Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chapter Twenty-Two – When it rains, it pours.

Lady Luxe lies back in her bed and wills herself to get up, activating the 'snooze' option on her Vertu phone to give herself another ten minutes of uninterrupted bed rest – something she never thought she would crave at the tender age of twenty-one.

Is this what getting old feels like? She asks herself, rolling over onto her stomach and covering her head with her duck-feather pillow in an attempt to drown out all atmospheric noises as well as the bright morning sun.

It has been a week since her crazy cousins, sisters Moza and Rowdha, stormed the UAE like two Swarovski crystal encrusted tornadoes and since their arrival, Lady Luxe has had no more than four hours of restless sleep every night, the result of which prompted two pink, sore pimples to form on her otherwise flawless complexion. Dousing said spots with tea tree oil, last night, Lady Luxe stared at her reflection in the mirror – at her dehydrated skin, the faint shadows under her tired eyes and her limp hair – and scowled furiously, prodding the spots and lifting up sections of her hair. The nightly shenanigans were not the only things that were playing havoc on her health though. It had been two weeks since Leila started dating her brother and she had expected their perverse little affair to have run its course by now. But it hadn’t. In fact, it had not even peaked yet, with Leila withholding access to her rose garden with surprising resilience.

Pride has prevailed over curiosity, so after their argument at QDs, Lady Luxe has refused to ask Leila a single question about her blossoming relationship and in turn, Leila has kept her chips close to her, barely mentioning Mohamed's name during their few conversations, leaving Lady Luxe with nothing but her overactive imagination to piece together the puzzle. She has imagined all sorts of chilling scenarios: running into Mola (her new name for the gruesome twosome) absolutely anywhere in Dubai and Leila subsequently blackmailing her for the rest of her pitiful life, or perhaps bumping into her making a hasty walk of shame at 5am in their villa. This particular thought causes an ice-cold chill down Lady Luxe's spine, waking her up completely. When her phone rings again, instead of switching it off, she actually looks down and sees that it is Rowdha calling her and not her alarm.

"Hello?" she mumbles, her head still under the pillow and her limbs sprawled like a starfish.

"Wake up tart," Rowdha demands in her thick, British accent. "We've got loads of stuff to do today. Be in JBR by 3pm."

Lady Luxe mumbles an incomprehensible profanity and Rowdha hangs up the phone, knowing that she won't have to call her relatively reliable cousin again.

Moza and Rowdha, like their first cousin, were also educated in the UK, although unlike her, they didn’t just complete their degrees there. When Rowdha was thirteen and Moza eleven, their mother decided that they were far too dependent on their maids and that they needed to learn more about the side of their heritage that was often overlooked. Thus, they packed away a scowling Rowdha and teary Moza to Cheltenham Ladies' College to learn about the British culture, to refine their accents and to become a little more independent. Their father, Lady Luxe's uncle, was always more liberal than his younger brother. He too had married an English woman – one he remained happily married to without taking on further wives for thirty-five years. Moza and Rowdha however, were compelled to wed Khaleeji men despite their own father's preference and ended up marrying two Saudi brothers whom they met whilst holidaying in Evian Les Bains.

Contrary to the stereotypes of Arab women miserable at the mercy of vindictive Khaleeji men, both sisters were relatively content with their choices; Moza's husband happily helped his wife to open her own beauty salon in Jeddah while Rowdha's encouraged her to complete her MBA at Harvard.

Rowdha was never at want for anything, but did wish she saw her husband a little more. But his time was limited, especially as he had recently taken a new wife when she refused to bear any more children for fear of spoiling her figure – the one she worked extremely hard to get back after giving birth to a boy and a girl. She was far from upset by the marriage though, polygamy being a reality in many Khaleeji women's lives. In fact, she enjoyed the extra freedom it afforded her. Having mothered two children, her duty was fulfilled and she was more or less left to her own devices. She spent her summers in Chelsea with her children, her autumns on the Upper East Side, her winters in Riyadh and her springs in Montmarte. Her kids, currently home-schooled by a range of tutors and raised by a score of maids, were left relatively unaffected by their mother's tendency to take flight whenever it took her fancy.

