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catherine lepage The Globe and Mail

I locked myself in the bathroom to gain some clarity. My wedding dress hung on the door, taunting me. I couldn't even cry.

I felt sick, broken and humiliated. My only thought was I don't know what to do.

Three years ago, I met Mr. Right. We were introduced by a mutual friend and our relationship took off. Anyone who knew us saw a happy, perfect, inseparable couple.

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Six months after we met we took a vacation to Hawaii. It was the trip of a lifetime, and despite having been together only a short time, I felt that this was the guy for me.

The first morning we woke up in Hawaii he asked if I wanted to catch the sunrise with him on the beach. It was a Hallmark moment: Alone on the beach, he told me how much he loved me and then got down on one knee.

I was in shock. Not only was the man I loved asking me to marry him, he was doing it in the exact way I had imagined.

The rest of the trip was incredible. We talked constantly about our future. We decided to have a small, intimate wedding the following year, back where it all began, on the beach in Hawaii.

I ignored the fact that he had few people on his guest list. Nothing else mattered but us.

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We flew back to Hawaii last October along with his sister, her boyfriend and my entire bridal party - my sister and four best friends. Since none of his male friends had accepted the wedding invitations, his sister was his "best man."

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On the day of the wedding, I woke up early and went for a run to clear my head. Then I made my way back to our room to meet my bridal party. We were all so excited but I wasn't nervous, just flooded with the adrenalin of anticipation. The day had finally arrived. My dream wedding was no longer a dream; in a few hours it would be reality.

I went to my hair appointment in the afternoon. When my fiancé phoned and asked me to leave our passports in our room, I assumed he was working on the surprise trip he had hinted at back in Toronto. Little did I know he wasn't planning a romantic getaway at all.

By the time my hair extensions were in and the veil was placed on my head it was 3:30 p.m. I monitored the butterflies in my stomach - I wanted to take in all the emotions of the day and remember every second of it. My sister hugged me and said, "You're not nervous because he's such a great guy."

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Back in my hotel room, I was having my makeup done when my fiancé walked into the room. I absentmindedly noticed that he wasn't dressed yet. It was 4 p.m., which meant he had an hour left to put his suit on. Then I noticed he was crying. I thought he must have been thinking of his mother, who had died three years ago.

He took me in his arms and hugged me. I laughed and told him he was going to wreck my hair. He didn't laugh. "I can't do this," he said.

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He wasn't kidding. I know, because I asked.

My older sister took over. She has always been protective of me, and while I don't remember what she yelled at him, it made him flee the room.

Any illusions that he was having last-minute jitters were destroyed by opening the closets and finding that all of his things and his passport were gone, probably removed while I was at the hair salon.

I felt humiliated while I watched from our room as my sister told the vendors and 10 guests the wedding was no longer on. The memory makes me shiver.

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I don't know how I got through that night, although the sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication helped. I decided to stay in Hawaii with my girlfriends and try to enjoy my honeymoon investment. The magic pills helped me calm any fears of the ocean, sharks, heights and jumping into waterfall pools. My primary goal was to tire myself out each day to the point where I could sleep at night.

The five of us hit the beaches to surf, took rides on catamarans with full bars, went snorkelling and zip-lining, met locals to guide us on the best hikes and partied at night.

One of the upsides was that everyone was extremely sympathetic, even people I didn't know and those who worked at the hotel - or "The Marrynot," as I called it - where my ex-fiancé stayed for the rest of the trip at the opposite end of the resort. Security would occasionally pop by my room to check on me, and hotel staff provided whatever we needed or wanted.

Then there was the woman at the airport who told me, "Ma'am, you're going to have to remove 17 pounds of stuff from your luggage." On the flight down, some of my belongings had been in his luggage.

I took off my sunglasses, exposing my puffy eyes, and managed to blubber out the hardest sentence I've ever had to accept: "The man I was supposed to marry about six days ago left me an hour before the ceremony, so I don't really have much to fall back on here."

The luggage made it aboard, plus I got bumped up to business class and she spent 30 minutes ensuring my girlfriends were seated as close to me as possible.

I don't know what I would have done without my friends there. Despite what I had been through, I had never felt so loved. Apart from the emotional scar that will soon fade, the week I spent with them made for the best vacation I have ever had.

Cyndi Maisonneuve lives in Toronto.

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