Lady Luxe doesn’t stalk; not in real life, not on Facebook and not even on Twitter. In fact, she always turns her dainty nose up at undignified girls who gawk shamelessly at their crushes pictures online and constantly track their Twitter updates on their Blackberries. Desperation, Lady Luxe believes, is an unsightly disease that strips women of their sexiest asset – mystery.
Or so she righteously claimed until she became a victim of the ailment herself, with the only antidote being ever happily after with the very cause of her sickness. When Mr Delicious swept into her life with his wide, shiny smile, tousled brown hair and long, thick eyelashes, Lady Luxe, for the first time in her twenty-one years, felt the sweet pangs of smittenness and although she would rather don a pair of purple Crocs than admit it, she has been doing everything she can to stalk him since. She has found his Facebook profile and spends a few minutes every day looking at the only picture of him she can, her mouse pointer hovering over the ‘add friend’ button. She refuses to send him a friend request though. Everyone knows that adding a guy on Facebook is the cyber version of asking him out. She has also refrained from doing anything with his number, other than staring at it, willing him to miraculously find a way to track her down – despite the fact that he doesn’t even know her real eye colour, let alone her name. However, he is connected to her in one way – through Leila – and this bitter truth is what makes Lady Luxe seethe her way to slumber every night.
Although Lady Luxe has not confronted Leila about her backstabbing ways, she has thrown in just enough hints to encourage her to back off. Her warning signals however, do not consist of anything more than a knowing look here, an innuendo there, and have therefore seemed to have gone amiss. Leila was reportedly at the Movenpick Hotel earlier today and although Lady Luxe cannot be sure that she was frolicking with Mr Delicious as she is only tracking her Beemer, not her, what she can be sure about is that nothing except the fragrance of freshly printed dirhams can lure Leila to the wrong side of Dubai that early on a Friday. Other than getting her deported (ah, the beauty of wasta), for once, Lady Luxe is at a loss at how to control the situation. Although Leila only very, very vaguely has any inkling as to who she really is, she knows enough to find out more (should she ever desire to dig deeper) and this is a risk that no guy – no matter how delicious he is or how long his eyelashes are – is worth.
Chi @ the Lodge tonight? The message appears while Lady Luxe is sprawled over her Queen-sized bed, flicking through Ahlan and sighing in relief when seeing that ‘Jennifer’ has still managed to evade the society pages. She is surprised by Leila’s choice. Although she enjoys the occasional night out at Chi, her friend tends to prefer upscale venues where she can meet wealthy men over good music you can actually dance to. She wonders if the invitation is Leila’s attempt at extending an olive branch and gracefully decides to accept the token. After all, it’s been a while since she’s been to a club and actually danced her heart out instead of just posing prettily. Plus, after canceling Thursday night when her father postponed his next business trip, she feels as if her weekend is missing its very soul. Currently on a plane to China, her father is definitely far away enough for her to have a long night of brazen fun. Chi is notorious for its shamelessly thirsty men, and tonight, that is exactly what Lady Luxe needs – full on flirting without the usual, pretentious mask of sophistication.
Sure… Meet you there at 11:00pm, she writes swiftly, jumping out of bed and heading over to her dressing room to see what she can wear that is comfortable enough to dance properly in yet sexy enough to make sure the spotlight is on her, not Leila.
Any chance you can come and collect me? Leila usually takes taxis so the request comes as a surprise. Going home in a taxi is far too conspicuous for Lady Luxe who prefers to drink carefully and arrive home safely in her Cayenne instead. Even when she ends up leaving a club with a nameless man, she always follows him in her car. She never wants to be in a situation where she is stuck in dodgy Deira, unable to find a taxi to take her home, and then, (God forbid) bumping into her father or brother whilst stumbling out of it crumpled, abaya-less and smelling of fags and booze.
