THIS IS PART II OF PAGING DR STEELE. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL 70 CHAPTERS OF PAGING DR STEELE OR YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SEVERAL SPOILERS.
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 2—Plenty To Be Thankful For
“I’m on my way up right now. I didn’t expect to be here that long.”
“Christian Trevelyan Grey, you have said that for the last hour. I am dressed and waiting for you! If you are not up here in the next 15 minutes, I am leaving without you and you can explain to your mother why you are late when you get there!” He laughs into the phone.
“Yes, Dear,” he replies, his voice full of mirth.
“I’m not kidding, Christian,” I say sitting on the edge of our bed. “We are supposed to be in Bellevue in an hour. You still have to shower and change and we still have to get there. Now, you only have 14 minutes to…”
My rant is interrupted by the sound of our bedroom door opening. In walks 6′ 2″ of gorgeous muscle draped in sweaty gym shorts and a tank top, his hair dripping wet.. and sexy!
“You were saying, Ms. Steele?” he says, sauntering in my direction, his calf and thigh muscles flexing and contracting with every step. My God, he’s so hot!
Wake up! You’re all fresh and sexy and he’s all sweaty… hot, yes, but still sweaty!
I put my hand up to stop Mr. Grey in his tracks.
“Hold it right there, Sexy.” He freezes in his spot, a sexy half-smile gracing his lips. “Though you look absolutely edible right now, you need to shower and change and we need to get going. I don’t want to be late.”
“Don’t you want to join me?” He says, inching closer to me. I put my hand up again and stand my ground.
“Shower! Now, Christian!” I assert. “I’m fresh-faced and ready and you are wasting time… and don’t touch me with your sweaty stinkiness either!” I tease. He kisses me on the lips and heads toward the en suite.
“Ten minutes, Baby,” he says, throwing a smile over his shoulder at me. Once he disappears into the en suite, I stand to check my outfit in the full length closet mirror once more. I am wearing a black sweater dress with rust-colored accessories—a multi-strand necklace made of rust-colored wooden beads with matching earrings, a matching wooden ring, and a large bangle bracelet as well as a matching leather belt, purse, and high-heeled knee-high boots. I leave the bedroom and decide on one last cup of coffee while I am waiting for Christian to get dressed.
I sit at the breakfast bar drinking my coffee and scrolling through email on my iPhone. To say that this has been a very interesting summer would be an understatement and now, this is my first Thanksgiving with the Greys. My dad and Mandy will be joining us as well. Normally, I would spend time with members of the Scooby Gang that didn’t choose to leave town for the holiday. Strangely, except for Maxie and Phil who have been together forever it seems, everyone in the Scooby Gang has new love interests this year! This means meeting and/or spending time with the new “folks.” Speaking of which, I will get to spend Thanksgiving with at least one of the Scooby Gang since Valerie will be there as well.
My Google alerts inform me that “Ana-Watch” is going strong. The paparazzi hasn’t been on my butt so much since that press conference back in August, but there are several pictures of “what Ana is wearing” since I chewed out that nosy blonde reporter. There are pictures of me and my fashion statements all over the Internet—some taken by paps and others sent in to some rag by a passer-by with a cell phone. I’ve gotten to the point now where if I see someone taking a picture and it’s not an inconvenient moment, I just pose. I don’t know why they’re so interested, but who am I to argue? It also means that even though I don’t wear Vera Wang every day, I can’t leave the house looking like hell warmed over. In the latest capture, I am at the marketplace in a cowl-neck sweater and Roberto Cavalli tapered jeans standing at one of the fruit stands. I don’t know where they hide to take these pictures or even who’s interested in that stuff… but there it is. It reminds me of the circus that day that I finally moved the last of my things to Escala.
I was tired of “grabbing a few things” and taking them to the penthouse to avoid drawing attention to myself. On what I thought was a stroke of brilliance, I recruited Chuck, Larry, and some other guys from the security staff to bring three of the SUV’s to my condo on an impromptu trip to grab all of my stuff and go. It would have worked out perfectly until that nosy bitch in 1961 alerted the paparazzi that I was moving out. One minute, we are quietly loading my things into the Audis and the next minute, we are surrounded by cameras! It was honestly a media circus because it was initially made to appear I was sneaking out of one place into another.
Luckily, I have a rapport with most members of the press and I was able to talk to them, which resulted in an impromptu press conference in my parking structure.
“So what’s going on, Ana? Why the secrecy?” one reporter had asked. I gestured to the gaggle of reporters.
“Obviously, I wasn’t looking for secrecy—I was looking for peace,” I reply with mirth, eliciting a laugh from the press. “Seriously, though, how many other people are moving today and it’s not news?”
“Oh, don’t be coy, Ana,” a snarky reporter throws out there, one that I haven’t seen before. “Everybody knows that you are aching to move into Escala and become the first lady of Seattle business!” Of course, it’s a female.
“Who wants to respond to that for me?” I say innocently, gesturing to the crowd of reporters and at least three of them knows the routine—one of which is Ferris, another freelance reporter that likes to follow me.
“Bueller,” I say, using the nickname that I gave him.
“Ms. Steele is a doctor with her own practice and she most likely makes more money than you make. She has her own identity and does not need to piggyback off of Christian Grey—although the attention is very nice!” The reporters laugh again.
“Thank you, Bueller,” I say, hoping this is the last of that conversation. Still trying to egg me on and get a response, she keeps going.
“Yes, that’s all very sweet, but even you can’t deny the benefits of being Christian Grey’s love interest,” she continues sarcastically. Seriously? Is she really serious? Outwardly, the man is gorgeous, rich, and is pretty much a celebrity in Seattle. Inwardly, he’s considerate, generous, loving, and an awesome fuck! What the hell is she getting at that the rest of us don’t already know? Okay, Bitch… your turn.
“Oh, I see now. You want a story. Okay, I’ll make you famous. I’ll tell you what my real motive is.” I lean in to her like I’m about to tell her a secret. “I’m a girl, and I met this guy. I liked him and he liked me, so we started dating. Oh! Now, don’t tell anybody, but we had sex, too,” I say just above a whisper. The other reporters are laughing, but I keep my face serious like I’m telling her a big secret.
