I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.
Chapter 13—Day of Reckoning
Yeah, so, I’m not the happiest camper on Monday morning. Sunday afternoon, I called the jerk who gave me his business card at the New Orleans on Saturday night… and his wife answers his cell phone!
Did I have “skank” stamped on my forehead or something? Good grief. This is one of the reasons that I was dreading getting back into the dating game. At least Al had his happy ending, thank God. Needless to say, I’m in a terribly foul mood when I get ready for group on Monday.
I haven’t spoken to Grey since the infamous kiss on Friday, and I can’t help but wonder what he expects to happen now. Does he think that I’ll fall at his feet and sign off on his paperwork? It might have been easier to say “no” had I not been thinking about him all damn weekend. Shit! Hopefully this feeling will go away soon and I can get my bearings about me again.
I just wish I knew why he kissed me in the first place…?
“Hey, Ana, you got a minute?” Ron summons me to his office just as I’m heading to 239.
“Yeah, just a minute, though. The session is about to start shortly.”
“That’s what I want to talk to you about. Do you mind if I sit in with you today?” I’m a bit taken aback.
“Not at all. I’d welcome it, as a matter of fact.” I tilt my head a bit. “It’s your prerogative, of course, but may I ask why?” Ron sits back in his chair.
“I’ve made a few observations along with some of the things you’ve said to me and… I’d like to see what’s the deal with this Grey guy for myself.” Now, the puzzle pieces are starting to fit together.
“I can tell you whatever you need to know, but… what brought this on and what is it you plan to accomplish?” I question sincerely.
“Well, when we talked in your office last week, you were clearly completely fed up with this guy. Then you called off on Thursday which is something you’ve never done in the seven months that you’ve been volunteering here. That same day, Grey is all ‘I hope she’s okay’ when I tell him you’re not coming and coincidentally, I find out that you pressed the panic button on Monday and Mr. Grey had to be escorted from the building. Don’t bother trying to deny that he was definitely part of the reason that you didn’t come in on Thursday because I could hear it in your voice when I asked about it; his behavior just drove it home for me. What I plan to do, I don’t know, but I just want to see how this guy interacts in class.” I almost laugh at the word “interact.”
“He doesn’t. Most of the time, he just sits there staring at me! That’s why I want him out of my class! I talked to my attorney friend and he told me I can’t even turn in the court order until after the sixth session!” Ron makes a face.
“Yeah… I could have told you that.” Now I’m irritated.
“Well, why didn’t you?” I demand. “I’m sitting in my office all high and mighty like I’m about to get rid of this leprosy, and now I have to sit in front of him for at least two more sessions!”
“You didn’t ask me!” Ron defends. “I would have told you if you had asked me!” My hand flies to my forehead. Great! Now I have a headache before the session even starts.
“We need to go. We’re already late.” I stand up and leave Ron’s office.
“Everybody take your seats, please.” I’m wound tighter than a chainsaw and I can go off at any minute. I don’t bother to scan the group to see where Grey is trying to sit as I just need to follow the clamor of women attempting to get a seat next to him. This spectacle is really getting on my nerves. I wonder what he’s thinking when these women are all willing to get into a cage fight if it means they’ll be able to sit near Christian Grey. Part of it has to do with a slight possessiveness that I don’t want to admit that I’ve begun to feel towards him—even though I clearly have no right. The other part has to do with the fact that my patience is completely non-existent today and I already know that I shouldn’t be here, but it’s too late now… Medusa is loose.
I fold one arm under the other and put my free hand on my chin and watch the show. It’s going on a little longer than usual today. Ron and I are still standing, as is my tradition, to allow everyone to get a seat first. I can see Ron in my peripheral, and he is clearly puzzled while watching these women throwing dirty looks and snide comments at each other vying for optimum seating. So, while gesturing to the spectacle, I turn to him and say loudly, “It happens every class. It usually takes about five minutes for us to get seated.”
This declaration has accomplished two things. First, it has brought the spotlight on to these women who—with the exception of Evelyn—are now chastised enough to be embarrassed by their behavior and find a seat. Second, it proves—though I haven’t yet acknowledged the fact—that my brain-to-mouth filters are malfunctioning if not completely disconnected. Houston, we have a problem.
Ron is looking over at me with that look on his face like he swallowed something bad, so I know that he knows this is going to be an interesting night, to say the very least.
“Ana, are you okay?” he asks quietly and cautiously. If I had any good sense, I would take this opportunity to graciously bow out of the tragedy that’s about to transpire before me; but, no, I—Dr. Anastasia Rose Steele, PsyD—am a gluten for punishment. So, instead of telling Ron that I’m in a foul ass mood and should probably go back to my office for a much-needed “time-out,” I turn to him and matter-of-factly reply:
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.”
