The cost of a dream
It cost my body - would it take my relationship, too?
The second I saw the dress, it took my breath away. Perfect. I ran my hand over the ivory silk, the strapless bodice, and mile-long train.
God, I wanted this dress. But with a ?2,000 price tag, it was impossible. 'I'll come back,' I mumbled to the assistant.
Making my way home, tears streamed down my face.
Life on the breadline was tough - especially with a wedding to pay for. And my wedding to my perfect man Damien Hughes, 22, had to be as special as he was.
From the first date at an Italian restaurant, I'd been smitten. We'd shared the same sense of humour and loved action flicks. 'I can't believe you like Jean-Claude van Damme, too!' Damien had beamed.
On our first anniversary, we'd returned to the same restaurant, and he'd proposed. 'Our wedding do will be bigger than Posh and Becks',' I'd giggled.
'Steady on,' Damien said. 'They earn more a week than I do a year.'
My face fell. All my life I'd scrimped and saved, promised myself when I wed I'd splash out on a day to remember.
But when I'd begun working out how much it would cost, I couldn't get it under ?20,000. 'How much?' Damien had spluttered.
'That's cheap,' I'd sighed. 'We've got the cake, Rolls-Royce, not to mention thrones.'
Panic had crossed his face.
'We'll stop going out, start saving,' I'd promised.
Then disaster. Three months after getting engaged, I'd lost my job as a beautician. And Damien was made redundant from his telesales job. We'd applied for jobs, but had no luck. Where would we get the money for the wedding?
I'd tried to get a loan, but the answer was always the same.
'We don't lend to the unemployed.'
Seemed now my dream wedding would be just that - a dream.
If only there was some way to earn money. I'd do anything...
As I trudged home from trying on dresses, I suddenly remembered a magazine article I'd read about a girl who'd become...
'No, I could never do it,' I muttered, batting it from my mind immediately. But there it was seconds later, at the back of my mind. She'd become an escort.
It sounded seedy but, like me, she'd been desperate for money.
Was this how I could make my dream of being a princess for a day come true? I mean, it'd just be a bit of conversation with a lonely bloke, maybe a few drinks...
Back home, I trawled the internet, found an agency near me, and arranged a meeting for the next day. 'I can't believe I'm doing this,' I gulped to myself.
About to commit to Damien for the rest of my life, to proclaim my undying love to him in front of friends and family, it seemed crazy that I was looking into 'dating' other blokes.
But without the extra cash, I wouldn't be able to prove to him how much I loved him - how desperate I was to spend my life with him - because there'd be no wedding. This ceremony was the start of our lives together.
What I was about to do was for us, for our future happiness. After all, I'd be promising to stand by him for richer and poorer - this just proved my point.
Nervously, the following day, I turned up to a four-bedroom house for the meeting. All the escorts seemed really nice - and many had boyfriends, too.
'I have to do this to pay the bills,' sighed one.
Another added: 'The sex means nothing, I'm not being unfaithful because it's just my body involved, not my heart.'
I nodded, then... Hold on! Sex?! I'd have to have sex with these blokes, not just go on dates?
No way. But then... I could see what that woman meant.
I wasn't really being unfaithful to Damien - it's not like I'd even like any of these sleazy blokes, let alone love them.
But I would have to lie to Damien. For that, I felt horribly guilty. Still, it would only be for a couple of months until I'd made enough for our big day.
So I went home and told Damien I had a job as a night secretary at a warehouse.
'That's brilliant,' he grinned.
The following evening, I started my new job. 'This is for me and Damien,' I told myself, sick with nerves. 'I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't truly love him.'
Soon, my first client arrived at the agency. My fingers trembled so much I could barely undo my buttons as I undressed. As we kissed, images of Damien flashed before my eyes... I pulled away, caught my breath. 'It's my first time,' the punter said.
'Erm... this is my first night, too,' I mumbled.
Slowly, we kissed again. Now I focused on my wedding.
The thrones, Rolls Royce, five- tier cake... everything that would make marrying Damien perfect.
It worked and, from then on, I concentrated on my wedding every time I went with a man.
Seeing the money roll in was worth it. I was earning more than ?1,000 a week, and getting more excited than ever to get that ring on my finger.
The escorting was just a means to an ends, it didn't mean I loved Damien any less. In fact, it proved I was willing to do anything because I loved him so much.
Trouble was, the last thing I felt like when I got home was sleeping with him.
'You don't fancy me,' he sulked.
'I'm tired,' I soothed.
'Yeah, and you had a headache the other day,' he huffed.
Were we drifting apart because of my new job?
A few weeks on and, back at work, there was a knock at the door - my next customer.
Straightening my mini dress, I opened it. And froze...
'Damien,' I gasped. 'W-what are you doing here?'
'Donna?' he yelled.
'How did you know I'd be here?' I blabbed. 'I can explain, it's not what it...'
'I didn't,' he blurted.
Stunned, I looked at him. 'You're here for sex?' I finally croaked.
'You didn't want me any more,' he shot back. 'Now I know why.'
'You filthy cheat, you...' I said.
'At least I'm not a prostitute,' he shouted. It felt like he'd slapped me.
All along, I'd tried to distance myself from what I was doing.
But it was true. What the hell had
I been thinking?!
My obsession with the perfect wedding day had made me lose sight of what a loving relationship is about - honesty, being faithful.
'I was doing this for us,' I said. But it rang hollow. Damien was already running downstairs.
Kicking off my sky-high heels and grabbing my coat, I raced straight after him.
But by the time I got home, Damien had packed his clothes
and gone. I tried calling him, but he wouldn't answer his phone and he didn't come home that night - or the next... I was devastated.
What had we done to each other? I'd gone on the game - and he'd visited a prostitute. And all of this was because I wanted my 'perfect day'. Ridiculous!
We'd both lost sight of creating a marriage that worked, rather than just a great wedding day.
Before I knew it, a month had ticked by. Home alone, I sank on to the settee and sobbed my heart out.
Suddenly, I heard a key in the lock - Damien.
'Oh, love...!' I gasped.
He held his hand up to silence me. 'Why did you do it?'
Poor bloke seemed as broken as me, his long blond hair lank, bags under his eyes.
Before I knew it, the truth tumbled out. I told him everything, desperate for him to see the method behind my madness.
'It sounds crazy, but it was all
to make our dreams come true.
It was because I loved you,' I finally added.
'I'm sorry,' he wept.
'Me, too,' I whispered. 'I only wanted us to be happy. Let's have another go - this time without the fancy wedding?'
He nodded and wiped away my tears. 'Just each other,' I smiled.
I'd got so carried away with money, I'd forgotten what truly mattered - being together.
In August, we married.
There was no Rolls-Royce, thrones, or even bridesmaids.
Instead, we exchanged vows in a register office with eight mates. Afterwards, we had a barbecue.
It was simple, cheap - and the perfect day.
Money can't buy love or happiness. Whatever our problems in the future, Damien and me will work them out together as husband and wife.
Donna Hughes, 27, Wrexham, Wales
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