“So, we fell in love kind of fast, right? I thought so, too, but gee, I couldn’t help it… he’s really hot!” I say it like a high school cheerleader, and there is more laughter. “Okay, so now, about a month later, some really bad things started happening—I mean, really bad things, like George-getting-hit-by-a-bus-on-Grey’s-Anatomy bad.” More laughter. “So, it kind of made us feel like life is too short and we started spending more and more time with each other. Then, we didn’t want to be apart, so he was like, ‘you wanna move in with me?’ and I was like ‘yeah!'” I have migrated into valley-girl speak, and some of the other reporters are literally slapping their thighs. Reporter Girl’s face has fallen, but I‘m not done yet.
“So, anyway, I was just getting things that I needed here and there, and every time I needed something, I had to come back here and get it! Well, last night, I was making a crème brulee and I didn’t have my torch! Now that was tragic, like the last episode of ‘Lost’ tragic!” More laughter, and this poor girl looks to be getting smaller and smaller. “Well, this was just unacceptable, so I finally just thought ‘Hey, why not just make one trip and bring everything?’ So, here we are… packing up my possessions and doing what several people have done across time and will continue to do when I’m dead and gone—moving in with their boyfriends.” Now my voice is serious again.
“The fact that people like you keep insinuating that I am only with Christian because of his money and status implies that he is not lovable, and I find that more offensive than you thinking I’m a gold-digger!” I spit shooting daggers at her from my eyes… and now the garage is quiet.
“We’ve had this conversation many times and I’m not going to keep denying it. I’m not with Christian Grey for his money. I am not with Christian Grey for publicity. I am not trying to be, as you call it, the First Lady of Seattle Business. I would think that in order to have that title, I would have to first be in business, then work my way up. I am with Christian Grey because I love him. If that’s not good enough for you, then go write whatever you want, but you’re not going to get anything else out of me. Quite frankly, as far as ‘Ana-Watch’ is concerned,” I make the quotation marks with my fingers, “that line of questioning is about as old as “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.’ You should honestly be ashamed to keep asking… I’m not even a reporter and even I know that certain stories age in dog years. The fact that another reporter answered that question for me should tell you that. I thought that being a reporter meant following the fresh story. Try to keep up.”
Someone in the back calls out, “Sacrificial lamb,” and the cameras start snapping in this particular reporter’s direction. I am confused as a look of horror comes across her face. I lean back and ask Chuck, “What just happened?”
“Well,” he begins, “Little Ms. Reporter Girl back there just became the story. At all of your press conferences—impromptu or not—you always take a bite out of somebody’s ass. Remember the guy in the mall that tried to trip you for a scoop?”
“Do I?” I exclaim. “I thought the guy would end up in traction!”
“Well, each time somebody eggs you on or says or does something stupid, you end up sending somebody to the proverbial gallows. Whomever that unlucky person is becomes deemed the ‘sacrificial lamb’ because most often, after they’ve pissed you off and they make the front page for it, they can’t go anywhere. They’ve lost all respect and can’t get close to famous people. They are not invited to events and they are deemed a menace. Most are often either fired or can’t find any work anymore,” he informs me.
“Oh my God, really?” I exclaim loudly and the crowd of reporters turns around to see what was going on. “I didn’t know what ‘sacrificial lamb’ meant,” I confess. “Sorry,” I say to the latest lamb, my apology insincere. When you attack someone, you have to be prepared for what you get. I kept my promise… she got her story and she’s famous, just not in the way that she expected.
“Well, ladies and gentlemen—and lamb—my ‘incognito’ move is complete and I’m going to my new home now. You guys have made it interesting.” I say with a laugh and wave to them as I get into the SUV with Chuck and the three Audis make our way back to Escala. As for my nosy neighbor in 1961, she received an anonymous delivery in a lovely red box. When she opened it, she was greeted with a stink bomb made out of a product called “Liquid Ass.” It is exactly what it sounds like, and it gets into your clothes, your hair, your skin, the room, the furniture, everything. It is more potent than a skunk scent and much like that scent, very difficult to get rid of. I’m told that she stayed in her apartment for a week.
Yes, I am now one of the residents of the coveted Escala apartments. I have taken advantage of the spa and the gym for my workouts, but I haven’t yet had a chance to look around as much as I would like. I have been terribly busy preparing for the trial and lawsuit against Edward David, trying to evade the persistent Elena Lincoln as I would still like to kill her, and contending with my newfound—and sometimes unwelcome—celebrity status. Sometimes, I do miss the days of lounging in my condo with a glass of Cabernet and my biggest concern being what to watch on television. Now, when I leave the penthouse, I have to be careful of what I do, what I say, where I go, what I wear, who I’m with, everything! Somebody—anybody—is waiting for Ana to slip up, and be there to take the picture. It can be a little daunting sometimes.
My thoughts are interrupted by strong arms wrapping around my waist and open-mouthed kisses being planted on my neck.
“You smell good,” he says, his hair still damp from his shower.
“So do you now that you have washed off the sweatiness,” I say. “You washed your hair—why didn’t you dry it? You’ll catch cold.”
“Don’t worry,” he says. “I have Davenport warming the car. I’ll jump right in behind you.” I smile at him.
“Good. You know how much of a baby you can be when you don’t feel well,” I tease.
“You are never going to let me live that down, are you?” he sighs.
“Oh, I will one day, but not too soon,” I respond. In mid-October, a flu broke out at GEH and the great Christian Grey was stricken. He is a horrible patient! He was so miserable, he was determined to locate the culprit responsible for introducing this pestilence to his company and have them fired and quarantined like Typhoid Mary. I assured him that this plan of action was illegal and he reluctantly abandoned the idea, but he was a nightmare that entire week. He snapped at me so many times that one day, I left him in the loving care of Gail Taylor and escaped back to my condo—with Chuck in tow, of course—to avoid being abused by the ailing Christian Grey. Having assured Jason that I was okay and that Chuck would be staying with me in the guest room, I ignored his calls and his texts which drove him absolutely crazy. Sheer weakness was the only thing that prevented him from retrieving me and bringing me back to Escala. Needless to say, he was quite repentant upon my return the next day.