Once all the commotion has ceased, I pause for another ten or twenty seconds for effect before leaning down to Martin, who’s sitting in the seat next to the one that I plan to occupy. “Martin,” I say softly, “would you mind terribly surrendering your seat so that my boss can sit and observe?”
“Oh, no, not at all, Dr. Steele.” Martin kindly moves to another empty seat in the group and Ron and I take a seat. I must admit that I’m truly at a loss on how to proceed right now, so I start like I normally do:
“Does anybody have anything that they want to share? I truly want to hear something about someone’s interesting weekend. Anything?” The group falls silent and I have no desire whatsoever to rescue them. For all I care, we can all sit here for two hours and ponder life’s special moments and mysteries because quite frankly, you guys have the problems… not me. Imagine my surprise when the next voice that I hear comes from the last place I expect.
Well, hell, if I can be here on time I would think the good doctor would at least have the courtesy to be prompt as well. I have no plan of “attack” today, except to “cease and desist” with the staring. I guess I could give a little insight without spilling my fucking guts. Shit, there’s got to be an easier way to do this. I sigh heavily. Fuck it. Anything to keep from going to county jail.
I need to find some kind of way to apologize to Ana, but I’m sure as hell not going to do it in front of the group and she most likely won’t be caught within 15 feet of me in a room alone after that debacle on Friday. That point was driven home when, after hearing her voice, I turn around to see that smug Carlisle fucker walk into the room with her. Great, she’s brought reinforcements. Her expression is unreadable and she’s clearly avoiding eye contact with me. I take my seat and watch her take what I would consider a clearly defensive stance until she loudly announces, “It happens every class. It usually takes about five minutes for us to get seated.” That’s when I realize that she’s referring to the usual seating chaos that takes place in my general vicinity by a cluster of horny women who don’t have the good sense to be embarrassed by their behavior.
It doesn’t take long for me to recognize that this isn’t our usual Dr. Steele. I don’t know what her day has been like, but it is clear to see that this is not the Breakfast at Tiffany’s, tiara wearing, “just call me Ana” that we have become accustomed to. There’s a bit of musical chairs going on while she and Carlisle take a seat before she asks if anyone wants to share. A dead silence falls over the room and nobody says anything for about a full minute. Oh well, might as well rip the Band-Aid off…
“I’d like to say something.” Was that me? Shit!
Ana’s head shoots over to me and I can only interpret the look in her eyes as horror! Fuck! You’ve wanted me to talk and now, I’m talking! I clear my throat simply because I have no fucking idea what to say next. Flynn’s words come back to me.
“You may even have to give her a little insight into yourself and your past for her to understand why you are the way you are.”
She’s knows my past, now… some of it anyway. Here goes…
“It takes a lot to get to where I am. You don’t just wake up one day and you’re here. You must have a lot of drive and determination… and control.” I know there are several sets of eyes on me, but I am focused solely on hers, which have now moved from horrified to surprise. “I come from humble beginnings and all I will say is that I won’t ever go back there again.” Thoughts of the crack whore lying prostrate on a filthy couch in a drug-induced stupor while I sit famished and emaciated on the kitchen floor flood my brain momentarily. “I’ve worked very hard to achieve what I have, to be who I am.” Flynn’s words come to me again.
“You are threatening everything she has worked for. How would you feel if it were you…?”
Fucking furious! “It’s obvious that you don’t get to be who I am overnight, but nothing was ever just handed to me. This kind of success takes more than most people are capable of sacrificing.” This sharing shit is just not working for me, and Ana’s expression has now moved from surprise to confusion. “People are always out to get me,” I continue, thinking about the asshole judge who put me here in the first place. “They want to make a name for themselves by taking down or exposing the great Christian Grey,” I say sarcastically. “And anything I do in defense of myself is always taken out of context or splashed all over the media. I’ve never been a ‘regular guy’ and with the life I’ve lived, I don’t think I’d ever want to be, but sometimes I wish to hell people would just leave me alone.”
“Mr. Grey, what is it you’re saying?” Ana has broken the deafening silence that has fallen over the class. “Because what it sounds like is that you want someone to take pity on you for being successful.”
Where the fuck did she get that from? I’m trying to fucking humble myself here, and she translates it as a call for pity? That’s what the fuck I get for trying to relate to a concept of which I have no idea.
“Pity? That’s what you heard? Pity?” My voice is a little harsher than I intended. She picks up on it immediately.
What the hell? He sits here silently for three sessions, two of which he stared at me. Every time he opened his mouth, he bullied someone and most often that someone was me. And now he has the nerve to sit here and try to solicit… what? Sympathy? Pity? Understanding? What? And why the hell is taking a tone with me?
