Breaking Brent

Vera was trying her best to get back into the dating scene. It was hard moving on from the shambles that was her long term relationship with Kaleb. They had dated for three years but then, the day after their college graduation, Kaleb announced that he was off to see the world.

Vera would have been perfectly willing to see the world with him but Kaleb made it crystal clear that this was going to be a solo adventure because he 'needed time alone' and that he had to 'go find myself' and Vera was left in a stunned cloud of disbelief and rejection.

Kaleb's longtime friend and housemate Brent kindly told Vera that she could stay in the house for as long as she needed, making them unlikely housemates by default. Brent was a nice guy who had always been good to her and Vera would have been perfectly satisfied turning to him for a shoulder (and other body parts) to lean on but Brent had this weird rule about dating ex-girlfriends of his friends so the two remained platonic pals living under the same roof, an odd scenario by any stretch of the imagination.

Vera managed to land a job as a bank teller at the Greenville Savings Bank as an intermediate plan until she figured out what she was supposed to do with her life in the post-Kaleb era. Having been a business major, Brent accepted an entry job as a sales rep with radio station WGRN to launch his post-college career.

The house was a dump but it was affordable as Vera paid off her student loans and tried to establish some sort of credit rating. She could move back in with her parents if push came to shove but that felt like a huge step backwards and Vera was willing to ride it out with Brent until she figured out where to go from here. She had no idea what the future held but for now she was okay sharing the run down house with Brent even if it kind of hampered her dating dabbles. Guys might think it strange her living with another guy, wouldn't they?

Of course, Vera wasn't serious about dating anyway. Kaleb had cruelly ripped her heart out of her chest and she had significant trust issues about love, romance and intimacy after his betrayal. Vera had been crazy for the guy but Kaleb tossed her aside like she was just some acquaintance instead of the woman he had been sleeping with for three years.

Vera discovered in the wake of Kaleb's destruction that she didn't like playing the dating game. She wasn't big on dressing up and going out to dinner with some new guy, having to go through the awkwardness of telling him all about herself and listening to whatever it was the guy had to say about himself. It often felt fake and contrived and Vera realized that she really didn't care about any of it. Brent said dating was like radio sales – you advertised your good points to a stranger while hiding the bad!

Vera's date on this night was with a guy named Nate, a friend of one of the girls at the bank and Vera went out with him mostly as a favor to her co-worker but there wasn't any warm fuzzy by the time dinner was over and Vera was perfectly happy going home alone rather than to string the poor guy along.

Brent had gone out of town to see his brother in New Hampshire and Vera was glad to have the place to herself for a change. It still felt weird not having Kaleb around (he was the one who found the rental and he invited Brent to move in at the beginning of sophomore year) but it was nice to have some quiet alone time without Brent across the hall. Vera kicked off her shoes as soon as she came through the front door from her date. She let down her hair and she was zipping down her dress even before she walked down the hall to her room. Formerly Kaleb's room, of course. There were still remints of him around, some of his books he left behind, a couple of shirts hanging in the closet, his gym socks still in one of the dresser drawers.

Vera had gotten rid of some of his clutter and she tried to make the room a bit more feminine - a new bedspread, bright curtains, and a couple of throw rugs on the floor the major changes. It wasn't perfect but she kept the place clean and with each passing day it felt a little bit more like her space and less like Kaleb's.

Vera stepped out of her dress and hung it in the closet to await the next most likely unsuccessful date. She stripped down to her panties and walked topless to the bathroom at the end of the hall. One of the few house rules sharing the communal living space with two guys was that the bathroom remained deodorized, clean and presentable Vera didn't want to find any piss spots on the toilet seat or shit stains in the bowl. She didn't want toothpaste caked on the sink or pubic hair stuck on the bottom of the tub. To their credit, Kaleb and Brent did a good job respecting her wishes and even now Brent continued the discipline of maintaining a clean and disgusting-free bathroom.

Vera took a seat on the commode and did what she had to do and then she washed her hands over the sink and washed her face, freeing it of the makeup she had overused in hopes of making a good first impression with Nate.

Kaleb always told her she was beautiful. Vera didn't think so, of course. Attractive? Maybe. Cute? Probably. But beautiful? Na. Didn't make much difference now anyway. Kaleb was long gone so even if he thought she was beautiful apparently she wasn't beautiful enough. Vera stared at herself in the mirror, studying her make-up free face and long dark black hair that hung on her shoulders. Her breasts were small (according to Kaleb) but her mother said that would spare her back wear and tear in future years whenever Vera complained about her size. Ironically, her mother was right more often than not. Vera's mom had her reservations about Kaleb, claiming there was something shallow and slick about the guy that didn't sit right with her. She was happy Vera was in a relationship but she wondered if Kaleb was the long term solution for her. Her mom had been supportive of Vera's dating life in high school and she never freaked out if Vera was seen making out with some guy in the backyard. Her mother didn't go overboard when Vera came home drunk after a dance one Friday night and she didn't rush to church when Vera revealed that she had sex for the first time (Vera's mom had her on birth control long before that incident). All in all, Vera's mother was a pretty cool mom but Vera was twenty-three years old now and she didn't need to be living under her parents' roof again.

