"You can't just give up," his mother said.

"No one's giving up, Mom. I'm just...taking a break. That's all."

"Why? Just because you've had a couple of bad experiences? I know that's painful, but you're the most stubborn, persistent person I know, Phillip. Besides, you can only control what you do. What a woman does is well, up to her. So this one cheated on you. Isn't it better to find out now than after you married her?"

Doctor Phillip Rodgers, no relation to the soft-spoken, cardigan sweater-wearing man of television fame, loved his mother, but he didn't love the way she kept after him to get married. In his mind, the fact that she wanted grandchildren had no bearing on his decisions as to whom to date or when to marry. In hers however, it clearly did.

For now, he just needed some time. He needed room to think and to breath. He was only 32 and as a partner at a rather successful family practice clinic, he had no real concerns about work or finances. He was now two years completely out of debt, owned a beautiful home, drove a nice car, and could afford to wait. Yes, he did want someone to come home to each night and yes, he did want a family. For the last two years, those were the only things he really, truly still wanted in life. Were he omnipotent, he'd bring his father back to life, but as a pragmatic realist, he knew the man who'd raised him and been a role model was gone for good. Other than those things, his life was pretty amazing.

And that's what was so bitterly painful about this most recent breakup. They'd dated for over a year and he'd spent a lot of time getting to know her and thought he really did. Her parents were also doctors and she was very well-educated and as beautiful as any woman he'd ever known. And the sex had been amazing.

But for reasons known only to her, one man just wasn't enough. He'd suspected something for the last month or so but didn't know for sure until he came back a day early from a medical conference in Miami and found her in bed with another man in his house and his bed.

He didn't yell or throw things. He just quietly waited in stunned silence for the other man to hurriedly pull on his pants and shoes, grab everything else, and leave. And that's when she told him point blank there'd been others; many others almost since the time they became what he thought was exclusive. She not only didn't apologize, she told him she thought open relationships were superior to the monogamous variety. "There's no need to restrict our love to just one other person," she'd told him. "Just because I have sex with other men doesn't mean I don't love or care very deeply about you, Phillip." As unbelievable as those words were, she'd also told him he could have other lovers and that she was even open to his bringing them home to share with her!

He'd sat there and listened with total incredulity. "Are you finished?" he asked her following that last comment. She told him that she was and he quietly said, "I'm going to a hotel for the night. Please be out of my house when I come home tomorrow morning."

He paid no attention to her continued objections as she pleaded with him to be 'reasonable and open-minded.' "It's just sex, Phillip. You and I have that and so much more! With them...it's just sex. Phillip, please..." she was telling him as he picked his car keys back up and headed to the garage. His suitcase was still by the door, and he picked it up leaving her standing in the hall with a sheet loosely wrapped around her still vainly pleading her case.

That had been just over three months ago and Rodgers hadn't dated since. Between his mom, his well-meaning colleagues, and best friend, Bobby Garner, he'd had all kinds of offers to meet various other women, but he just wasn't ready.

Rodgers still couldn't figure out what he'd done wrong. She was from a good family, she had no need of money so that wasn't an issue, and looking back, he still couldn't understand how he could have been so utterly mistaken.

Over the past three months, he'd re-examined every relationship he'd ever had and still couldn't find the problem. He intentionally dated women who were as like him as possible believing that the more things two people have in common, the less likely they were to disagree. That, in turn, meant less arguing and less fighting, and ostensibly, a happier marriage. And yet here he was, 32-years old, with no prospects.

'Prospects.' He laughed out loud when he thought about the word. That was how people used to refer to a woman's chances of 'finding a husband.' "Well, does she have any prospects?" is a question people would ask when they wondered why a girl hadn't gotten married by a particular age. As funny as that was to him, it really wasn't funny at all, because he honestly did yearn to love and be loved and for him, a big part of that meant having a family. Sure, he was still young and he really did have time, but he was also ready. Until now, he'd been cautious and selective. He'd patiently taken his time, followed the rules, and had still gotten burned more than once, the latest case being the worst by far.

