As Lady Luxe looks down at Buff, admiring the hard lines on his body, she has the strangest urge to climb back into bed with him. Although the sex isn’t the best she’s had (far from it in fact), there is something comforting about his droopy eyes and strong arms, and she enjoys being in his embrace. There was a tricky moment during the session though, when he became a little too enthusiastic and grabbed a fistful of her 7,000 dhs golden wig, which turned lopsided on her head. In his passion, he thankfully didn’t notice and she quickly pulled it back into place, mentally cursing herself for having such a ridiculous disguise in the first place. In that moment, fear crept inside her and the nagging voice that bugged her during the quiet hours of the night reminded her that her luck would eventually run out. What if he had pulled it off altogether and then recounted the story of the Arab brunette with the yellow wig to all his friends? Gossip spread like thrush in Dubai and if even a whisper got out, she would have to ditch her ‘Jennifer’ persona altogether. This voice ruined any pleasure she may have got from Buff’s fumbling, clumsy hands and big, vacuum-like mouth as now, she was more interested in keeping her wig in place than achieving a happy ending.
Carefully lifting his heavy arm off her back, she slides out of bed as gently as possible. As she does, she catches sight of herself in his floor length mirror. Mascara smudged, wig askew, she looks like a Russian prostitute in the cold, white light illuminating the room from the en-suite bathroom door that has been left ajar. She pulls on her skinny jeans and tight, white sleeveless top, stuffs her feet into her purple metallic Manolos and hurries out of the 18th floor apartment in Dubai Marina. As she passes the reception area, she makes sure to look completely straight ahead, familiar with the smirk that is likely to be on the security guard’s face and not in the mood to acknowledge it.
On her way back to Za’abeel in her nondescript black Porsche Cayenne Turbo with the equally nondescript five number license plate (after all, no one forgets a double digit plate), Lady Luxe stops in a quiet road in Jumeirah, retrieves her abaya from the back seat and slowly puts it on. Removing the blonde wig from her hair, she places it in a plastic bag and leaves it in the back of the car, her handbag too stuffed to accommodate it. She takes out the prescription-free, purely cosmetic blue contact lenses, pops a mint into her mouth and sprays a generous dose of ‘Midnight Oud’, the new fragrance by Romano Ricci’s quirky perfume brand, Juliette Has a Gun, all over herself. After meeting him at a fashion party in Paris, she has fallen in love with his charm and only ever wears his perfumes. During the day, she is ‘Miss Charming’, in a club she’s ‘Lady Vengeance’ and on a date, she is ‘Citizen Queen’. However, whenever she has to be herself – Lady Luxe – she opts for ‘Midnight Oud’, a mysterious, sexy fragrance infused with sandalwood, amber and saffron. Rubbing away the mascara from under her eyes, she reapplies her lip gloss and then continues her journey home. The clock reads 02:45. She is surprised as she assumed it was far later, and she is thankful that her father is still away on business. However, her older brother, Mohamed, may be back from an evening entertaining voluptuous, Moroccan women so she has to be careful not to let him suspect that her own adventures are far more daring than his.
Passing through the security gates of her father’s sprawling villa, she feels her heart shudder when spots the study light on. Only her father ever enters the study at night. Parking between Mohamed’s orange AMG and her younger brother Ahmed’s run-of-the-mill Nissan Patrol, she turns off the engine and takes a deep breath before getting out the car. She winces at the shrill beep when she locks it, acutely aware of every rustle around her, and wishes she was wearing silent trainers and not heels that will undoubtedly clatter across the marble hallway.
“Meno hni?” a deep voice calls out, echoing in the sparse hallway, void of any furniture, the only decoration being the stained glassed window at the top of the stairs. During the day, the greens, blues and reds dance along the marble floors in the warm sunlight and as a child, Lady Luxe believed them to come from heaven.
“It’s me,” she replies in English, her pace quickening as she hastily makes for the stairs that are in the centre of the foyer, splitting into two at the top. Her bedroom is on the left, whereas her father’s and brothers’ rooms are on the right. He isn't due back for another three days and even his PA confirmed that he wouldn't be back until mid-week when she called the day before.
“Come here,” her father says, his soft voice laced with ice.
Taking another long breath, Lady Luxe composes herself as her mind quickly creates the stories she will have to tell. As she enters her father’s study, she is engulfed by the intoxicating scent of bakhoor. A contrast to the rest of the contemporary décor in the spacious, airy villa, the study is painted a dark maroon and is lined with floor-to-ceiling mahogany bookshelves. Her father is sitting on a large, dark green leather armchair smoking a cigar and he gestures for her to sit down on an identical chair next to him.
“Salam’alaikom Baba,” she says, sitting down.