Still topless, Vera left the bathroom and she started for her bedroom but she was shocked to see Brent coming out of his room. His eyes went wide when he saw his housemate's naked breasts before Vera had the chance to cover them with her arms and hands.

"What the hell are you doing here!?" Vera cried out with humiliated annoyance. "You're supposed to be in New Hampshire."

"My car broke down," Brent mumbled, red faced and equally as embarrassed. "Sorry, I didn't know you'd be….."

"You jerk!" Vera pushed by him with her arms still across her breasts and she flew into her room, slamming the door behind her.

It was really fake disgust and horror though. Sure, it was awkward to be caught in a vulnerable and exposed situation by her ex-boyfriend's friend but the truth was Vera really didn't care all that much. She liked Brent and she felt safe with him so it wasn't really that much of a big deal. Part of her horrified reaction was because she knew how paranoid Brent was about having any romantic thoughts about his friend's ex so she sort of embellished her outrage so he wouldn't freak out thinking she had purposefully tried to seduce him by walking around the house half-naked.

Nobody had seen her naked (small) tits since Kaleb hit the road so it was nice to be noticed (however briefly) in a sexual way for a change. Was that slutty of her? Vera actually grinned when she thought of the look of awe and appreciation on Brent's face intermixed with his shock and embarrassment.

Vera put on a tee shirt and pajama bottoms and she slipped into her bed. She was starting to think this whole dating scene was a pain in the ass that wasn't even worth the hassle. Here she was living with a guy who she already knew more than most. They got along well and Brent's attributes far outweighed his faults. He was sensitive and giving, kind and good humored. Sure, he wasn't nearly as confident or assured as Kaleb had been but that wasn't necessary a bad thing.

As Vera took the time to autopsy her relationship with Kaleb she had come to realize just how self-centered, egotistical, narcissistic and full of himself Kaleb really was. He could be very charming and likeable when he wanted to be, easily seducing Vera with his good looks and intriguing personality and she was thrilled to be seen around campus with such a popular and successful guy but by the time she moved in with him Vera had figured out that Kaleb was really all about himself and that she played second fiddle in their relationship.

Vera had no interest trying to find another guy now that she was single again but the social pressure from her peers (and even her mother) made her feel like she was supposed to play the dating game. Wouldn't it be easier just to hang out with Brent, a guy she already knew and liked? But Brent was so paranoid about her past with Kaleb that he was afraid to be seen with Vera and that made it difficult to peruse anything beyond housemate protocol with the guy.

Vera smiled to herself as an idea came into her head. Perhaps she could use the bare boobs incident to her advantage in getting Brent to violate his own rules about dating ex-girlfriends of his friends. She laughed to herself as she peacefully fell asleep.

The next morning was Saturday which meant Vera and Brent could both sleep in. Vera finally dragged herself out of her bed well after ten and she went into the kitchen to make some coffee. She pretended to be aloof and offended when Brent sheepishly came into the room a little while later.

"Listen, about last night," he started to say.

Vera threw up her hand in dramatic fashion. "Hush," she said. "Do not speak of that violation of my personhood."

Brent was caught off guard and he looked confused. "Excuse me?"

"I never realized you were a pervert," Vera protested.

"I'm not!" Brent insisted with shame. "It was an accident! I swear."

"I'm thinking I might need to move out," Vera said as she poured herself a cup of coffee from the Mr. Coffee maker.

"What are you talking about?" A shocked Brent asked.

"I'm not sure if I can trust you now," she sighed.

"What?" Brent asked, sounding flustered. "Hold on. Don't! I mean, that's – not necessary."

Vera rolled her eyes. "Easy for you to say."

She stood resting her backside against the counter edge watching him acting all nervous. Brent awkwardly took a banana from a bowl in the center of the kitchen table.

"Don't leave," he pleaded. "We'll just pretend last night never happened."

"It's just not that, Brent," Vera sighed. "It's kind of hard for me to date when I'm living with a guy."

"We're housemates," Brent insisted as he peeled the banana. "Whoever you date will understand that."

"I don't think I'm very happy with any of this anymore," Vera told him. "It's a peculiar arrangement."

"I thought you liked it here," Brent said heavily.

Vera shrugged indifferently. "Maybe things have changed."

"You mean because Kaleb left?" Brent frowned. "It's been eight months."

"Maybe I should find a female roommate," Vera said. "Avoid boundary issues and personal space intrusions."

"Can you really afford that?" Brent asked. "Can't beat the rent here."

"Can I afford to have my personal space violated?" She rebutted.

