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After dinner, Mandelin kissed my cheek by her car. On the third date, she kissed me on the lips, and my dick rose as I grabbed her tight ass.

We spent almost every day with each other for the following two months. I knew that we were getting closer when she asked me to go shopping with her. After we walked into several clothing stores, she grabbed my hand and led me into a fragrance store.

She sprayed the perfume that she always wore and asked me to smell her.

My nose brushed her neck, and I said, “It’s divine, just like you.”

She smiled, grabbed a bottle off the shelf and then walked in front of me to the counter.

“That’s one thousand nine hundred rands,” said the assistant.

Wow. That’s expensive. It’s nice, but not that nice. Mandelin turned to me, held a gaze and smiled. I smiled back. The assistant’s eyes darted from me to Mandelin, then back to me.

“One thousand nine hundred rands, sir.”

“Oh.” I looked at Mandelin. She smiled. “Okay, I see.”

I pulled out my card and handed it to the assistant.

Mandelin put her hand on my shoulder and kissed my cheek. I realised that the purchase meant more to her than me paying. She wanted to see that I would provide for her the way her father did.

We spent most weekdays together, but Saturdays were for the boys and me. She spent Sundays with her family.

I was on my way to meet the guys for our bimonthly rugby match, a tradition that none of us had missed in years, when my phone rang.

“Hi,” I said.

“What are you up to?” asked Mandelin.

“I’m on my way to a rugby match. Been looking forward to it for two weeks. We lost the last one, so we’re seeking revenge.”

“Oh.”

I sensed disappointment in her tone. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Tell me.”

“I’m not feeling well. I’m in bed, and I don’t want to be alone.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I’ve got a bit of a temperature, and I’m coughing.”

“That’s a bummer,” I said. “Are your friends visiting you today?”

“We were planning to go to a retreat for the weekend, but I cancelled last night because I wasn’t feeling well.”

“Right. I hope you feel better.”

“I will if you visit me.”

“Okay. I can do that tonight.”

“Tonight?”

“Yes. We usually go out for drinks after the game.”

“But I’m going to be lonely the whole day.”

I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. “Okay, but I’m sure it’s not going to be so bad.”

“Warren,” she dragged out.

“Yes.”

“I want you to be here with me.”

I opened my eyes, craned my head up and exhaled a silent sigh. “I…um…” I didn’t want to neglect her when she needed me as my father did to my mother. “Okay. Let me see what I can do.”

I knew that the guys would give me a hard time but making Mandelin happy was more important. I sent the captain a message that I was attending to a loved one who was sick and then picked up a bouquet of roses on my way to her.

We had dated for six months when she decided that it was time to take the relationship to the next level.

“I’d like to move in with you,” she said.

I had enjoyed solitude for the last six years, but her puppy dog eyes made me give up my freedom. I loved my house and the space that it granted me. It was on auction a couple of years ago after the owner failed to pay the instalments during an economic downturn, so I bought it for a reasonable price. The plot was big and situated on the main road, close to a shopping centre and schools. I had several offers from buyers, but I refused every time. That house was more than a place where I lived; it was a part of me.

Mandelin cooked every day and kept the house pristine. I thanked her after every meal and took her out once a month to a restaurant of her choice.

We got out of the car and held hands as we walked towards the restaurant. I saw an adorable boy standing on the sidewalk as we approached him while his father had his back to him and spoke to his friends.

The boy pointed at a parked car on the other side of the road and stepped forward. His next step landed his foot onto the road.

I released Mandelin’s hand and ran towards him as a car hooted on approach. I snatched him and stepped back onto the sidewalk as the car sped past us, blaring its horn.

The father turned around and snatched him from me. “Jesus,” he said. “Justin, you naughty boy.”

He walked away without thanking me. I figured that he was embarrassed for not looking after his son.

Mandelin clutched my bicep and smiled. “You’re going to be a great father. If that’s how you look after other people’s children, I can only imagine how protective you’ll be of ours.”

She knew how to communicate with me, which was one reason that we never fought and occasionally argued. She was patient with everyone except me since I didn’t want to marry her right away. Mandelin was thirty-six years old when we met, and I was thirty-two. I loved her and wanted to be with her, but I needed more time to sort out my finances. I wanted to provide the best life for her since she was accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and I was afraid that she would leave me if I couldn’t.

She was writing in a book as I walked into the bedroom. “What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s my diary. I like to keep my thoughts documented and go back to them to see how I felt and progressed.”

“And what are you writing now? That you’re happy?”

“Yes, but there’s always room for improvement.”

A year into the relationship, we walked past a jewellery store. Mandelin looked at the rings on display, then at me. I looked at her and kept quiet, not knowing how to respond.

“I thought you said that my happiness was more important than anything,” she said.

“It is.”

“So, are we going to go inside or not?”

I smiled and said, “Mandelin.” I saw her glaring at me from the corner of my eye.

Four months later, we celebrated her thirty-seventh birthday. She crossed her arms and looked out of the window during the drive home after dinner since I had not used the opportunity to propose.

For the following week, she spoke to me only when it was crucial to convey information.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“Mandelin, come on. Since when do we treat each other like this?”

“Since you decided that you don’t want to marry me.”

“I never decided that. All I need is a bit more time. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?”

“Time for what? You said you love me and want to be with me.”

“Exactly.”

“And what about children?”

“We’ll have children.”

“I’ve got a biological clock, you know?”

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