Susanna returned from her date with Joel slightly subdued. There was a quiet awe in her eyes that told me something significant had happened. She told me to come up to her room with her (I was watching an afternoon movie on the TV), and so I let her lead the way up the stairs, wondering what she was about to tell me.
Once she’d closed her bedroom door to ensure privacy, Susanna explained.
“His family has arranged a marriage for him but he doesn’t love the girl. He says he got to know her but that he felt like all they could amount to was friends. He told me that with me he feels an intense connection like nothing he’s ever known before and that he believes we belong together... He wants to end the engagement for me- isn’t that romantic, Jen? He says he’s truly sad to disappoint the other girl but that he thinks nothing should come in the way of feelings that are real and special.
“Oh, Jen, I know you’ll think I’m being reckless and selfish but I still want him. He’s being serious and mature about the situation - he’s genuinely upset to have to disrupt people’s plans. I don’t believe he’s playing me - he said we could stop seeing each other if it made me uncomfortable. I don’t even agree with arranged marriages... If we keep dating, he said, he’ll tell his parents how he feels.”
“Oh, Susie, what’s he dragged you into?” I complained.
“He never meant for this to happen,” Susanna insisted: “he just can’t deny how he’s attracted to me. He loves the fact I took a gap year out to do volunteering, he loves the way I am with the cats and he says it makes him so happy to see me smile.”
“I don’t deny that, Sue, but is it really right to interfere with arrangements that have already been made?” I asked.
“Is it right to let him marry a girl he doesn’t love?” Susanna countered.
“What if it turns out you’re not in love - that you’re not made for each other after all? You’ll have caused all this unnecessary trouble for nothing.”
“But isn’t it worth the risk, in case it’s the real thing?” Susanna asked me earnestly. “Shouldn’t sacrifices be made for true love?”
“But how does anyone know what true love is?” I asked quietly, averting my eyes in case the question was too offensive.
Susanna surprised me by hugging me tightly.
“He’s always on my mind, Jen: always.” She released me from her embrace and sat there gazing into the distance as she continued, as if she were visualising Joel standing in the room. “And everything about him is real and charming and perfect. His smile warms me from my head to my toes. I miss him when he’s not around. Isn’t that enough to go on? To base a decision on? What more could there be. He makes me so happy.”
I sighed again, honestly beaten by Susanna’s reasoning.
“Then you should do what your heart tells you is right. For better or for worse.”
Susanna hugged me tightly, almost painfully so. Murmuring in my ear, she said “I think it’s for the best.”