Stories from the Hart: Dilemma

Dilemma by Shannon Hart, author of Until the End of Forever
Part 1

When the doorbell rang, I rushed over to the door carrying my wallet, thinking it was Danny, the delivery guy from the Thai restaurant around the corner. Instead, it was him.
The last person on the planet I wanted to see that night.
“You shouldn’t be here.” I tried to put on a hard face. Jaws clenched, eyes wide, lips pursed and everything but I wasn’t fooling anyone. Justin knew me better than anyone in the entire world.
“You want me here. You’re just scared.” He stared me down for a few seconds until finally, I closed my eyes and turned my head away. It was too hard to look at him.
“I can’t do this, Justin. We can’t do this,” I said, moving away from the door. Contrary to what I said to him that same afternoon – that I couldn’t have anything to do with him again – I actually let him in to my apartment. My sane mind was screaming at me, telling him to push him out the door, lock it and throw away the key. My mind told me that it was a bad idea and that no good would come out of seeing him. But it was just too hard. I knew in my heart that I didn’t have the strength to push him away any longer.
“But we can, Jess.” Justin sat down on my couch, lifted his feet and rested them – dirty Chuck’s All Star sneakers and all – on my coffee table.
“No, we can’t,” I said, shoving his feet off of my two-week old antique table.  “We’ve been over this a million times. There’s nothing we can do now.”
“Jess, come on,” he pleaded.
“Justin. Stop it. Please. You’re making this harder than it already is.”
“But love is hard sometimes, babe. We just have to… deal with it. Face it. Defeat the challenge,” he said, taking both of my hands into his.
I almost let myself enjoy having his hands around mine. It would have been so easy to just let him hold them longer, so I could absorb the warmth of his strong arms and let my fingers fit comfortably between his. But that big old alarm in my head kept ringing, telling me it was wrong.
“It’s not that simple, and you damn well know it.”
“I don’t see how we can’t make it simple!”
“My God, what is wrong with you?” I shouted. He always seemed to downplay the whole thing. Like it wasn’t a big deal that I was getting married tomorrow. Like it didn’t matter that my entire family was going to freak out if they found out I was still in love with my ex-boyfriend, who just happens to be my fiancé’s best friend, who was also still very much in love with me. “It’s not simple and it’s never going to be simple. Whatever it is that you expect me to do, I can’t do it.”
“You can’t or you won’t?”
“Both!” I yelled as I lifted both my arms up in the air. The situation was hopeless, but there was nothing either one of us could do about it.
“Jessie, please. Don’t you think what we have is worth fighting for? Don’t you love me enough to want to be with me for the rest of our lives?”
I felt a tear make its way from the corner of my eye down across my cheek. I hated it when Justin said things like that. He knew I loved him. He knew the thought of marrying Ian not only broke my heart but shattered my soul too. I said it to him a million times. He knew. And all of those things are true. I do love Justin more than anything. But he had his chance a long time ago and he completely blew it.  Twice.
We had been together all through high school and we were supposed to go away to college together. We both got accepted to Brown and we had a plan. We had everything figured out: where we were going to live, how we were going to get jobs and come home every chance we could. Heck, I was already completely packed when he suddenly told me he wanted to go to film school in Los Angeles instead. I had nothing against people wanting to go to film school, obviously. But I did have something against people backing out on something we had been planning our entire senior year.
After college, I got a job working at a wedding organizing company. I was awesome at my job – I still am – so it only took me less than a year to land my very first solo gig, the Baker-Davidson wedding. I met Justin again at the first meeting with the wedding party – he was the best man. He and the groom, Kirk, apparently went to film school together and shared an apartment off campus. When our eyes met during that first meeting, I knew I wasn’t over him just yet. I still felt giddy whenever he flashed a smile towards me and my heart still raced every time our elbows “accidentally” brushed up against each other. So when he asked me out for coffee the next day, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I wasn’t dating anyone anyway, so I figured what would be the harm?
Fast forward three years later. He left me broken hearted again when a studio in London asked him to join them. He pondered over the decision for awhile before agreeing to head over there – so he claims – but the fact that he chose to end our relationship instead of trying to make the long distance work told me he wasn’t as in love with me as I thought.
I was in agony for weeks. Strangely, I didn’t hate him. Instead, I hated myself. I hated myself for letting myself believe that he truly loved me. It disgusted me that I allowed myself to fall completely and desperately in love with him and that I was too stupid to realize he didn’t love me all that much. He loved making movies more than anything. More than me…
Ian, who became his best friend after Kirk moved away to Atlanta, got left behind too so we started spending a lot of time together. We both suddenly had voids in our lives that we needed to fill and even though we never really had anything in common, just the sheer fact that we both lost Justin bonded us.
We officially started dating after catching a play, about two months after we started hanging out. It was an awful play, so awful that we actually left during the intermission. It was a miracle that we even stayed that long. We ran out of the theatre laughing our brains out and all of a sudden Ian stopped laughing. He cupped my face and landed a soft, gentle kiss on my lips. I got completely hooked. It felt great to have a man want me again, but even then, I knew I didn’t feel as strongly about Ian as I did about Justin. It was just… different.
Ian and I dated for about nine months when he popped the question out of the blue. We were at a red carpet gala for a movie premiere and I was in a dress that other people said looked gorgeous on me. I didn’t quite feel the same way and actually felt fat in it. I was uncomfortable the whole night but Ian kept telling me that I looked beautiful. He said I had no reason to worry and that I was even better looking than the actress who had the leading role in the movie. It was a bunch of crap of course, but I appreciated that he tried to comfort me.
I had just gulped my fourth glass of champagne at the after party when I heard Ian’s name be called up to the stage. He was speaking on behalf of the studio and he was supposed to be giving this informal speech about how thankful the studio was that everyone showed up and liked the movie or something like that. Instead, he said, “We all loved the movie. On behalf of the studio, I’m so happy you guys could come out and you all look beautiful tonight, especially my girlfriend, Jessica. Doesn’t she look fantastic, everyone?”
All heads turned to me as I felt my face turn lobster red. A few guys whistled and some clapped and I swore in my head I’d kill Ian for the embarrassment.
“In fact, she looks so beautiful tonight,” he continued, “I can’t help but want to ask her to marry me. What do you think? Should I?”
My heart stopped for a good few seconds. The crowd went insane with screams and claps and strangers shouting “Ask her, ask her!”
Ian walked down from the stage and over to me, still clutching onto the cordless microphone. “Jess, these past nine months have been the best nine months of my life and I want the rest of my life to be like this.  Will you marry me?”
 I probably shouldn’t have said yes. If my brain was working as well as it was tonight, I would have been able to be sensible enough to say that while I did love him dearly, he just wasn’t Justin. But I got caught up in the moment. It was such a grand gesture of Ian to do what he did and in front of all those people – people he admired and people he worked with. How could I have even thought of saying no?
I said yes. I hugged him and even got teary eyed a bit. Everyone in the room congratulated us and the president of the studio even hosted our engagement party a few weeks later.
After a long hard thorough thought process, I managed to convince myself that it was the right thing to do. Ian was a great guy. He was perfect husband material and I did love him. So what if I didn’t feel as passionate about him as I did for Justin? So what if I still imagined being with Justin every now and again. Ian was wonderful and I should be honored to be his wife. Besides, it wasn’t like Justin was coming back anyway. At least, that’s what I thought.
Check back for Part 2 of Dilemma next week! Do you like this story so far? What do you think will happen? Leave a comment to let us know. Thanks! We love hearing from you!