Shock words no bride wants to hear
STANDING at the altar after months of planning felt like a dream.
As the bride looked up to see her future husband standing beside her, she found it hard to keep the smile off her face.
Now all she needed were those two little words and the next chapter of their lives would officially begin.
"Instead, I got five gut-wrenching ones. 'I just can't do it'," the anonymous woman first wrote on Love What Matters.
"My groom, or runaway I should call him, didn't even look me in the eye as he said it.
"It didn't make sense. Nothing made sense. He had just been smiling, gazing at me lovingly moments before.
"It was every girl's nightmare and my reality."
Over the ringing in her ears, she hoped for a second that she had made a mistake.
Desperately, she turned to the priest for clarification but the expression on his face told her everything she needed to know.
Dimly she heard her mother's voice screaming "I am going to kill him!" as she sank to the floor.
"I placed my face in my hands, sobbing," she said.
"There was an eerie silence now.
"My sister and my mother ran over, got on their knees, and held me.
"I wept like a baby in their arms.
"My makeup was ruined, my perfect wedding day ruined, my heart ruined."
Gradually she became aware that the entire wedding was standing frozen in front of her.
Nobody seemed to know whether to chase after the groom.
But frozen on the ground, she knew it was too late - he was long gone.
Her young son ran forward and launched himself into her arms.
"My son had a blank expression on his face as if he could sense my hurt," she said.
"My father shooed all the guests away and told them to give me some space."
The next few days passed in a haze - she was barely able to move from a bed at her sister's house.
Thankfully, her parents were able to care for her little boy.
Lying alone, she half expected he would try to contact her in some way.
But when she returned home a few days later, she realised why he hadn't.
"All of the runaway's things were gone," she said.
"I was obsessed and crazed, looking for any trace of him.
"I found none. He was gone."
Two days later, her sister received a text from him.
It was short and to the point.
"I'm so sorry. You'd want me to be happy, right? I want that for her, too. I'm just not the one," it said.
"I'm not sure what my sister replied. I didn't want to see it. I didn't want to know.
"I just wanted to know who she was. The girl. The reason my heart was blown to pieces."
But sometimes life has a way of giving us what we want in the worst way possible.
She never heard from her runway groom about who he had moved on with.
Instead, she found out on Facebook, with his relationship status appearing on her news feed just months after the wedding.
"You'd think he'd have the decency to block me?" she said.
"Or I'd have the brains to unfollow him and stop periodically snooping around on his profile.
"But can you blame me?"
At first, she was enraged that he had left her in such a public way.
She didn't understand why he had waited until their vows to end their relationship.
But now, nearly two years on, there is something else that breaks her heart - the fact that he walked out on their son.
"A life that will feel his absence way stronger than I ever will," she said.
"I know my heart will mend itself someway, somehow.
"But can a child ever stop mourning the loss of their father?
"And, even worse, a father that still walks this earth."
Thankfully, her son is still young enough that he doesn't understand what happened.
He believes her when she tells him that his daddy is in heaven.
But she is acutely aware this will not always be the case.
"I worry about what I'll tell him when he's older," she said.
"I hate to have to lie to him now, but I know he's too young to comprehend it all.
"I fear that one day, somehow, the runaway will run into him.
"Or worse, he will look for him. That he'll try to take away my baby, all I have left."
- Madeline Cox is a journalist and news producer for Kidspot, Australia's leading parenting site.
- This story originally appeared on Kidspot.com.au and is reproduced here with permission