As promised, Christian did not dawdle in the parking garage. He dashed straight from the elevator to the SUV and hurriedly entered the car right behind me. The toasty warmth of the interior dried his hair on the ride to Bellevue and calmed my fears that I would have an insufferably sick boyfriend to contend with in the coming days. Jason and Gail are spending their holiday with family. Coincidentally, Chuck’s family is in Bellevue, so he will drop us at Grace and Carrick’s and spend some time with his family to be close to us as needed.
Now, the Greys have something that I have never heard of, but I am very anxious to take part in it. It is called “four-day Thanksgiving.” On Thanksgiving Day, we meet for lunch at the Grey family home. The ladies participate in helping with dinner while the men watch the sport of their choice—of course, usually football. I say participate because the house has cooks. So we’re not really cooking except for special desserts or some special thing that we want to do. It’s just the time of day for the women to get together and chew the fat—catch up on the week, or the month, or the year, as it were.
On Friday, the men are lounging again or going off to that magical fifth dimension that men disappear into while the women spend the day Black Friday shopping. This year, Christian is assuring that we have enough security and SUV’s to clean out the mall. I had to compromise on this one, because I normally do this with Maxie and Al in tow as well. They agreed to meet us at the mall since Val will already be with me. On Saturday, there is some kind of semi-formal fundraiser dance that the Greys attend every year to raise funding to adopt underprivileged families in the Seattle area for Christmas, which I think is just fabulous. The weekend ends after another family day on Sunday before we all have to return to work.
We pull up to the Grey home and there are several cars in the driveway and in front of the house. It’s Thanksgiving… Who are all of these people?
“What in the world is this?” Christian asks. He gets out of the SUV, then opens the door for me. “It’s Thanksgiving for fuck’s sake. Don’t these people have families of their own?” I think he must have recognized some of the cars because he doesn’t sound pleased but I still have no idea what’s going on.
When we get inside, Elliot heads us off at the door.
“Apparently, there was something cooking with the Saturday fundraiser that simply could not wait until tomorrow, so the mothers and the daughters have descended upon us,” Elliot warns. “I have a feeling that some of them are going to try to weasel their way into dinner, but Dad has said ‘absolutely not,’ so we don’t have to worry about that. I have squirreled Valerie into the kitchen with Mia before they even got a chance to see her. Me, Dad and Ethan are in the theater room. You might want to go to your posts before they adjourn.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Christian seems particularly upset about this development as he removes my coat and then his. He kisses me on the cheek before he says, “Go on, Baby. Time for us to go to our corners before the cats are released.” I laugh and hug him.
“You know where to find me,” I say before escaping to the kitchen with the girls.
Mia, Valerie and I are just kicking around topics about this and that while Mia puts the finishing touches on some apple tarts that she made for the weekend. Grace soon joins us once the “fundraiser meeting” is finished. She commented on how shameless some of the women were. Mia and I just shake our heads as Val has yet to encounter this particular crew. While Grace is busy with her famous pumpkin pie, I am sitting at the breakfast bar in the Grey kitchen talking to Mia and Val.
“Ethan is being awfully distant today,” Mia says to us. “It’s really out of character for him. He’s always so affectionate.”
“Is there anything wrong at work maybe?” I ask. Mia shrugs.
“Not that I know of,” she responds. “He’s been kind of standoffish all week. I keep asking if he’s okay, but he just blows it off. I thought things were going pretty well. We found an apartment—finally. That was a pretty harrowing experience. It was harder than I thought to find the right place in a good location with all of the features that we wanted. Granted, we had a few disagreements, but we found a really nice place in the Market district, so it worked out really well—better than even I expected. We’ve signed our lease and we’re moving at the first of the month, so that’s one less thing that we have to worry about.” She shakes her head. “I don’t know. Part of me feels like he’s not happy about this… like he’s changed his mind or something. Maybe I’m just being paranoid.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing, Mia,” Val says. “Ethan clearly adores you. He could just be nervous. You know how guys are about giving up their ‘freedom.’ He’s been in a bachelor pad all of this time and now he has to share his space with someone. He loves you so much… Anybody can see it. I’m sure that he would never do anything to hurt you.” Mia sighs.
“I love him so much, Val…”
“He loves you, too!” I confirm before Val can speak. “There’s no way he’d risk losing you.” I feel a little sorry for Mia right now. There’s nothing worse that feeling uncertain about the man that you love. I smile to myself thinking of Christian, a gesture that doesn’t get past Valerie.
“Hey, Steele, I see that twinkle in your eye,” she teases.
“Oh, I know you are not talking about me, Marshall,” I goad. “I almost had to twist yours and Elliot’s arms to get you together!”
“What do you mean?” Mia asks, and Val sighs.
“She and Elliot were both coming to me telling me that they loved each other, but neither of them would tell each other. I nearly lost my mind. They called me in Anguilla, for Christ’s sake… both of them!”
“I never knew he called you in Anguilla,” Val said.
“Oh yes, he called me before you did! That’s why I kept telling you to talk to each other.”
“My God, I’m glad the two of you got together,” Mia said. “Kate was a nightmare!”
“Mia…” Grace scolds from the sink.
“Well, she was, Mom! I didn’t say anything rude or wrong… yet.” Mia defends. Grace just shakes her head while Mia continues. “She was horrible to Anakins. She kept making all of these awful comments to her. She was even worse than ‘the daughters.'”
“The daughters?” Val inquires.
