Dear Prudence: I am a 29-year-old single mother of children ages 2 and 4. I left my kids' father because he was addicted to heroin. I've always held a decent job and have been able to take care of myself. Dating has been difficult as I work full time and I do not wish to bring any men around my children.

I moved to a new neighborhood and immediately took notice of my neighbor. Just before I arrived his girlfriend had moved out, and they have a child together. She was addicted to opiate pills. A friendship between him and me started and now we hang out, talk or text on a daily basis.

He's a very good father. Our kids play together. I regularly cook meals and he eats over. He talks to my kids in a way a father would. He does things for me I could never get any boyfriend to do, like snow removal, and all the fix-it problems in my house. He looks out for me and I look out for him.

There has never been anything romantic between us. However, I do have very strong feelings for him. I am pretty enough but all of his past girlfriends are beautiful model types. He could have any girl he wanted. I'm hoping he wants me. But I'm afraid to take the jump and ruin the friendship. I'm biting my tongue every time we hang out.

Prudence says: I know there are those who would say that if you have to ask if he's interested in you romantically the question answers itself: He isn't.

But I don't have such a robotic view of men. Yes, it could be that he's shaking his head at the fickleness of fate for having brought a lovely woman with an admirable heart and soul into his life yet for some reason neglected to spark in him desire for her. Or it could be he's feeling you two are creating the kind of happy domestic life he always wanted, but respects that you've put him in the friend zone even if he wishes it were otherwise.

You are in a delicate spot. Your relationship thus far has been wonderful not only for you two, but for the three children. How important for the kids, who have all suffered from having a parent who's an addict, to see that adults can be healthy and reliable.

That shoveling snow for you has turned your neighbor into Sir Walter Raleigh means your life has not tossed many decent men your way. You've got the man of your dreams right next door, and I think it's worth it to take the risk. Usually, a hand on the small of the back, a certain kind of look, even standing a little too close is enough to get the message across.

You need to know if he wants to move your friendship into romance. So one night, when the kids are in the other room, and you two are doing the dishes, tell him you have to confess that your feelings for him are not strictly platonic. Explain that if he doesn't feel the same, you hope your friendship is strong enough that there doesn't have to be any awkwardness between you.

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