The only conclusion he'd tentatively drawn was maybe the rules were wrong. Perhaps he should be open to other possibilities. Did a woman really need a graduate degree? How important was a 'pedigree' when having one could still result in abject disaster? Rodgers was a very good-looking man and had always dated beautiful women. But what if love was to be found in someone who was perhaps 'less than stunning' in that department? He laughed again when he thought about going all the way to the other extreme, marrying a grossly overweight, toothless woman from India who came from society's lowest social caste. "Go ugly, early," he told himself as he heard his mother saying something.

"Yes or no?" she was asking when he finally remembered the question she'd posed before he took this long trip down memory lane.

"Yes. Definitely. Had I married her and then caught her doing...you know...that would have been devastating."

"Exactly!" she replied. "Just keep being who you are and doing what you've been doing, Phillip. This last relationship didn't work out so well, but the right girl is out there just waiting to be found."

Rodgers didn't feel like arguing with his mother or even discussing the issue any further. To make her stop, he agreed with her. "You're right, Mom. I just need to keep looking."

"That's my boy!" she said. "So...what would you like for dinner?"

Rodgers steered the conversation away from dating and marriage and...grandchildren...as he and his mother did what they'd done for as long as he could remember—having Sunday dinner together.

As he excused himself early that night, he continued mulling over what went wrong and more importantly, what he could do differently to change his luck. 'Going ugly early' was a platitude, not a solution. 'Think outside the box' was just as trendy a saying, but perhaps there was some truth to it. Perhaps he'd built some kind of box for himself when it came to women and dating, and the real solution was to start looking outside of it.

"Think outside the box. Okay, okay. That's as good as anyplace to start," he told himself on the way home. He had no clear idea what thinking outside the box meant, but to whatever degree it seemed to make sense, he was willing to give it a try.

That evening he sipped a glass of wine while watching a movie. At some point, a box from the cable company popped up on his screen which read: "To avoid losing some HD channels, upgrade your cable system at no charge. Click 'upgrade now' for details."

The movie wasn't interesting so he clicked on the offer and learned he could either order the new upgrades and install them himself or make an appointment and have someone from the cable company do it for him. The thought of wasting several hours for someone to show up—and almost certainly be late to boot—was out of the question. And since he was handy with most things, he clicked on the do-it-yourself option then finished watching his movie without really paying attention.

Three days later, UPS delivered a very large package complete with two new cable boxes, one for the family room and the other for his bedroom. He took pictures of the current connections at the back of each TV—just in case, then unhooked everything then carefully followed the how-to instructions. In less than an hour he had both boxes up and running and a deep sense of satisfaction knowing he'd never lose a single HD cable. Yep, how could a guy live if that happened, right? Who needed a wife and kids as long as every possible cable channel streamed into your living room?

He set the old boxes aside and made a mental note to take them back that Saturday morning even though he had 30 days to return them. Rodgers didn't like letting things fester whether it was a relationship gone bad, a blister on a patient's hand, or old cable boxes laying around.

Two days later he was pulling into the parking lot where the cable company had its nearest store. He walked around to the passenger side, picked up the boxes, and closed the car door using his hip. He carried in the large, clunky boxes which were twice the size and weight of the upgraded version, balancing them as best he could as he reached for the metal bar on the door just as someone pushed it open. He went to thank them, but the man blew right passed him like he wasn't even there. "Gee, thanks a lot...buddy," he muttered.

He walked inside and saw two women and two men, all wearing the cable company's tee shirt. Both of the women were attractive. One was black and she was wearing a wedding ring. Out of bounds. The other was white and blonde and Rodgers didn't see a ring. He laughed when he thought about taking his new mantra of looking outside the box to the cable store as he was standing there holding...boxes.

"Good morning!" the blonde said cheerfully. She looked at the items he was carrying then told him, "I'm not going to bother asking if you're returning equipment. Please come over to the counter and I'll get you taken care of."

He could tell she was attractive from the side, but after seeing her face to face, Rodgers was so taken aback he suddenly wondered if his jaw might be hanging down. "Sir? Right over here, please," he finally heard her say.

Her eyes were a beautiful hazel-to-green color. Indeed, her entire face was beautiful. When she smiled at him again, the smile was so incredible he completely lost focus and rather than lift the boxes over the counter, he shoved them right into it. When the one on top slid off and hit the floor barely missing his foot, he finally snapped out of the trance.

