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Chapter 5 Fashionably Late

  • Before going to Steisy's, where we'd be doing the predrinks and getting ready, I decided to stop by at Aaron's flat, parking lopsidedly on a double yellow. It wasn't right of him to make me come along instead of looking for me, and it would have to be a good gift if he wanted me to forgive him. But at least I'd be getting even tonight.
  • The flat was a mess, as always, which irritated me. The ashtray was flowing with stubbed-out joints and there were empty takeaway containers on the living room table. Aaron lived by himself, but that was no excuse to have the place looking like a pigsty when I visited.
  • "Happy birthday, babe," he smiled as I hovered around the couch, pecking me on the lips and patting me on the hip. "Had fun today?"
  • Aaron was wearing black tracksuit pants, the no-brand ones he normally wore to work, and a black shirt, but not the same tone. His toenails needed a trim and he looked like he'd been slumming around the flat all day playing on his Xbox. How revolting.
  • "Yeah, loads," I rolled my eyes. "Where'd you go?"
  • "I woke up late and went over to see my ma for a bit. Then I came back."
  • Pathetic, I thought witheringly. Ridiculous, even, that he thought that was a good excuse. He-llo! My mother probably hadn't planned anything for me because she thought Aaron would be taking me somewhere fancy, which was the done thing to do.
  • "You said you had something for me," I reminded him, perching on the edge of the couch. All I wanted right now was to be gone. I needed a drink.
  • "Look in the wardrobe," he smiled. Even his smile irked me.
  • Two Gucci shopping bags were awaiting me. My heart thudded as I brought them along to the living room. Could it be the shirt? The box was too big, surely.
  • The first thing was a tracksuit. It turned out Aaron knew me better than I thought. Another guy might have bought some heels or a bag, but I lived in tracksuits from Monday to Friday.
  • "Oh my God," I squealed. "Thank you, babe."
  • The 'babe' had slipped out in the excitement of the moment. Really, I was wondering what Raúl would think when he saw me wearing it tomorrow on the promenade.
  • "Open the other one," Aaron prompted indulgently, sitting on the couch and spreading his legs.
  • The other box held matching trainers. Maybe he wasn't all bad after all, because I religiously perused the website when I was bored and all of that had cost a cool two thousand euros. Not bad going.
  • "Where'd you get this from?" I asked curiously.
  • "I stopped by at Puerto Banus after lunch, before going to see my ma."
  • "I love it," I beamed. I had tracksuits of all brands and colours from Philipp Plein to the exclusive Foot Locker collections, but I'd never had a Gucci one before. "But why didn't you send me a message?"
  • "You didn't reply to mine last night," he pointed out. I left the matter alone, because in all honesty I didn't care.
  • "Well, I've got to be off," I announced, taking the shopping bags with me. No point dragging it out any longer. "I'm getting ready at Steisy's place."
  • "I thought you'd stay for a bit," he frowned. "We could have dinner and -"
  • "Do something tomorrow," I called over my shoulder as I left, waggling my fingers.
  • The first thing I did when I turned up at home was show off my new threads.
  • "That's a nice one," my mother said approvingly. "New season, too. Those came in last week. And the shoes cost eight hundred."
  • I didn't have to be at Steisy's just yet, but I had other things to be doing, and the first was to stop and see Chino. I stuck the Gucci bags in my wardrobe and tossed hangers and outfits onto the bed. I had nothing planned to wear tonight and it wasn't like me to be borrowing clothes last-minute; that was for girls like Saray who didn't have money.
  • I searched hard and pulled out a brand new dress. It was bright red, short and strappy with a sweetheart neckline which verged on indecent. The sort of thing someone wore on their birthday, and it went perfectly with my trusty red Valentinos. I'd nab my mother's Gucci shoulder bag and one of her many items of jewellery, throw in some hoops, cover my hickey up with makeup and look a million dollars. I'd blow the other girls out of the water with this; Raúl wouldn't know what hit him.
  • There was no time to think and I was becoming agitated as I stuffed everything in my old school backpack. Outfit, check. Makeup, check. Money, check. Identity card and premium vodka, check. I showered the day's sweat off in record time, changed into yet another tracksuit and thundered down the stairs and out of the door without a goodbye.
  • Everyone had their weed man, or their ecstasy man, or their cocaine man, and Chino had been my faithful supplier for the past few months. Sometimes I saw him twice in a week, sometimes once a month. His house was a hotspot and it wouldn't do for the neighbours to see me standing there or talking to him if I didn't want to be accused of being a crackhead, so we always kept these meetings short.
  • "Keep it moving," he said darkly as we quickly swapped a bill for a plastic baggie. "I had the police here a few days ago."
