‘I Hooked up with My Hus­band … The Day He Mar­ried Some­one Else’

The story not even their fam­ily knows

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - AS TOLD TO KERRIE SI­MON-LAWRENCE


My ex had been a cheat and abu­sive, and I wasn’t look­ing for a re­la­tion­ship at all.

‘Ja­son worked at my of­fice. He was sexy AF, but when he asked whether he could join me in the cafe­te­ria for lunch one day, I was more in­ter­ested in hav­ing some­one to talk to than his ridicu­lously hot ev­ery­thing.

‘Our lunches be­came more reg­u­lar; even­tu­ally, meet­ing at “our ta­ble” at 12 o’clock was just a given. Three months in, I re­alised some­thing in­side me had clicked, and I was fi nd­ing my­self fi xing my lip­stick in the bath­room mir­ror be­fore go­ing to the cafe­te­ria.

‘Ja­son lis­tened as I told him about my break-up, and re­minded me re­lent­lessly that it was my ex’s loss, that I was amaz­ing and de­served so much more. “Yeah, some­one like you,” I caught my­self think­ing, and im­me­di­ately felt my face turn red.

‘Our work held many events, so Ja­son and I were of­ten work­ing to­gether out­side of nor­mal hours, though he al­ways kept it to­tally above board: a hug to say hi, a laugh-a-minute while we were sup­posed to be work­ing; a cheerful, sin­cere good­bye as we parted ways.

‘I re­alised I hadn’t thought about my ex in weeks and that my thoughts were be­ing oc­cu­pied by Ja­son. I was pretty sure he was feel­ing it too; I as­sumed he was tak­ing his time in mak­ing his move be­cause he knew I’d been through a lot – what a gen­tle­man!

‘One day, af­ter I checked my lip­stick in the bath­room and headed to the cafe­te­ria, Ja­son dropped a bomb­shell. He pulled out a ring box and pushed it across the ta­ble. My heart stopped. What the…

‘“Have a look,” he said, as that smile I had be­come ad­dicted to spread across his face. I opened it and saw the most stun­ning, princess­cut di­a­mond en­gage­ment ring. I looked up at him, not sure what emo­tion I was try­ing to call up, but con­fu­sion won as I choked out a “What??”

‘He laughed. “It’s for Claire*. Do you think she’ll like it? I don’t know if it’s her style but I want to sur­prise her, so I’m tak­ing a risk with it. Tell me what you think, be­cause your opin­ion is the one I’m go­ing to trust…”

‘His lips were still mov­ing but I had stopped hear­ing him. Ja­son had bought an en­gage­ment ring. For a girl. A girl named Claire. I tried to pull my­self to­gether.

‘“You’ve never men­tioned a girl­friend,” I said with a smile on my face but more ac­cus­ingly than I’d planned. I cringed at my­self.

‘“I’m pretty sure I have,” he said, look­ing slightly un­com­fort­able. I was mor­ti­fied. I had to­tally mis­read Ja­son’s kind­ness and af­fec­tion, and had al­lowed my­self to be­lieve some­one as gen­er­ous and sen­si­tive and amaz­ing as him would be in­ter­ested in me.

‘That night, while I was try­ing my best to con­vince my fam­ily I’d had a great day at work, a What­sApp came through from Ja­son. “Hey, are you okay? You seemed a bit off to­day. To­tally un­der­stand if the ring brought back some shitty mem­o­ries of your ex.”

‘Did he re­ally think that was what was both­er­ing me? Or was he giv­ing me an “out”? I chose to take it, be­cause the al­ter­na­tive was too hu­mil­i­at­ing. “Yeah, I’m fi ne. Just threw me. LOL,” I wrote back. He replied with a smi­ley face and said he’d see me to­mor­row for lunch.

‘The next few months were a blur of Ja­son ask­ing my opin­ion on suits, ideas for hon­ey­moon des­ti­na­tions and, ever more fre­quently, com­plaints about the bridezilla Claire had be­come.

‘“She’ll re­lax once the wed­ding is over,” I told him with a smile, though deep in­side I knew I would love noth­ing more than to be plan­ning a wed­ding with Ja­son, and that I’d make it as stress-free as pos­si­ble.

‘About a month be­fore the wed­ding, Ja­son handed me an en­ve­lope. “It’s your wed­ding in­vi­ta­tion,” he said as I tore it open.

‘I was sur­prised. I didn’t re­ally ex­pect an in­vite. I mean, I’d never even met his fi­ancée. “As if I could do it with­out you there,” he laughed as he read my ex­pres­sion. “Jessie, you’ve be­come my best friend.” And my heart broke.

‘As the weeks crept by, Ja­son was look­ing more and more stressed. “It’s just wed­ding jit­ters,” I told him one day, when he told me Claire had ac­cused him of not be­ing ex­cited enough about the wed­ding.

‘“But what if I’m not?” he asked, look­ing at me over his cof­fee. “I mean, ever since I pro­posed, ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion we’ve had has ended up in an ar­gu­ment over bud­gets or seat­ing ar­range­ments, and whether or not she’s will­ing to let my cousin make a speech!” Then, af­ter tak­ing a sip, he added, “She even moved out of our apart­ment and into her par­ents’ place last week be­cause she said my mind was clearly some­where else.” I thought I caught a flicker of some­thing in his eyes be­fore he looked away.