"I'm so sorry!" he said as set the other box on the counter. He quickly picked the other box up and set it beside the first. "If I damaged it, I'll pay for it. That was on me," he told her.

"It's no problem," she assured him. "I don't think they're being used after this. And even if they are, we don't check them so it's fine." There was that smile...and those eyes again. "Okay, let me just scan these so I can bring up your account."

She hit them with the scanner and seconds later, his information was on her screen. "Ah, here we go," she said. "You are Mr..." She smiled and he could tell she wanted to laugh.

"It's okay. I hear it all the time. Go ahead, you can say it."

"So you won't be mad if I do?" she asked not wanting to offend him but unable to resist.

"Nope," he said and waited.

"It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood!" She looked at him to judge his reaction then quickly said, "Sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. I really don't why I said that."

"It's okay. I understand," he told her. "Now, is it okay if I say it?"

"Uh-oh. Are you gonna ask for the manager?" she said with genuine concern in her voice as she looked over at the older of the two men. "I really was just kidding."

"No, no manager," he told her.

"Okay, then. I guess you can say it," she said pensively having no idea what 'it' might be.

"You are really beautiful," he told her truthfully. He finally managed a smile when she thanked him before he told her, "I'm sure you hear that even more often than I hear the Mr. Rodgers thing, so if it sounded insincere, I promise I really did mean it."

She was still smiling as she said, "I do hear it occasionally, but not very often from men as attractive as you."

"Oh, well...thank you. Then I'm glad I left my cardigan at home for once."

That made her laugh before she got serious. "Okay, so we're returning two cable boxes. I see you did your own installation. Is everything up and running to your satisfaction?"

"Yes, ma'am. No issues, no complaints," told her unable to stop staring at her. He wasn't good at guessing age, but if he had to guess, he'd say 25. Or maybe 22. Or something close to that range.

"Very good. Oh, I see here I could save you some money if you added a phone line."

"Sorry, I only use my cell phone," he told her.

"Same here, but if you got a land line, and even if you never used it, you'd be saving about $40 a month because I could offer you our bundled rate."

"So let me get this straight. With just cable TV and high-speed internet I pay less than I would for cable TV and high-speed internet and a land line phone I'll never use?"

"That's correct," she assured him. "But you do have to agree to a two-year contract."

"Oh no! So I can save almost $500 over two years by adding a phone line and signing my name? Hmmm. Let me see."

The woman, who's name tag said 'Rachel', was smiling at his antics as Rodgers pretended to be weighing to items in his empty hands.

"So may I sign you up?" she asked.

A few minutes later, he electronically signed the new contract then leaned over and said, "Next time, tell the customer they'll be saving two-hundred and fifty bucks and pocket the other half for yourself. They'll still be happy and you'll be a $250 better off."

Rachel laughed politely then said, "Yes, but I couldn't live with myself. And if my mother found out? Well, let's just say I couldn't live...at all." She smiled at Rodgers again then told him, "I get paid on commission so you did just help me out without knowing it. School will be starting soon and my little girl will be going to Pre-K so every dollar helps."

"Pre-K? Ahh! I bet she's a cutie pie!"

"Oh, you have no idea!" Rachel told him. She pulled out her own cell phone and said, "Do you mind?"

Rodgers loved children and he was in no hurry. "Not at all," he told her as she opened up 'Photos' and scrolled down.

"That's my baby," she told him as she handed him the phone.

He saw the cutest little girl with her own blonde hair in braids smiling the happiest smile he'd ever seen. She was wearing a cute, floral-print blue and white dress with black shoes and white ankle socks.

"What a little doll!" he said admiringly. "So she's...four?"

"Yes, she is," Rachel told him proudly. "Four going on fourteen." She showed him a couple more pics then said, "She's the love of my life." She paused for a few seconds as Rodgers told her again how cute she was before saying, "She's my reason for living."

"I totally understand. I can't wait to start a family of my own." He hesitated for a moment, thought about not saying it, then let it go. "Now if I could just find a woman who believed in being faithful for life..."