“Oh yes, you’ve never experienced the daughters. In fact, you just missed that experience about twenty minutes ago,” I say. “That was a real treat! The ‘daughters’ are the women that all had their sights set on Christian. Most of them are daughters of the women on the fundraising committee. Some of them are even members themselves. They dropped by this morning for an impromptu meeting which is why we are all hiding out in here and the men have convened to the theater room. The first night that I met Christian’s family also coincided with one of the fundraising meetings. When I walked in on Christian’s arm, they were ready to crucify me. The whole night was horrible. People were throwing dirty looks at me just because I showed up!” I say to Val gesturing behind her to Liona who right at that moment is throwing dirty looks at me again. Val turns around just in time to look right into Liona’s eyes. She glares at Liona for quite some time before Liona even realizes that Val was looking at her.
“Do you see what I mean?” I say to Val.
“You’re kidding me,” Val says menacing.
“No, I’m not. I’m dead serious. Christian offered to come up with an excuse to take me home. If the staff acts that way, you can only imagine what I had to endure at the hands of the entitled daughters!” I spit. I tried to say the last part under my breath, but unbeknownst to me, Grace has ears like a bat!
“Is Liona being a problem again?” she asks loudly, glaring at Liona who has turned completely white and is now shrinking near the counter. Shit! I didn’t mean for her to hear me and apparently, Liona has been warned about this. I don’t want her to lose her job.
“No, Grace. I was talking about the first night that I met you guys. I probably shouldn’t have even brought it up. I’m sorry.” I throw a look over to Liona that lets her know that she owes me one. Her expression indicates that she is clearly quite chastised. I think Grace knows what I’m doing but she doesn’t let on, although she does take this opportunity to reinforce the reprimand.
“Well, as long as you know that no one in my home should be made to feel uncomfortable by anyone on my staff, and certainly not my son’s girlfriend. I don’t care how long they have been on staff here, they can be replaced!” Grace says. The cook, Mrs. Johnson, makes the “tsk, tsk” noise.
“Certaines personnes n’apprennent jamais,” she says.
“Tu m’étonnes!” I respond and she and I laugh about it.
“Now, Ladies, behave,” Grace says, washing her hands in the sink. I know that she doesn’t speak French but I have a feeling that she knew we were misbehaving. Mrs. Johnson just winks at me. Mia smiles sadly at our inside joke and walks out to the patio. I follow her and just stand there with her for a while.
“You and Christian have a perfect relationship,” she says softly. “It’s like you never fight.” I laugh quietly at her misconception.
“Oh, we fight alright. In fact, we’ve had some real doozies!” I confess.
“I can’t believe that,” Mia says. “You are so in love, I can’t even imagine you having a fight or even a disagreement.”
“Make no mistake, Sis. We love very hard; but when you love hard, you fight hard, too,” I say, shaking my head. “I remember the fight that we had about John Flynn…”
“You fought about Dr. Flynn?” Mia gasped.
“Oh yes! It was nuclear…” I lament.
Two months earlier…
“Why would you go see John about me without telling me?” Christian is furious. I didn’t even get a chance to tell him myself about my meeting with Flynn two days ago. Then again, it slipped my mind and I wasn’t actually forthcoming with the information. I will not feel guilty about this. I will not allow him to make me feel guilty about this either. Fucking John Flynn.
“I wanted to help you, Christian, and I didn’t know how,” I state.
“Why didn’t you just ask me?” he barks.
“Because it was a question that you would not have been able to answer. I needed to know what was the best course of action…”
“So you go behind my back!” he spit. He’s not understanding this at all. I only wanted to help him.
“I didn’t go behind your back, Baby. It wasn’t a secret,” I try to explain.
“Don’t Baby me, Anastasia. It was a secret. You didn’t tell me. I had to find out from him!” He is getting angrier and angrier. What in the hell is this all about?
“Okay! Fine, Christian! It wasn’t a damn secret! He just told you before I got the chance to tell you.” Why the hell is he so pissed off at me?
“Oh, I am only too sure that you were going to tell me!” he snaps. I’m having flashbacks of the phone fight in Anguilla. He’s being unreasonable. Something’s missing. What exactly did Flynn tell him? The look on my face must have been completely unreadable because if my actual thoughts would have come out, there’s no way that the next words that I heard would have fallen out of his mouth. “Exactly how did you plan to explain to me that you went to my shrink to get him to manipulate me for whatever your purposes are?”
I felt my whole body shake. I opened my mouth and I have to say that I have never heard the voice that came out before.
“What!?” I think I could best describe it as a wailing shriek. Every cell in my body was trembling. “What the fuck!?” Same wailing shriek. “Has that trust-issue-having-paranoid-delusional-mother-fuck-er rubbed off on you?” The room is vibrating and my hair is shaking around my face. I snatch my purse off my arm and slam it onto the shaking breakfast bar. I can’t even hear him anymore. I am so unbelievably pissed that my ears cannot interpret coherent words. This paranoid asshole completely misinterpreted my words and my intentions and instead of getting clarification from me, he tells my emotionally fragile, control-freak, jump-to-conclusions boyfriend that I came to this quack in some sort of covert attempt to conspire against my boyfriend. What’s worse is that my emotionally fragile, control-freak, jump-to-conclusions boyfriend believed him!
Holy cow Batman and fuck me sideways!
I’m dreaming! This is a dream! I’m going to wake up! He believed him! He believed this shit!
I didn’t know I was saying the words aloud but some outer-body me is watching Christian’s face morph into pure horror while I reach for my hair in an attempt to stop the curls from shaking—a futile attempt since pure hatred and adrenaline has my hands shaking just as badly as my head. I feel someone touch my arms and it’s like fire searing through my skin and I jump away from the grasp.
Fucking asshole piece of fucking shit…again, I don’t know if I have verbalized the words or not.
Water… I need water.
I open the cupboard to retrieve a tumbler for some water, but my fingers are not as faithful as I would like. The tumbler slips from my hands and crashes to the kitchen floor. For a moment, that’s all that I remember.
“ANASTASIA!” I come to myself and my hands are still shaking. Angry tears are burning my cheeks and I am standing in a graveyard of beautiful Woodbury dinnerware shattered at my feet.