I’m not wearing any gloves today, Grey. Did no one warn you?
“Well, excuse me, Mr. Grey, but all you’ve ever thrown towards me is hostility and intimidation. So, forgive me if I can’t recognize an attempt at sincerity… assuming that’s what that was.”
Wait, that kiss wasn’t hostile.
That was intimidation.
Shit! Intimidate me!
Shut the fuck up, Bitch. I’m handling this!
“You are impossible!” he bellows. “There’s absolutely no way to win with you, is there? I should just lie down and take my punishment, right?”
“Punishment? Are you kidding me? What do you expect? For us to sit here and pat you on the head because you are a little more famous than the rest of us? Poor little billionaire!” Ron’s head snaps over to me and Grey looks at me like I have just hit him.
“Ana, maybe you should step outside for a moment…” Ron recognizes the dynamite a moment too late.
“What the hell is your fucking problem? You have no fucking idea what this means to me, do you? No fucking idea at all! The wrong move in any direction can be the absolute end of everything I have ever built! One word to the wrong person in the wrong way can be the end of my whole fucking career! All the goodwill I’ve built and all the influence of the Grey name can be shattered in an instant! And I have to sit here and take this bullshit twice a week so that I don’t see my life’s work shot to hell at a moment’s notice by some fucking temperamental female!” Grey shoots at me.
Mother fucking ass hole shit eating bitches from hell—are you fucking serious!? Is he really sitting here saying this shit to me after what he has put me through in the two horrific weeks I have known him? So, let’s review, shall we?
This man has dug into my past and exposed one of the most horrific occurrences of my life. His actions have sent me into full-scale reversal. I am now once again a nightmare having, ghost fighting, gun-toting, paranoid “Ana” Oakley. Right when I decide to fight the emotional romantic demons that have put my life on hold for nearly four years, Grey comes and in one day he destroys everything that I had accomplished in attempting to fight off decade-old fears and monsters. And now he has the audacity to sit here in this class, look me in my eyes and insinuate that he needs to protect himself and his empire from me…
That’s it! I simply cannot take this anymore. I have sat through two and a half weeks of watching this man treat people like we are all put here for his personal use and entertainment. Ron can see that I’m at the end of my rope, and I think he is gesturing to me in an attempt to defuse the situation, but it’s too late. I cannot go another moment without telling Mr. Master of the Universe exactly what I think of him.
“You know what, Grey? Some of us didn’t have a savior to come and rescue us from the hell we were in. Some of us had to ride it out and just survive no matter what happened. And heaven forbid some of us become better people in spite of the circumstances! I mean, what’s the world coming to when we can’t all become gorgeous, egomaniacal, self-absorbed, narcissistic billionaires who feel the need to treat people in the worst way possible based on some twisted sense of entitlement!? Take a look at yourself. You live in an ivory tower, you hold the future of tens of thousands of people in the palm of your hand, your net worth exceeds everyone in this building combined, and that suit you’re wearing probably costs six months of my salary. News flash, Grey. You WON! You’ve achieved the brass ring and crushed all your enemies under your foot. So, while you’re walking around crying your ‘woe me’s’ and blaming your dead mommy for issues that you have been holding on to for decades, just remember that you’re not the only fucked up individual in the world!” I knew it was death the minute the words left my mouth. I stand up and fling my portfolio across the room where it strikes a bulletin board hanging on the wall, causing the board to fall and land flat on the floor with a loud “clap!” I turn around and march out of the room mumbling, “Fucking arrogant asshole.”
I fling the door open, hoping to get a moment to myself to catch my breath before plotting my escape. Unfortunately, I come face to face with Taylor as soon as I slam the door behind me. I drop my head and put my hand over my eyes, pushing my glasses up a bit. Dead mommy issues? Did I really say that out loud… to a group participant… in front of the entire group? Holy cow, Batman. This is information that I read from his background check. Why in the hell would I bring that up in front of the group!? I hear the door open behind me and I pray to God that it isn’t Grey.
“My office. Now!” Ron growls as I watch him storm pass me. He’s mad… really mad. I’m shaking a bit and I take a few deep breaths to try to calm myself before the adrenaline causes the tears. I drop my head and shake it, hoping that this is a dream and I’m just going to wake up. No such luck.
“Are you okay, ma’am?” I almost jump out of my skin. I forgot Taylor is standing there. He must think I’m having a seizure with all the twitching and shaking I’m doing.
“I’m fine, thank you,” I respond nervously before I walk down the hall to face the firing squad.
“What the hell was that?” Ron snaps, as I close the door. I’m dumbstruck. Am I in the Twilight Zone?
