The Bachelorette NZ's Lesina Nakhid-Schuster may have broken up with Aaron McNabb on camera, but off camera she kept seeing him.
Now that the reality TV show has wrapped Aaron, 27, can finally break his silence on what really happened between him and Lesina after she dumped him - and he says they began dating immediately.
He claims Lesina, 32, called him back straight after filming the break-up scene. They enjoyed a number of dates before he called time on the relationship because Lesina was so unsure about what she wanted.
On Monday night's finale show we saw Lesina summon Aaron to Auckland's windswept Piha beach to tell him she wouldn't be taking anyone to the final rose ceremony. She said she hadn't found her 'forever person' and had decided to exit the show alone.
But immediately after the scene was filmed, as Aaron sobbed in the back of the car while he was being driven back to his hotel room, he got a phone call from the show's director.
"Lesina wanted me to come back. She said she wanted to have another conversation," Aaron spills.
So Aaron returned to the beach and was told by Lesina that she did want to keep seeing him. She just hadn't wanted to have a relationship with him in the glare of the public spotlight.
"She said she didn't want the pressure of the public knowing that we'd started a relationship outside of the show even though we'd just filmed the scene with her breaking my heart," Aaron explains.
So the pair went back to Aaron's hotel room where Lesina stayed the night - then she broke up with him again after breakfast.
A week passed and Aaron reached out to Lesina, and the couple agreed to try dating again.
"We did the usual couple things," Aaron says. "We went out for dinner, hung out, went for drinks. This was all before Christmas and we hadn't been announced yet so we didn't have to 'hide'."
But after a few dates Lesina again said she had doubts.
"It didn't make a tonne of sense to me because she never quite said, 'Aaron, this isn't working.' It was almost like she was angling for me to break up with her so that she could be the good guy," Aaron says.
"I decided I was not getting what I needed out of this relationship...
"And then it was still weird because we were at her apartment and her flatmates came home and said 'we're having a barbecue'. So I stayed for the barbecue and it was like we were still dating... She was sitting on my lap and kissing me..."
At the end of the evening they said goodbye and that was the last time Aaron saw Lesina before the filming of Tuesday's After the Final Rose/Reunion show in March.
Lesina still tried to reach out to him after he left that night, he adds, "but I didn't really want to talk to her because I was trying to figure out what the hell... how I felt in the whole situation, where my head was at."
Aaron went into the filming of Tuesday night's After the Final Rose/Reunion show with questions for Lesina, but felt she didn't answer them.
"The conversation [that viewers witnessed on After the Final Rose/Reunion] went nowhere, just like how it usually is with Lesina," Aaron says.
"Like a whole lot of nothing where I'm going round in circles trying to get more information out of her, and her just basically putting up brick walls."
Lesina contacted Aaron after the show and accused him of putting her on the spot "just for the cameras", Aaron claims.
"She said I'd caught her off guard, that I'd told her I was fine the whole time... 'so I think you just did it for the cameras'.
"Like, again, it's my fault. I've done everything wrong..."
"I said if that's how she felt there's not much I can do about it. If she thinks I just did it for the show then she's really got no idea what she has done to me emotionally."
The conversation "weirdly" gave Aaron the closure he'd been seeking.
The Hamilton-based school teacher reckons he's well and truly "over" Lesina now and open to finding love again - although he admits that's going to be pretty tricky with the entire country currently in lockdown.
He's filling his days in isolation by playing playstation, going for runs and teaching his students remotely - and has stayed in contact with some of the other bachelors, who had "heard whispers" about what went on after filming and shown their support.
Lesina is currently in Australia working as a locum doctor. She declined to be interviewed for this story but on After the Final Rose/Reunion she said no one had wanted her to find love on the show more than she had. She had never meant to lead anybody on.
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