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Despite being together for just a month, I know my new girlfriend very well. She used to be my late wife. It all started with an ad in the classified section under births and deaths. I would often read the obituary columns over my morning latte. A morbid pastime that started when I first found out my wife would soon be dead. Cancer. Everywhere. I guess I was somehow preparing myself. Going over the printed words paying homage to people I would never meet while at the same time planning mental drafts of my own wife’s future newspaper announcement. I am a writer after all. People were surprised to hear I was dating again. I am unsure exactly why that was – they wouldn’t say to my face. Maybe they were just surprised after all these years. It was true that a lot of time had passed since my wife’s death and I had not dated a single woman. I didn’t even try. That was all part of the deal when I rang the number on the classified ad for more details. They said I’d have to wait. And so that’s what I did. If you had asked my wife, she would have told you that I was getting more and more handsome. I think she was right. Some men just do better with a few years on them. Salt and pepper hair. A squarer jaw that comes with years of grinding your teeth in your sleep. More prominent cheekbones – a result of the cholesterol lowering diet my GP and my wife had insisted on. But despite my good looks, the fact remains that there is a vast age gap between my new girlfriend and myself. Depending on which way you look at it, I am either quite old or she is inappropriately young. When I signed the agreement with the people from the classified ad, I went for the minimum term. So we celebrated her nineteenth birthday on our first date. I have to admit I was worried she wouldn’t find me attractive and would pass me over for a much younger man. But it was instant. The moment I came for her she looked at me in a way that was familiar and comforting. Memory is a very powerful thing and even though it had been almost two decades since I had seen that look, it felt like yesterday. And exactly as I remember it. The people from the classified ad did tell me not to worry. In fact they gave me an Attraction Guarantee Certificate that was double laminated to ensure it would be in good condition all these years later when the time finally came. I held onto that thing for nineteen years, but they were right. I should never have worried. I threw the certificate along with any other clues into the trash on the morning after our first date. She will be spending quite a lot of time at my apartment and I don’t want her to find anything that might make her confused. When I say “I came for her” I really mean the day we met. My Relationship Manager from the classified ad had organized for her to break down on the side of a busy highway just outside of her hometown Ploiesti – about 60km north of Bucharest. I chose this particular town from a list of ten for its mind-numbing mediocrity. I figured she would be forever grateful to me when the time came to take her away. Being so young she had a pretty crappy car. It was a beat up Dacia 1300. My Relationship Manager laughed at how easy it was to make it break down. So when I turned up in my rented late model Mercedes it was like I was her knight in shining German armour. That’s when she looked at me. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised how easy it has been for her to settle into my life. She has after all lived it before. I deliberately didn’t move house after my wife died even though everyone said I should. They said it would help me move on. But I wanted everything to feel familiar to her. Even though she was in a different country she instinctively knew every corner of her new neighbourhood, without ever realizing it. She chose my late wife’s favourite café for breakfast. She made a special order of Chateaubriand at the French bistro on the corner (this had been my wife’s favourite dinner and a well kept secret between her and the chef) and put exactly one and a half sugars in her “after dinner” macchiato just as my wife had. No I should not have been surprised. The people from the classified ad offered me a range of options – from a vague likeness to a full and identical clone. I thought the latter would just be too weird. Plus people would talk. So I went for the Heart and Head package. The people from the classified ad had managed to remove two small pieces of tissue from my late wife’s body right before the funeral. One from the heart and one from the brain. These are the two parts of my late wife that I loved the most. And, long after her beauty had started to fade, these were the things that kept us in love and kept us together. I was also not terribly interested in replicating the parts of her that ultimately led to her tragic decline. So here we are on our one-month anniversary date, celebrating with a bottle of Chateau Latour that I had kept from my wedding. It’s twice as old as the woman now sitting opposite me. We clinked our crystal glasses and she started to giggle, reminding me just how young she really is. When I asked her why she was laughing she gave me that look again and said “It’s so weird. I feel like I have known you my whole life.”
The Classified Ad
By Markus Baxter
 
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Credit: Lori Andrews
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