“Are you kidding me? You saw for yourself! That man is impossible and you saw a tame version tonight!” I shoot. I know he can’t be sitting here calling me to task about my behavior. Harsh though it may have been, it doesn’t come close to what Grey has put me through!
“Dead! Mommy! Issues! Ana? Seriously?” He’s yelling. Okay, that was bad I’ll admit, but couldn’t he see what I was going through? My hand shoots to my forehead again.
“You will go back in there and you will apologize to Mr. Grey and hope he doesn’t sue the center for your gross misconduct!” Oh, you have got to be kidding me. This has to be a bad joke!
“The hell I will!” I yell, glaring at him. If he thinks for one moment that I’m going to go and apologize to that man, he’s the one in need of a psychiatrist! “I meant every word I said to that pompous asshole, no matter how harsh, and I am not apologizing to him. If this was my practice, he would be out on his ass. Nobody treats me that way! I didn’t sign up to be abused by him!”
“But this is not your practice, Anastasia! This is a community center. We serve the community. And you are expected to behave like a professional…”
“I am a person, first!” My voice is so high-pitched; I can hear it cracking.
“… And sometimes the professional has to override the person. If you were an employee here, Ana, I would consider firing you right now.” Now, I’m gaping at this man. I can see that I’m clearly not going to get him to see my point of view. In the years that I spent at CCFW, I had never encountered anything like this. And now, this man expects me to take this crap off Grey and smile, and I’m not even getting paid for it. I don’t know what the expression on my face is saying right now, but Ron clearly changes his demeanor and he’s going into business mode.
“You are a volunteer here, Dr. Steele,” he says flatly, “and everything you do inside these walls reflects directly on the center. You will go and apologize to Mr. Grey for your outburst or you may want to consider disassociating yourself with the center.”
As I stand there looking at Ron for I don’t know how long—seconds, minutes, who knows—I see all the men who came into the group sessions calling me Sweetheart, Honey, and Doll. I see Luc knocking the fucking wind out of me and attacking me from behind when I tried to get away on Saturday. And then I see all the Flashdance Thatchers and Malibu Barbies and Melba Sornsons that I couldn’t help. I feel like a failure at the one thing I thought I was good at—helping people help themselves by helping each other. It comes flooding in on me like a tidal wave. I feel my knees get weak for a second. I have to wrangle my feelings in for just a few more moments.
“You’re right,” I answer. Ron sits back in his seat and folds his hands on his desk. He thinks he has gotten through to me. He’s right; he has. I turn around and open the door. Before leaving, I say, “I’ll have my office cleared out in an hour.” I close the door behind me and quickly walk to the elevator. I only have time to glance at it momentarily before I slam through the door to the stairwell and take the stairs, two at a time, eight flights, in stilettos.
When I make it to my borrowed office, I haven’t even broken a sweat. I close the door and lock it, pulling down the shade to the window. Again, I’m taking deep breaths, trying to calm myself. Seven months. I have volunteered at this place for seven months. That’s five group sessions… twenty participants each session… one hundred people in total… and I may have helped one. One. Remind me again why I decided to do this?
Um, if I remember correctly, the theory was that you could get over your own fucked up shit by helping other people get over theirs. How’s that working out for you?
Bitch, you have no idea how unwelcome you are right now. I will send my imaginary friend in there to beat your motherfucking ass if you don’t leave me alone!
I didn’t accumulate much in this space in seven months. All of my personal effects are downtown at my office. I could never allow myself to get comfortable here. Maybe I knew all along that I didn’t belong here. I don’t even need a box to remove the piddling amount of stuff in this room that I called “mine.” I only need to straighten up what was already here. I start to file all my stray papers into the large metal filing cabinet. I don’t feel anything while I’m doing this. It’s mechanical. Get everything in order for the next poor sucker who feels like they can fix the world through one big group hug. Oh shit. My portfolio is still in 239. Did anybody pick it up? I wonder if they’re reading it? Probably the Grey fucker, no doubt. I’ll just finish my filing here and go down and get it.
Apparently, I lied to Ron when I told him that I would be out in an hour. Filing all of that crap took three at least. I can’t help but wonder why I had so many notes on these people, but I never helped anybody except Stoley? It’s dark outside now, and I should really be leaving soon. I guess I should see if my portfolio is still downstairs before I go.
I cautiously lift my shade to see if anybody is still on this floor. There were several knocks at my door while I was filing, but there was no reason to answer them as there’s nothing to say. Seeing that the coast is clear, I walk down the hall and call the elevator. The second floor is just as desolate as the tenth. I walk over to 239. Still unlocked, thank God.
I turn on the lights and examine the room. Everything is just as I had left it—the bulletin board is still facing down on the floor and my portfolio is splayed open next to it, various papers from inside strewn on the floor. I replace the bulletin board and gather my papers into my portfolio. I don’t care if anything is missing—it really doesn’t matter. I go back over and turn out the lights. Looking back at the empty room, I feel a bit of melancholy.
