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Or maybe it’s that I’d be the one breaking. I’d suffer, from knowing what a dipshit I was. Perry and me, it was always one step forward, two steps back. I’d felt like we were finally making ground and then I had to tell her the truth.

The truth always sets my ass back.

She had turned away from me, whimpering her words through anger. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”

What a place for it all to come out too. Locked in the dark basement of a haunted mental asylum. Actually, it was quite fitting. We had been driving each other insane for too long.

I reached out for her in the darkness, my hand resting on her shoulder.

She whipped around like a caged animal. A glimpse of feral hate in her eyes.

“Don’t you fucking touch me!” she screamed, her voice echoing in the damp room.

No. I couldn’t listen to that. I couldn’t bear to have this between us. I needed to touch her, to know there was some part of her still mine.

Instinctively I grabbed her wrists and held on tight.

“I’m sorry,” I said, searching her eyes for something. Anything.

“Let go of me!” she roared. I had found something. She was about to punch me in the face. I knew that look all too well.

Fuck, I was a jackass.

“Fine, punch me!” I yelled back at her, frustration rising. “But you have to listen to me first.”

She wouldn’t have any of it. “You’re a fucking liar!”

And I was. I gripped her wrists tighter and pulled her up to me, needing her to listen, to see me, to hear me out. She relented, her dark hair whipped around her face in a frenzy. But she let me hold her up to me. She let me speak.

“Put yourself in my shoes Perry, please,” I begged. “She’s my girlfriend, you’re my partner. What was I supposed to do? Who was I supposed to protect?”

She closed her eyes, shutting me out. It felt like she was giving up. I didn’t want the fire to die in her, I just wanted her to give me a chance to explain.

I sighed and let go of her hands. I didn’t even know if explaining would help.

She slowly walked away without giving me a glance. Perry was defeated, and after all the strength I’d seen in her lately, it pained me to know it was me who did it to her.

“Baby,” I called out to her, my voice trailing in the cold air.

“Don’t you fucking call me that!” she exploded. “You don’t get to. Especially after what you just said.”

She was hurt. More hurt and angry than I had thought.

Why? What else was there?

I took a few cautious steps toward her. “Why is this bothering you?”

She let out an evil laugh. I couldn’t see her face but I knew there was no humor in it. “Heaven forbid this should bother me.”

“Did you want me to tell you?” I asked carefully.

“What the hell do you think?”

“Did you think I owed it to you?” And there I was again, digging, poking, looking for something to satisfy me. God, I knew what I wanted to hear.

Did she?

“I guess,” she admitted. “I would have told you.”

“Why?” I coaxed. I took another step toward her.

She slowly turned her head to look at me, maybe to warn me not to come any closer.

“Because...” her voice trailed off. I saw the outline of her throat as she swallowed hard. “You’re...”

What? I’m what?

“Perry,” I said, my voice shaking a bit.

She was now looking at the ground. In the shadows I could see her brow contracting. She was having an inner argument with herself. I didn’t know if the side I wanted to win, would win.

“What?” Fear rippled from her in waves.

She knew what I was going to ask. And I had to ask it anyway.

After all these months together, sleeping in the same bed, the night in the tent, the way my thoughts revolved around her very essence twenty-four hours a day. After almost dying, always saving each other, always pushing and pulling and hurting each other. I had to know how she really felt.

If she answered yes, I’d give in. And I’d tell her everything I was hiding. Everything I fought against every day. I would tell her the truth.

No more lies.

“Are you in love with me?”

And there. It was out there. I was admitting nothing myself but it had to be obvious that I was asking for a reason. That I wanted her to say yes. I needed her to say she loved me.

Then I would be a bit safer when I fell.

Her eyes went wide at the question. I guess it caught her off guard. Or she was a good actress. She’d certainly improved on camera.

“Excuse me?” she squeaked.

I took a few more steps toward her, filling her with my shadow.

“Do you love me?”

Please say yes.

Oh fuck, say yes Perry.

There was nothing but silence. That was bullshit. I had to know.

“Perry,” I said again, more urgent. “Do you love me?”

She breathed in deep, a short sharp sound. She steadied herself and looked me in the eye. I looked back. There was no softness there. It was only hard edged and glinting, like a sword. That stabbing blade.

“No,” she said simply. “I don’t.”

I was wrong. I had it all turned around.

I didn’t put the sword into her. I only gave her the sword.

She’s the one who just put it in me.

MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER

Sometimes things end out of the blue; one minute it’s going, next minute…it’s gone. Sometimes they crumble slowly, like your favorite pair of boxer briefs . You wear them every day cuz they cup your balls just so and don’t ride up the legs and sooner or later they become a second skin. You even avoid washing them too often, as rank as that is, because you fear the washing machine will agitate things, shake them up, pull apart those fibers. But eventually, it’s going to end. Your underwear will disintegrate. One tug in a fit of mindless passion or just pulling them down to use the can, and SNAP. There’s nothing left to hold it together. You’re naked. And your ass is cold.

