Lady Luxe lazily opens her eyes and stretches out on her four poster bed, enjoying the sensation of the soft, 100% pure Egyptian cotton sheets against her skin. For a moment, she forgets who she is, who is expected to be and who she wants to be as she relishes the warmth of the glorious morning sun on her arms. She kicks off the bedcovers and lies in the middle of the bed, enjoying the sun’s rays and remembering the previous night’s antics which now seem funny. The fear she felt when falling asleep has faded away entirely and she is already wondering what devilish acts she should commit after sunset. But before she does, she has business to attend to. Last week, she received a call from a woman who wanted a customized abaya.
Lady Luxe, unlike most couture abaya designers, offers a bespoke service that allows her customers to create their own abayas with her guidance. This freedom to play with her existing designs makes her popular with women looking for something unique and personal. Bounding out of bed, she has a shower and then wanders downstairs in three-quarter length white pyjama trousers and a pink French Connection t-shirt that has shrunk and now exposes a tiny bit of her torso. She is reluctant to get rid of it because it makes her feel like a teenager.
“Sabah al khair,” Mohamed mutters as she enters the spacious bright kitchen with its pristine black and white surfaces and cabinets. Very contemporary, it looks like it belongs in a catalogue and is nothing like the cluttered and cosy kitchen of her childhood.
“Good morning yourself,” she answers, sitting opposite him on the centre island counter, watching him devour his homemade waffles, courtesy of Claudine, the competent European cook. “Had a good night?”
“Yes.” He continues eating and flicking through the newspaper without looking at her.
“What did you do?” she tries again.
“I went out with my friends.”
“Where did you go?”
“What the hell is up with these questions? Are you mutawwa or something?” He finally looks up at her and scowls. “You need new pyjamas. You look indecent.”
“These pyjamas are fine. It’s not as if there are strange guys here.”
Frowning, she takes a bite of the homemade waffles smothered in whipped cream, hot chocolate sauce with fresh strawberries on the side and sighs. She has given up trying to be friends with Mohamed. He is only three years older than her but she feels as if there is a ravine between them. He is wearing a beige candoura and his briefcase is sitting on the stool next to him, as if it is a very important person.
They sit in silence for a while, Lady Luxe enjoying the buttery fragrance of the waffles and Mohamed reading Gulf News, when he suddenly looks up.
“My friend took your number for his mother who wants something designed,” he begins. “You’re meeting her today I heard. Don’t mess it up, I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of him.”
Lady Luxe stares at him. In just one year, she has created and launched a successful fashion label, has showcased at Dubai Fashion Week, has designed over fifty customized abayas as well as two collections and has made a tidy profit for herself. She is also in the process of signing a contract with the founders of X Boutique, who want to sell both her SS and AW collections.
“Says the guy whose career in government is as menial and unimaginative as his penis,” she mumbles in Arabic under her breath, fuming. Because of his comment, she is half-inclined to intentionally destroy the woman’s abaya, just to embarrass him.
“What did you say?” Mohamed growls, grabbing her wrist from across the counter and squeezing it hard. Although not obviously buff, his hours at the gym have paid off and he is broad and muscular. He can easily break Lady Luxe’s arm in two and she winces at the force of his grip.
“Nothing!” she says defiantly. She doesn’t have enough time to cover any bruises with concealor and foundation again when the woman will arrive in less than an hour.
“Good,” he says, letting go of her wrist and shoving her arm away from him as if it is contagious. Pushing his plate to one side, he leaves it for Anna-Marie, the maid, to clear up and exits the villa.
