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Red String of Fate

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Chapter 1

How Long Will I Love You?


 

They were having problems. As much as it made her despair, that was the first thought that would run through her mind whenever she saw her boyfriend of almost five years. They had started dating back when they were thirteen years old – nothing big, of course, for they were just kids. But no matter the age, Sasuke had always spoiled her. Not in a way for everyone to see, because it was just for the two of them, but he did pay her attention.

Or, at least, he used to.

On Christmas Day, they'd shared their first kiss. To her, it had been magical. Everything she could have hoped for and more. But… Well, they had never gone any further than that. Sure, they made out every now and then, but she was starting to feel a little inadequate. Didn't her boyfriend find her attractive anymore? Wasn't she sexy enough for him? Why did he keep pushing her away?

And that was where the worry kicked in. The paranoia.

What if he was seeing somebody else? Lately, he'd been acting so cold towards her. Yes, he kissed her and held her hand, but it was like he didn't see her. Like he was staring straight through her. It'd been that way since his birthday, if she was being completely honest. The day he turned seventeen, it was like somebody flicked a switch inside him, making him a cold, unapproachable person. It'd been that way for nearly a year now.

It wasn't all bad, though. There were times when he would see her. There were times when he would kiss her so passionately that her toes would curl and her heart would race. There were times when he would confide in her, telling her his deepest secrets. But the stress of having his father breathing down his neck was too much for her boyfriend to handle. She'd tried telling him to tell his father to back off, but it resulted in her being ignored for the rest of the day.

She had no idea what to do to help him, or what to do to help herself, as his cold mask was truly beginning to get to her. Some nights, she wouldn't even be able to sleep because of the fear that was clawing at her. What if, one day, he decided to end it all? Five years of their lives spent together – it all would've been for nothing.

Despite the unhealthy relationship, their five year anniversary was a few short months away and she had been planning on what do to for a while now.

His parents had a beach house that had its own private part of the beach. She'd been there once before and it was so peaceful out there – somewhere they were able to relax and be alone, even with his watchful parents and older brother hanging around at the time. Spending their anniversary weekend there would surely bring the spark back, right? She'd already spoken with his mother about it. One thing she had always been able to do was open up to the older woman, so when his mother heard of their difficulties and admitted her own personal worries of how closed off her son was becoming, she'd been more than willing to hand the keys over, as long as she promised to take full responsibility for anything that happened.

She was determined to do whatever was necessary to save their relationship. There wasn't a chance in hell that she was letting it go to waste. Not after so much time together. That was what a real relationship was about, right? Endurance and the determination to work through their problems?

But… She didn't want it to have to lead to sex for Sasuke to notice her. Why couldn't he just see her for who she was? There had to have been a reason why he asked her out in the first place, right? At the tender age of twelve (going on thirteen) and the fact her boyfriend was none other than Uchiha Sasuke, she seriously doubted he'd had sex on the brain. He simply wasn't that kind of person.

Hopefully, the weekend away would bring them closer together again. No friends, no phones and no distractions. Just them.

Gods, she sounded like a clingy, possessive girlfriend. But she wasn't. She just wanted her boyfriend back.

She missed him.

She missed him a lot.


"How can you still be working on those, Sakura?" came the angered snap of her supervisor. "You should be on the other half of the store by now."

Sighing with annoyance, she continued folding the clothes, placing them in their rightful places. "The customers keep-"

"I don't want to hear your excuses. Just hurry up."

With that, the middle aged blonde stomped away, already halfway through another snarl at a different colleague.

Unfortunately for her, she didn't come from a massively wealthy family who had more money than they could spend. No, she wasn't poor, but she wasn't rich, either. Haruno Sakura lived with her parents in a fairly large four bedroom house and they both had respectable jobs that allowed them to pay the mortgage and other bills, as well as buy groceries. However, if Sakura wanted spending money outside her agreed allowance, then it had to be earned. Her father didn't mind slipping her the odd note every now and then, but if she wanted more, she had to go to work.

Usually, she didn't mind working. Money was money. However, when it was one of the hottest days of the year so far (something she said nearly every day when it went even half a degree hotter than the day before) and she had her bitchy supervisor complaining about everything and anything, Sakura found herself hating her luck.