Moza's husband was different from his older brother and felt that his hands were full with the one wife and one son. However, he too was happy to let his wife to travel without him whenever she needed to, completely oblivious to the extent of her beauty and even accusing her of paranoia the rare occasions she complained that the men in the streets were undressing her with their eyes. Even if he wasn’t watching her, other men certainly were, for Moza is the exact definition of beauty. Her complexion is as smooth as freshly whipped butter, her smile is radiant and her eyes are constantly alight with mischief. Slightly chubby with a voluptuous bosom to match her equally generous lips, she is never at want for male and female admirers alike.

Rowdha too has the same, cheeky glint in her eyes, her caramel complexion is clear and even, and her tiny frame almost gives her an elfish look. Together, they are unstoppable, as they speed down Jumeirah Road in their white Lexus and give sidelong glances through the half open windows to all the ogling Emirati men who pull up beside them in their Range Rover Sports and X6s.

For the past week, Lady Luxe has been joining them as they race various cars on their way home from shisha evenings in Fudos, their favourite hangout next to Mercato Mall. Fudos, in Lady Luxe's opinion, is a true, undiscovered treasure, completely misrepresented in the Time Out description. It is perhaps the only shisha joint that actually serves really good Thai, Japanese, Italian and Lebanese food as well as live music, karaoke nights and the occasional group of shaami men who'll burst into a spontaneous debka dance around the joint. The restaurant is also full of local men, who have a tendency to stare relentless at any attractive woman until she accidentally catches his eye.

After this unfortunate coincidence which he will view as a divine sign, he will continue staring in the hope that she will turn on her Bluetooth and communicate with him further. Or worse, he will hold up his number on an electronic screen, willing her to memorise it or at the very least, glance at it, thoroughly embarrassing himself in the process. However, Emirati men are incredibly thick-skinned when chasing their prey, and usually never take 'no' (or 'hell no', 'I'm not interested' or even 'fuck off') for an answer. Well-accustomed to the games their female peers like to play, they firmly believe that a woman who ignores their attention is simply feigning indifference. They understand a downward gaze to be a pretense of chastity, an open window an invitation to sinful acts and, God forbid, a caught eye a declaration of lust.

The last time they went to Fudos, Lady Luxe had a man grab her long, gothic-style abaya sleeve in the restroom, an intrusion that exceeded the usual kind. The basins in the restroom are the kind that is shared with the adjacent male restroom, the mirror acting as a wall between them, leaving ample space to play paper-rock-scissors under.

Lady Luxe, outraged by the audacity, yanked her sleeve back from her accoster, stuck her middle finger up under the mirror (hopefully right in his face) and yelled 'piss off you perv', before stalking out of the restroom and back into the thriving restaurant. Taking a seat on the low, black sofas in the corner of the room, reserved usually for regulars, she repeated the incident to her cousins who laughed raucously in response, neither of them displaying much decorum when it came to their giggles. Moza's laugh was infectious, and Rowdha's was hearty, inviting all around them to stare in curiosity. Lady Luxe laughed back with them, relieved to be around girls who actually understood her. It had been so long since she let down her sheila and relaxed – without having to worry that her acquaintance would work out who she was. If she happened to be spending her evening with a distant friend who did know her family, she knew that her antics would whizz through the grapevine before she even got home. It was a lose-lose situation.

"No one gets what it's like to be us," Rowdha said knowingly, taking a long drag of her grape and mint shisha and leaning against the sofa's soft back. "The Western expats are dying of curiosity, wondering what's underneath the sparkly black gowns, what goes behind our large villa gates, excited when we befriend them and boasting about us as if we're ornaments on a mantelpiece…"

"Hear, hear!" Lady Luxe toasted, raising her mint tea glass and eyeing up a cute local with big eyes. He caught her eye and she looked away, not wanting him to hold up his number. A firm believer of not defecating on her own doorstep, Lady Luxe refused to play with her own kind, no matter how attractive they happened to be.

"The Arab expats detest us – angry that although we're all essentially supposed to be from the same family, God has blessed us with wealth and they have been incapacitated by war, famine or poverty," Rowdha continued, clearly on a roll. "Some of them simply look down at us, proud of their ancient history, viewing us as ignorant Bedouins who have just escaped the desert and have come into wealth and prosperity due to no talent of our own. And then our own are a curious mix of hormonal teenagers, moralistic middle-aged women, boring old cows or traditional tarts. Not easy to find a good friend among those."