Okay, I’ll come by around 10:30, she texts back, more focused on what she should wear than Leila’s strange request for a ride. Looking around the dressing room, she notices that there isn’t much space left for new purchases and wonders whether or not she should clear out the clothes she hasn’t worn for a while to make space for new ones. The dressing room, designed by Lady Luxe herself, is a haven for fashionistas and shopaholics alike, with its spectacular floor-to-ceiling display of her two-hundred strong shoe collection, luscious thick, cream coloured carpet, hot pink walls and white furniture. The clothes rails are weighed down by everything from glitzy party dresses to elegant ball gowns to heavily adorned jellabiyas, abayas and even the odd Manish Malhotra saree.
After much deliberation, she chooses a sleeveless black sequined top by Anna Sui that she picked up in New York but still has the label on. She pairs it with black twill shorts by Marc Jacobs and her favourite Gina sandals - silver leather, studded with diamantes, big silver hoop earrings and matching bangles. Laying out all the clothes on her bed, she jumps in and out of the shower and after moisturising her entire body with La Mer face cream (she hates the clinical scent of the body cream,) she carefully smoothes body shimmer over it. Skin now soft, supple and glowing, she applies MAC primer, foundation and pressed powder onto her already good complexion and blends silver and black Sephora eyeshadow on her eyelids until she looks like she’s stepped out of a fashion magazine. Squeezing into her outfit, she adds one final layer of a metallic pink Sephora lipgloss created with crushed pearls, sprays herself with Romano Ricci’s Lady Vengeance and then slips an abaya over her head. Wrapping a sheila around her face to hide the golden wig, she grins at her reflection and grabs her tiny purple leather Zufi Alexander clutch (Zufi and Lady Luxe go way back, both being hot young Dubains in the fashion industry) to complete her look. As an afterthought, she sends an sms to both her father and Mohamed as she clatters down the marble stairs, ready for some action. Neither bothers to reply.
* * *
“Going like that?” Leila giggles when Lady Luxe pulls up in front of her building, still in her Emirati gear. “I’d love to see what the bouncers make of you!”
“Well hello to you too!” Lady Luxe answers, flinging open the door. She jumps out of the car and whips off her abaya like Clark Kent transforming into Superman, revealing her daring outfit underneath.
“That’s better,” Leila squeaks, absorbing her sequined top, tiny black shorts, silver strappy sandals and smoky eyes with envy. Fully aware that a designer ensemble compared to an ordinary outfit is like the difference between sashimi at Nobu and a fillet burger at McDonald’s, she unconsciously tugs at her TopShop leopard print boob tube dress and runs her fingers through her big blonde hair. Smug, Lady Luxe smiles and says nothing as she slips back into the car and turns up the stereo. You ain’t got nothing on me, bitch, she thinks to herself as she flies down SZR, completely ignoring the speed cameras and getting flashed at least twice. Wasta goes a long way in Dubai, and her father knows enough people to ensure that his children never get speeding fines, parking tickets or even the pink slip in a car accident when they are clearly at fault. Leila grips onto the edge of the beige leather seats as Lady Luxe increases her speed to 180 km per hour, weaving her way through the various lanes and narrowly avoiding the other cars.
“Um, could you slow down a little?” Leila gasps, her stomach beginning to churn.
“Why?” Lady Luxe laughs, edging up to 185. “I thought you liked living dangerously?”
“Please! I’m serious!” Leila’s stomach contracts and she clutches on to the dashboard, the blood disappearing from her face. She hates driving fast. She hates Sheikh Zayed Road. She hates Lady Luxe and her stupid fast cars.
“Fine, fine, I was just kidding.” Slowing down to 150, Lady Luxe pats Leila’s leg reassuringly. “Sorry, I didn’t realise you were serious,” she says, not wanting to spoil the night already. Leila smiles a wobbly smile back at her, still feeling queasy.
Cow, she thinks to herself, still smiling. I’ll get you back for this.
