Chapter Two – Making A Choice

The next day, Amanda stood at her kitchen sink washing up the lunch plates and stared out of the window into her backyard.

"You'll wipe the pattern right off the plate if you keep running the dishcloth over it like that," Dotty pointed out. For the last five minutes, she had been patiently waiting for her daughter to hand over the plate so that she could dry it.

Amanda gasped. "Sorry, mother, I was just thinking about something," she explained as she held out the plate to her.

"I gathered as much," Dotty replied dryly. She remained silent as she watched Amanda quickly wash up the rest of the cutlery then offered to make a cup of tea while her daughter sat down.

A few minutes later, she sat next to Amanda on the couch and turned to her. "Are you going to tell me what the problem is or do I have to guess?"

Her daughter sighed and shook her head. "Dean asked me to marry him a couple of nights ago…"

"Oh Amanda! That's wonderful," Dotty cried excitedly and gave her a hug. "Have you set a date yet? Will it be an Autumn wedding? Oh, Autumn is such a lovely time of year…"

"Mother!" Amanda cut in loudly. She became quiet and Amanda continued in a lower tone, "Mother, I know you like Dean, but I haven't even agreed to marry him yet, let alone set a date."

"But why?" Dotty asked in surprise. "He loves you and the boys."

"I know."

"Well, don't you love him back, is that it?"

"No, it's not that I don't love Dean, mother, it's more…" she paused and then shrugged her shoulders helplessly as she struggled to find the right words to explain her feelings. "I'm not sure if I love him enough. One minute I think I do and then the next…I mean, I couldn't even remember him when I had that amnesia. The doctor said if I was having emotional problems about a person then I'd block them out. Well, I did and I keep thinking back to that and wondering what it all means. I wouldn't have forgotten him if I was sure about my feelings, would I?"

"I don't know, Amanda," Dotty sighed and reached out to gently clasp her hand. "All I can tell you is that Dean is a dependable, compassionate and decent man who loves both you and boys and wants to spend the rest of his life with you. You just have to decide if he is what you want for the rest of your life."

"That's the hardest part. I don't want to hurt him but I think that whatever I decide to do, I will."

"Well, then, that's your answer, dear," Dotty replied wisely. Amanda nodded her head sadly and the two women hugged briefly.

"Thank you, mother," said Amanda when they pulled apart. "I guess I'd better go and talk to him."

Dotty nodded and watched Amanda leave the room, then picked up her now lukewarm cup of tea and took a big gulp.

******************************

Amanda had just taken her coat off of the hook when there was a knock at her front door.

"Dean! I wasn't expecting you," she exclaimed when she saw her visitor. She leaned forward and kissed her boyfriend on the cheek as he entered the house.

"I know, Amanda, but I have great news that just wouldn't wait," he replied excitedly as he took off his coat and handed it to her.

She turned and put it on a coat hook then faced him again. "Well, what is it?" she asked when he didn't immediately elaborate.

He grabbed her hands and led her into the den. "Oh, hello Dotty," he greeted when he saw her. "I'm glad you're here too, I've got some pretty exciting news."

Dotty looked at Amanda and stood up. "Oh, Dean, I wish I could stay but I'm already late for an important appointment," she excused. "I'll make sure that Amanda tells me everything when I get back."

She walked over and gave them each a quick kiss on the cheek and then left them alone.

Dean immediately turned to Amanda. "Alright, sit down and I'll tell you."

"OK." Amanda did as he asked and looked up at him expectantly.

"I've been offered a job in Seattle working as the regional weatherman. Isn't that great news?" he enthused happily.

Amanda's mouth dropped open in surprise. "Gosh, Dean, congratulations. I'm very happy for you." She stood up and hugged him tightly before pulling back to add warmly, "You really deserve this, you've worked so hard and I'm so proud of you."

"Thank you, Amanda," he replied and kissed her soundly on the cheek. He released his hold on her and began to pace excitedly around the room. "I can't believe it. This guy called Frank O'Sullivan just rang me up out of the blue and said he was head of regional broadcasting. He told me he'd heard great reports about me from my boss, who's a close friend of his, and would I like to join his team. Oh, this is such a great opportunity for me. I never thought it'd happen. My own slot on prime TV. We'll have to start looking for a house straight away, you know, somewhere quiet with a big backyard…"

Amanda listened to him with a growing sense of dread. "Dean," she cut across his animated chatter quietly. "I'm sorry, I can't move to Seattle with you."

He came to a sudden stop and spun around to face her, the smile fading from his face. "What?" he asked in a shocked tone. "But, honey, when we marry…"

"Well, I haven't actually said that I will, yet," she reminded him softly. She saw the hurt in his eyes and felt guilt wash over her. It wasn't his fault that she didn't want to marry him. It was hers.

Along with what she'd told Dotty, she also knew that part of her decision was due to her work at the Agency. She had discovered a whole new side to herself that she liked. She felt good about herself, more confident. It was something that had been missing from her life for a long time and she didn't want to give it up.