Moza and Lady Luxe nodded in agreement, taking subsequent drags from their shisha pipes.

"Even in our community there's a stark difference of values and beliefs," Lady Luxe added thoughtfully. "If we become friends with a girl from a lesser-known family, there's a chance that she's only looking to increase her own social network, and will bitch about us the moment our backs are turned. It’s so hard to find a true friend who isn't there just for the novelty, who isn't looking for a scandalous bit of juicy gossip to talk about over tea with her real friends, who has had the same Western educational influence, is from a successful family, is on the same wavelength."

"It's bloody impossible," Moza interrupted. "If I didn’t have a sister, I don’t know what I'd do."

She took Lady Luxe's hands and held them in hers. "Habibti, you have to be careful about who you hang out with over here. Your father has a lot of friends but he also has a lot of enemies. There are loads of people who'd kill for a bit of information about his only daughter. I know you're still young and you're still having fun. I know that it's been hard for you to come back to Dubai after three years of being free in London. But you really have to be careful."

Lady Luxe said nothing, just listened, a rock weighing down on her already heavy mind. She wondered if she could abandon her alter ego, Jennifer, without suffering from huge repercussions. Or if it was too late.

That night, she excused herself from their nightly drive up and down Beach Road, looking for fast cars to race, and climbed into her Cayenne alone with just her thoughts for company. She fell into another light sleep, the slightest noise - a car horn, a footstep, a sneeze - waking her up and reminding her of the precarious tight-rope she had been naively balancing on.

How long before she would fall?

* * *

"Good morning, freak. What happened to your head?" Ahmed greets Lady Luxe playfully as she enters the kitchen in her old pink pyjamas and crazy bed head, inhaling the glorious scent of homemade buttery pancakes. Her brown hair, usually straight with the slightest of waves, stuck up in all directions and her fringe sat nowhere near her forehead. She couldn’t be bothered to run a comb through the tangles and decided to relish in the temporary liberation of not caring about her appearance

"Sabah al khair, geek," she replies with a smile, ruffling his jet black hair as she passes him and taking a seat opposite him on the kitchen table. "What happened to your face?" She sticks her tongue out at her brother who replies by throwing a strawberry at her, hitting her squarely in the chest.

"Good morning Miss X," Claudine says stiffly with her ever-so-slight French accent, preparing Lady Luxe's plate of pancakes with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and strawberries and placing it gently down in front of her. "Would you like me to pour you some juice?"

"No Claud, I think I can manage that myself," she laughs, grabbing the jug of freshly squeezed orange juice and pouring it into a glass, giving Claudine a quick grin. Claudine has been in their family for over nine years, and is more like an aunt than a cook. Her father entrusts her with a monthly home budget and allows her to keep whatever remains at the end of the month as an additional bonus. She goes out when she needs to without seeking permission, enjoys a business class flight back to the South of France every year and never has to worry about her employer hitting on her, despite being a very attractive thirty-eight year old with pale blond hair and sea-green eyes. Not her main employer anyway. She has caught his eldest son appraising her small waist, high cheekbones and slim hips occasionally. She ensures to keep her bedroom door locked at all times and carries mace in her apron pocket – just in case.

Claudine has heard a few stories about help being abused, beaten, raped, locked up with no food, but considers herself a different calibre from the Sri Lankan and Filipina housemaids whom she occasionally comes across in in the neighbourhood. For starters, she is European, educated and on a real salary – not a pitiful allowance that would barely cover the cost of her phone bill. Having trained in numerous restaurants and hotels across Europe, she never expected that she would move to Dubai to work as a personal chef and instead had pictured herself as the proud owner of an intimate French eatery, resembling her own family restaurant in the quaint University town, Aix En Provence. But the salary and benefits of working for the X family are too good to resist, and although she is more a housekeeper than a chef, she really only has to delegate the housework between Mary the Maid, the two drivers and part-time gardener, and then take care of the pantry and kitchen herself.