‘The wed­ding was tak­ing place in the Eastern Cape, and all guests were stay­ing at the same ho­tel. I had just got out of the shower when I heard a knock on the door. I put on one of the ho­tel robes and opened it. It was Ja­son.

‘“You’re here,” he said with a smile – but I could sense some­thing wasn’t right.

‘“Ja­son, what’s go­ing on?” I asked as he stepped in­side and closed the door.

‘“I don’t think I can do this,” he said, star­ing at his feet.

‘“Do what? Get mar­ried?” I asked. He nod­ded. Ev­ery fi bre of my be­ing wanted to say, “Then don’t! I have my car here. Let’s just run away!” In­stead, I said, “Do you think it’s just nerves and cold feet?”

‘“No,” he said, step­ping closer. “I think it’s be­cause I have feel­ings for you, Jessie, and I can’t marry some­one else if the per­son I’m sup­posed to be with is you.”


I was still pro­cess­ing what he’d said when he kissed me.

‘“Ja­son!” I gasped, and pulled away.

‘“I’m so sorry, Jessie,” he said. “I shouldn’t have done that. I just had to know.” With that, he was gone.

‘I sat through Ja­son and Claire’s wed­ding cer­e­mony, still numb from what had hap­pened in my room. I felt a tear run down my cheek as they said their vows and looked away as the cel­e­brant in­vited Ja­son to “kiss the bride”. What had I done? I loved him and I had sent him off to marry some­one else.

‘The re­cep­tion was es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult. As I lis­tened to the best man and the fa­ther of the bride make their speeches, I avoided Ja­son’s gaze, though ev­ery time I stole a look in his di­rec­tion, his eyes were fixed on me. When it was his turn to speak, the guests were all taken aback and touched by how emo­tional he was. But I knew the real rea­son be­hind his quiv­ery voice and red eyes.

‘Once the party had started, Claire made a bee­line for my ta­ble. “Jessie!” she ex­claimed. “I can’t be­lieve I fi nally get to meet you! I’ve heard so much about you!” Ja­son stood be­hind her as she gushed about what a good friend I was to her hus­band. He and I could not look at each other.

‘I had planned to spend the night at the ho­tel, but as soon as the re­cep­tion was over and we waved off the new cou­ple, I drove through the night to get home to Jo­han­nes­burg. By the time I pulled into the drive­way, I had dozens of missed calls from Ja­son. I couldn’t talk to him.

‘I knew from pre­vi­ous con­ver­sa­tions that they were leav­ing the day af­ter the wed­ding for Thai­land. A cou­ple of weeks with­out him would be the best thing for me to try to move on from what had hap­pened.

‘But three days later, while I was at my desk at work, a What­sApp popped onto my screen. It was from Ja­son. “Jessie, we didn’t go to Thai­land. I couldn’t go. Claire and I are over.”

‘My nat­u­ral re­ac­tion was to re­ply im­me­di­ately but I forced my­self not to. I knew he’d be able to see that I’d read his mes­sage, but I needed some time.

‘Over the next few days, I put to­gether an e-mail, telling him that while I cer­tainly had feel­ings for him, I couldn’t be the rea­son he ended his mar­riage; that he needed some time alone and that if, af­ter a few months, he was cer­tain about him and Claire, and he still had feel­ings for me, then we could meet. My ex had been a cheat, and I re­fused to do to Claire what had been done to me.

‘I stopped go­ing to the cafe­te­ria for lunch. I didn’t see Ja­son for four months.

‘And then, one Mon­day, an e-mail pinged into my in­box. It said: “I know this is a mess and I know it shouldn’t have gone this way, but I love you. Please can I see you?”

‘I agreed to meet him at our usual ta­ble. He’d asked for din­ner but I couldn’t com­mit to that just yet. I had too many ques­tions. Did Claire know about me? “No,” he said. What did he tell her, and why didn’t they go to Thai­land? Ap­par­ently she could tell as soon as they left the re­cep­tion that some­thing wasn’t right. He said he felt like he had made a mis­take. She went home to her par­ents’ house that night. He had tried to apol­o­gise but she re­fused to take his calls, un­der­stand­ably. He said he felt aw­ful and had never set out to hurt her, but that he couldn’t live a lie.

‘As I lis­tened to him talk, I re­alised all my feel­ings were still there. But I had to look af­ter my heart, and I cer­tainly didn’t want to be seen as “the other woman” so soon af­ter the wed­ding.

‘I agreed to a few dates with Ja­son over the next few months, al­though it took a year for me to meet his fam­ily – they had adored Claire and were dev­as­tated by the break­down of the mar­riage. I knew that if they had the slight­est inkling I’d been in­volved, they’d never ap­prove of me. I also kept the his­tory of our re­la­tion­ship from my fam­ily. I knew that, re­gard­less of the fact that Ja­son had al­ways loved me, my con­ser­va­tive par­ents would only see a man who left his wife the day they were mar­ried. To this day, only a hand­ful of our friends know the true story.

‘Two years af­ter we started of­fi­cially dat­ing, Ja­son pro­posed. This time when he slid a ring box across the ta­ble, the sur­prise was a happy one. I said yes within a sec­ond.

‘We got mar­ried in July last year, and right now I’m on ma­ter­nity leave, await­ing the ar­rival of our fi rst baby. I still don’t know whether I’ll ever tell our kids how their par­ents met. But one thing I will tell them is that you should do any­thing to be with the per­son you love.’



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