Then, of course, there was Lee. She had tried to deny to herself that he had anything whatsoever to do with her decision but she knew that that wouldn't be strictly true.

Ever since she'd met him, she had felt…something. She didn't know what attracted her the most though. Was it his looks? Was it the glamour of his being an agent? Or was it the glimmer of the lonely, unhappy boy she was allowed a glimpse of every once in a while? Maybe it was all of those but, whichever it was, she just couldn't shake the inexplicable fascination that drew her to him. And she couldn't commit herself to Dean while she had those feelings.

She took a deep breath and reached out for her boyfriend's hand, tugging on it gently to get him to sit down on the couch. She sat beside him and gave a gentle smile. This was going to be one of the hardest things she'd ever have to do. "Sweetheart, I'm sorry, but I can't marry you."

He looked at her in shock. "Why?" he finally asked. His expression grew concerned. "Are you worried that I'd be like Joe? I wouldn't abandon you or the boys, you know that…"

Amanda felt a tug on her heart at his anxious words. "No, it's not that, Dean. I know you're not like Joe. There's a lot of reasons…"

"Like what?" he wanted to know.

"Well, I mean, Seattle…it's a long way and it wouldn't be fair to just uproot the boys like that for a start. They've got all their friends here and they're doing so well in school…"

"But there are good schools in Seattle too," he pointed out eagerly. "And they're young, they'll make new friends in no time."

"What about mother? She has all her friends here and her clubs…I couldn't just leave her…"

"She could come with us," he offered kindly. "You know I think she's wonderful…"

"And then there's my plant and pet business. It's just starting to do well and I'm getting so many clients now…"

"But you can start another business there. I'll help you, you know that."

"But Dean…"

"Look Amanda, if the only thing stopping you from marrying me is Seattle, then I won't go. I don't want to lose you," he told her earnestly. "I love you. I love Philip and Jamie."

Amanda looked away, feeling awful for having to hurt him but, marriage between them wouldn't work. He deserved to be with someone who loved him back. It wasn't her. She just didn't have the heart to come out and tell him that straight though.

She closed her eyes briefly, then steeled herself for what she was about to do as she looked back at him. "Dean, I…I think you should go to Seattle. Without me. It's what you've been working towards all your life and you shouldn't give that up. For anyone."

Dean's shoulders sagged in defeat as the meaning of her words sank in. The fact that she hadn't returned his declaration of love spoke volumes. And if that hadn't been enough, then the fact that she'd told him to take the job without her all but screamed out refusal.

"I see," he finally muttered.

Amanda gave him a small smile then tenderly put her hand to his cheek and leaned in to brush her lips over his in a featherlight kiss.

"I'm sorry."

Dean stared back at her then placed his hand over hers and gently pulled it away from his face. He turned his head and gave her palm a kiss before looking back at her. "You have no reason to be. You can't help the way you feel," he replied quietly then stood up and let out a heavy sigh. "Well…I'd better be going. I've got a lot of packing to do for the move."

Amanda also stood and gave him a quick hug. "Good luck and send me some tapes of the show."

"I will," he promised and with a last brief kiss on her lips, he left.

***************************

Amanda looked up as Lee joined her by the coffee machine in the bullpen. "Need a refill?" she asked.

He held out his mug and she carefully poured the black liquid into it. "Thanks. I promised myself this as soon as I finished the Westbrook report."

"Oh, you got it done?"

Lee cleared his throat and shook his head. "Uh…no, but it's almost there."

Amanda smiled. "You want me to finish it for you?"

He smiled in return. "That'd be great, Amanda. Thanks a lot. I don't know what I'm going to do when you leave."

"Well, I wouldn't worry about that, Lee," she said as she started to walk back to her desk with Lee in tow. "Looks like I'm here for a while yet."

"Oh, why's that?" he asked curiously.

They reached her desk then she placed her cup on a coaster before sitting down and looking up at him. "Dean and I have decided to…go our separate ways."

"I see. I'm sorry."

"Yeah, well, that's how these things go I suppose," she remarked a little sadly. "He got a great job offer yesterday and he's moving to Seattle."

"Seattle, huh?

"Yeah. Dean's boss, Jack Dobson, has a friend in one of the broadcasting companies there, a man called Frank…" she paused and frowned. "I can't remember his surname. Anyway, Jack recommended Dean and he got the job. I'm really happy for him, he deserves it."

"I'm sure he does," Lee agreed dryly, then smiled amiably when he caught her puzzled look.

"Scarecrow, there's a call for you," one of the Agents called out to him. "He says it's important."

Lee turned his head and nodded. "I'll take it at my desk." He looked back at Amanda apologetically. "Excuse me."

She nodded then opened a file and began to type.

At his desk, Lee picked up the phone. "Stetson."

He paused while he listened to the man on the other end of the line speak then looked across the bullpen at Amanda and smiled slyly. "Yeah, it worked like a charm. Thanks Frank, I owe you one."

THE END