Claudine had initially planned to stay with the X family for two years, but soon found herself making excuses to stay on for longer and longer, enjoying her comfortable life in the huge luxury villa, the low demands and the glorious sunshine. And plus, she has a soft spot for her employer. After looking after him and his family for nine years, she couldn't help but grow attached to him. As frightening as he was with his children, for some reason, with her, he was soft. A part of her that she refused to acknowledge, a part that she desperately tried to forget, wanted to make him happy in ways other than feeding him and organising his home.

"Claud, I'm not going to be home for dinner," Lady Luxe announces, licking the last of the chocolate sauce off her bottom lip in satisfaction.

"You're not?" Claudine turns around to look at Lady Luxe in surprise, her neat eyebrows raised quizzically. "But what about the guests, Miss X?"

"What guests?" Lady Luxe asks, grabbing Ahmed's last strawberry and stuffing it in her mouth before he can protest.

"The family your father has invited in the evening, just for coffee I think but still, you need to be home early. I think you need to call him and speak to him before you make evening plans. It sounded important. He wants me to make nine different kinds of snacks."

"Nine items?!" Ahmed and Lady Luxe exclaim in unison.

"Is he inviting Sheikh Mohamed or something?" Ahmed jokes, getting off the stool and stretching in his black 'One Ummah' t-shirt and baggy grey tracksuit bottoms. He walks over to the sink and begins rinsing his plate while Claudine hurries around the kitchen, checking the glistening white Italian cabinets to ensure she has all the correct ingredients for tonight's feast.

"Okay, I'll give him a call," Lady Luxe says blithely, slightly annoyed at having her evening plans with her cousins interrupted. She jogs up the stairs and into her room, throwing on a plain black abaya and a chiffon Fendi scarf, applying a tiny brush of blusher on her pale cheeks and sticking on big black Dior sunglasses to hide her tired eyes. She wants her spots to have a chance to heal so opts against wearing too much makeup, content with the instant glamour the sunglasses provide.

She drives quickly to the other side of Dubai, getting flashed at least once by one of the many speed cameras on Sheikh Zayed Road, waves her hand impatiently at the security guards who have no chance of stopping her Ferrari as she roars into the car park and parks Lady Penelope in one, swift maneuver. She notices a range of Qatari license plates next to hers – a red Ferrari, three different Mercedes AMGs (a small coupe, a sedan and a 4x4) and a monstrous black and silver Dodge Charger – and wonders who they belong to.

Exiting the lift on the eighteenth floor, she raps on the door and Rowdha flings it open, the scrumptious fragrance of baking wrapping itself around her.

"Finally! You're here!" Rowdha exclaims, grabbing her cousin's arm and pulling her into the apartment. The balcony doors of the apartment are wide open and sunlight floods into the large open plan space, decorated sparsely in contemporary furnishings.

"What's going on?" Lady Luxe asks as she spies Moza hard at work in the kitchen through the hatch in the dining area, looking very Nigella-like in a low-cut black dress and dangly earrings.

"We're on a mission," Moza declares, opening up the oven door, taking out a tray of chocolate brownies and placing them next to a large, homemade strawberry tart.

"Look cuz," Rowdha interrupts, firmly placing her hands on Lady Luxe's shoulders and turning her body to face her. "There are a group of fit Qatari guys who live on the twentieth floor. They drive hot cars, they're always decked out in Ray Bans and they're basically too fit to ignore."

"We tried to ignore them, we really did," Moza adds dramatically, sticking her face through the hatch.

"But our efforts were no match for our desires. We NEED to talk to them," Rowdha finishes off.

"So go and talk to them," Lady Luxe laughs, trying to grab a brownie and having her hand swatted away by Moza.

"We can't," Moza says dejectedly. "We're married. We can't go around chirpsing guys like this, so we decided that we'll let our gorgeous single cousin do the chirpsing and we'll just have to be satisfied by living vicariously through her."

"So what are you saying?" Lady Luxe asks slowly, knowing quite well that she probably doesn’t want to know the answer.