Shit! Did I do this!? Fucking asshole fucking Flynn. My throat is burning. I can only assume that I was doing some kind of banshee scream while I was destroying Christian’s beautiful kitchen. Now, I am angryand humiliated. I shakily reach for my purse and pull out my wallet. I’m on autopilot now, not really sure what I’m doing. I still hear myself weeping… I can’t feel it, but I hear it. Christian, Gail, and Jason all stare at me while I pull out all of the cash in my wallet along with two of my credit cards and place the items on the counter, my hands still trembling. I’m too embarrassed to raise my head. I step out of the Woodbury graveyard and make my way across the great room to the door.
“I fucking never fucking want to see John fucking Flynn again as long as I fucking live! Chuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!” Come or don’t come, but I’m out of here. I run through the door and don’t remember how I ended up in the parking structure next to one of the Audis. Chuck is standing there looking at me. I’m holding stilettos in my hand and my right ankle hurts. Again, I can only deduce that I tweaked it running out of the apartment and had the good sense remove my stilettos before I face plant in the parking lot.
“You have keys… I know you do…” I am still livid, I can barely form my words. Chuck pushes a remote and one of the Audis respond. I jump into the back seat. Chuck gets into the driver’s seat and starts the car.
“Drive,” I breathe.
“Where do you want to go, Ana?” he asks.
“God dammit mother fucking drive!” I scream… so he drives.
“I was completely livid with your brother, Mia. I couldn’t believe that he would ever take Flynn’s word over mine. I was so hurt by it that I couldn’t even speak to him.”
“For how long?” Mia asks incredulously.
“Ten days,” Christian’s voice says as he is walking out onto the patio. “It was pretty bad.” He puts his arms around my waist from behind and pulls me close to him.
“Did you move out, Ana?” Mia asks.
“No, I stayed at Escala,” I respond.
“She just gave me the worst silent treatment I have ever had,” Christian laments.
Two months earlier…
“Boss… what happened?” Jason stands there looking at me while Gail has finally snapped out of her stupor and begins to clean the broken dishes. I run my hands through my hair. What the fuck have I done?
“I think I’ve majorly fucked up this time,” I respond. Jason frowns.
“Worse than the Elliot mix-up?” he asks.
“Much worse than the Elliot mix-up,” I say. Jason knows that’s serious since the Elliot mix-up landed me in the hospital.
“Worse than the Anguilla situation?” he presses.
“Worlds beyond the Anguilla situation,” I respond. Again, Jason knows how bad that was since we almost had to cut an international trip short.
“Bigger than Green Valley?” Poor Jason, he keeps trying.
“Exponentially bigger than Green Valley,” I shake my head. “Did you see her? She was shaking like a damn earthquake. She wasn’t that angry when Gerald told her that David’s plea might work.”
“Christian,” Jason asks, “exactly what did you do?” I sigh heavily.
“I took Flynn’s word over her’s,” I say finally. Gail groans mournfully at the confession. Yeah, I know.
“Why would you do that?” Jason asks.
“John has never steered me wrong. Why would he do it now?”
“John doesn’t love you, Man!” Jason scolds. “That was pretty damn stupid. What did he say?”
“I can’t talk about it,” I sigh. “I have to try to fix this shit.” I grab my keys and jacket and dash out of the door I had entered not 20 minutes earlier. It’s hard to believe this whole thing took place in that small amount of time.
A few minutes after I leave the parking garage, I pull up at John’s office. I see that his car is still here, so I go inside.
“He’s with a patient right now, Mr. Grey. I don’t have you down for an appointment. Would you like to make one?” His receptionist says fluttering her eyelashes at me.
“No, I’ll wait. I only want a few moments of his time,” I say as I sit in the lobby and thumb through my emails. As if he knew I was about to inquire, Davenport sends a text.
**At Freeway Park, Sir. She is sitting at a picnic table. She won’t let me near her. **
Fuck, she is pissed. I hope the paparazzi don’t come near her right now. Several minutes later, Flynn’s door opens and he is showing his last patient out of the office. I stand and he frowns.
“Christian, back so soon?” he says, his look puzzled.
“John, I need to chat.”
“It’s late, Christian,” he protests.
“I assure you, it will only take a moment.” I’m surprised by how calm I am, but I think it’s because I know how pivotal this particular meeting is. John nods and leads me into his office. I sit on the sofa and he sits in the chair across from me.
“I need you to answer some questions for me, John. They are very important,” I say, still calm.
“You need me to answer some questions.” It was more of a statement than a question. I nod. “Okay, fire away, Christian.”
“I need to know exactly what Anastasia said to you when she came to see you.” John sighs.
“We’ve already been through this, Christian,” he says impatiently.
“I know, John, but this is really important…” because I need to listen through different ears.
“She said that she wasn’t willing to come to joint session with you because she didn’t want to voice her concerns to you,” he said.
“That you weren’t handling your emotions well.”
“Why did she say she came to you in the first place?” I ask.
“Because she needed help. She didn’t want to hold your hand through therapy and she was on the fence about the best way to handle it.” That smarts.
“Was that exactly what she said, John?” He looks at me curiously, then thinks for a moment.
“She said that she didn’t want to make it seem like she had to hold your hand through therapy.” Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
“Do you see how different that is than what you just told me?” I ask.
“Unfortunately, I don’t, Christian.” Do I really have to school my psychiatrist?
“The first one sounded like I’m lost and confused and that she has to lead the horse to water or he won’t drink—the horse being me. The second one sounded like she wants me to be strong and find my way through this without her having to be there to guide me every step of the way.” John thinks for a moment.
“Yes, I can see how one could see it that way,” he concedes.
What!? Fuck me.
“What else did she say, John?” As John reiterated the conversation that he had with Butterfly, I listened with more objective ears instead of the ears to which I had become accustomed—the ones that dictate that everyone was out to get me. I picked apart the conversation bit by bit and then I told John what Butterfly could have meant by the conversation and why she was probably so offended when she left. John still manages to sit there in his superiority. Do you have any fucking idea what you have done, I want to yell.
