It is a small parcel he hands me, about three inches long, one wide, and virtually flat. I look at him, questioningly. This is my main present?

"Open it," is all he says.

I pick off the tape and unwind the gift-wrapping, then angle the open ended piece of folded card I find inside over my hand. Instead of the piece of jewellery I expected, a key, Yale-lock type, drops into my palm.

"What's this?" I ask.

"The Ellerslie unit," he replies, "It's yours, rent free, if you'll live in it."

His grandmother died last year. She was a wealthy woman, and amongst some other things, she left him a house in Parnell, and a rental unit in Ellerslie. He moved into the house, and has spent the last few months working on setting the unit to rights.

"Most of your client base is in Auckland anyway," he continues.

"Why? I don't understand."

"I want you closer to me Bel. I hate how little I can see you. These last four weeks, not seeing you at all, it's been hell. I've barely been functioning for the last fortnight."

I don't know what to say, so I say nothing, just wait for him to go on.

"I love you Bel. I think… I think we could have something… real. Something lasting. But I can't tell when I only see you for a day at a time, when we can manage to be in the same place. We've only just finished saying hello when we have to say goodbye again. We're living in emotional high-gear all the time."

"If I say 'yes', what am I committing to?"

"To seeing a lot of me. To thinking about whether it can last, long-term. Maybe permanently."

"Are we talking marriage?"

"I guess so, yes."

"What does Jenny think about this?"

The crux. Jenny is his other woman. She knows about me, the same way I know about her - we each know the other one exists, know each other's names, have spoken to each other on the rare occasions we've had to phone him when he's been with the other one. She's married, and doesn't intend ever being anything else as far as I can gather.

He blushes.

"The unit was her idea. I've been impossible the last few weeks. I said I was thinking of proposing. She suggested offering you the unit first, to give you the chance to see if things could work out before you committed yourself. You can keep your place, rent it, and if everything goes wrong, you aren't stuck. If you say yes. Please say yes, Bel."

"Jenny knows she'll see less of you?"

He shrugs. "Of course."

I sit for a while, thinking.

"What if we decide it isn't going to work? Does that mean I'll have to move again? That I lose my home as well as my lover?"

"Of course not! It's yours as long as you want to live there. I'll sign a contract to say so, if you like."

I nod.

"Alright. I'll take it. I'll move at the beginning of March. We can consider considering getting married. No promises, but we can think about it. Is that okay?"

He grabs me, hugs me, swings me round. He kisses me over and over again. I guess that means it's okay. I look at him and smile.

"By the way…" I say.


"Thank you. It's a wonderful gift. I love you."

Life is going to get interesting soon, I think.

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