If there is one thing Leila is good at, it is making a man want her with every inch of his nether regions. Admittedly, she has yet to perfect the art of making him continue 'loving' her once she has opened the gates to the promised land. And she also has yet to learn how to make him love her enough to propose to her after giving in to his desires. But if there is one thing she can do, it is make him want her - yearn for her - chase after her - with a longing comparable to a pregnant woman's incomprehensible cravings.
Leila knows exactly what to say (and how to say it) to ensure that Mr Maybe calls her the next day. She also knows how to behave in order to guarantee a follow up date. In fact, she has the first six weeks down to a T - for Temptation. She tempts, seduces, solicits, flirts, snubs, implies and entices to within an inch of her life. And finally, numerous flowers, chocolates and occasionally jewellery or shopping expeditions later, she gives in and shyly accepts an invitation back to his home. In white lacy underwear, she trembles and shivers and moans with an innocence so convincing that even the head sister at her old convent school would believe that she had held onto her chastity as tightly as she held onto her purse strings.
After swearing off Emirati men with their double-standards, multiple wives and strange sexual habits, Leila had no intention of wasting her time or skills with Moe from the club. They hadn't danced long before he suggested that they go somewhere quiet to 'talk' and although he wasn't clad in a candoura, Leila was certain that he was an Emirati of Iranian descent, and therefore, Mr No Way. For the first time in a very long time, she decided to indulge in a night of wanton sex with an attractive man with an even more attractive Breitling that hung loosely from his right wrist.
To her surprise, after struggling through the crowd of sweaty dancers and bursting into the sticky night outside, Moe slid his arm into hers and took her for walk through the backstreets of Oud Metha. Slightly nervous, she wondered if he would attempt to make a pass at her in a dark alleyway and concluded that if he did, she deserved it after agreeing to leave with a stranger in the first place. But he didn't. Instead, he took her to a juice bar and they ordered fresh watermelon juices which she laced with vodka. They sat on the wall outside gulping down the cold, refreshing drinks as if they had been denied water for days. They talked about their aspirations and their families, their careers and their friends. The conversation was the longest, most sensual foreplay the ever-so-slightly tipsy Leila had indulged in. Every word he uttered made her insides melt into a mushy pool of hormones, every smile made the tiny hairs on her body prickle in anticipation and every accidental touch sent a shiver down her bare back.
She had never felt so alive before.
So, in the middle of a sentence, fuelled by alcohol and desire, Leila grabbed Moe's big, warm hand, pulled him into an alleyway and did exactly what she was fearful that he would do. And she didn't even feel ashamed. She didn't care that the Rules dictated that she should withhold as long as possible, that any previous thoughts of marrying her were now shattered. There was no way that he would allow the mother of his children to be the sort who performed all sorts of oral tricks in Dubai's dark streets that would put Russian prostitutes to shame. But anyway, she told herself. It's not as if an Arab guy would ever go looking for a wife in a club - so she had already struck out... and if she had nothing to lose, then why not live a little? He didn't know her name, so he couldn't stalk her on Facebook and send messages to all her friends telling them that she was a ten-dirham ho. He didn't know where she lived, so he couldn't turn up on her doorstep at 3am, pissed out of his face, demanding for some more of her expertise. He didn't know where she worked either, so he couldn't take pictures of her breasts with his camera phone and then send them to all her colleagues. All in all, she was safe.
"When can I see you again?" he gasped, wiping his clammy hands on his thighs.
"Let's not make any promises," Leila purred, with a smile. She flicked her hair over her shoulders and began to stride away, her heart beating with the thrill of conducting indecent, lewd behavior in public, for not having to worry about the morning after, for not having to plan a snaring strategy.
"Wait," Moe called out after her, jogging to catch up. "Give me your number at least!"
"Come on Mohamed," Leila grinned cheekily. "We all know that decent Arab girls don’t give out their numbers to strangers."
"I think we've long passed those awkward formalities, ya helou," he grinned back. "Now give me your number, yalla."
She gave the number, smiled one last dazzling smile and then sauntered away with her head held high and her derriere wiggling professionally and flagged down a taxi. As she stumbled in, she made sure not to look back. It had barely even pulled away before her phone beeped with a message from her new FWB (friend with benefits.)
Can't wait to see you again, ya omri.
Giggling at his blatant bullshit, she hit delete and then sent a message to Lady Luxe instead. Oh how good it felt to feel desirable once again, albeit in a kinky kind of way. She smiled all the way back to Discovery Gardens, all the way up the lift and down the corridor, right up until she reached her apartment and was confronted with a little plastic bag hanging off the handle. Pulling off the red ribbon, she found three Patchi chocolates inside, and a little 'Thanks for a lovely brunch," note from Mr Deliciously Rude And Obnoxious.
