Though impeccably tasteful and elegantly done, Aalia’s home was more of a house.
I was ushered into the living room. My heels echoed off the pristine white, silent walls and on the spotless marble floor.
There was a hint of fragrance lingering in the air, the kind that someone wearing a strong perfume leaves behind long after they’ve passed that way. It clung to everything, leaving a trace of her everywhere, scenting the lace cushion covers on the plush sofa, between the venetian blinds, making her presence felt.
There were stacks of international magazines aligned neatly on the low-lying centre table whose legs dug deeply into the soft cream rug. Along the hallway were framed pictures; some of the family, but mostly of Aalia, doing what she loves best- commanding the attention of the lens. Even in the pictures where she was with others, she stood out, as if focussing all her presence onto the image, not a hair out of place, a smile that looked beautiful but somehow didn’t reach her kohl-rimmed smoky eyes.
It was then that I noticed it- in this straight-out-of-an-interiors magazine décor: a pearl-shaped ashtray tucked away in the far end of the room, across the mantel ledge, placed as if it was embarrassed to be there. It was all but overflowing with cigarette butts – red lipstick stained butts, most of them only marginally smoked and stubbed away.
I could imagine her hand, the fingers shiny and manicured, encrusted with diamonds, shaking as she sat there, a picture of poise. Only the ashes that fell haphazardly around the tray, like a giant pattern gone astray, gave her away.