I walk over to a chair and sit down in the quiet, dark, empty space. I look at each empty chair and think about the people who would normally sit there. I had failed them. I had failed them all. Or had they failed me? I don’t know. But I had some big dreams when I first stepped into this room. Working at CCFW really made you feel like you could repair the world and all of its ails… until you get out into the real world. Nobody told me that everybody out here is as fucked up as I am, if not more.
Hugging my portfolio to my chest, I feel my body shaking from sobbing. I don’t know why I’m crying. It’s really going to be a relief not having to deal with Christian Master of the Universe Grey anymore. How someone can make your pulse race and make you physically ill at the same time I’ll never know, but the days of worrying about it are over for me. I’m getting the hell out of here and going back to my practice—five days a week—while I decide if this is really what I want to do for the rest of my life. I wipe my eyes and walk to the door, leaving 239 behind forever this time.
Back in the office, I go through the papers in the portfolio. There’s Frank’s blank report for the court as well as the court order for Grey that I had completed the week before. I file all the notes on all the other participants, including Frank, and look carefully at Grey’s notes and reports. I have a folder prepared for him, ready for all of his documentation, but inspiration strikes and I have a better idea.
I empty my shredder into the garbage and take out Frank’s blank court report. I copy the report, white out all of Frank’s information on the copy and replace it with Grey’s information. Then I proceed to shred every piece of information I have related to him from these sessions—notes, contact information, even his completed court order. At first, I thought about placing the shreds into his file to let him know what I really thought of him, but I’m sure I would spend time wondering what the finder of the masterpiece would think of my gesture… and I had already spent too much time thinking about all things Grey. Instead, I simply put the blank court order in Grey’s file all by itself and leave it in the center of the desk. I pick up my purse, briefcase, and few meager belongings, turn out the lights and lock the door. After I drop off the key in Ron’s mailbox, I go home to find some alcoholic beverage with my name on it.
What the fuck did she just say? What the fuck did she say to me in front of all these fucking people? Face it, Grey, I think to myself, you threw her monsters at her and she threw yours right back. What did I expect? She spit all of my achievements at me like they were bad words… and the dead mommy comment? That little tart should lose her license for that shit. Dead mommy issues! Now I have to wait here to see if she’s going to return. If I leave, I don’t get credit for this session.
“Oh, Mr. Grey. Are you alright?” A voice comes oozing at me from the left. I turn to see one of the chair fighting ladies leaning close to me.
“I’m fine, thank you.” I say coolly, turning my attention to my blackberry.
“That was just horrible, Mr. Grey, what you had to go through at that woman’s hand. And she calls herself a therapist.” She is fluttering false eyelashes at me that are buried under heavy mascara.
“I assure you, I will survive, Miss…”
“Evelyn,” she coos, “Call me Evelyn.” I smile, but it doesn’t reach my eyes.
“Evelyn. There is no permanent damage. I shall recover. If you’ll excuse me,” I say as I stand to move to another part of the room. She grabs my forearm to keep me from leaving. She’s saying something else, but I can’t hear her. She’s touching me! What the hell? As I’m glaring at this hand on my forearm, waiting for it to be moved, I can hear Taylor speaking.
“Sir, we should probably leave now.” I’m still waiting for this hand to move from my forearm. You desperate cooch, can you not tell when somebody doesn’t want you? She stands there holding on to my arm for another full minute before Taylor finally had to tell her to let me go. I thought my silence would have been a dead giveaway, but apparently, it wasn’t. When she finally releases me, my trance is broken and I must have shot her a look from hell because she flinches and sinks back into her chair. I walk over to the door with Taylor.
“Why should we leave? I can’t leave or I won’t get credit for the session.” I ask Taylor.
“I don’t think Dr. Steele will be coming back this evening.”
“What makes you say that?” My interest is piqued.
“She had a heated conversation with Mr. Carlisle after she left the room, sir. I couldn’t hear it, but there was quite a bit of yelling. Shortly thereafter, she ran out of the stairwell door.”
“The stairwell? How long ago was this?”
“Not long, Sir. Just a few minutes.” I should go talk to this Carlisle character. I’m all for getting the hell out of here, but not if I don’t get credit for sitting through this bloodbath up until now. I brush past Taylor and knock on Mr. Carlisle’s open door.
“Mr. Grey!” Carlisle looks like a bundle of nerves. “Please allow me to apologize…”
“No apologies necessary,” I hold my hand up impatiently to stop his talking, “Will Dr. Steele be back tonight?”