"Well," Rowdha begins in excitement, a huge grin on her face. "They'll be back from the mosque in about half an hour. Yes, we've noticed when they come in and out. We want you to take these goodies up to them and just be like, 'welcome to neighbourhood. I noticed you don’t have a woman to look after you so I thought I'd help you out a little.' "

Lady Luxe stares at her cousins in horror. "Please tell me you're not serious!" she begs, her eyes wide in disbelief. "I can't do that! I might as well hand myself on a platter to them, completely starkers with an 'eat me' sign written on my chest in chocolate body paint!"

"Oh come on, it's not that bad," Moza protests, washing her floury hands and coming out of the kitchen, her face flushed from the heat of the oven. "These poor boys are all alone with no mothers, no wives, no sisters. It's our duty to look after our brothers."

"Brothers!" Lady Luxe scoffs. "What is this, an incestuous Virginia Andrews scenario? The chances of you looking at them like they're your brothers are as likely as you walking out the house with no makeup."

"Oh come on, stop being such a wet blanket," Rowdha says in disapproval. "I thought you were more gutsy than that! You'll probably never see them again anyway, and we'll be right behind you."

"But what's the point? You're both happily married with children for God's sake. Nothing's gonna happen!"

"It's just for a laugh," Moza explains earnestly. "We're having a bit of innocent fun. Go on, say you'll do it! Don’t let me wonder how hot they are close up for the rest of my life! Don't let my moist brownies and Rowdha's delectable strawberry tart go to waste!"

"If anything's a tart, it's you," Lady Luxe mutters, stalking into Moza's bedroom. "I'm not going looking like this. Give me fifteen minutes to sort my face out."

Seventeen minutes later, Lady Luxe emerges from Moza's bedroom with her two pimples completely hidden, her complexion bright and shimmery and her eyelashes laden with Dior show mascara. Her cousins have also abayafied themselves, wrapping their sheila's loosely around their neck and are carrying a tray of baked goodies each.

"Don’t I get anything to carry?" Lady Luxe asks, looking around the kitchen. "Or am I just offering myself?"

"You're the spokesperson, you don't need to carry anything," Rowdha says quickly, pushing her out of the apartment. They wait for the lift in trepidation, Moza giggling uncontrollably.

"Shutup," hisses Rowdha as they get into the lift and make the very short journey up to the twentieth floor.

Lady Luxe is used to being roped into bizarre missions, and remembers her childhood summers in her cousins' Jumeirah villa, playing knock-down-ginger and making prank calls. She can't believe that ten years, three offspring, and a lot of further education later, they're still crazy, still uncontrollable and still as close as ever.

"Now what?" she whispers, staring at the large, wooden front door feeling anxious. It's been a long time since she did something ridiculous as herself, and without her Jeinnifer wig and lenses, she feels exposed and nervous.

"Knock on the door," Rowdha hisses, elbowing her sister sharply in the ribs in an attempt to make her giggles subside.

Her breath caught in her throat, Lady Luxe rings the doorbell of the apartment and waits in anticipation, her cousins standing slightly behind her, the three of them in their fitted abayas and perfectly applied makeup, looking like they have just come home from a Friday brunch, not like they've been slaving away in the kitchen all morning. She hopes these guys really are worth all the bother.

The front door opens slowly and a sleepy face greets them. The man looks like he is in his mid-twenties, and is wearing a faded blue t-shirt and checked shorts, his curly hair long and afro-like and his small eyes slightly bloodshot. His mouth is also small, appearing even more so with his large, Roman nose dominating most of his face and there are old acne scars decorating his dark cheeks, giving them the appearance of old, worn leather. Lady Luxe can feel her cousins' disappointment and embarrassment radiating through their thin abayas. Oh, I could kill you with my own bare hands, you stupid tarts, she thinks to herself, grimacing.

"Salam'Alaykom," she says, through clenched teeth. "I'm so sorry to have woken you."

"Ma fi moshkela," he croaks, his putrid morning breath hitting Lady Luxe in the face like a cannon. "Can I help you?"

"Well, we're your neighbours and we noticed that you don't have anyone to take care of you," Lady Luxe begins sweetly, her mouth relaxing and falling into a real smile as the cogs in her head start moving. She feels Rowdha's pointy elbow digging into her ribs, telling her to cool off, which she ignores.

Big Nose laughs, his eyes brightening. "It's hard, having no sisters…" he says slowly.