“Could you have been mistaken? Do you really believe that’s what she was doing? Do you really think that she came in here to talk to you behind my back and get you to help her manipulate me?” The million-dollar question. I already know the answer, but I want to see what he says.
“Honestly, I didn’t even bother looking at it like that,” he responds. “I could have been mistaken…” … But you give me this information then send me out to attack my girlfriend. I am really a fucking fool… first class fucking asshole. I can’t believe this. I can’t fucking believe this. I almost lost Anastasia because he could have been mistaken. That’s it for me.
“John, I don’t know what the problem is. I don’t know why when it comes specifically to Anastasia and her motives towards me, your brain automatically goes into defense mode. You did the same thing that day in my apartment the first day that you met her, and I let that slide because she held her own. Now, you come to me with a concern and you could have very well been mistaken about your interpretation of her intentions. You gave me this information and because I trust you, I acted on it. We’ve been pretty compatible because we are both non-trusting of people in general and I could follow your line of reasoning and your thinking. Now, you set things in motion that caused me to react in a manner that could have very well cost me the love of my life. I can’t have that, John. I’m willing to consider a recommendation for a new therapist but unfortunately, I can’t see you anymore. Your tactics are clearly not conducive to what I need at this point. I do thank you for getting me here, but now it’s time for me to move on.” John’s face turns pale.
“Christian, I think you’re being a little hasty,” he tries to persuade me.
“I don’t think so, John. Right now, my girlfriend—the woman that I want to marry someday—is sitting on a bench somewhere in Freeway Park no doubt feeling angry and betrayed; and although she was wise enough to take her personal security with her, she won’t allow him near her. When I last saw her, she was destroying about $1500 worth of Woodbury dinnerware. My housekeeper had to scream her name to make her stop. When she came to herself, she pulled a wad of bills out of her wallet along with two of her credit cards and left them on the counter—as if I would really care about money at this point . She was screaming and she wouldn’t look at anybody in the room. Do you know why she reacted this way? Because I came home and accused her of using you to manipulate me. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I go back home. She may move out and leave me, I don’t know. What I do know is that she loves me and she has never given me any reason to think otherwise… And I walked in here and let you make me doubt her. I understand if you don’t want to make a recommendation, but when I leave this office today, I won’t be coming back.
“You took what she said and interpreted it for me. You told me what to hear and I foolishly listened to you. Instead of going home and asking my woman exactly what this conversation meant, I took what you said at face value and dumped it in her lap, and it ripped her apart. I don’t know what kind of damage this has done now. You have been a great therapist up to this point, but this is apparently out of your realm of expertise. After you told me what she actually said, I could immediately see the error in your interpretation, but you couldn’t—and you’re the one with the degree. In fact, you seemed a little offended that I interpreted it differently. You can’t do that to people, John. If you are relaying a message to someone, you can’t take what you heard, run it through your filters, and give your interpretation of what you heard. You have to give exactly what you heard. As a businessman, I am only too aware of the importance of communication. I know that the listener already has to interpret my body language and delivery and they don’t need to contend with my rephrasing someone’s words. This kind of mistake in my business could cost me the deal and millions of dollars. In this case, it may have cost me my relationship. If this were one of my mergers, the party at fault would be out of a job. Likewise, you’re fired.”
“I really wish you would reconsider, Christian. There’s no reason to end a professional relationship that has thrived for so long so abruptly because of a misunderstanding. This can easily be rectified if I were to talk to Anastasia and apologize for my error.” Oh, how wrong you are!
“I’m afraid that you can’t fix this no matter what you do, John. Anastasia cursed you so badly that I’m not even certain that I could guarantee your safety if the two of you are in the same room.” I respond.
“Well! That’s hardly professional!” He says. I have to laugh a little at his arrogance, even though this is certainly no laughing matter.
“That’s the problem. Can you even begin to say anything about professionalism after what you did today? Your superior attitude about this whole thing won’t even allow you to admit that you made a mistake. You’re blaming this whole thing on ‘one’s perception,’ not ‘your interpretation.’ I doubt that you would even bother offering to apologize to Ana had I not fired you.” He didn’t bother denying it because he knows that I am telling the truth. “I’m actively looking for another shrink, John. If you have any recommendations, I am open to suggestions.” I stand to leave.
“Christian, I really don’t want to lose you as a patient. We have made so much progress and I would really like to see your journey from here on out.” I can tell that he’s sincere. Unfortunately, on a professional level, the damage is already done.
“I’m not saying that I am never going to speak to you again, John. However, as my therapist, I just can’t reconcile that you were willing to dismiss something so important to me by just jumping to gun. I don’t understand how you could have so grossly misinterpreted this; how you could have caused a misunderstanding, to make such an astronomically bad judgment call. I take responsibility for my own actions in this matter, don’t get me wrong; but John, when I am sinking and I don’t know which way I am going, I come to you and I trust you to guide me in the right direction. Today, you led me straight to hell. I understand that I have to deal with the consequences of my own actions, and I will. You have to deal with the consequences of yours as well. I’ll keep in touch, but I’m not your patient anymore.”
I really don’t want to hear him grovel anymore because I’m not going to change my mind. It took a hard hand and an even harder shell to deal with the screwed-up clusterfuck of a man that I am, and I understand that completely. However, when a psychiatrist allows his own mistrust and judgment to affect the advice and guidance that he gives to his patients, he is treading on dangerous ground. I‘m already fucked up—I can’t have him fuck me up even further.
I get into my RS7 and briefly contemplate following Ana and Davenport. I know that she needs to be away from me right now, but I don’t want her to think that I don’t care.
**Is she okay? **
I can’t think of anything else to say.
**Still alive, Sir. **
Smart ass. The million dollar question.
**Did she take off her shoes? **
**Her shoes were off before we got to the parking structure, Sir. I think she may have twisted her ankle. **
Shit! This is bad. This is really bad.
**Does it look swollen? **
**I can’t say. She still won’t let me near her. **
I was wrong. This is not bad. It’s catastrophic.
