My date, Jennifer, took a sip of her chardonnay and smiled at me.
"You know I feel like I've known you forever, Robert," she said.
My stomach flipped. I felt the same.
It was our first date, yet I was already certain Jennifer was my soul mate.
I was 50 and a single dad. I worked long hours in construction.
I had my son Deakon, eight, at weekends so there'd been precious little time for dating.
After years of being single, I finally bit the bullet and joined an online dating site.
Jennifer, 49, had looked beautiful in her photo – slim and elegant with long blonde hair framing a pretty face.
During our drinks, I realised I'd never been so powerfully and instantly attracted to someone.
I moved into her home a week later.
Jennifer worked for a firm called The Muesli Company.
"I started on the factory floor when I was 17 and just worked my way up," she shrugged modestly.
She worked long hours.
Before now, there'd rarely been time for relationships.
The job was everything to her. And the company's founder, Peter Pavlis, 75, expected a lot from her.
She even had to pick him up and drive him to work in the mornings.
Not long after I moved in, she mentioned Peter had a key to her home, which seemed odd.
"Just in case a tradie needs to get in and I can't get away from the factory," she explained. "Actually, he's let himself in a few times when I've been here."
"That's a bit freaky," I said.
"He's 75 and pretty harmless," she shrugged. "Anyway, I've told him we're living together so not to walk in anymore."
Months passed and we fell more and more in love.
I introduced her to Deakon, who was a bit shy at first, but warmed to Jennifer quickly.
The two of them soon became inseparable and loved playing games together.
When Jennifer looked after Deakon one day, I texted for regular updates and when I called that afternoon, she brushed me off to continue playing hide and seek!
"Now I have two kids!" I laughed.
Life was great for the three of us.
"You know we'll end up getting married, don't you?" I said to her as we sat on the couch one day.
"Yeah, but you've got to ask me properly," she teased.
Soon afterwards, we were at a German beer cellar when I took her hand.
"Remember when we talked about getting married?" I said.
"Well, now I'm asking you," I grinned.
We decided to tie the knot in a year's time.
Early one morning, a few days later, Jennifer slipped a jacket over her pyjamas and drove me to meet a workmate.
"Love you," she said, as we kissed goodbye.
I texted and called her a few times during the day, but she didn't respond.
When I got home at 4.30pm, her car was parked outside. I frowned – normally she didn't get in from work until 7pm.
The security door was unlocked and the house was silent.
I felt uneasy because the door was never unlocked. Jennifer always had the TV on or had music playing.
"I'm home, sweetie," I called out.
Stepping into the kitchen, I recoiled in shock.
Jennifer was on her back on the floor, still in the pyjamas she'd worn that morning.
"Jennifer!" I gasped, kneeling by her side.
Shaking, I called triple 000. "Something's wrong," I stammered.
The ambos were there really quickly, but there was nothing they could do.
I was numb with shock. Who would want to hurt my Jen?
The police arrived soon after, followed by Peter, who had been driven there by his son.
That's when it hit me… Peter had a key.
He must have let himself in and killed Jennifer.
"That's the guy who did it," I choked to a detective, gesturing to Peter sitting outside in the car.
An officer went over to speak to him.
I was taken to the police station for a formal interview.
Next morning, Peter was charged with murder.
I was told that soon after she'd dropped me off, he'd turned up at her home and stabbed her to death.
Police couldn't say exactly why, but some of Jennifer's colleagues speculated that there had been an argument about a botched shipment to China.
Peter wanted to sack the people responsible, and Jennifer refused.
Another workmate said Peter had put pressure on Jennifer to dump me.
He'd been overheard sneering, "Are you still with him? Get rid of him."
Why our relationship was any of his business was a mystery to me.
For weeks I was in a daze.
Seven weeks to the day of her death, I collapsed with pains in my chest. I'd had a heart attack.
"You're in great shape – is there anything in your life that's causing you stress?" the doctor asked.
Of course there was – I'd lost the love of my life.
In court, Peter pleaded guilty to murder.
There was overwhelming DNA evidence that he cleaned up the scene afterwards.
It was a relief that we wouldn't have to go through a long, stressful trial.
But at the next hearing, his lawyer said Peter had admitted to murdering Jennifer, but argued that he suffered from dementia to try to get a shorter sentence.
It was sick.
How could a dementia sufferer drive to someone's home, murder them, clean up afterwards and then drive away?
Peter Pavlis has yet to be sentenced, but he'll probably die in prison, given his age.
Looking back, it's obvious he was secretly infatuated with Jennifer.
He thought he owned her and I'm convinced he had a warped fantasy they'd be together one day.
But when we got engaged, he had realised it would never happen.
Jennifer and I should have been happily married by now.
Instead, the twisted rage of a selfish old man meant that my beautiful Jennifer was taken away forever.
- PuzzlesTake 5 Pocket Puzzler Issue 195 Online Entry Coupon
Prizes To LoveToday 6:30am