Brent looked crushed, defeated, and sad. "I'd really hate to see you leave," he mumbled.

"Maybe it's for the best," Vera said.

"Could you at least think about staying?" Brent asked hopefully.

"Why do you care?" She challenged.

He looked embarrassed. "I just think you're better off paying the cheaper rent here," he said. "And I don't want to go through the bother of finding another housemate."

"You could afford this place without someone else living here," Vera said.

"It would be lonely without you," Brent confessed.

"Aren't you interested in dating, Brent?" Vera asked with interest. "You broke up with Karen quite a while ago now."

"I don't worry about it," Brent replied.

"It would be kind of weird to bring a girl back here with me living here," Vera told him.

"Think about whether you can really afford to move out."

"Are you saying you want me to stay?" Vera tested.

"It seems to be working out okay, doesn't it?" He asked with an almost pleading tone.

"I'll think about it," Vera said passively.

Brent's cell went off and he answered it. Vera waited patiently while he spoke for a few minutes.

"My car's ready," he announced when he ended the call. "The fuel line was clogged. Could you give me a ride to Miller Motor's?"

"Sure," Vera replied, putting her now empty coffee in the sink.

"I'm still going to New Hampshire to see my brother," Brent announced. "I'll be back tomorrow night.

"Just give me a minute to get dressed," Vera requested.

She walked past him, out of the kitchen and into her room where she broke out into a huge grin. The first step of her tangled webbed plan had worked pretty well. It was clear that Brent didn't want her moving out. She had planted that seed quite well and maybe now her housemate would fight a little harder to keep her around – and finally figure out why he didn't want her leaving in the first place. Vera knew Brent's reservations had nothing to do with the cheap rent or having to find another housemate. He was just too shy, insecure and paranoid to admit that he liked his friend's ex-girlfriend.

Vera dressed and drove Brent to get his car at Miller Motors, making small talk while avoiding the subject of bare boobs and moving out.

"I'll see you tomorrow night," Brent said when Vera pulled the car into the lot and he grabbed his overnight bag before climbing out of the car.

"If I'm still there," Vera replied just as Brent closed the door and she drove off, laughing when she peered in the rear view mirror and saw the look on Brent's face as he stared after the departing vehicle.

Vera had known Brent almost as long as she had known Kaleb. Kaleb was mentioning the guy almost from the moment he and Vera met and at first Vera thought maybe Kaleb wanted her to go out with Brent instead of him the way he built the guy up. Of course, Vera had been immediately smitten by Kaleb's personality and charm so she wasn't interested in his friend even though it turned out that Brent was a nice guy from the moment Vera met him.

Vera thought it was strange the way Kaleb was always hyping and promoting Brent even when it was established that it was Kaleb who Vera was with. It was almost as if Kaleb was Brent's publicity agent and cheerleader and it was only later that Vera figured out that Kaleb was actually demeaning and degrading his friend by overhyping him and making Brent out to be somebody he wasn't. Kaleb had a knack for being passive-aggressive in his comments and attitudes about other people in a sick and perverted twist to make himself seem even more important.

Kaleb was always the leading man in the movie that was his friendship with Brent who was forever cast as the best pal and good natured side kick which is why Vera came to take Brent for granted, often seeing him in the same role. He became her pal and sidekick too, especially when she moved into the house and began living with them. Brent was always welcoming and nice to her, treating her as an equal and when things between Vera and Kaleb started to go south with more conflicts, disagreements, and fights breaking out, Brent served as an effective mediator and middle man, working both sides of the relationship to try to help the couple get through their troubles. Vera appreciated Brent's insight, counsel, compassion and non-judgmental reactions and she came to rely on him more often for support and understanding.

Brent was just as shocked as Vera when Kaleb suddenly pulled the plug on their relationship without much warning, notice or indication that their romance was going to end with their college diplomas in hand. Brent refused to support Kaleb's decision to break up with Vera and hit the road and Vera felt guilty that she came between the two friends but Brent later assured her that Kaleb's unceremonious dumping was simply the last straw in a years-long inventory of wrongful behaviors, attitudes, and actions that Kaleb had been guilty of.

Brent and Kaleb had been friends since elementary school so Brent knew Kaleb longer and perhaps more intimately that Vera, even though she was the one sleeping with him. Vera was aware that Kaleb had certain secrets about his past that he never shared with her and she wasn't about to violate Brent's friendship with Kaleb by asking Brent what he knew of Kaleb's history.

Brent apologized to Vera after Kaleb broke up with her for his friend's behaviors.

"You're not responsible for him, Brent," Vera told him.

"I could have warned you."

"I wouldn't have listened," Vera replied.

"There were previous indiscretions and strange behavior," Brent revealed.

"Like what?" Vera frowned.