Leaning back in her seat and trying to bite her tongue, Leila remembers the first time she met Lady Luxe and wonders if she will one day look back and regret the effort she made to secure their friendship. It was one of those rare afternoons when she decided to treat herself to some quality pampering after selling a huge villa on the Palm and receiving a hefty bonus. Instead of grabbing a quick, cheap and temporarily satisfying massage at her local beauty salon, hesitating slightly, she pushed money-saving thoughts to the back of her mind and went to the Burj Al Arab instead. Although the thought of blowing a thousand dirhams on a massage at the Assawan spa was painful for Leila with her frugal ways, it transpired to be one of the best investments she had ever made.
Assawan is not the prettiest of spas. With its garish red and gold colour scheme, it is the complete opposite of what most (sane) people would find soothing. She made this comment to an attractive, thin woman who was lounging by the infinity pool that overlooks the Arabian Gulf. The girl laughed and, connecting instantly, they began talking. Upon discovering that the Emirati was one of the exclusive few to have a yearly membership at the 30,000 dhs a year health club (not to mention having paid a hefty 30,000 dhs joining free), Leila knew that there was a reason why fate had brought her to Assawan, and not Talise at Al Qasr or Cleopatras at Wafi. So, she laughed and joked with her while they swam and ended up getting a coffee at Sahn El Dar afterwards. Sitting amongst the opulent luxury whilst sipping freshly brewed Earl Grey and nibbling on buttery scones, Leila realised that the attractive local girl with the diamond encrusted Cartier watch and patent Prada peep-toes could quite possibly be her passport into the world of rich, handsome and powerful men that she was desperate to infiltrate.
Leila was right. In the past two years, she has been to exclusive gala dinners, has sat front row at fashion shows, has attended restaurant and store openings, movie premiers, all the while being chauffeured around in a pink Ferrari. She has also become close enough to her passport to be introduced to ‘Jennifer’, thus expanding their activities to clubbing, drinking and the occasional bunning, as well as posing of course.
They can feel the pounding bass before they can even see Chi, and Lady Luxe slips into an unexpected free parking space and screeches to a halt. They both slide out the car, aware that the men who are currently being denied entry are staring at them in appreciation, and as they do, Leila takes a quick, surreptitious look at the license plate and notes it in her unfailing memory. In case she gets too drunk to remember it in the morning, she pulls out her trusty phone, writes it in and then grabs Lady Luxe’s arm and pulls her into the heaving club.
Surprisingly, the atmosphere at Chi isn't as Lady Luxe remembers it to be. It used to be full of pervy, sex-starved men who wouldn’t bother feigning sophistication or aloofness. Instead, they would ogle freely at every single creature resembling a woman, and were often courageous enough to sneak up behind them, squashing their protruding nether-regions onto unsuspecting girls’ derrieres whilst they are dancing. The music however, is far from the techno, computerised Swedish rubbish that Lady Luxe cannot stomach, so although she detests uncouth men with a tendency to invade personal space, she likes to indulge her inner black gyal occasionally and goes there solely to wind and grind to her heart’s content.
Tonight however, there seem to be more white people than usual and the DJ is spinning a mix of R&B, hip hop, funky house and good ole Brit pub songs. Lady Luxe smiles, pretending that she is actually in London as she and Leila squeeze their way through hoards of sweaty people. They find a place right in the centre of one of the dance floors, next to a group of single men vaguely moving to the music and begin shaking their thangs to Sean Paul. A blur of gold, the fake blondes look spectacular together and soon, two brave men from the group edge their way over to them. In the darkness, Lady Luxe doesn’t get to see much of what they look like so she grabs the taller one’s hands, assuming he is the better catch, and pulls him towards her. She spins around so that he is behind her and leaning forward, does her legendary, crowd pleasing Beyonce butt-shake.
“Aiwa,” he calls out, pleased, and she freezes mid-shake. She knows that voice. Too afraid to turn back around, she continues dancing with him behind her but this time with breathing space between them. Gutt squirming, head spinning, palms sweating, she sneaks a look at the guy Leila is dancing with. Unable to make out his features clearly, all she can discern is that he is a little shorter than the one trying to squash up behind her, and is wearing a huge cowboy hat. She doubts that Leila will mind parting with him, so when the DJ mixes a bit of Lady Gaga, she spins around again, drops to a squat and as she flexes back up, grabs Cowboy’s hands and presses herself against him. The tall guy, now left facing Leila, laughs and begins to dance with her amicably. Out of his line of vision, Lady Luxe sneaks a look in his direction and feels her face turn green and her insides crumble when her suspicions are confirmed.