“Have a good day, habibi,” Lady Luxe calls out after him. Now that he has gone, she allows herself to rub her sore wrist, asks Claudine for some ice in order to numb the tenderness, and then quickly changes into a pretty, yellow, Tara Jarmon dress. She often dresses in Jarmon when she is meeting clients as the cuts are flattering and feminine but conservative. She loves Tara Jarmon as a person as well and prefers to support those she likes and admires. Her customers also like to feel that they are dealing with a professional, fashionable and respectable young woman so she puts on the act as much as she can. She even has a pair of black, Prada glasses that she often wears to look older and more intelligent. Spraying herself with ‘Miss Charming’, she scans her office to ensure everything is in place. Previously a guest bedroom, her office is elegant and luxurious, with its three off-white walls and black and white patterned feature wall. Together with the black leather sofas, chrome furniture and lots of turquoise and purple accessories, it is exactly how she always envisioned it to be.
She makes sure she has her sketchbook to hand and that her look book is out on the glass coffee table next to the artfully arranged fresh lilies that arrive every three days. On the opposite end of the room, by the bay window, are the silver mannequins wearing her latest designs and the closet is full of the older collections. On the marble mantel piece is her coveted ‘Abaya Designer of the Year’ award and next to it is the framed photo of her receiving it. She also has a file with cuttings from all the magazines and newspapers that have featured her as a ‘bright young thing’ which she likes to look through every once in a while.
“Miss Lady Luxe, Madame X is here,” says Anna-Marie, who always transforms into her assistant whenever she has clients over.
“Salam’Alaikom khalti,” Lady Luxe greets the forty-something, robust woman with three kisses and gestures for her to take a seat. They sip black tea and browse the look book together, creating an abaya with the tiniest smattering of real pearls, talking fashion, beauty and traveling. After two hours, Madame X has been measured, has chosen her fabric and will come back in two weeks for a fitting when the abaya has been made. Sitting back on the black, leather sofa, Lady Luxe picks up her Blackberry and emails Leila. Her father is away once again and will not be back for three days. No matter how relieved she is after last night's narrow escape, she is not so relieved that she is ready to pledge allegience to God. She is however, slightly wary so to protect herself should her father make another surprise visit home, she sends both him and Mohamed a quick SMS saying she'll be out late. She has business to attend do.
That evening, Lady Luxe meets Leila at the Cavalli Club. Having attended the opening party and exchanged business cards with Roberto himself, Lady Luxe isn’t as impressed as Leila by the decadent, Swarovski studded interior. In ode to the creator, she is wearing a hot pink short, flowery Cavalli dress that shows off her small but firm cleavage and long, toned legs. Together with three-inch gold, strappy Cavalli sandals and her blonde wig now recovered from being accosted the previous night, she looks lithe and sophisticated. With Leila by her side in a tiny black sheath dress, her hair tumbling down her back in loose curls and her eyes rimmed in thick kohl, every single man in the club has his eyes on them both. And the girls know it.
“So, what’s the latest on Old Fart?” Lady Luxe asks as they sit in a small booth with a perfect view of the entrance.
“He called me a couple of times but I’ve been ignoring him,” Leila replies.
“Loser,” they both say in unison and then smile at each other.
“Well, here’s to the better hammour in the Gulf pacific,” Lady Luxe toasts, holding up her martini. They clink glasses, take delicate sips from their drinks and then survey the talent. Lady Luxe spots one potential, and although she usually steers clear of Arab guys, she is willing to make an exception with him. Well over six-feet with dark brown, messy hair, his complexion is slightly fairer than hers and she guesses him to be Lebanese. She tells herself that this doesn’t really count as Arab anyway. He looks youngish, around twenty-seven maybe, and she glances over at Leila hoping that she hasn’t spotted him. She sighs in relief when she realizes Leila is preoccupied with the contents of her signature Gucci clutch.
“Okay, I’ve spotted a potential and I’ve seen him first,” she declares. As she does, Mr Delicious catches her gaze and flashes a wide smile at her. He’s wearing a plain white shirt over faded jeans and trainers and she wonders how he managed to get in dressed like that. She smiles a small, shy smile back and then looks away. Let the game begin, she thinks to herself.
