Monica Rizzo
August 09, 2010 12:00 PM

Forget the drama, the heartbreak and the betrayal Ali Fedotowsky endured while filming The Bachelorette. All of her suffering on the hit ABC reality show-in which the 25-year-old former Facebook employee has been choosing from among 25 potential suitors-paled in comparison to the stress of having to stay mum about the outcome of her search for love. With the season finale set to air Aug. 2, millions of viewers are wondering if Ali picked down-to-earth landscaper Chris Lambton, 33, or sexy insurance salesman Roberto Martinez, 26-or if, as some rumors have suggested (see sidebar, page 49), she simply walked away solo. Ali had been doing a good job of keeping the answers to herself-until, finally, she cracked.

“It was seriously killing me inside!” Ali says, confessing that it was one of those times when a girl needs her mom. “I was bursting at the seams. I had to call someone I love.” And so Ali’s mom, Beth Fedotowsky, finally learned whether or not someone had captured her little girl’s heart-not that her family had ever doubted her wisdom. “They trust my decisions,” she says. “If I’m happy, they’re happy.”

And yes, Ali is happy. After a season in which she witnessed not one but two potential mates betray her, “I’ve moved on,” she says. While viewers need not fear that Ali (or PEOPLE) will ruin the impact of the show’s outcome by revealing too much, the feisty New Englander is still determined to speak her mind. After all, doing things her way has been Ali’s trademark throughout this season of The Bachelorette. Upon learning that wrestler Justin Rego had two girlfriends at home, she didn’t wait for a “dramatic rose ceremony” to confront him but promptly berated him in front of his fellow contestants. With six suitors remaining, she nixed a cocktail party, telling host Chris Harrison she didn’t want to go through the motions of mingling when she’d already made up her mind about who should go.

True to form-spoiler alert!-Ali broke the rules when it came to the show’s final rose ceremony. “It isn’t what people are used to seeing,” Ali concedes. “It came from a very real place. It was not scripted.” (A rep for the network confirms that the finale “does not follow the normal routine.”) Knowing that 90 percent of the show’s couples-including the two most recent pairings-do not last, Ali says she was “hyperaware” of the risk she was taking, first by agreeing to be on the show and then by sticking with it even after one of the last three men remaining, retail manager Frank Neuschaefer, confessed he was still in love with his ex-girlfriend, which reduced Ali to a sobbing mess.

Left with Chris and Roberto (“Both are great guys,” she gushes), Ali struggled with whether or not she was ready to trust that one of these men would love her forever. “I asked myself, ‘Am I going to feel strongly enough to get engaged?'” she says. “To me, an engagement is almost the same as saying ‘I do’ when you’re married. I wasn’t going to give up that moment in my life for the sake of picking someone. I wanted to make sure it was right.”

And while she says the resulting choice was “the easiest decision I ever made,” she admits that it came at a cost. She quit her job, moved out of her apartment and put her heart on the line-while millions watch. Engaged or not, Ali says it has all been worth it. “I hope people will respect my decision,” she says. “I knew it was a risk, and I’m glad I took it. With no risk comes no reward.”

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