  • Drugs were a touchy subject in my family after my uncle Alonso's stint in rehab, but that had been coke. My use was recreational, nowhere near as serious as Darren and Jona and my father smoking grams after grams of weed every day. Smoking was the first thing they did in their morning and the last thing they did at night and they could spend hours discussing hash versus marijuana.
  • And really, if I didn't tell anyone, that was my business. Steisy and I promised to never keep anything from the other, but those were just empty words. As for Saray, she was a shady character and bound to make a snide comment about me going off with Raúl last night without telling anyone where she'd gone. Her dad calling. Yeah, right. At that hour he'd have been with a sixty euro prostitute and a couple of lines in his system.
  • After seeing Chino, somehow it was twenty to nine already. I left the Aixam outside my house, hooked my backpack over my shoulder and made my way to the taxi rank five minutes away from my house. The baggie was tucked into my bra, my hair was done, I had plenty of money and I was ready to go.
  • Despite setting out with plenty of time I was the last at Steisy's house.
  • "Happy birthday!" Everyone shouted. My cheek was kissed several times over, my uncle Juan told me that he'd given Steisy money to pay for the booth and bottle service at Portobello, and my aunt Laura handed me some scented bath bombs from Sephora. Trap and reggaeton was put on at full blast. Laura and Juan were going out with friends, so we had the house to ourselves. Now my birthday celebrations were beginning in earnest.
  • The first thing we did was order a couple of pizzas from a local place. We'd get ready in the kitchen and downstairs bathroom listening to Ozuna and Bad Bunny and Anuel, but there was no rush. We had to be at the pubs fashionably late, and midnight was pushing it – the ideal hour was two am, because Havana was so cramped that after forty minutes you felt like you were in a cage.
  • I pulled Steisy aside into the bathroom while everyone else compared the outfits they'd brought.
  • "What's up?"
  • "I don't want Esme and that lot tagging along later," I hissed, thinking about Raúl. "You got Adri's number?"
  • "Yeah," she said breezily. "Don't you worry about that, prima. I didn't want them coming along either. It's two of us and two of them, you know."
  • "Exactly! Imagine if Saray turned up."
  • "You seen what she's wearing? A dress I lent her two months ago. It's only from Bershka, but God, she's so cheap..."
  • The pizzas were taking far too long to arrive and I wanted to roll up at Havana drunk already, so I got the Beldevere out of my backpack and searched in the freezer for Red Bull and ice.
  • "You're already drinking?" Saray giggled. "Wait for dinner!"
  • "I just had some cake," I clucked my tongue. "I'll be fine. Who wants some?"
  • Everyone did, except saintly Afri who said she'd wait until the pizzas were here.
  • "Let's see your dress, Kiara," Saray smiled. Her smiles never reached her eyes. I took it out and held it up for everyone to compliment.
  • "That's beautiful," Esme complimented. She had a good eye with clothes. "Where'd you get it?"
  • "It's from Guess," I said.
  • We drank in silence for a few moments. Everyone appeared to have something on their minds. Saray looked like the cat who got the cream, all sly eyed and furtive sipping away at my vodka like she knew something I didn't. I wondered, but then the pizza guy turned up and we all got to paying him and tucking into our meal. Esme insisted on inviting, which suited me fine as long as she didn't get any funny ideas about who had the most money.
  • The most important moment of the night was seeing everyone dolled up and ready to go for the group photos. Out of the corner of our eyes we noted who was thinner, who was fatter, who needed to get their hair trimmed or extensions fixed, but we all said we looked stunning even though I knew tomorrow Steisy and I would be bitching about the others.
  • I was wearing the red dress and heels with my Versace bag and a leather jacket, looking a million dollars as always. Esme was clashing leopard print with baby pink, Steisy was wearing jeans and a low-cut body, Saray sported her cheap borrowed dress and Afri looked pretty as ever in ripped jeans and a leather crop top. I tried not to stare at her enviously flat stomach. Face-wise, she was the only one in the group who could compete with me, and her body was perfectly proportioned.
  • "You're thinner, Kiara," Saray chirped, causing everyone to look at me. "But it looks good on you. When you were with my cousin you were getting chubby."
  • Why was she mentioning Dani? I frowned reflexively.
  • "I think she looks great," Steisy said, butting in to defend me. Esme and Afri echoed her sentiments. In the end I didn't bother to reply and just downed another drink.
  • I was allowed to act stupid and tipsy tonight as long as I didn't go overboard and make myself look desperate, so I closed myself into the bathroom a moment and popped an ecstasy capsule into my mouth. If I spaced it out to every two hours or so, I could last all night. Moderation was key.