The period of two weeks between the first rent check that Ben wrote for his new apartment in San Francisco and his last day of work in Petaluma were filled with eagerness and fanciful musings of how life in the city would be. He an his soon-to-be roommate Drew had even taken to visiting the vacant apartment just to sit on the grey rug and banter about the unfamiliar sights of homeless people and explicit illegal activity on the narrow streets of the neighborhood below their third story perch. Whenever they went, Ben’s girlfriend Nicole asked to accompany him to the building he so excitedly described.

                “You wouldn’t think anything of it, there’s not even any furniture,” he said after seeing Nicole’s shoulders slump when he told her that he and Drew would be going alone. “And we really need some time to break the place in as roommates you know?”

                Nicole had expressed her romantic interest in Ben more eagerly than any of the girls he had enticed since returning to Petaluma from a year at college in Arizona. His stint away from home had been an utter failure, ending in his parents forcing his return after seeing his school grades. He had kept the company of a socially inferior group of friends that praised his exaggerated, yet frequent success with women. Upon returning to Petaluma, he had adopted a sense of superiority over those in town who had never moved away, for there was no one to verify or deny his hyperbolic tales of life in Arizona. This demeanor, accompanied by his tall, muscular frame and sharp handsome face caused the town’s female population, particularly the younger ones, to flock around Ben when they saw him at parties and look away blushing when he met their gaze with confident blue eyes. He coaxed many of them into bed with him, rarely attempting to continue contact after the first liaison, and boasting candidly to his friends after each experience.

                Like many others, Nicole had keenly accepted Ben’s request to accompany him to a party in the country outside of Petaluma. There was nothing remarkable about her outside of being beautiful, but Ben could still recall grabbing her hand, barely able to contain pulling her in close and kissing her, as they stole away from the throngs of under aged party-goers and out into the adjacent field. The moon had shone brightly that night, illuminating the golden hills of Sonoma County and bouncing sharply off of a stationary pick-up, as the two climbed into the truck’s bed. Ben remembered how her platinum blonde hair had been brighter than the hills, the hazel of her eyes just visible, and her slender body trembling as he touched her for the first time.

                Within a few weeks Nicole had confessed her love to Ben. He had almost cried at this pure expression, for there was no deceitful motive in the eighteen year-old’s timid voice. When he returned her sentiments he believed his own words. This quick burst of youthful infatuation had quickly given way to the need for practicality in fulfilling his agenda. Here, Nicole proved herself worthy of his continued time. She engaged Ben sexually at his digression, enthusiastically catered to the whims of his friends, going so far as to retrieve them beers at their behest, garnering herself the nickname “Beer Maid,” and always maintained her desirable exterior with carefully applied cosmetics, causing many around town to lament Ben’s ability to sleep with her.