Dressed in dark blue jeans and a plain black shirt, Mohamed, her brother, is holding Leila’s hands and dancing with a big, cat-that-stole-the-cream grin on his face. Feeling utterly disgusted with herself, she cannot believe that she had just shown her brother her infamous butt-shake from a proximity that could be deemed as incestuous, had either of them known who the other was.
Resisting the urge to throw up, Lady Luxe looks over at him again just to make sure her eyes are not deceiving her. A second glance only confirms what she already knows and she racks her brain for ways to exit as discreetly as possible. However, if she vanishes, there is a small chance that Leila may realise something is wrong and she cannot let her conniving, backstabbing, boyfriend-stealing friend know who her dance-partner really is. She can just image the look of evil pleasure on Leila’s carefully made-up face if she realises that it is the eldest son of X who is currently being captivated by her fluid moves. She curses herself for coming to such a slimy place, one her brother would naturally thrive in, and then curses Mr Delicious for putting her in a compromising position with Leila to begin with. Pre-Mr D days, she could have just grabbed Leila and ran, but now, since war has been declared, she has to tread carefully around the volatile Lebanese who has too much of a hold over her.
“Can I wear your hat?” she asks Cowboy with a broad smile, dancing vaguely and trying her utmost to keep her back to Mohamed. Thankfully, Leila’s plentiful curves are enough to occupy his vision and she catches a quick glimpse of him with his arms on either side of her while she gyrates her behind against his crotch.
Ugh, she thinks, swallowing another desire to puke. No doubt Leila has spotted his Breitling watch and from an outsider’s perspective, Lady Luxe reluctantly concedes that Mohamed can be perceived as handsome. Unlike Ahmed who is thin and awkward, he takes after their father with broad shoulders and rugged charm. His black, wavy hair is longish and curls at the nape of his neck and his pseudo-beard is well-kept and groomed perfectly. With his fair skin, he looks more Iranian than Emirati, something that his candoura usually rectifies but in the club, Leila mostly likely assumes that he is not.
“Sure!” Cowboy bares his braces at her and whips off his hat. When his curly black hair is exposed, she recognizes him as Mohamed’s colleague, having once caught a glimpse of him in their home when he ‘accidentally’ stumbled into the ladies quarters. She feels dirty for dancing so close to him but knows that the proximity is the only way she can hide as much of herself as possible. She pulls the hat over her head in an attempt to disguise herself further and continues dancing with him, sneaking in peeks of Mohamed and Leila whenever she can and praying fervently that her brother continues to be satisfied by her friend and doesn’t bother trying to analyse her too much.
“Jennifer!” Leila calls out to her, untangling herself from Mohamed’s embrace and skipping over to her.
Shitfuckshit. Panicking, Lady Luxe turns her back on her and facing a short, fat man who cannot believe his luck, bops around in a very un-Lady Luxe like manner. She can't let Mohamed see her face. So long as he just has a view of her golden mane, he will never suspect that she is his sister.
“Leila, wassup,” she growls without looking around and deepening her voice by an octave. Huffing, Leila stomps around until she is facing her and squints at her a little strangely. But she is accustomed to her friend’s sudden bursts of weirdness and shrugs it off as another game she is playing.
“I’m going to go home with Mo,” she breathes excitedly, her eyes bright with lust. “Thank you for swapping with me! He is so cute!”
“But Leila-” Lady Luxe squeaks, losing the deep voice. “You never go home with guys from clubs! How can you marry him afterwards if you sleep with him first? You know what these Arab men are like!”
