that guy. I was nowhere near healed when I went back to beg for another chance. It was realizing you\d moved on, and you were happy - that\s what forced me to heal. For all these years I imagined you walking into that apartment and feeling anger that I was gone, but then relief that you wouldn\ have to put up with my bullshit anymore.

’’I quit school because I didn\ deserve to better myself. I deserved nothing but the worst. So, I waitressed and took meditation classes on the side. I was always trying to keep myself occupied, but it didn\ help until I met Daniel. He hired me, but that first year we became friends and I let slip that I had a problem. He set me up with the best therapist around, and it was the best thing at the time. Dr Shipton was incredible. He taught me to cope with the pain of losing you, and ways to move past the anger I\d built.’’

I wasn\ even looking at him anymore as I reflected on the last few years. I kept my eyes pointed at a random spot on the rug. ’’When I was with Daniel... it was the only way I could forget you. Being lost with someone else for even a moment was better than having to feel the hole in my heart at the reminder of what I\d walked away from. He... he\s broken too. What we have... or had... was a simple agreement.’’ This was hard to talk about, but I knew he wanted and needed to hear it. ’’We never had a real relationship or anything like that. We\ve just been using each other to forget the bad things for a little while.’’

’’He looked at you like you were more than just an arrangement, Sara.’’ Jaxon\s voice was startlingly soft.

’’He offered more. Today.’’

’’And what did you say?’’

’’He told me to wait a few days, but he made me promise to go back to him.’’

’’Someone can\ force you to promise something you don\ want to promise, Sara.’’

I looked at him despairingly, all cried out. ’’You\ve been nothing but cold to me, Jaxon. Why on earth would I have stopped to think for a split second that I might have another chance with you? All I\m doing is trying to be content with my life, and if that means being content with Daniel then... then I can\ pass that up.’’

He opened his mouth to speak when his phone rang. Exhaling in irritation, he pulled it out of his pocket and answered. ’’What?’’ I watched him listen intently for a few agonizingly long moments. ’’Alright. I\m on my way.’’ He hung up, and shrugged at me, masterfully concealing his face from all emotion. ’’I gotta go.’’

’’What? Like that?’’

’’I can\ stay.’’

’’This is more important. Isn\ it?’’

’’I can\ stay,’’ he repeated with finality. That was the end of that.

Shocked by the abrupt end to the conversation, I gritted my teeth and shook my head.

He looked away from me, put his phone back into his pocket and stood glued in his spot for a few seconds. Then, without even a glimpse in my direction, he left the room, shutting the door sharply on his way out.

I was disappointed that whatever it was couldn\ have waited until we\d sorted things out. But I didn\ want to make myself feel anymore worthless than I already did. So I turned the lights off and crawled into bed. When my own phone rang a half hour later, I rejected Daniel\s call.

I wasn\ going to fool myself. I couldn\ give Daniel what he wanted, not after realizing how deeply in love I still was with Jaxon. I hadn\ moved on from him one bit. That cold, painful admission meant there was no way I could open my heart to anybody else. As I closed my eyes and prayed for sleep to take me, I wondered if I was going to grow old and grey alone;because by how heavily anchored my heart was to Jaxon, I didn\ think I\d ever be able to move on.


The mattress shifted sometime in the middle of the night. Having waited a few agonizingly long hours, I\d given up on hoping he\d return to sleep next to me again. I passed out after an eternity of self-wallowing, and because I was still so damn tired, I couldn\ be entirely sure if the warm arm around my waist was real or a conjured up hallucination.

Come morning, I woke up entirely aware of my surroundings. I hastily turned around and my hopes were dashed when I saw the other side was empty and cold. It didn\ even look like he\d slept there. Being the creep that I was, I smelled the pillow and took in his scent that had entrenched itself in the fabric from the other night\s sleep.

Feeling moody, I kicked off the covers and got ready to, yet again, get the house done. After changing into another predictable outfit that consisted plainly of jeans and a thin sweater, I went down stairs. Lucinda was in the kitchen drinking a hot cup of coffee, looking groggy and tired, her normal pristine hair in a messy bun as she flicked through the newspaper.

’’Morning,’’ I yawned, plopping down next to her.

’’You\ e up early. I haven\ even started on breakfast.’’ She combed through the tangles of my hair before pausing. I caught her eyes on my neck, and I quickly removed her hand from me.

’’Don\ bother with breakfast. I\ll pick up something on the way to the house.’’

’’Are you sure?’’ With an amused smile on her face, she was still staring at my neck even though I\d hurriedly covered it up with my hair.

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