Rachel stopped smiling and said, "Don't get me started! My last boyfriend?" She saw the manager looking at her and stopped. Very quietly she said, "Let's just say I know exactly what you mean. What's so hard about making a commitment anyway? Is it just me or what?"

Rodgers shook his head and said, "It's not just you. I swear I don't get it. When you give everything you've got to a relationship then come home to find her in bed..." Rodgers also stopped talking—at all. "Sorry. That was unnecessary. My apologies."

"Oh, the story I could tell you," she said before the manager walked by.

"Everything okay over here, Rachel?" he asked while looking at Rodgers.

Rodgers answered for her. "She's been very helpful. In fact, she just saved me a bunch of money." He smiled at the manager and said, "You should give her a raise."

The manager smiled but didn't respond to his suggestion. He only said, "We like to think our associates here are the best."

Not knowing how to respond to that comment, Rodgers nodded politely as the man walked away.

"I guess I'm all set then," Rodgers said, his attention once again focused on this beautiful young woman standing in front of him.

"Yes, you are," she agreed. "Is there anything else I could help you with today?"

"Um...no. Not really. Not unless you have any relationship advice to offer."

Rachel shook her head and said, "I'd need to get some good advice myself first. Tell you what, if I ever do, I'll let you know, okay?" Her smile was killing him.

"You have my number," he told her which caused her to give him a puzzled look. He pointed to the computer screen then said quickly, "In your system."

Rachel laughed as he said, "But call my cell, okay? I won't be picking up on the land line since I don't have an old-school phone anywhere in the house."

"Oh, I almost forgot." She pulled out her business card then wrote Rodgers new phone number, the one he'd never use, on the back of it.

"Just in case you ever change your mind," she told him.

He took the card and thanked her again for being so helpful. "Oh, it's my number. I was hoping maybe it was yours." He smiled then told her, "When I brought these old boxes in I had no idea I'd meet someone so attractive and so charming."

Rachel was obviously used to hearing that sort of thing, but Rodgers thought he might have just said it the right way as she smiled at him and replied, "Thank you for saying that. It's not often I enjoy interacting with a customer so much. Oh, and if you get that good advice first, you know where to find me."

"Indeed I do...Rachel," he said pretending to notice her name for the first time. "Well, take care and have a great day. Oh, and give that beautiful little girl a big hug when you get home. I'm very envious."

"That's every day, Mr. Rodgers. But I'll give her two when I get home. How's that?"

He smiled, raised his hand in a kind of 'goodbye wave' then walked out.

The woman who'd been talking with Rachel before Rodgers walked in said, "Girl? How could you not tell that man was all about you? And he was...fine!"

"He's cute, but he's still a man and I'm done with men," she told her friend.

"What? Because of Mark? Are you serious? One bad apple don't always spoil the barrel, girl. And if you don't want a bite of that apple, just let me know, 'cuz he is fine, fine, fine!"

Rachel shook her head, knowing Patrice was just trying to be encouraging after what she'd been through not that long ago. Pressing right on ahead, Patrice leaned over and said, "Girl, you are fine yourself. So open them eyes of yours and pay attention. That man was lookin' at you and when I say 'lookin', I mean lookin'!"

"Okay, okay. I blew it. But he's the man and if he was that interested he could have said something."

"You need me to pinch you so you can wake up?" Patrice said with a touch of indignation. "It's 2016 and we ain't got to wait for no man to do the askin'." She shook her head then said, "Did I tell you he was fine? Mmmm, mmm, mmm. That boy was fine!"

Rachel couldn't help but laugh just as the next customer walked in. He was an older, heavyset man and Rachel said to Patrice, "This one's yours."

Patrice glared at her then said, "Oh, I'm definitely pinchin' that arm of yours when I'm done with this guy. But for a very different reason!" She switched her smile on and told the man, "Good morning and welcome! How may I help you?"

Patrice knew Rachel was still hurting from her own betrayal. She'd been so careful with Mark. It went without saying he was a very good-looking man. He was also a well-educated professional and he was so good with her daughter, Randi, who insisted on being called 'Rain' after a particularly bad storm because she loved the way the rain sounded on their roof, something that happened rather often in the Seattle area where they lived.

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