While it was usually busy, the store was busier than ever due to the high temperature. Summer was starting, meaning it was time for everyone to update their wardrobes. It made for a stuffy work environment, though she supposed it could have been worse. She could've been stuck monitoring the changing rooms. Just the thought had her shuddering.

Holding back a groan as she decided it would be best to quicken her pace, Sakura stood up straight once the piles of shirts were sorted and brushed down her uniform. It was a plain uniform consisting of black trousers, a black blouse and black flats (usually there was a sweatshirt with the store's logo on the back, but because of the heat, they didn't have to wear it). The only dash of colour to her otherwise dull outfit was the flat lanyard hanging around her neck to hold her I.D badge. It was red in colour with the store's name in white, bold capital letters across the material.

"Sakura."

The familiar voice had her eyes widening and she turned to face her boyfriend, smiling. "What are you doing here, Sasuke-kun?"

He stood out sharply compared to the store, which was known for its cheap prices. Uchiha Sasuke did not wear cheap clothing – his mother would blanch at just the thought. "Your lunch is in five minute, isn't it?" She nodded, surprised that it was that time already. "I'll wait for you outside."

It had always been that way with him, she noted with an inward pout. He didn't ask, he stated. He didn't request, he demanded. There were moments when he could be sweet and caring, but they were rare and usually only when they were alone with little chance of anybody else hearing or seeing him acting in such a way. As Sakura watched him walk away, she frowned to herself, but quickly got back to work, eager to finish the first half of her shift. Unless he was already busy, he always treated her to lunch, although she was certain it was only because his mother told him to.

"Excuse me, miss?"

Sakura glanced over her shoulder and seeing that it was a customer, she smiled politely. "Hello, sir. How can I help?"

"I could really use a woman's opinion," he admitted with a faint blush and looked to a couple of outfits he'd hung up. "My one year anniversary with my girlfriend is coming up and I have no idea what to get her."

That was the kind of guy Sakura wished Sasuke could be, as terrible as that sounded. It was harsh of her to compare the two, as she was supposed to love Sasuke for who he was, but the guy she was helping was there because he wanted to be. There was a genuine, happy smile on his face as he filled her in on his girlfriend's preferences and the type of clothing she often wore. Did Sasuke even take notice in her style? Sakura doubted it.

"I think I know the perfect dress for your anniversary," she said with a smile, gesturing for the man to follow her. "It came in just this morning, too."

As she showed him the dress, Sakura had to bite the inside of her cheek at the bright smile on his face, at how he exclaimed that she would love it. As she searched through the sizes for him, he told her how he didn't really enjoy shopping, but "would do anything for his girl". Would Sasuke do the same for her? Probably not. He didn't like going shopping with her, let alone for her.

"Thank you so much, Haruno-san," he told her after peering at her badge. "You are a lifesaver."

Lifesaver. The exaggeration had her smiling. One day, she hoped she really would be a lifesaver. Having already applied to several medical universities, Sakura hoped that someday, she would become a renowned doctor. If it weren't for her job taking up a great deal of her spare time, she would have volunteered at the hospital. It wasn't the prettiest of jobs, but it was so rewarding, not to mention it looked good on applications. But she needed the money too much.

Glancing down at her watch, Sakura cursed. It had taken much longer than she'd anticipated helping the man, and she was late for her lunch break. Rushing to the staff room, she smiled at her supervisor – who was in the process of serving customers and unable to criticise her further – and informed her where she was going.

Fortunately, Sasuke was still waiting for her outside. Leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets, he appeared calm and uncaring, briefly glancing in her direction and squinting when the sun threatened to blind him. Making the sight that much better, his phone was nowhere to be seen, either. No phone meant she would have his full attention.

"Hey," she said, coming to a stop by his side.

"Where do you want to go?"

To the point, as usual. "It's too hot for anything warm. How about we just get a sandwich or a salad?"

She would have preferred ice cream because of the hot weather, but Sasuke didn't like sweets and she was supposed to be on a diet (Sakura would never admit it, but she had broken said diet plan about five times and had only been on it for three days).