“Well, um, no….” Still not interested in explanations, I ask, “Will someone be taking her place for the evening or is it okay to leave? I would like to get credit for this session. I’m sure you understand.”
“Oh, yes, yes sir, completely. No, the session is over for the night. Feel free to leave.”
“Thank you, Mr. Carlisle.” I turn towards the door with Taylor close behind.
When we get out to the SUV, I notice that her pearl blue 300 is still in the parking lot. If she’s still here, why the hell doesn’t she finish the damn session? I have a few more things I want to say to her if she’s going to facilitate my demise no matter what I do. Taylor starts the car. “One minute, Taylor.” I get out of the car and he jumps out behind me.
“Sir…?” he protests.
“I’ll only be a minute, Taylor.” I say as I dash back into the building and head for the elevator. Once on the tenth floor, I knock on Ms. Steele’s locked door. I know that she’s in there because her light is on and I can hear movement. I knock again. I fucking hate being ignored. I’m almost tempted to announce myself and demand that she answer the door, but I know that’ll get me nowhere. There’s nothing productive I can say to this woman. No matter what happens now, she can’t do anything until after the next session. So, I might as well just wait until then and see what my fate will be.
I turn from the door, feeling a little like a rejected lover though I don’t know where the hell that’s coming from. I push the button to the elevator and go back to Taylor waiting in the SUV. I suddenly feel this huge sense of loss—I’m not sure where it’s coming from. It must have been written all over my face because Taylor asks if I’m okay when I get back to the car. I watch the door for a moment, willing her to come out so I can just see her one more time. I’m afraid if I let her get away tonight that I’ll never see her again. I’m so fucking angry, though. I can’t believe she said the things that she said to me… and in front of everyone. Fuck, people who tell me about my temper should meet this firecracker! I put my hands in my hair and rest my elbows on my knees, not too sure what to do next.
“Sir?” Taylor breaks my concentration.
“Just give me a minute, Taylor.” I say without raising my head. It seems like every time I feel like I may be getting somewhat closer to her, I always do something to push her away. I don’t know what I can do to make this right. Little by little, I don’t really give a fuck about what she said in session. It’s not like she said anything that wasn’t true. From the day I met her, she had me pegged. She put me in my place from the very beginning. She never let me run over her or control her even when I tried my best to do just that. She’s exquisite—the most enchanting woman I have ever met in my life.
And I feel her slipping away from me.
Every time I’ve tried to apologize to her, whenever I may find the opportunity, I end up either putting my foot in my mouth or doing something monumentally stupid…
… Like kissing her.
I don’t know what’s going to happen after this. All I know is that she’s locked in her office—away from me, and I feel like if I don’t do something right now I’ll never see her again. But what the fuck do I do? I knock on her door and she won’t answer. I must be the very last person that she wants to see right now. I can’t just ring her up and say “Hi.” What the hell do I do?
I look over at her 300 still sitting in the parking lot. I could leave her a note… but who the fuck leaves notes anymore? A man who desperately doesn’t want to lose touch with the woman who seduces him in his sleep like a succubus, that’s who. I can’t bring myself to leave a note, so I opt for a business card. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Nothing says, “I really want to see you again” like a business card! She already knows where to find me, so hopefully she’ll see this as a gesture to reach out… or something. I put the card under her windshield wiper and turn to leave. But what’s to stop her from just throwing the card away? I go back and pull the card off the windshield. I pull out my Visconti fountain pen and scribble my message on the card and replace it under the wiper. Now I’m running back to the SUV, afraid that she’ll come out of the building and catch me at my moment of weakness.
Who are you kidding, Grey? She is your weakness.
“Fuck!” I say aloud. I won’t say it. I won’t fucking say it. “Let’s go, Taylor.”
Taylor starts the car and pulls into traffic, and I can only hope… beyond hope… that she’ll accept my gesture and reach out to me. I feel an alien, crushing tightness comes over me, and I can only look out of the window watching the cityscape and hope that it passes.
I turn into the parking structure at my condo. I pull into my space, turn off the car, and sit there for a moment.
I did it.
I really did it.
I walked away from something that I wanted to do with all my heart. I wanted to help people the same way that I was helped… by talking to other people who had hurdles to jump and fears to overcome. I wanted to facilitate the same growth and healing that helped me piece my life together when I was afraid to reach out to anyone… afraid to share my story on any level for fear that I would give it new life if I spoke about it. I walked away from the biggest thing I have wanted to do with my education since the day that I walked across the stage and accepted my degree.
And I feel free.
I’ve never felt freer in my entire life.
No more Flashdance Thatchers or Melba Sornsons…
… Or Christian Greys.
Christian Grey. I’ve let him off the hook. I didn’t file that court order that I planned to file that could have put him in jail.