"Like a few other girls he cut out of his life without notice or explanation," Brent sighed. "A bizarre incident at his part time job in high school when Kaleb got a junior manager fired for no particular reason other than he didn't like the guy, and an incident when Kaleb 'went nuts' and trashed the house of a high school classmate that he felt had insulted the integrity of a girl Kaleb was seeing."

"None of that had anything to do with me," Vera said.

"I guess I was hoping he'd change in college," Brent admitted.

"There does seem to be a disconnection in his wiring sometimes," Vera noted.

Vera couldn't fault Brent though. She was with Kaleb for three years and she saw plenty of warning signs in her boyfriend's quirky personality and odd behaviors to be weary of a future with him but she chose to be in denial about that stuff because she liked being with him and the sex was good. How she ever imagined spending the rest of her life with the guy now struck her as rather naïve and foolish but people learn from experience and Vera definitely learned from her time with Kaleb that relationships are never guaranteed and that anything can happen in life.

Kaleb was mostly a fake, a guy who loved being the center of attention, a narcissistic bastard who only cared about his own wants, needs and desires as evidenced by his complete willingness to break Vera's heart without a second thought. He didn't apologize when he announced he was leaving and he couldn't understand why Vera was crushed by the news or why Brent was so pissed at his friend for being such an insensitive cad.

There was nothing fake about Brent, though, that much Vera was sure of. She had known him long enough to see that he was a sensitive, vulnerable, and sincere guy who had time and again proven his positive virtues and standards though his character, behaviors and actions. The fact that Vera had been living with him alone for the past eight months and not once did Brent try putting the moves on her meant something in her opinion. But Vera had also figured out that Brent was way too timid for his own good, often playing a subservient role in the few relationships he experienced while Vera was with Kaleb. That was why Vera had to be much more aggressive in pursuing a relationship with him – Brent would be the last guy to try something with her.

The more she thought about it, the more Vera realized that Brent was the kind of guy she wanted to be with. She just needed to convince him that he was good enough for her. She actually had much more in common with Brent than she did with Kaleb anyway. She and Brent both came from working middle class families while Kaleb came from an affluent family of position and power which probably gave him his false sense of entitlement and recklessness.

Brent's virtues came from his hard working parents, good people who diligently kept a roof over their children's heads with three meals on the table every day. Kaleb's family had a vacation home in Florida and a lifetime membership to the Greenville Country Club. Kaleb didn't mind living in the dumpy rental house because he saw it as a fun adventure. He could afford something four times the rent (and four times better) but he liked appearing to be an average college kid struggling like everybody else. Vera also had a feeling that Kaleb lived in the run down place in an effort to spite his parents who frowned on the whole idea.

Brent moved out of his over-crowded family home to make room for the rest of his siblings, a noble gesture even though he had to work three part time jobs to afford his college tuition and rent. Kaleb had a trust fund and plenty of other financial resources so he didn't have to worry about his situation even though he liked to play the role of struggling college student. Kaleb and Brent grew up in Greenville while Vera was a Hillsboro girl. She knew Kaleb by name because of his sports achievements at Greenville High but she didn't meet him until they were at Green College together.

Vera's Dad worked for the post office and Vera's mom was a bookkeeper. Vera was an only child so she was understandably spoiled along the way and she was dumb enough to allow Kaleb to sweep her off her feet. Now that she had been significantly burned she was much less naïve to think that romance was that easy of a storybook fantasy or that there would always be happy endings. But she wasn't about to quit on love or take herself out of the running either. She was very interested in taking Brent out for a test drive to see if there was something between them that could last. She just knew she needed to take it slowly so she wouldn't scare him away.

Vera brought home a few empty boxes from the grocery store and strategically placed them in the hallway outside her bedroom door to give the illusion that she might be packing up. She also dug out a couple of her suitcases and placed them on the floor in her room for the same affect. She was sitting on the couch in the living room when Brent returned from New Hampshire on Sunday evening.

"How's your brother?" Vera asked upon Brent's entrance.

"Okay," Brent replied, glancing around. "Everything okay here?"

"Why wouldn't it be?" Vera asked innocently.

Brent nodded and went down the hall to his room to get rid of his bag but he was back in the living room a few minutes later. "Boxes?" He asked with concern.

"Just in case,' she explained.

Brent sighed and collapsed in the easy chair he always used. "I don't see why you have to move out," he said.

"You saw my tits, Brent," Vera replied readily. "I don't know if I can deal with that."

"It wasn't that much of a big deal," Brent reasoned.

"Excuse me?" She asked with mock offense, taking advantage of the double meaning to further humiliate him.

"I….uh…I mean….."

"You've seen my boobs no matter what size they might be," she said forcefully. "That changes everything."

"I think you're overreacting."

"I don't care what you think," she replied, playing tough.

Vera saw that Brent's cheeks had reddened and she wondered if she was overplaying the scene.