Popping a creamy chocolate into her mouth and tossing the note aside with a 'hmph,' she entered her apartment feeling more beautiful and sexy than she had in a long time. She teetered over to her bed and collapsed into it, sighing at how wonderful her life was. Without even cleaning her face or changing her clothes, she fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning, Leila wakes to her phone ringing. Yawning loudly, she forces her eyes open, her head pounding, and sees Lady Luxe's name on the caller ID. Looking down at her crumpled, bedraggled self, still in last night's clothes, she rubs an eye tentatively and then looks at her finger. It is black with mascara and eyeliner. Confused, she answers and then holds the phone away from her ear as her friend's shrieks echo around her bare apartment.
"What are you screaming about?" she eventually manages to get in, after the yells subside and she can bring the phone back to her ear.
"I can't believe you just went off with a random guy like that! A random guy from a dodgy club who could have done all sorts of humiliating and degrading things to you just because you are a woman. And because you are WEAK. And because he was obviously local and you KNOW what LOCAL guys are LIKE!"
"Excuse me?" Leila snaps, her head spinning. What the hell is Lady Luxe on about? "Darling, habibti," she begins snootily. "Please correct me if I am wrong, but surely you are aware that it is you, not I, who disappears with nameless men from clubs only to be treated like a glorified prostitute."
"It used to be," Lady Luxe replies, her voice rising again. "But now you seem to want IN on my game! Meaningless sex is my thing, not yours. That's why I was so shocked and I was worried about you!"
"Hold on a second," Leila interrupts, her head still throbbing. Is Lady Luxe actually accusing her of going off with a man from the club? She racks her brains but cannot for the life of her remember what happened after they had entered Chi. Ordinarily, she would had scoffed at the accusation, but she is currently lying in bed in jeans and a leopard print boob tube with full makeup on and is in no state to be self-righteous. "What are you saying exactly? Be clear."
"How much clearer do you want me to be? One second you're all up against that local guy, the next second you told me you wanted to leave with him, and then a few hours later you texted me declaring your undying love for him."
"Shit," Leila mutters, as realization dawns upon her. She vaguely recalls a man's sweaty palms in her hands. She remembers walking through Oud Metha's slightly dirty and unkempt streets, she remembers adding vodka to their watermelon juices, she remembers her sore feet, blistered from the long walk. Then she remembers pulling the tall, rugged Emirati into an empty, smelly alleyway and fumbling with the buttons on his Levi's. She remembers pulling down his CK boxers… and then…
"OH MY FUCKING GOD!" she screams in horror. "Oh no! Please no! Please say I didn’t!"
"Didn’t what? DIDN'T WHAT?" Lady Luxe screams back. "Leila – don’t tell me – "
"I did! I did!" Leila cries down the phone, the weight of her actions looming down on her. What if the police had caught them? She would have been locked away and then deported, but not before her name was splashed in every single newspaper in the UAE. Another horny foreigner caught making a mockery of Dubai's rigid rules. Her life would have been over.
"You got married?" Lady Luxe wails. "Where did you find a Sheikh to do it? Since when did Dubai become Vegas? La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah!"
"Married? No! I wish!"
"Wha? You didn't? If you didn’t marry him, then exactly did you do that you regret so much?"
"I gave him a…" Leila swallows nervously. "A you-know-what. In an alley."
"That's it?" Lady Luxe almost weeps in relief. Her breath steadies itself and she smiles a shaky smile. Leila has shown her brother the true extent of her trashiness. He will never take her seriously now, and this little problem will be over before she can say Alf Mabrouk.
"What do you mean that's it? I am not YOU. I don’t do these degrading, classless things!"
"Well my dear, clearly you do." With that, Lady Luxe hangs up and Leila sinks back on her pillow, bile creeping up in the back of her throat.
She manages to drag herself out of bed and looks at her ragamuffin reflection. She almost falls back into bed when she is confronted by her massive hair, sticking up in all directions, her panda eyes and cracked foundation. Her boob tube is exposing one, expensive boob and her strapless bra is hanging around her waist somewhere. For a moment, she is thankful that she had the sense to commit lewd acts in public and then go home, rather than sleep over with the man and let him see her like this. Sighing, she pulls off last night's outfit that she knows she can never look upon favourably again and then steps under the shower.
Her phone rings just as she has finished piling on countless beauty products that promise to soften skin (Body Shop Body Butter), fade away stretch marks (RoC Maternity oil), brighten the complexion (Clinique Even Better Skin Tone) and reduce puffiness and eradicate fine lines around the eyes, (La Mer Eye Concentrate). Wrapped in a towel, she walks over to it and squints at the caller ID, wondering who on Earth Moe is.
"Hello?" she answers.
"Hello habibti," a deep voice drawls. "I can't stop thinking about you."
"And why is that?" she asks, stalling for time. Moe? Surely he isn’t the guy from last night?
"Because those lips of yours are incredible and I can't wait to find out what they can do to the rest of me." Shit, she realises in horror. He is the guy from last night and clearly he likes her sudden slip into promiscuity. Or he wants more of it.
