Stories from the Hart: Dilemma, Part 2

Dilemma by Shannon Hart, author of Until the End of Forever
Part 2
(To read Part 1, click here.)

Four weeks ago, while I was having a boring cob salad for lunch with a few friends so I could fit into my dress, I spotted Justin grabbing a coffee to go. I hid behind my friend Leslie, but he spotted me anyway. He asked if we could meet up and just talk, and like the idiot that I am, I agreed.
To be fair, I didn’t know that by agreeing to meet him, I was opening up old wounds and allowing myself to open up to him again. I naively thought that we’d just be tying up loose ends or something, so by the end of the conversation we would say our goodbyes and be done with it.
We weren’t done.
We ended up seeing each other for lunch every day, just to talk and catch up. Or, at least, that was what I was convincing myself we were doing. The truth was that we were reconnecting. We were finding out again just how much we clicked and still had so much in common. I got completely sucked in again by his charm, his jokes, and the way he’d stroke my hair and say how amazing I was.
I almost told Ian that I couldn’t marry him last night.
Justin and I had spent the whole day together and he told me how much he hated himself for breaking my heart twice. He called up his boss and told him he quit, and wanted to move back to California to be with me. He hung up the phone and gazed into my eyes, then asked me to break it off with Ian and marry him instead.
Last night, I was ready to break the news to Ian but when I got home, he wasn’t home yet. He called and said he got held up because there was an urgent meeting at the office. Then, he asked me to help him pack for the honeymoon.
I don’t even know why I agreed to it, knowing very well that I was actually planning to leave him that night. But I went to his closet anyway and started picking out his clothes. Hidden way in the back of his closet was a pile of papers that I thought were just some lame manuscript from a writer who wanted Ian to read it. I figured it just got tossed in there somehow.
When I grabbed it, I could feel my heart start pounding loudly. It was so loud it felt like it was pounding outside of my chest. The manuscript wasn’t a work of some lame writer. It was something Ian had written. It was dated pretty recently and to my utter surprise, it was actually dedicated to me, whom he wrote was the only reason he wanted to wake up every morning.
The script was beautiful. It was about finding love in the most unusual circumstances. It was about having the strength to embrace life and live it to the fullest and just being grateful no matter what. It was so beautiful. I went through a full box of Kleenex by the last page.
His words spoke of so much passion, passion that I then realized was something that grew because of the relationship we had together. I may have not been in it one hundred percent, but he certainly was. A lot of the scenes in the script mimicked our reality and I knew that the inspiration for his story came from us.
I decided then and there that I couldn’t do it to him. I couldn’t call off the wedding and go run off with Justin. As much as I loved Justin, as much as Justin was my soul mate, I didn’t have the heart to crush Ian. I decided that I could grow to love him and be passionate about him.
I didn’t want to be that girl, the girl who ran off with an ex-boyfriend, leaving the good guy at the altar. I didn’t want to be the runaway bride that left the leading male character with a shattered ego and a stunned family at the church. So, this morning, as soon as I got up, I raced over to Justin’s hotel to tell him that I chose Ian.
I rambled on and on about how he had missed his chance with me, twice, and told him that I could never be with him again. I never denied still loving him, but I told him I loved Ian too and I wanted to make it work with him. With tears running across my cheeks, I told him to call his boss and get his job back. Then I took off running faster than I had ever run before, making sure I was as far away as possible from him so there wouldn’t be any opportunity for him to try and change my mind.
Yeah, I was a lot smarter this morning.
“Look, if it’s his ego you’re worried about, you don’t even have to tell him that you’re in love with someone else. Just tell him you can’t do this. Tell him you thought you were ready for this but you’re not. The point is, Jess, you can’t sacrifice your happiness just because you don’t have the guts to leave him.”
“I can’t. I just… can’t.”
“Why not? I love you. You love me. We should be together, Jess. We, you and me, not you and him.”