"Calm down, could ya, Vera?" Brent requested. "Believe me, I'm more embarrassed than you about this."

"You still owe me," she protested.

"Sure, I still owe you," Brent replied. "Whatever that means."

"It means you're going to have to do me some favors," Vera decided. "Whatever I ask, whatever I request, whatever I say."

"You mean you're going to be the boss of me?" a confused Brent wondered.

"That's basically it," Vera verified.

And that's how Vera got Brent to start dating her even though he had no idea he was actually dating her. She would simply say 'we're going to dinner' or 'we're going to the movies' and if he balked she would say 'Don't forget you still owe me' and Brent would sigh but tag along. This went on for more than a month before Brent finally asked the inevitable question.

"How long am I going to owe you?" He inquired one night as they sat at Serguci's Italian Family Restaurant eating dinner.

"What's the matter?" Vera pouted. "Aren't you having a good time?"

"Sure, this has been great," Brent said sincerely. "I've been having fun. I was just wondering when the Statue of Limitations is up for accidentally seeing somebody's breasts."

Vera realized that her plan now needed to be elevated to the next stage. Now that she had established a 'dating' pattern and Brent had gotten used to spending social time with her Vera needed to get him to commit to her and forget about his stupid rule about not dating ex-girlfriends of his friends. Hell, Kaleb was long gone and the truth was Vera had been really enjoying Brent's company. He was funny, he was interesting, he listened to what she had to say, and he made her feel like she mattered. It had been the easiest dating transition experience of her dating life and she enjoyed their time together.

"Don't you like being with me?" Vera asked innocently.

"Sure," Brent said, blushing slightly. "But a loser like me doesn't deserve being with a girl like you."

"You're not a loser," Vera told him. "Why would I hang around with a loser?"

"Because you feel sorry for me," Brent theorized.

"Please," Vera groaned. "Get real."

"So, is the Statue of Limitations up?" Brent wondered.

"Why, are you going to stop going out with me like this if it is?" She challenged.

Brent shrugged.

"What did you mean before when you said a girl like me?" Vera wanted to know.

He blushed for real this time. "Never mind," he muttered with embarrassment.

"No, seriously, I want to know," Vera said.

"You're pretty, you're smart, you're interesting and you're a dream come true being with," he said, his face beat red now.

"So what's the problem?" Vera asked bluntly. "I like being with you. You apparently like being with me. Let's just officially say we're going out."

"We can't," Brent sighed.

"Why?" Vera frowned. "Because of that stupid rule of yours?"

"It's a smart rule," he insisted. "It protects both of us."

"From what?" She asked with annoyance.

"From when Kaleb comes galloping back into town on his white horse," Brent told her.

"What are you talking about?"

"You know he'll be back," Brent sighed with defeat. "He grew up here."

"Even if he does return, so what?" Vera asked.

"He'll want you back," Brent said knowingly.

Vera laughed but then she gave him a look of disbelief. "What makes you think I'd want him back?"

"I remember how crazy you were for him in the beginning," Brent said knowingly.

"Do you really think I'm that shallow?" Vera gave him a cross look. "That I'd forget about everything that happened between us and what he did to me?"

"I don't know," Brent mumbled.

"That I'd take him back as if was just like it was in the beginning?"

"Maybe," Brent offered lamely.

"You don't know nothing," Vera said angrily. Then she studied him for a moment. "What are you so afraid of, Brent?"

"Nothing," he muttered.

"You afraid to hurt Kaleb's feelings by not being a loyal friend? That you'll somehow betray him by stealing away his girlfriend as if I'm some mindless robot who doesn't have wants and needs and choices of her own?"

"No…"

"So, you're going to choose him over me?"

"I owe him," Brent sighed.

"No you don't," Vera insisted.

"He's been my friend since third grade," Brent said. "He helped me out a lot along the way."

"He used you," Vera rebutted.

"How could a popular and successful guy like Kaleb use a loser like me?" Brent wanted to know, looking confused by her remark.

"He used you to make himself feel more important and superior," Vera explained. "He liked having you in his shadow like some puppet boy and you were so desperately grateful for his attention and friendship that you were willing to be a complete and total doormat with no identity or purpose of your own."

"That's kind of harsh," a surprised Brent replied.

"But it's the truth, isn't it?" Vera asked, studying him. "Who's been the one person who's kept you down all these years? Kept you in your place? Made you think you were a loser without him? The third wheel. The side kick. The nice guy best friend. Haven't you realized since he's been gone how much of your own person you've become?"

"I'm living in his house."

"It's not his house," Vera said, rolling her eyes. "He was a renter just like us."

"It still feels like his house," Brent sighed.

"Well, maybe we should move then," Vera said.

"We can't beat the rent where we are," Brent argued.

"Then quit whining about it," Vera ordered. "And I can't believe you'd choose him over me."

Brent was momentarily speechless. Then he looked at her as if he was looking directly into her soul. "Why would you want to be with me?" He asked timidly.