So, now he doesn’t have to ruin my career… or look into my past… or ever see me again.
We don’t even work out at the same gym anymore.
Why does it feel like somebody just hit me in the chest with a sledge-hammer?
I hold my head down and try to shake off the feeling of doom. As I raise my head, I catch the corner of a piece of paper or card on my windshield. How did I not see that before? I grab my purse and briefcase and my few belongings and get out of the car. I see that the object is actually a business card. The front of the card is a picture taken from the ground up of a beautiful building downtown with a gorgeous blue Seattle sky with big fluffy clouds behind it. They must have waited for weeks to get that picture because we hardly ever see days like that in Seattle. That’s when I realize I recognize the building. I’ve only been there once, but I would know the building anywhere. It’s Grey House!
Holy. Cow. Batman.
Christian Grey left his business card on my windshield. What the hell? I don’t know how to respond to this. Is he trying to remind me that he has some kind of control over me? Okay, so you know my car. Have you been watching me? What the hell does this mean? I turn the card over and I’m nearly floored by the very few words I find in beautiful handwritten script on the back of the card.
I’m sorry. CG
I am speechless. Is he just groveling because he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next?
Or could it be that he wants to see you again?
Could that be it? I feel a catch in my chest and a feeling of relief works its way through my legs. I’ve got to give this a little thought. Every single meeting we’ve had so far has been fraught with angst. What could he possibly really want with me? He’s rich and beautiful and arrogant as hell. Five minutes in each other’s company and we’d surely rip one another to shreds. Who the hell am I fooling?
“Okay, so you’re sorry. Thanks.” I let the business card fall to the ground and walk to the elevator.
I’ve brushed my teeth and my hair and put on my comfy pajama pants with a camisole. I need to rethink the direction of my life a bit. It’s about 9:30pm, so I give my best friend a call.
“Hey Jewel, what’s up, baby?”
“You sound a whole lot better than the last time I talked to you. How are you doing?” I ask.
“Wonderful. Everything’s wonderful.” I can hear him smiling through the phone. “James wants us to move in together.” I gasp.
“Really? That’s great! I’m so happy for you, Al. See? I told you everything was going to be okay.” I really am happy for my friend. He’s had many flings and a few semi-long-term relationships since we’ve been friends, but I’ve never seen him over the moon for anyone until now.
“I’m really excited about it. We’re just trying to decide if we are going to live at his place or my place or just buy a new place and start over.” He sounds like a little schoolgirl.
“Well, it’s a buyer’s market if you want to buy a new place. Then of course that leaves the burden of getting rid of your old places.”
“Yeah, we’ve been pondering that, too. For right now, we’ve been staying in both places, whichever is convenient for the night… I love him, Jewel.”
“I know, Al.” I smile.
“Of getting hurt. Of having my heart broken. Of him not loving me the way that I love him. You name it.”
“That man loves you, Al. You better sit and enjoy it, because it doesn’t come along often.” I say these words with a bit of melancholy. “Anyone could look at you guys on Saturday and seethat he loves you. Hell, he risked getting his Benz towed to get to you in that restaurant!” Al laughs loudly on the line.
“Yeah, I forgot about that. Oh! That reminds me. James swears he saw Grey at the New Orleans that night.”
I swallow hard. He what? Did he just say that Grey was at the restaurant?
“Christian Grey? He must have been mistaken.” I say, aghast.
“Well, I didn’t see him and you didn’t see him, but I’ll tell you this. I Googled him to see if we were talking about the same guy because I’ve never seen him before. James said that’s who it was—and he was sitting close to the door.” I’m scanning the room in my memory and I’m coming up completely blank. “There’s more, Jewel.”
“What?” What more could there be?
“Remember the ‘hottie’ from the club last week that you never got to see?”
“Yes…?” I answer expecting.
“It was Grey. He was the guy dancing with you on the stage.”
“No fucking way! Are you absolutely certain?” This can’t be right.
“I’m 100% certain… about six feet tall, reddish brownish hair, gray eyes, body like a god, buns of steel…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s him.” I have to stop his description as I feel some significant heat in my lower regions. Just the thought of this man makes me hot.
“Jewel, this guy didn’t look like someone who wants to ruin your career.”
“You haven’t met him, Al.”
“I don’t need to meet him! The way he was looking at you on the dance floor? Like he wanted to sop you up with grits and a biscuit? Hell, I thought the sprinklers would come on any second!” Is this real? The McElroy, the gym, and now the New Orleans? Is the universe trying to tell me something here?
“Al, I’m not doing group sessions anymore.”
“Whoa! Talk about change of gear! How did we get from hot club dancing to group sessions?”
“That’s where I normally saw Grey… and it was usually a nightmare. It’s no coincidence that he saw me at these places. He’s probably following me. Did I tell you he did a background check on me?”
