Leila picked up a packet of tablets and though naive and innocent, she knew it was the pill. She knew that if you took it each day you could have sex without consequence.
Leila tossed the packet back in the trunk and took out a lipstick. She read the label—Pride. What an inappropriate name, Leila thought as she opened it and saw that it was the same deep red as the underwear.
It should be called Shame.
It was she, Leila, who lived a life of shame.
Jasmine, even if her life had been cut short, had known fun. She had at least had her parents’ love and must have known the bliss of being held in another’s arms.
Her eyes were drawn again to the pills and Leila picked up the packet and punched one out.
Sin lay in the palm of her hand.
Oh, to be held by another, for even a moment.
Imagine how it must feel to be kissed?
Leila lowered her head, her tongue taking up the pill, and she swallowed it down.
She took out a small case that she used when travelling for official engagements. Her maids took care of her luggage but this was the one she would take on the royal plane. Leila had a credit card—she used it to purchase books and music sheets online.
Could she use it to purchase a flight?
She was running away, Leila realised as she went in her dresser and took out her passport.
But to where?
Leila picked up the package that had contained the underwear and she looked at the address. New York, New York.
Excitement licked at her stomach, yet it was laced with fear and Leila knew she could never do it.
Jasmine could have.
Jasmine would have.
Leila dressed in a gold robe and put on her veils and packed Jasmine’s contents in the case and then walked back through the palace, past the portraits, past the lounge where her parents sat, no doubt speaking about Jasmine.
She wondered if they’d even notice that she had gone.
Leila told a servant to ring for a driver.
‘Yalla!’ Leila snapped, ordering him to hurry, and when a driver arrived she told him to take her to the airport.
Leila ordered a first-class ticket and held her breath as she handed over the card.
It should have been a comfortable flight, but Leila could not relax and she declined when the steward offered to make up her bed.
Leila was tired, yet she would not sleep because she knew that it was then, and only then, that she cried.
Jasmine used to tease her about it, but there was no one to tease her now. Still Leila would wake in the midst of it sometimes, or in the morning her pillow would be wet and her eyes swollen, and the dreams, though all a bit different, all made her feel the same.
So, instead of sleeping, Leila selected a magazine and got goosebumps as she flicked through it and saw the bright lights of Times Square. It was hard to imagine that soon she herself would be there, for her life had been lived behind palace walls. Zayn had had more freedom, given that he was a male, and Jasmine had created her own, but Leila had never really ventured out.
Leila looked at an advert for a bar and saw pictures of cocktails in bright colours with tempting names. Even if she didn’t really know what it was, she blushed when she saw there was one called Screaming Orgasm, and there were other names too, but she liked the look of one called Manhattan. She read about restaurants where people met just to talk and eat. She read about two luxury hotels in the heart of New York. The Chatsfield caught her eye. It had branches around the world and it would seem that the most scandalous and famous people stayed there.
There was talk of some rivalry between them and another hotel called The Harrington. It was glamorous and elegant and ensured privacy for its most esteemed guests.
She remembered the hotels when, having cleared customs, Leila found herself shivering in her robe on a cold winter night as she waited in line for a taxi. While others complained Leila patiently waited, her face to the heavens tasting snow on her tongue for the first time.
‘Where to?’ the driver asked.
Leila knew which one Jasmine would choose and she was about to say The Chatsfield, but changed her mind at the last moment.