"Well don’t worry, my cousins here are happy to be your sisters. This is Moza, she's baked you some moist white chocolate brownies, and this is her lovely sister Rowdha, who made this delicious strawberry tart with her own, bare hands."

She pauses dramatically for effect, ignoring Moza's conspicuous coughing and Rowdha's foot coming down on hers. Big Nose notices none of these shenanigans, instead moves his eyes to Rowdha's small hands.

"Anyway, I will leave you to all to talk. I'd better go!" With that, Lady Luxe spins around and stalks away, disappearing through the service doors and leaving behind nothing but a whiff of 'Miss Charming' mixed with butter and pastry behind.

* * *

"Oh good, you're back," Claudine greets Lady Luxe as she enters the villa, still grinning from her revenge. She ignored her ringing phone the entire journey home but knows she will have to face Rowdha's fury eventually and is actually looking forward to the confrontation.

"I sure am!" she sings, throwing her arm around Claudine's shoulders. "So, what's up with this tea party thing? I tried calling Baba but he didn't answer, and then he BB'd me to tell me to be home by five and to look nice. What's going on? Who's coming round?"

"Ah, yes," Claudine begins awkwardly, clearing her throat. "Well, how do I put this? Well, you see, your father thinks that perhaps it's time you were introduced to some…suitors," she finally manages to say, the French tinge on her otherwise British accent like a dust of icing on a Victoria Sponge cake.

Lady Luxe's smile freezes on her face.

"What?!" she exclaims, her heart plummeting.

"Yeah, it's true," Ahmed chimes in, appearing on the top of the stairs, his voice echoing through the foyer. "I tried calling you but you didn't answer. Some guy is coming to see you with his family."

"Who is he?"

"A friend of Mohamed's," he replies, making a face. "Humaid I think? Sorry sis, I did try to warn you. Baba's coming home early especially, he should be here in an hour and then they're gonna get here around six I think, before dinner anyway."

"Shit," Lady Luxe mutters, cursing herself for telling her father she had been reading marriage books. He obviously remembered her little lie and decided now was the time to display unnecessary fatherly care. "But today? Why today?"

Ahmed shrugs and Claudine disappears into the kitchen where Mary is hurriedly chopping away, trying to prepare the nine different items, anxious to show her employer what she is made of.

"I'm going to call Baba," Lady Luxe announces at last, pulling her BB out of her pocket, seeing Ahmed's and Leila's missed calls for the first time. She drags herself up the stairs as if her legs are tied to weights and slams her bedroom door closed, even though there is no one around to listen to her anger. Her phone beeps again, Leila calling for the third time, and Lady Luxe grudgingly answers. She really cannot stomach Leila's childlike boasting about her brother today.

"Shu?" she says rudely, yanking off her abaya and tossing it to the floor.

"Where have you been? I've been calling you for ages," Leila moans on the other end.

"My cousins are here, remember? I was busy with them."

"Okay, well anyway, I was thinking… do you want to go out tonight? As in, out? It's been so long since we did something fun, since you insist on being Emirati these days."

"No thanks," Lady Luxe says curtly, flinging her shoes off and letting them fall on top of her discarded abaya. "I'm too busy. Family stuff."

"Well what about tomorrow night? That wig hasn't seen the moonlight in so long, it's probably getting eaten by moths. What do you say?"

"Sorry, I can't. You know my cousins are here, I'll be busy with them until they leave."

Leila, sensing Lady Luxe's reluctance to go out with her, has a vision of Moe looming down over her, all her new designer goods in his hands, and finds her palms beginning to sweat a little. "When are they leaving?" she asks in a small voice.

"I don’t know. Look Leila, to be honest, I have no intention of being 'Jennifer' again," Lady Luxe relents, the ice melting away at Leila's persistence. "I'm twenty-one years-old now, I have a lot of family shit going on. I can't mess about like this all the time. I have to grow up a bit. Besides, I'm getting bad vibes about it all."

Leila listens in horror, wondering how she is going to deliver the goods to Humaid if 'Jennifer' is AWOL. For good. She decides to come clean. Lady Luxe has always been up for a laugh and may even consent if she's honest.