Nodding, he wordlessly pushed away from the wall and grabbed her hand, leading the way. One thing Sakura had never failed to notice were the envious stares that would follow them around. After all, her boyfriend had many fan-girls. Some didn't mind her, others hated her. And she enjoyed making them all jealous because he chose her.

"A guy came into the store just after you," Sakura told him conversationally as they walked to the nearest sandwich store. Secretly, she was hoping Sasuke would catch the hint in her words. He never usually did, though. "He was looking for a gift for his one year anniversary with his girlfriend. It was sweet, really. He couldn't stop smiling when I helped him find the perfect dress." When all she received was silence, Sakura pushed on, refusing to be disheartened. "He's planning on surprising her, you know. He bought her an entire outfit and said he's planning on leaving it on her bed with a note telling her to wear it. She has no idea what he has in store for her."

"I've done that for you before." Dark eyes narrowed fractionally as he glanced over his shoulder at her. "Several times."

"I know." It'd been years since he'd done anything like that. In fact, the last time Sasuke had done that for her was back when they were fifteen. She was now eighteen. "I'm just saying it's sweet of him."

Again, there was silence and it remained that way until they reached the sandwich bar. It was pretty crowded, but somehow, they managed to get a table outside. The table was towards the left of the bar, allowing them to watch the shoppers as they rushed under the unforgiving sun. After ten minutes had passed, their food and drinks were brought to them.

"Itachi is coming home next week."

Well, she hadn't been expecting that. Itachi was Sasuke's older brother and he'd been away at university for years, studying one degree after another. It was rare of him to visit during the holidays, which was why she was so surprised to hear of his permanent return. "Are you excited to see him again?"

For a few moments, Sasuke looked thoughtful as he stared down at his salad. The only reason he bought it was for the tomatoes – he'd actually asked for extra helpings of them. "I don't know. I haven't spoken to him in nearly a year."

It wasn't because they'd had a fight or anything. They simply had nothing to say to one another. Kind of sad really, because she knew Sasuke was fond of his older brother. However, with Itachi being abroad and focusing hard on his studies, they hadn't really had the chance for a catch up and in response, they drifted apart. The only times the Uchiha family were able to see Itachi was when they went to visit him, as Itachi was apparently way too busy to return to Konoha. It didn't surprise Sakura, though. In all the time she'd known the family, their father had always pushed Itachi much, much harder than he had ever pushed Sasuke.

It would be good to see him – it'd been years. In fact, the last time she saw him was probably during the family's vacation at the beach house when she and Sasuke were fourteen. Gods, it had been a while, hadn't it? Before he left for university, he'd always been around.

"Maybe you can finally spend some time together?"

Sasuke nodded once and looked up to her. "There's a party next week. Mother decided to throw a 'welcome home' party for him."

That was Sasuke's way of asking her to go with him. However, for once, she wanted him to actually ask her. Looking down at her sandwich, Sakura picked at it, taking the small piece into her mouth and chewing slowly. "I see," she mumbled after swallowing. To make it obvious she wouldn't be saying any more, she sipped her drink, sighing as the fizzy, cold liquid soothed her dry throat.

"Sakura."

She bit back a smile as she looked up at him. That was easier than she'd thought. "Yes, Sasuke-kun?"

There was a faint blush on his cheeks and she knew it was because she was forcing him to say the words. "Will you accompany me?"

"As your date?" she purred, lowering the sandwich and smirking at him. It was always a great feeling whenever she managed to make him blush or nervous. Due to how rare it was to happen, it made her feel powerful. Was that weird?

"Yes," he said with a huff. "You know that's what I mean."

"Of course I will." She smiled brightly at him, pretence dropping. "What sort of party is it? Formal or casual?" He shrugged. "Sasuke-kun," she groaned. "I need to know what to wear. The last time you didn't tell me what sort of party your mother was throwing, I turned up in casual clothing when it was a formal dinner party."

Sasuke rolled his eyes. "I don't know what type of party it is, yet. Itachi only confirmed he was returning a couple of hours ago."

"Well, make sure you tell me as soon as you do know." Despite her words, she made a mental note to call his mother.

"Right."