“I’m sick of playing games. I haven’t had a good lay in so long and I’m just going to go with the flow. See you later!” With that, she walks back over to Mohamed, and only looks back to shout “and get rid of that disgusting hat!” before she disappears.
Lady Luxe doesn’t know whether to be relieved or horrified. Although she is thankful that she can finally breathe now that her brother has left the scene, she cannot comprehend the fact that he has left with Leila. Leila whom she has tried so hard to keep away from her family, has been careful not to divulge any personal information to and who is on the war path with her. Sick to her stomach, Lady Luxe’s desire to party unashamedly has been well and truly murdered.
Shoving the sweaty fat man away from her, she smiles apologetically at Cowboy.
“Cowboy, I have to go,” she shouts over the music. Poor Cowboy, who watched her exchange with Leila but thankfully didn’t catch much of it, looks crushed.
“Don’t go,” he implores, following her through the club as she pushes past the throngs of people to escape. Bursting out into the fresh air, she takes big gulps of it, feeling lightheaded and dizzy. She just wants to get home as quickly as possible and when Cowboy pleads, “Stay a little longer,” she sighs in frustration.
Realising that he is likely to stand there begging for a long time (she is well accustomed to the type that refuses to allow ‘no’ into their dictionary) Lady Luxe decides that the only way to get rid of the over-enthusiastic Emirati with a bad taste in hats (but good taste in women of course) will be to show him some light at the end of the tunnel.
“Take my number and call me,” she says briskly. Grabbing his phone, she dials her ‘fun’ mobile line and lets him save the number. She gives him a quick peck on the cheek, smiles and gets into her Cayenne. Cowboy watches her long legs and small behind in awe.
“I love you!” he yells to her as she reverses out of the space. She blows him a kiss and then drives away. As soon as she can no longer see him, she lets her grin fall into a grimace, pulls his hat off her head and throws it to the back of the car, along with the wig that is making her head hot and sweaty. She can’t believe that right now, Leila is probably performing all sorts of Godless acts with her very own flesh and blood and she pounds the steering wheel in frustration. She makes her usual pit-stop to change and leaves the wig in the car, along with the hat and the shoes that are now pinching her toes. Spraying a generous dose of Midnight Oud all over herself to mask the smell of smoke, she continues her journey home, feeling sick the entire time.
Peace washes over her as the electronic gates to the villa open. She just wants to scrub Cowboy’s sweat away, Jennifer’s face away, crawl into bed and forget that this disastrous night ever happened. She hurriedly parks her Cayenne next to Lady Penelope (a gift from her father when she won the ‘Abaya Designer of the Year’ award) and jogs up to the villa barefooted. She feels nervous when she slowly opens the heavy wooden door after being confronted by her father last week, but is relieved to find her home still and quiet, despite it being just 1am. Mohamed has probably taken Leila to a hotel somewhere and Ahmed is likely to be sleeping. She drags herself up the stairs and into her bathroom, where she pulls off the outfit she had so carefully put together and stuffs it into the bin with distaste. She will never look upon it favorably again. Climbing into the shower cubicle, she puts it in ‘monsoon’ mode and stands under the rain-like water, allowing it to soothe her nerves.
Mohamed, she assumes, must go through women as swiftly as she goes through bottles of Evian. She is certain that he will discard Leila like a broken toy once he has slept with her, and this thought pacifies her. She won’t know who you are to him. They won’t even exchange dialogue other than monosyllabic grunts during the deed, she tells herself reassuringly as the water pounds down on her head and numbs her headache.
After showering, Lady Luxe sinks into her soft sheets, feeling far more relaxed than she did a couple of hours ago. He won’t even remember her name and she has sworn off Emirati guys she repeats to herself. The repetition lulls her into a slumber, but just as the sandman calls, her phone beeps, interrupting the tentative strokes of sleep.
Squinting down at screen, she sees Leila’s name and she hurriedly opens the message, forcing her eyes to focus and hoping that it is a rescue request which she will be delighted to attend to.
But it is not.
This guy is amazing… the short text message declares. And if I’m not mistaken, the feeling’s mutual!!!