"Okay look. Basically, you know Cowboy? That guy you were dancing with at Chi? The one you were all over and whose hat you stole?"

"Yes. I remember," Lady Luxe answers, wrinkling her nose in distaste. "I had to shower for an hour to get his strong perfume off me. He's been calling me and I've been ignoring him."

"Oh. Well. How about we go on a double date? Me and Mohamed, you and Humaid? Just for a laugh?" A desperate edge appears in Leila's voice and Lady Luxe notices it.

"NO!" she says firmly. "I'm not interested in hanging out with any Emiratis. You know how I feel about that. Hang on, what did you say Cowboy's name was?"

"Humaid. He's actually really sweet, why don't you give him a chance?" Leila says quickly, mistaking Lady Luxe's question as interest.

The blood drains from Lady Luxe and she feels more nauseous than ever. "Look Leila. I never want you to mention his name again okay? Jennifer is gone for good, the old me is gone for good, and that's that. Just let it go!"

"Fine!" Leila snaps, finally getting annoyed. "Do what you want. But just to let you know – he knows you're Emirati and he has your phone number. He said he'll phone his friend in Etisalat and find out who you are if you don't meet him."

"Whatever," Lady Luxe scoffs. As if I'm stupid enough to register my 'dodgy' line under my own name.

"And he also has your Cayenne's license plate number," Leila lies. Well, he will do if I give it to him, you stupid sharmuta.

Lady Luxe stops breathing. Her license plate number? Her cars were registered in her father's name.

"It's not that easy," she manages to say, trying to keep her voice level.

"It is for people with wasta," Leila retorts, struggling to keep the power with her. "He's serious. He was going on and on about you and –"

"How did he find out I'm Emirati?" Lady Luxe suddenly asks. "You told him didn’t you?"

"No I didn't-" Leila protests.

"Right." Lady Luxe cuts in. "I'm not meeting him, so you can tell your new best friend to fuck off."

She hangs up the phone and collapses onto the bed, feeling completely drained. Her phone beeps again and she looks down wearily to see she has a message from Mohamed. Wanker, she thinks to herself, opening it up.

My friend Humaid is coming round tonight with his family to meet you. Make sure you make an effort and look respectable. Baba's coming home early.

"Argh!" she screams out in frustration, throwing her phone across the room with all her strength. It smashes against the wall and falls to the hard, tiled floor. Humaid wants to meet her and Jennifer? If he really knew her license plate number, and wasn't bluffing, then she was screwed.

How was she going to get out of this one?

An idea comes to her mind. Thinking for a few minutes, she rolls the idea around in her head like a snowball, firmly moulding it into place. After she has calculated the details, she smiles slowly and then reaches for her phone. Genius.


Media Junkie said...

oooo - i can't wait to see what her plan is.

On another note, never heard of Fudos, but I want to try it out :)

Jaz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Esha said...

I canNOT wait to read the next chapter! NEEEEED to know whats going on in Lady Luxe's head! SO EXCITED :D

Anonymous said...


If the cousins were educated in some posh institution, would they be using words like cuz and chirpse? Just a suggestion ;)

I check the blog, no new chapter, i check a few mins latr, new chapter!! How cool is that :)

Gracianne said...

Lady Luxe will never leave Jennifer.
She'll (unhappily) marry, her husband will eventually take a second wife and on her spare days, as a revenge, she'll play Jennifer again.

I sense something going on between Claudine and Mr. X, maybe...? Could work only his family would strip him from the family line, but it would be interesting seeing them together.


Anonymous said...

Love this chapter!! It's a real talent to keep your readers hanging and wanting more - well done!

I know many upper-class educated peeps who would shorten cousin to cuz and use slang, especially when among their peers - I think it works and highlights the closeness of the girls' relationship.

Can't wait for chapter 23!!! Keep it coming Ghostwriter!!

Baklawas said...

Dear Ghost Writer,

That's a wonderful and tasty chapter.

I can't wait to read the twenty third.

Je te souhaite une bonne journée.

happsgirl said...

hey ghostie,

just a couple of inconsistencies I noticed:
u mentioned that rowdha has two kids- a boy and a girl. then you go on to say she spends her summers with her 'boys'.

also that moza has only one kid. but later on they have 4 offspring between them. hehe.

other than that, I love love love Lady Luxe. she's so devious! you're a genius :)

do I have permission for an offshoot of Desperate in Dubai?