I knew things were over, really over, when I was about to pull my own underwear off. And couldn’t.

Jenn had gotten out of the shower and was done slathering her naked body with that Victoria’s Secret arsenic-scented lotion. She was flashing me the come hither eyes, the ones that usually created a 0-60 boner in five seconds. But though the lil dude got a bit hard – it does that when I see naked women, I can’t help it – it never got past the chubby stage.

And that’s when I knew this was it. This was the end. If we didn’t have sex, what did we have? Nothing. Absolutely butt-fuck nothing. Just a pair of miserable people hanging onto each other for the sake of…I don’t know? Not companionship. Not love. Maybe Fear. Boredom.

Loathing.

“What’s wrong?” she purred. She didn’t understand why my hands weren’t pulling down my drawers, why I wasn’t stroking myself in anticipation.

What was wrong? Are you really that clueless? I thought. It was all hitting me now like a ton of bricks. How about Perry, Rebecca and Emily being just outside the door? How about finding out you’ve been fucking screwing around behind my back for who the hell knows how long? And with Bradley? Sir Swagger Douchington the Fuck?

I didn’t say these things though. I didn’t want her to know that I knew. I just knew it was done for. And whatever chance I had for happiness, happiness that I didn’t really deserve, it wasn’t in our bedroom. It wasn’t with a Wine Babe in all her gorgeous, black-souled glory. It was out in the kitchen. Where a brave, dark-haired beauty was giggling with her new friends.

“I’m not in the mood,” I said brusquely as she started reaching for my waistband. I had forgotten that she liked it when I said no. Not that I ever really said no.

She wiggled her perfect bum in the air. Anyone else would have said I was gay for not being turned on by Jenn there on all fours, golden naked honey on white sheets. But making out with a guy seemed like a mighty fine alternative to getting sucked into a vortex of lies and fake nails.

“Dex,” she said, her voice getting pitchy.

“I need to get ready. So do you, it’s a big night and we’re running out of time,” I told her and stepped far out of her reach. To cement my point I quickly slipped on my black dress pants. They were itchy as hell and rarely worn but I wanted to look good tonight. I had someone else I needed to impress. I hoped they would do my ass justice.

I ignored Jenn, turning my back to her and searching for matching socks. I was sort of mindlessly looking, purposely busying myself until she dropped it and lost interest. It didn’t take too long. Jenn knew she had to get ready too and I’d bet my dog’s farts that she was trying to impress Perry as well.

I heard her sigh and get off the bed. She slipped some ugly 80’s Kim Catrall type dress over her head, pottered about finding her heels, then finally left the room.

As soon as the door clicked shut, I breathed out a sigh of relief. Believe it or not, I felt a bit bad. Jenn’s self-esteem was surprisingly fragile and I didn’t like going out to a party with both of us off-kilter. But then again, she brought this on herself. So had I.

Maybe you belong together after all, I thought. Who was I to judge her when I was just as much of an ass?

A giggle resounded from outside the door and shook the pity party out of my pants. Perry. She was all I needed to think about tonight. Not Jenn. Not even myself. Just Perry. I needed to do right by her and no one else. Maybe then that nasty voice in my head would shut the fuck up.

I slipped on a white dress shirt and black jacket and stared myself down in the mirror. Maybe it was because I wasn’t especially tall, but I always felt like a monkey in a suit. But it looked OK. I knew I looked handsome, maybe even dashing in that wannabe Bond way. I also looked strangely alert for someone who nearly died the night before.

I stopped looking at myself before I turned into one of those guys who give pep talks to their reflection (“Yeah, work that mustache, you stud, chicks fucking dig the rapist look”) picked up my tie and made my way out into the apartment where Beastie Boys was blaring.

Jenn was leaning against the counter with a glass of wine in hand. She raised her brows invitingly, which meant she wasn’t all that mad about earlier. Perhaps she was already drunk.

“Tie or no tie?” I asked as I walked toward her.

Then, like I was pulled into some cosmic pulse, I paused and looked over at the stereo.

It was a vision of teal satin. And breasts. Oh my god, the breasts.

My eyes locked onto Perry and my breath was stolen. It wasn’t just the breasts though – or the nip and curve of her waist and hips, a rolling highway that made me break erection speed records. She looked truly beautiful, comfortable. She was fresh, alive, glowing and…just so fucking real.

I don’t know how long I was staring at her from across the room, my eyes taking a dip in her own blue pools, but it was enough that my dick was straining hard against my fly and Jenn said something about taking a picture to make it last longer.

I didn’t need to. That moment would always be burned in my head. That moment when I knew that I was way in over my head. I was fucked.

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