"Because you're everything Kaleb is not," she answered right away. "And I like that."

Brent chewed on his lip for a moment. "What are we doing to do if he comes back?" He worried.

"I'm not going to do anything," Vera said with conviction but then she looked at him hard. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know," Brent admitted.

"Well, let me ask you this," Vera said as she took the last bite from her plate. "Is your friendship with Kaleb still that important to you? Now that you're a college grad? Now that you've moved on with your life? Now that he doesn't play the same role anymore? Do you really need him the way you used to?"

"Probably not," Brent realized. "I'm mean, the guy really is an asshole, isn't he?"

Vera burst out in laughter but Brent could only sigh.

"Of course, what does that say about me?" He lamented. "That my friend was an asshole but I was so desperate to be a part of his life that it didn't matter to me."

"It says you're human," Vera replied. "I wouldn't spend too much time beating yourself up over the past, Brent," she advised. "We're all vulnerable in our formative years."

"And always will be," Brent remarked.

"Maybe so," she agreed. "But at least now hopefully we're old enough and wise enough and experienced enough to see the truths of the world and understand that we have a say in our destiny instead of being dependent upon others. Believe me, I wonder how I could have allowed myself to be seduced and swept away by a shallow and insincere person like Kaleb but there's no point of questioning myself now. Everybody makes mistakes."

"So how do we know this isn't a mistake then?" Brent asked, motioning his hand back and forth between them.

"We don't," Vera argued. "But you can't live your life in fear or question every action you take or choice you make. You go with your gut and your heart and you hope you're right."

"I suppose," Brent said, now done with his meal too, sitting back in his chair and exploring her with his eyes.

So, weirdly, after that enlightening dinner conversation, Vera and Brent were sort of kind of dating although it was never really stipulated or formally finalized between the two. They continued going out to dinner, the movies, and joining in on family events while living under the same roof but in separate rooms, sharing the living room and television and the kitchen and food but yet to have become intimate in any way. Vera realized that Brent still had issues around the whole dating idea and breaking his friendship rule. He was basically a shy guy anyway so she figured out that she was going to have to continue to be the aggressor in pursing the natural milestones and guideposts of any relationship.

Vera was the one who took to kissing him goodnight. The first time she leaned in and gave him a smooch on the couch when they finished watching a movie on television Brent nearly jumped out of his skin and Vera wasn't sure if she should laugh or cry from his reaction. She also began holding his hand when they were out in public and she let family members know that she and Brent were an item even if Brent had yet to verbalize that fact to anybody in particular. Vera knew that Brent kept waiting for the front door to open and for Kaleb to come strolling into the house as if he had never left.

"You have to stop being so paranoid," Vera advised.

"About what?" Brent asked defensively.

"About everything," Vera deadpanned.

A year had passed since Kaleb dumped out and took off and it had been several months since the 'bare boob' incident and the resulting tap dancing dating game between Vera and Brent. Vera knew she was going to have to seduce Brent if she had any desire to move the relationship to the next natural progressive level. She wondered if she should just prance around the house naked and throw herself at him to finally get her housemate's full and undivided attention but she didn't want to come across to strongly! She dropped more than enough subtle and not so subtle hints and Brent finally addressed the dilemma facing him.

"There's another reason for the rule besides he was my friend," Brent said nervously when Vera started making out full force with him one night with more passion that previously displayed.

"What's that?" Vera asked, not really interested as she sucked on his bottom lip.

"What if I'm not as good as him?"

Vera broke off the face sucking and stared into his face with disbelief. "What?"

"You know," Brent blushed as they sat together on the couch in an embrace. "In bed?"

Vera fell back on the couch stunned he would even think such a thing. "Jesus, you're pathetic," she complained.

"Well, it's a natural concern," Brent protested.

"It's typical male ego paranoia," Vera countered with disgust. "What could you possibly be thinking?"

"Just that he was better than me at a lot of stuff," Brent admitted.

"Everybody's different in the sack, Brent," Vera told him. "Would you be so concerned if my previous boyfriend was somebody you didn't know?"

"I don't know," Brent confessed.

"Stop thinking such pathetically stupid thoughts," she ordered. "I like you. I want to be with you. My past sex life isn't relevant just as yours isn't with me."

"It's not?" He asked with surprise.

"Of course not."

"So, if we bumped into Karen somewhere, you wouldn't care?"

"I wouldn't be concerned about it," Vera said. "Unless you still want to sleep with her, of course."

"No, I'm over her," Brent said.

"I think the real question here, Brent, is are you over Kaleb?" Vera challenged.

"I don't miss him, if that's what you mean," Brent said, looking at her wide eyed.

"Do you still consider him your friend?"

"I don't think so," he decided. "I think I've moved on. We're adults now. He was important when I was younger but our roles have changed now."