CathysHeathcliffe said...

Stupid Mo,stupid leila.STUPID HUMAID.

Great chapter:)

Hijabis On Ranting Tour. said...

wooww habibti was stalking ur blog 4 days lol, finally got a chapter :) and it was defintely worth the wait-coincedence tht it was the same dya my mum went to dubai
take care

angie nader said...

i'm all caught up on your really should write a book!
cant wait till the next chapter!

Herlock Sholmes said...

Well written, smart, witty and, most importantly, mysterious.

francesca said...

I love it. It's absolutely fabulous. Wish it would never end.

mirror said...

i love it! well worth the wait :)

Anonymous said...

hmm...seems like lady luxe is the only one who knows exactly what's going on, everyone else is oblivious to who knows who!!!

Anonymous said...

A great read! Truly. The little consistency issues can be dealt with (that's what editors are for!) you NEED to publish this. Blows 'Girls of Ryadh' out of the water, you are a much better writer.
I want to read this by the pool at the beach hotel.

Media Junkie said...

i just noticed something weird going on with the RSS - it now publishes random Technorati articles instead of your blog. You should take a look into that.

Jaz said...

I've noticed the same as media.. are you advertising like that?

Safiyyah said...

great chap

same thing happening to me as above two commentors

Ghost Writer said...

Hey everyone,

Thank you so much for your comments! I know this chapter was a lot slower than usual, and maybe you think that the plot didn't advance as much as it usually does...But I wanted to spend time developing characters. LL's chapters are usually too fast paced with loads happening, you don't really get a chance to just slow down and see what her life/family is usually like.

Anyways, I haven't started working on the next chapter yet unfortunately, but I know what's going to happen and I think it's pretty interesting!

Sorry about the RSS thing...I'm technologically disabled and I think I did something wrong. I also think I've fixed it but I don't know.. :s

girl driver said...

GW it's getting hotter and hotter.. loved the character developing and can't wait for next chapter. Loved the length too. sc

xena said...

ive just read the whole thing in one go and am itching for more.

Trevelyana said...

Absolutely riveting writing. The story is cool too, but seriously, you're a great detail-oriented writer. I absolutely miss having the peace of mind to write (hell I miss having the time to party like your characters haha). Hope you get published!

Anonymous said...

I think this smashing novel is a straightforward one, written without reference to heavy-handed symbolism.

Nevertheless, I think the story of Lady Luxe is kind of the story of Dubai itself ... and the story of Dubai is the whole story of the 21st century writ small.

Scarcely noticing in the midst of high living & reckless good times, Dubai has painted itself into a corner. All of the bling in the world will not set things to right again!

Let's hope that both Dubai and its feisty heroine pull through the looming crisis! :^)

Saloua said...

Very good book. I have enjoyed reading it.
But i have to say it has put me off middle eastern men totally. lol :S

i*maginate said...

I'm not one to criticise - you asked for comments :)

Perhaps you could heighten the climax of when she finds out at the end that 'Humaid' is 'Humaid'? It was a little could have been a complete coincidence and the 'if' can be played on, if mentioned at all in the same chapter....

I was expecting she wouldn't even notice it's him, but he would notice it's her when they meet....and then another plot would unfold...(lol & cheeky grin hehe)

sorry about the 'heighten climax' bit LOL!

I really love this whole 'book' - I notice the way you write has changed, esp. with this chapter. More dialogue, which gives more 'background' and relevant info.

I hope you enjoy writing it as much as I, and many of your other fans, enjoy reading it, and I wish you the very best of luck.


Ghost Writer said...

Thanks for your comments :) I*imaginate, I will definitely work on 'hyping' the ending up when I get round to editing.... but as for the rest, no can do cos something different is gonna happen :)

Anonymous said...

it's a bit irritating to actually know that Filipinas are known to be maids - worse, being a second class one... but did u know that Filipinos are far more intelligent than most emiratis?

Ghost Writer said...

Anon: The fact that certain nationalities are considered second class citizens compared to others is an unfortunate reality here in the UAE.