“ ‘Alaikom salam,” he replies without looking at her. They sit in silence for a while as he continues to inhale and exhale his cigar and Lady Luxe wishes she could ask him for a draw herself as her palms begin to sweat.
“What is the time?” he asks after a while.
“Almost 3am,” she replies confidently.
“And what were you doing roaming the streets until Al Fajr?”
“I went to Maryam Al X’s home. She has some ideas for my business.” At the mention of her business, Lady Luxe sees her father soften. Disappointed in Mohamed for not having a single entrepreneurial bone in his body, he is secretly proud of his daughter for creating an abaya label, putting together a business plan, securing funding (albeit from him) and gaining a steady stream of returning customers.
"What ideas does she have?"
Lady Luxe stares at her father, unsure as to what to say. Her pulse racing and her mind struggling to keep up, she keeps a straight face, well aware she is hugging her bag to her chest so tightly that her fists are turning white.
"Loads," she manages to say airily. "She told me about her friend who is a website designer who can create a website for me, so we spent some time researching websites and so on. She also thinks that I need to cater to international clientele. You know, khaleejis living in London or the US who wear abaya and she has a contact in London who can help me."
"So you spent five hours talking about these two points?" Lady Luxe's father looks at her straight in the eyes and she looks back at him, anxious not to break her gaze and make herself look like she is crumbling.
"Of course not!" she laughs, still holding on to her bag for support. "Baba, you know us girls. First we had dinner, they made delicious home made pizza which I have to get the recipe for. Claudine's pizza is really lacking. Then we were chatting about...you don't want to know the details of who wore what to whose party do you?" She flashes her father a big smile and he visibly relaxes. She doesn't though. She is well aware of her father's temper and what he is capable of doing if his boundaries are pushed.
"Fine, but you know how I feel about you coming home late."
"I know Baba and I'm sorry, I would have called you but I knew you were away and you know how Mohamed is. He hates it when I disturb him when he's out so I didn't want to have to deal with that." Still gripping onto her bag, scared that if she releases her hands, they will start shaking and if she gives her father the slightest hint that she is less confident than she appears, he will be sure to pounce on her hestitation like a lion and it's prey.
“Let me see your handbag,” he suddenly demands after a pause. Shocked, Lady Luxe's mouth falls open slightly.
"Why?" she asks, buying time, her mind spinning as she tries to work out what is in it. Although she is relieved that she left the wig in the car, she still doesn’t know what other incriminating objects may be lurking around in the depths of her large and very full Birkin bag. She’s positive that there is a packet of Marlboro Lights somewhere amongst the makeup, spare shoes, sunshade, spare sheila and she prays with every ounce of her being that there are no condoms.
"Because you have been clutching on to it like a mother with her newborn and I am curious as to why you are worried that I will see what is inside."
"I'm not worried. I'm holding it because it's stuffed full of rubbish and I don't want everything to spill out." I really don't want everything to spill out.
"Then hand it over. Let me see what you girls are carrying around with you these days and why you insist on lugging such huge bags with you." His voice is jolly, but Lady Luxe recognises the hardness behind the facade and wordlessly hands it over.
She watches her father rummage through her Birkin with her breath stuck in her throat and for the first time, is thankful that it is full of useless things – fabric samples, leaflets, jewellery. Almost immediately, he comes across a pair of flimsy, lacy knickers, he withdraws his as if he has been burnt and thrusts the bag back at her. Lady Luxe releases the air in her lungs. Her breath now steady, her heart slowing down, she now feels indignant that her father had the audacity to question her like that and the more she thinks about it, the more annoyed she feels. She feels like an innocent bystander accused of murder.
“I can’t believe you did that, Baba,” she says, feeling a lot stronger knowing that he is now embarrassed. "You see why I didn't want my things to fall out?”
“Be quiet,” he snaps. “I don’t care if you’re working on your business, you are a lady and you will behave like one. If you wish to stay out later than 2am, you will inform me and Mohamed of your exact whereabouts. Go to your room.”
She does, relief pouring out of every pore, every cell. As soon as she gets to her bedroom, she empties out her entire handbag onto her four poster bed. She finds a single, foil wrapped condom as well as a tiny plastic bag of weed. She flushes them both down the toilet in her en-suite bathroom, her heart beginning to work overtime again. This time, her father had checked her bag but what if next time he checked her phone? Although she has two – one for business, family and friends and another unregistered one for fun, he can easily come across the wrong one if he decides to make a habit of looking through her things.
Making space on her bed, she sits crossed legged, still in her abaya, and opens her ‘fun’ inbox. Her face turns pale as she comes across hundreds of dirty text messages from countless guys. She hits ‘delete all’ and decides to delete every new message that comes through. She does the same with the sent messages.
Tonight she has been lucky and she knows that it’s only a matter of time – or in her case – an investigative father – before it runs out.