I opt to just go back to Escala and wait for them. If she is in any kind of pain and she won’t let him near her, things are worse off than I thought.
An hour later, Davenport is still telling me that Ana won’t let him near her. The sun has gone down and it is getting chilly outside now. When I last spoke to him, he indicated that she had cried for quite some time and had gone completely catatonic. Just when I couldn’t take it anymore and opted to go to Freeway Park to bring her home, Davenport comes through the door carrying my Butterfly.
Don’t kill him. Grey. Don’t kill the man.
“Why. Are you carrying. My girlfriend?” It’s taking everything in me not to tackle him and snatch her away like a caveman.
“She’s exhausted, Sir,” he explains. “She wouldn’t let me near her while she was conscious. I had to wait until she was damn-near falling off the bench.” I take a deep breath and reach out for her, but Davenport makes no motion to hand her to me. Does he want me to kill him?
“Sir, before she went unconscious, she made me promise not to hand her over to you. She said that she would know if I did and that she would pack her things and leave tomorrow if I do it. Having said that, as you are my boss, I will hand her over to you if you request me to do so. Do you want me to do so?”
That’s the one thing that he could say that would make me let him continue to carry my girlfriend.
“Take her to the bedroom, please,” I say through my teeth. He nods at me and takes her to our room. She won’t even let me touch her. I can’t believe I allowed this fucker to convince me that Ana would betray me in any way. What the fuck was I thinking?
“The next few days were absolute murder,” I say to Mia, recounting the memory of the days after I divorced John Flynn. “She slept in the bed next to me but slept as far away from me as possible, sometimes teetering dangerously on the edge so that I thought she would fall off. If I wandered too close to her in the middle of the night, I found myself alone in a cold bed, often awakened by one of my nightmares. One night I found her asleep in the television room, a sitcom rerun playing on the flat screen. After the first two days, I stayed up later and let her have the bed so that she could be more comfortable. I fell asleep at my desk a couple of times. She wouldn’t say a word to me; she wouldn’t even look at me, not even by accident. She knew that it was harder on me for her to be near me and not speak to me than it was for her to leave or move out. At least then I wouldn’t have to look at her every day.”
“How did you deal with it if it was so hard?” Mia asks. By now we are all sitting on the patio sofas wrapped in coats and afghans as Ana and I recount our tale.
“It hurt,” I confess. “It hurt like hell. She had completely shut me down. I tried to apologize to her, but the moment that I started talking, she walked away. It was mental warfare and she was a bigger master than I could ever be! It was like I simply did not exist. I have no idea how she could shut me out like that. It was like I was cut inside and literally bleeding to death.” Mia looks over at Ana.
“I was hurt, too,” she says softly and matter-of-factly. “I had promised that I wouldn’t leave, that I wouldn’t run away and hide, but I couldn’t get past the pain. I have tried many times to explain what I felt but I’ve never been able to hit it right on the head. I labeled it conflusterbated. It’s a combination of just about every bad feeling that you can think of served on top of a heavy dose of confusion. If you take every human emotion and introduce them to the body all at once, one of two things will happen—either you will go insane from the onslaught or you will become numb to it. I experienced both. My immediate reaction was insanity. Then, for something like 10 days, I couldn’t feel anything. Nothing could get through. When I came to work, I could separate myself from what was going on and effectively do my job. When I got home, I shut down again. Nobody outside knew what was going on… not even you guys,” she says to Mia.
“I’ll say!” She says, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “So, what finally broke the ice?” Mia asks. Ana sighs heavily.
“We had been at a stalemate for several days… over a week. Like he said, he had pretty much given me the bed, so it wasn’t odd to wake up and he wasn’t there. I don’t know what made me get up this night, but I did. I couldn’t sleep, so I went to the kitchen for some orange juice. There were no lights on in his office so I just assumed that he was sleeping in one of the guest rooms. Now, I don’t know if you had ever seen the security hub at Escala, but I hadn’t. There are more monitors in that room than there are rooms at Escala. I could hear his voice coming from the room. I had shut down so badly that I didn’t remember hearing his voice for several days. Do you know how someone’s voice sounds when they are gargling?” Mia nods. “That’s how he sounded to me, and when I heard it, I just left the room. So when I heard his voice clearly this time off in this room talking to someone at 3:00 in the morning, I followed it. Now imagine coming into a room with upwards of 30 flat screen monitors in it, and every one of them has a different picture of you.”
My little sister’s mouth falls open and she looks to me for answers.
“It was all I had.” That’s the only explanation that I could offer. She looks at Ana again.
“I finally realized that he had no one to talk to. He was dealing with all of these new feelings and no one cared. True, I was dealing with some emotions, but emotions weren’t new to me. What’s more, I chose not to speak about them. Christian was fighting this battle all by himself. Not matter what happened, he always had somebody to talk to. Either it was Flynn, or me, or even that horrible woman. Now he had nobody and he was actually going crazy. He had his hand on one of the monitors on my face, actually telling me about the day that he had before he fell asleep face down on Mission Control with his hand still on the monitor.
“My feelings were so conflicted at that moment. Part of me wanted to touch him and tell him that everything was going to be okay while the other part was occupied by this hollow, bubbling, boiling feeling like bile churning in your stomach. At that moment, the only feeling that I could identify besides sympathy was betrayal. I couldn’t believe he thought I would do something like that to him. I didn’t want to see him broken, but seeing him broken is what actually made me come to my senses. It took him a moment to register that I was actually speaking to him the next day. I could see it in his eyes, he thought he was hallucinating.” Mia is still clearly stunned by this realization. She simply turns to me without a word, prompting me to continue the story.
“I got to a point where I wouldn’t come into the room with her because it hurt too much. Imagine loving someone with every cell of your being. You can’t touch them, you can’t talk to them, you can’t hold them… but you have to see them everyday. It’s emotional torture. I was about to move out and let her have Escala. The only reason why I didn’t is because I knew that I probably would have ended up in the hospital again and that would have pissed her off even more. I could see her and Mom coming at me guns a-blazing… literally! She’s right, though. When she spoke to me, I was positive that I was hallucinating. At first, I didn’t move my mouth. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, answering her when she wasn’t speaking to me…”
“What did she say?” Mia asks softly.