“He did WHAT?” Al asks horrified. “Why?”
“I don’t know. I went to his office to find out and we had a horrible argument, then we…” I trail off.
“What Jewel? What happened?” Al is feverish for me to finish the sentence.
“We… kissed.” I say just above a whisper.
“Hold on… I didn’t hear that. What did you say?”
“We kissed!” Al gasps.
“You kissed that hot hunk of deliciousness? And you didn’t tell me? I feel so forlorn!” He exclaims. “When did this happen?”
“Last Friday.” I put my hand on my forehead. “One minute we’re gnarling at each other and the next minute, he’s got his tongue down my throat.”
“Well, spill, how was he, Jewel?” Al nearly squeals.
“Masterful,” I breathe. “I thought my thighs were going to explode!” Al laughs heartily at me.
So,“ what happened next?”
“I ran away.” I can almost hear him drop his head.
“Please tell me I didn’t hear you just say that you ran away… from this gorgeous, chiseled chunk of loveliness… after he kissed you!”
“I panicked, Al! I mean seriously, we were screaming and snarling at each other. It was absolutely brutal! And the next thing I know, this man has got me in a vice grip and my body is on fire! I fucking panicked!” I defend.
“Well, I can see why.” Al says almost sarcastically. “I would have panicked, too, but I would have stood my ass right there until it passed!”
I sigh heavily. “It gets worse, Al.” I hear him scoff.
“Oh, you have got to tell me how it gets worse than you were kissed by Zeus and you ran away.”
“I decimated him in group session today… in front of the entire group… and then I quit.” Al was very quiet on the other end for quite some time. I thought we were disconnected. “Al? Are you still there?”
“I’m trying to process this, Jewel. I don’t know what’s more shocking out of what I just heard—that you humiliated Billionaire Boy in front of a group of people, or that you quit something that I know you love.” He says concerned. He didn’t hear me the first time I said I wasn’t doing group sessions anymore?
“I haven’t quit my practice… only the group sessions. They were so draining and they felt like a waste of time. No one was being helped by them, not even me. And after tonight’s debacle, I knew it was time for me to walk away from it. I’m surprised the whole thing didn’t go nuclear before now.”
“Well… how did that turn out for you?”
“I’m relieved. I didn’t want to admit it at first, but I’m relieved. I can concentrate on my practice now and on helping the people that really want to be helped.”
“What about Grey? Do you think he still wants to ruin your career? You didn’t make it to six sessions with him so you can’t turn in that court report… which means you can’t ruin his life now.”
“I know, right? I’m not sure what he wants since he… OH MY GOD!” I dash from my living room to the elevator and frantically push the button. “Come on, come on, come on…” I will the damn thing to move faster. “Come on, dammit!” The “ding” signals that my salvation has arrived. I scurry inside and push the “P” button for the parking structure. A few seconds later, I’m scrambling into the parking structure in my pajamas and bare feet searching frantically on the ground around my car. “Where is it? Where the hell is it?” Tucked partially under the driver’s side tire is the small picture of Grey House. I fall to my knees and grab the card like I had just found the winning lottery ticket to the 10-million-dollar Big Game. I let out a huge sigh as I turn the card over and examine Christian Grey’s exquisite handwriting. That’s when I realize that my blackberry is still in my other hand.
“You know I was on my way over there, right?” he says, matter-of-factly, “which would not have made my boyfriend happy right now, I might add.”
“No no no, no need, Al.” As I return to my apartment, I explain to him the events that occurred that evening up to and including my mad dash to the parking lot in my PJ’s. Another laugh for my best friend at my expense.
“So, what now, Jewel? You know he wants you… or he wants something. How do you proceed?”
“I don’t know. Our interaction is pretty volatile…” I trail off.
“Hey, that makes for hot sex!” Al adds.
“Al!” I scold.
“Well, it does! Shit, didn’t you say your hips almost exploded with that kiss?”
“I said my thighs, but hell, my hips too.”
“Well, there’s one good thing about letting go of the group sessions. Technically, he’s not a ‘patient’ anymore.” This is true—I hadn’t thought of that. “What are you going to do?”
“I have no fucking idea. Right now, I’m going to bed. I have a lot of thinking and rearranging to do already, but when I decide what I will do, you’ll be the first to know.”
“That’s all I ask. Love you, Jewel.”
“Love you more.” I end the call, lock the door, turn out the lights and head to my bedroom. As I remove the duvet from the bed, my blackberry rings again. Damn, Al, what did you forget to tell me?
“Didn’t I tell you I was going to sleep?” No voice on the other end. “Hello? Hello?”
A/N: “Houston, we have a problem.” Tom Hanks, Apollo 13
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