"Does this mean we can finally sleep together?" Vera asked excitedly.

"So you're over him too?" Brent worried.

Vera rolled her eyes and groaned. "I'm going to smack you if you keep asking me that!"

Brent grinned and he allowed her to pull him off the couch.

"Come on," she said, dragging him down the hall. "Will you spend the night with me?" She asked, gesturing toward her bedroom.

"No," Brent said forcefully and Vera felt crushed. "But will you spend the night with me?" He asked, gesturing toward his room.

Vera realized that Brent didn't want to be in the same bed as Kaleb had been in and that made perfect sense to her. She smiled with relief and happiness, leaned in and kissed him, and then led him into his bedroom where she gladly let him see all of her naked and he did the same for her.

Later, as they lay naked under the covers with Vera cuddling against Brent, she studied him intently.

"What do you think of your stupid rules now?" She giggled.

"I think I was a sap to be so worried about them," Brent admitted. "Sorry it took so long to finally ignore them."

"It was worth the wait," Vera smiled. "Tonight was wonderful."

Brent leaned in and kissed her knowing that she was now his girl and the past really didn't matter at all.

Vera and Brent were officially a couple now and they let everybody in their lives know about it, happy to be in love. They were saving to be able to move out of the dump, their jobs were going well, and the romance was one of the best Vera had experienced. She honestly believed that Brent had been the guy for her all along and that Kaleb had been an unfortunate mistake. She was happy with her life and she was especially happy being with Brent.

Vera came home from work one afternoon and headed for her room. She thought she smelled something funny but the dumpy house always had weird smells to it. Vera usually slept with Brent in his room but she still used her room for her clothes and make up. She was startled when she stepped into the room and found a naked man (not Brent!) sprawled out on her bed. It took her a moment to realize that it was Kaleb who looked like he hadn't had a haircut or shave since he left. His long hair was lightened by the sun and his scraggly beard made him look like a monk in training. He was toking on a joint and his eyes lit up when he saw Vera enter the room.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Vera asked, shocked to see her ex, especially naked!

"I came to see you, sweetie!" He purred warmly.

"How in the hell did you get in here?" She frowned.

"I still have my key," Kaleb smirked.

It was so typical Kaleb. Not a care or concern about anybody else's feelings except his own. Once again she felt violated by the jerk and she hated him for threatening her happiness with Brent.

"You don't live here," she protested.

"Sure I do," Kaleb grinned.

"You're name's no longer on the lease," Vera said. "You need to get out."

"I came to see you, Vera," Kaleb pouted. "Aren't you glad to see me?"

"You need to put some clothes on," she said coldly.

"You could take yours off," he invited.

"What in the hell is wrong with you?" Vera asked with disgust. "We're so over it isn't even funny."

"Oh, come on," Kaleb laughed. "You knew I'd be back."

"Did you seriously think I was going to wait for you?" Vera asked with stunned disbelief. "Or that I would even want you back?"

"Of course," Kaleb grinned. "Why wouldn't you?"

"It doesn't work that way, Kaleb," Vera told him. "I can't believe you could be this narcissistic."

"I'm starting with my father's company in a few weeks," Kaleb said, sounding like he hadn't heard a word she had just said. "I'm moving into the carriage house. Come with me."

"You mean you're done seeing the world?" Vera asked sarcastically. "Done with your solo adventure and your time alone? You've actually found yourself?"

"Yes, I had a great time but now I'm back!" Kaleb laughed.

Vera scowled at him. "Why in the hell would you think I'd care?"

"Because you're my girl," Kaleb said simply.

"What would make you think that?" She growled.

Kaleb stared at her. "Why wouldn't I think that?"

She was flabbergasted. "You left!"

"And now I'm back," he said, still lying naked on the bed with the joint in his hand.

"You are unbelievable," she said in a whisper.

"Thank you!" he grinned, thinking it was a compliment.

"You are a freaking asshole!" Vera screamed, never before having experienced anger exploding from her inners like she was at this moment. "You need to get out of here now! Before I call the cops and your father can bail you out of jail for breaking and entering and drug possession."

The look of serine peaceful contentment vanished from Kaleb's face in an instant. He leapt from the bed and lunged toward her looking like a deranged grizzly bear. A frightened Vera instinctively backed away until she crashed into the wall.

Kaleb reached his hand up and placed it around her neck. "Who do you think you're talking to?" He demanded.

Vera could feel his hot breath on her face and while he had yelled at her in anger during a few memorable arguments he had never been physically demonstrative toward her like he was now. Vera was very afraid, wondering if Kaleb was stoned beyond reasonable behavior.

"Let go of me!" She protested, already wheezing and hardly able to speak. "You're hurting me."

"We always talked about being together," Kaleb told her. "Why are you being like this?"

"You left!" She tried to yell although he was still holding her tightly around the neck. "You dumped me."