“It could have been you and me. I’m not the one who wanted out of this relationship, you know. I’m not the one who packed up and left for London,” I said, suddenly realizing how angry I actually was at him.
“I know and it was a stupid thing to do. But I’m here now, and we deserve another chance…” he begged. “Look at it this way. Maybe you’re setting him free to meet the actual love of his life. Maybe by leaving him, you’re giving him the chance to experience true love. Doesn’t he deserve better than this charade?”
I couldn’t deny that what he said caught my attention. As much as I hated it, he could be right. Maybe Ian was better off with someone else anyway. He did deserve someone who could love him far more than me.
I was still in deliberation about whether or not Justin was making sense when the phone rang.
“I know we’re not supposed to see each other until the wedding but I miss you like crazy already and it hasn’t even been twenty-four hours yet,” Ian said, in his soothing, comforting voice.
“I… I miss you too,” I said, not entirely sure if I was lying or telling the truth. On some level, I did miss him. I missed feeling safe and comfortable and with Justin in the room pressuring me into cancelling the wedding, I felt everything but safe and comfortable.
“I can’t wait to marry you, Jess. I can’t wait to call you Mrs. Ian Webber and I can’t wait to start the rest of our lives together,” he added softly while simultaneously adding to the pain I was feeling in my chest.
“Ian, I…”
“I know we’re only supposed to say our vows tomorrow and I’ll blow you away with my vows, I promise. But I just want you to know that starting today, not even tomorrow, I’m going to spend my entire life trying to make you happy. I just want what you want. Whatever it is that makes you happy, I want to be able to give it to you.”
I guess he didn’t know how making me happy involved making him miserable. He probably never even thought of the possibility.
I looked over at Justin who was shaking his leg like there was no tomorrow. He was obviously nervous, just waiting to see how the conversation with Ian would end. It was the first time I saw him so unnerved.
“Ian, are you happy?”
“I am. I am so happy. You make me the happiest man on the planet,” he answered sounding so sincere it was practically killing me.
I glanced at Justin again, then to the picture of Ian and me on our Hawaiian holiday. Then I looked back at Justin.
Somehow, I felt like I wasn’t looking at him anymore. I was looking at the college version of him, who left me behind to pursue a career in movies. I was looking at the hot shot up and coming director version of him, who got pulled to a studio in London and didn’t seem to hesitate to leave me behind once again.
Seriously, it couldn’t have killed him to at least ask if I wanted to come along, right?
Suddenly, it was all clear to me.
There would always be something else that would pull him away from me and all that’s left would be my broken heart. Again. Sure, now, he probably thinks he wants to stay here and just be with me and not give a damn about his career. But soon enough, he’s going to want something more and he’ll leave me behind again to go and get it. One of these days, he’s going to get another offer from someone and will fly off to God knows where and I wasn’t willing to bet that he’d ask me to come with him.
“Hang on a second, honey,” I said to Ian, as I pressed the mute button. With whatever strength I had in me, I tugged Justin by the arm. “You have to leave. Please. I’m sorry Justin but I can’t leave him. I won’t leave him.”
“Jess, please. I love you. I want to be with you,” he pleaded, a vulnerable side I had never seen before.
“I’m sorry,” I said in between my cries. I opened the door and waited for him to walk out. I felt my heart break into a million pieces when he walked past me with the most gut-wrenching look on his face. But I had a choice to make and I made it.
I cleared my throat and wiped the tears from my eyes. Taking in a deep breath, I pressed the mute button again.
“Hi. I’m back. Sorry about that. I just had something I needed to do. It’s done now. It won’t bother me again.”
“Uh, okay… Is there something you’d like to tell me?” Ian asked.
“Not really. It’s not important. What’s important is what you were saying just now. What was it again?”
Ian laughed a bit. “I was saying, I’m happy, Jess. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. You make me happy."
I smiled to myself. “Good. I’ll make sure to keep that up for the rest of my life,” I answered, vowing to myself to stick to that promise. No matter what.
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