“Hmm, yes, he is nice but far too boyish for me,” Leila says after checking him out. Busy trying to make eye contact with Lady Luxe, he doesn’t even look at Leila and she feels a twang of envy. Not at the way Lady Luxe looks – she knows she is far, far sexier - but because her youth is silently slipping away. Too boyish = too young. She sighs and rummages around for her phone.
Having made eye contact a couple of times with Lady Luxe, Mr Delicious feels confident enough to introduce himself and saying something to his less fabulous friend, starts heading in their direction. Lady Luxe averts her gaze, pretending not to notice his approach.
“Yes, I totally agree that the UAE government needs to be made aware of the situation,” she says in a loud, English accent as soon as he is within earshot. Leila stares at her and Lady Luxe stares back, opening her eyes wider, trying to get the message across.
“What situation?” Leila asks stupidly.
“Yes, yes, I fully comprehend what you are saying,” she replies, almost shouting and nudging her sharply. “IT REALLY IS A COMPLEX ISSUE THAT I BELIEVE WILL BE SOLVED!”
“I DON’T THINK YOU DO COMPREHEND WHAT I’M SAYING,” Leila shouts back in confusion. When Mr Delicious coughs and looks down at them, realization finally dawns and she hurriedly exclaims the poshest thing she can think of.
“Rightly so!” she yells in a strange accent and a massive smile. “Gosh, you really are intelligent!”
“Good evening ladies. May I partake in this riveting conversation?” Mr Delicious asks with a small smile.
“We would be delighted to invite you to join us but I’m afraid the conversation was confidential,” Lady Luxe purrs, moving up to let him sit beside her. As he does, their thighs collide and she gets a whiff of his cologne. Her stomach begins to tingle and a shiver runs down her spine. A man hasn’t had this affect on her for a long time and unlike most men, he looks even better close up. His jaw line is sharp, his eyelashes are thick and his body seems to be tight and toned under the fitted shirt.
As the night progresses, Lady Luxe finds herself slowly becoming more and more drawn to him. They talk solely in English, so she still hasn’t worked out where he is from and his American accent hasn’t given anything away either, given the amount of American schools in Dubai.
The three of them laugh and joke together like old friends as they talk about books, films, music and Dubai, with Mr Delicious' friend appearing every so often to say a few words before disappearing back into the darkness for some ambiguous 'business'. When the DJ finally starts playing R&B, Mr Delicious stands up and pulls Lady Luxe to the dance floor. She is conflicted as they start moving to the music, half of her desperately wanting to grind against him and reenact Usher’s ‘Love in the Club.’ The other half, however, is anxious for him to respect her and want her for more than just sex. So, instead of giving in to her wantonness, she dances prettily in front of him, careful not to shake her small derrière too much.
Towards the end of the night and countless drinks later (which he pays for), he takes her phone from her hand while she checks it for messages and stores his phone number in it himself.
“I never ask for a lady’s number,” he explains at her amused smile. “A real lady will never give it anyway. So here you go Princess, the ball’s in your court.” With that, he shakes her and Leila’s hands gently, bids them farewell and disappears, leaving both girls in complete awe but also a little surprised. It's not normal for a decent Arab guy to just leave two girls alone in a club without offering to drive them home, or at the very least, seeing them into a taxi.
Lady Luxe watches his retreating back, her body on fire. She can’t believe that they have spent an entire evening together and she doesn’t know anything about him other than his name, the music he listens to and the movies he likes.
And Leila? She too is stunned. Although Mr Delicious is very clearly uninterested in her, the few times he stared into her eyes, she felt a stirring in the pit of her stomach. She has never gone for ‘boyish’ boys before – that is Lady Luxe’s style – but this one is charming, witty, friendly and funny… She also spotted a Rolex on his left wrist.
Half an hour later, they are ready to leave, and Lady Luxe feels an odd pang of loneliness now that Mr Delicious has gone. They go to the restroom briefly and when she hands over her Hermes clutch for Leila to hold while she pees, Leila takes out her best friend's phone, scrolls through the contact list and commits Mr Delicious’ number to memory. Just in case.