"I didn't dump you," he replied earnestly. "I just went off for a little while. Now I'm back."

"I didn't wait for you, Kaleb!" Vera growled through the choke hold. "It's over!"

Kaleb looked like he was unable to comprehend what she was saying, as if it never occurred to him that she would break up with him in his absence. "You cheated on me?" He asked with disbelief.

"I moved on," she scowled, putting her hand on his and trying to pry his fingers away from her neck. "

I cannot believe you, Vera!" He wailed. "How could you betray me like this?"

Vera was starting to hyperventilate. She could feel her chest heaving and her face turning red as she struggled to breath. Her eyes were beginning to bug out of her head and she worried she would soon pass out – or worse – he would literally choke her to death.

Vera reached her arm down between Kaleb's legs and squeezed his exposed testicles as hard as she could with a death grip vice force. She had never experienced such a bubbling anger and resentment within her before and she realized that she had lost all aspects of self-control knowing that it was now a battle to see who succumbed first – her from his neck hold or him from her vice grip on his privates.

It turned out that Vera squeezed Kaleb so hard that his scrotum popped open and one of his testicles became dislodged. Kaleb screamed out in agony and he let go of her neck, allowing Vera time to run from the room as Kaleb fell with his blood splattering on the floor.

When Brent arrived home a half hour later, he found two cop cars and an ambulance in front of the house. A shell shocked Vera was sitting on the front porch answering an Officer's questions while a stretcher was being brought out of the house.

"Kaleb?" Brent asked with shock when he saw the pale-faced victim staring up at him. "What's going on?" Brent asked, glancing at the cop as the EMTs wheeled Kaleb away.

"The victim's scrotum has been ruptured," the burly cop informed him. "One of the subject's testicles was observed protruding from the scrotum area."

Brent squirmed just hearing the description. "What happened?" He asked.

"He attacked me," a teary eyed Vera told him. "I came home and he was naked in my bed and then he got mad when I told him we were broken up and he started choking me so I defended myself."

Brent looked after the ambulance that was just pulling away from the house. "Poor dumb bastard," he said without much sympathy in his voice. Then he knelt down in front of Vera and took her hands in his. "Are you okay?" He asked with gentle concern.

Vera nodded yes, wiping her tears away.

"I told you he'd come back," Brent sighed. He kissed her hands and then he looked at the cop. "What's going to happen now?"

"An urologist will stitch the poor dumb bastard up," the cop replied. "The paramedics don't think there will be any long term damage - at least physically."

"What about Vera?" Brent asked.

"She'll probably face charges of assault inflicting serious bodily injury if the guy wants to press charges," the cop revealed.

"But he broke in," Brent protested.

"That's in my report," the cop said. "Although he had a key."

Brent noticed the marks on Vera's neck. "He assaulted her."

"The lady is free for now," The cop said. "Let's wait to see how things play out."

Later, when the cops were gone and Brent sat on the couch comforting Vera, he looked at her with a new appreciation. "I didn't know you had your own rules," he said.

"Me either," Vera admitted, still looking dazed.

"I don't think Kaleb will be back," Brent announced.

"Me either," Vera agreed.

"You tamed him," Brent joked.

"Don't," Vera pleaded.

"Seriously though," Brent told her. "You took a stand for women everywhere today. All those jerk guys who think they can get what they want from women without fear of retribution. Today, you represented every woman out there who's ever been victimized, threatened or abused in any way. What better way to shut a guy up than to symbolically castrate him?"

Brent kissed the top of her head. "Let's look for a new place starting tomorrow."

"Okay," she said with relief. "It's time we both got the hell out of here."

Brent nodded in agreement.

"Are you upset with me?" Vera worried after a few minutes of silence between them.

"For what?" He asked with surprise.

"For being a ball buster," she groaned.

"I'm proud of you," Brent told her. "I probably had a rule against ball busting but I don't think you had much choice in this case."

"I didn't know something like that could happen," she insisted. "I just wanted to get away from him. I thought he was going to kill me."

"Giving new meaning to the term ball buster," Brent told her.

"I didn't mean to hurt him."

"Hey, if guys knew that could happen to them domestic violence incidents in this country would drop by 80%!" Brent remarked. "Like I said, you stood up for victimized women everywhere! You have no reason to apologize to anybody."

"It was horrible!"

"It was survival. Self-defense. You should do everything possible to escape."

"He was your friend," she sighed.

"Was," Brent assured her. "He's clearly a psychopath I'll choose you until the day I die."

Vera smiled and cuddled against him. "That's a pretty good rule too,' she decided.

"I'm glad you broke me," Brent grinned.

"I broke you?"

"Of all my stupid rules," he said. "I was an idiot not to see how much I needed you in my life all along."

"Well, you know now!" Vera told him happily, giving him a kiss.

"I know now," Brent agreed with a contented smile, kissing her in return.