"What? Ew! No way! Don’t call me again!" she gasps, and then hangs up, her hands shaking. She can't believe she gave him her number. What was she thinking? Clearly she wasn't thinking. It was all Mr Delicious' fault for making her feel so unwanted. She would get him back for this.
A minute later, the phone rings again and this time, she rejects it without even answering.
In the next hour, her phone rings thirteen times and Leila gives up rejecting the calls. Instead, she just doesn’t acknowledge them, hoping that Moe will get the hint eventually. She just isn’t interested in embarking on a meaningless relationship that will end with a disaster and make her feel like an old hooker who has passed her prime. She doesn’t want to invest time and effort on a man who will not marry her. Especially when her sister is about to get married and she is hoping to go her wedding with a fiancée dangling off her left arm, and a real Chanel bag off her right.
Habibti answer the phone. Is the first message.
Habibti don’t be shy. It's okay. Don’t be ashamed. You didn’t do anything wrong.
Ya 2lbi, don’t burn my heart like this. I can't stop thinking about you. You have stolen my heart. Come here and give it back to me.
7araam! You are killing me like this! I am nothing without you. Your beauty makes the moon look ugly. Your smile makes the sun look dark. Your skin makes pearls seem dull. Yalla. Call me back!
If you don’t answer the phone now I will call my friend in Etisalat and find out who you are. And then I will come to your home and wait outside the door until you open it.
At this last message, Leila panics and answers the phone. Moe seems unperturbed by the fact he has had to threaten her in order to make her yield to his advances. She wearily accepts his dinner invitation, unsure as to how to deter him. Arab men, especially Emirati men, do not take kindly to rejection, so she will have to think of a better strategy to make him give up. She knows this won’t be easy though. These are the same men who think an open car window is an invitation to start heckling. So what does a blow job in an alley mean? Leila doesn’t even allow her imagination to wander down that avenue.
She gets ready for dinner as if she is going to a funeral. She slips on a pair of formal grey trousers, a black blouse and ties a black and white silk scarf around her neck, trying to cover as much of her skin as possible. If she was Muslim, she would have wrapped it around her head in an attempt to deter him further. She dusts the tiniest amount of powder on her nose, blusher on her cheeks and a little bit of mascara. No lipstick or gloss, or anything to actually look as if she has made an effort. Of course, she could have gone bareface, but for Leila, a naked face is sacreligious. She forgoes the usual dangly earrings for plain tiny diamond studs and pulls her hair back into a neat bun. I look like a school teacher, she thinks with a grimace. A classy, sophisticated school teacher.She grabs her 'Chanel' handbag and gets into Baby Bee. They have arranged to meet at Madinat Jumeirah (there is no way she will allow him to find out where she lives) and so she slowly makes her way down there, dread festering in the pit of her stomach.
She pulls up at Madinat Jumeirah the same time as Moe, and is surprised to see that he is driving an orange Mercedes AMG and has a two-digit license plate. She remembers his Breitling watch from the night before and his expensive Italian shoes. So they were real, she notes approvingly. At least she is being hassled by a rich Emirati, not the poor 'just moved out of the desert and have been given a villa in Jumeirah by the Government' type.
They park next to each other and he takes her to the Caviar House & Prunier, the finest seafood and caviar restaurant in Dubai. As they take their seats outside, directly opposite the illuminated Burj Al Arab, letting the deliciously creamy, perfectly salted Caspian caviar melt in their mouths, Leila has an epiphany. Moe is being attentive, complimentary and sweet – the perfect gentleman. He drives an expensive car, wears expensive clothes and clearly has more money than he knows what to do with. She knows that she has had bad experiences with Emiratis before, but that was when she was naïve, looking for Sheikh Charming to whisk her away on an Arabian Stallion. Now she knows better than to expect monogamy, loyalty or even honesty.
Moe may be already married… but even if he is…. Would it be so bad to become someone's second wife? After all, her clock is ticking and she is old enough to know that fairytales do not exist. What exactly is so bad about marrying a man who will provide her with her own luxury villa, a limitless credit card and a Maserati, who she doesn’t even have to see very often? She can be married and yet free to do as she pleases simultaneously. Is that really such a bad offer?
"You look beautiful by the way," Moe says to her in his slightly British, slightly American and slightly Arabic accent and suddenly, she softens up. The icy demeanor she has adopted all evening melts away as she realizes what she has to do. Maybe his motives are a little shady. Maybe he just wants her for good sex, for a bit of fun on the side. Or maybe he's looking for a dishy number two now that he's fulfilled his familial obligation of marrying some ugly buck-nosed, hairy, local girl his family chose for him. Either way, she has nothing to lose - there aren't exactly a whole line of men waiting to ask her to marry them.
She smiles shyly at him.
"Thank you," she says sweetly, looking down. Her sell-by date is fast approaching and she knows exactly who should pluck her off the shelf.
Let the game begin.