‘I Hooked up with My Husband … The Day He Married Someone Else’
The story not even their family knows
‘I WAS RECOVERING FROM A PRETTY HORRIFIC BREAK-UP WHEN I MET JASON.
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.
VOWS AND HEARTBREAK
‘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.”
‘HIS LIPS WERE MOVING BUT I HAD STOPPED HEARING HIM. HE HAD BOUGHT A RING. FOR A GIRL NAMED CLAIRE’
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.’
‘I DIDN’T WANT TO BE SEEN AS “THE OTHER WOMAN” SO SOON AFTER THE WEDDING’
* NAME HAS BEEN CHANGED