“‘We need to talk,'” I responded. “When I didn’t react, she asked if I heard her…”
“It was a little scary,” Butterfly interjected. “He shrunk back in the bar stool and he was looking at me like he had seen a ghost.” She shivered at the recollection. “He finally acknowledged me and we agreed to meet for lunch since it was the middle of the week. I think it was a Wednesday…”
“It was a Thursday,” I correct her almost too quickly. She looks over at me, a bit taken aback. Oh yes, Ms. Steele… I’m certain. “Thursday morning, August 23, 2012 at 8:19 in the morning. I was trying to eat a ham and cheese omelet with whole wheat toast and a cup of coffee and you were about to eat a plain bagel with cream cheese and strawberry jam. You were wearing a blue Coast Lana Jersey Dress—V-neck, sleeveless, draped in the front with a black belt, and blue Prada suede platform peep-toe stilettos.” She’s almost glaring at me now. Mia is stunned.
“And what were you wearing?” Mia asks. I know she’s being facetious, but I remember that, too.
“Ermenegildo Zegna Australian wool Houndstooth made-to-measure double-breasted gray suit with a black and white textured tie and Caesar Picotti gray Balmoral shoes.” I start to feel a little subconscious about knowing the details so well, but I can’t help it. It was like a gift from God that she was speaking to me again and I wanted to remember every detail just in case she stopped again before the day was over. I didn’t make eye contact with my sister or my girlfriend in case they were staring at me like a little green man from Mars. Their silence confirmed my suspicions.
“He’s right,” Ana said softly. I can hear regret in her voice. “I don’t completely remember what I was wearing, but I remember the Houndstooth suit. We had lunch at Palomino and I remember because he ordered a meal and didn’t eat it. That was the first time I had ever seen him do that in my life.” Her voice is barely above a whisper.
“I had lumps in my stomach,” I say, still not raising my head. “I didn’t think the food would stay down.” She swallows so hard that I could hear her throat contracting. I look up at her and her eyes are filling with tears. I didn’t mean to do this. I don’t want her to hurt over this all over again. “It was a bad moment in our lives, Butterfly. It was my fault and it won’t happen again. Please don’t cry.” Her glassy blue eyes blink a few times and she nods.
“I didn’t mean to bring up a painful time, you guys,” Mia says apologetically. Butterfly shakes her head.
“It’s okay, Mia. The bottom line is that we got through it okay. It was rough… not the roughest time we’ve had, but pretty rough… and we got through it. So don’t worry. Difficult times don’t last always.” Mia smiles sadly at her.
“Is everything okay between you and Ethan?” I ask, noting the obvious reason for the direction of this conversation. Mia shrugs.
“Yes… I’m probably just being all girly and stupid, but he seems a little distant since we found the apartment. I was telling Ana that we move in at the first of the month and it would seem that things are moving along great, but he just seems so damn distracted. I’m afraid that he might be changing his mind.”
“Well, if he is, he’s an idiot… and make no mistake that your brothers will have no problem reminding him that it wouldn’t be a good idea to hurt you,” I say with a wink. She smiles at me.
“Don’t beat up my boyfriend, Christian,” she says. “Besides, I wouldn’t want him to stay with me out of fear.” She rises and kisses me on the cheek before going back inside. I look over at my Butterfly who is now nervously playing with her hands.
“We shouldn’t have brought this up today, I think,” I say softly while caressing her hand.
“I didn’t know it was that bad… that I was that bad,” she laments.
“You weren’t that bad, Butterfly. I was. I let someone outside of our relationship who knew nothing about you influence my opinion and trust in you in the worst way. I can understand why you were so hurt, confused, and withdrawn and I wouldn’t have blamed you if you never spoke to me again. I got just what I deserved, so please don’t ever blame yourself for my behavior.”
“I just… I never want to hurt you, Christian. I didn’t know that it affected you so severely. I mean I knew but… I didn’t know…” I wipe away a stray tear from her cheek with my thumb.
“I’ll admit that it wasn’t easy to deal with. I mean think about it—I’m accustomed to having everything that I want, when and how I want it, and here I am being denied something that I want on a cellular level. You were right there next to me in the same house and I couldn’t even hear your voice. It made me realize how just how much I had hurt you. I hope you remember that I just didn’t know what to believe at that time and that’s why I fired Flynn.”
“He did exactly what I was trying not to do. That’s what upset me so badly. I know that you are a strong man, but you were still very impressionable in terms of emotion and trust. I didn’t want to cross that line where your emotions and judgment were influenced by my professional expertise instead of my love for you. He took your trust in his judgment and used it against me and against you to impress his own opinions of a critical situation—and he was completely wrong. That’s the exact conversation that we had when he first met me and he did exactly what he insinuated that I was doing. I was horrified that he did that! It was not just unprofessional—it was unethical. What’s worse is that I am sure that he saw nothing wrong with it.”
I couldn’t argue with her because she was spot on in that analysis. That’s why I had to fire him. I was at a crossroads and he refused to recognize how delicate the situation really was.
“Did you ever rectify the Helping Hands situation?” I asked. She sighed.
“It was difficult since I couldn’t tell Grace about what happened and I surely wasn’t going to force you to confess something that occurred as a result of your therapy. We finally just agreed that he and I would not cross patients at all. I can’t be responsible for the crazy advice that he may give to some distraught mother and unlike him, I can’t impose my opinion of his intentions or abilities on anyone else. All I can say is that I hope his malpractice insurance is up to date!”
Helping Hands almost lost a good therapist when Butterfly refused to work with John. She couldn’t tell my mother why, she just refused to work with him and threatened to leave if there was no other option. I never told her that I talked to Grace while she and I weren’t speaking and told her what John had done. We had known John for years and had only known Butterfly for a few months, but my mother was not willing to let her go. She had offered to bow out and let John stay, but Mom wouldn’t hear of it.
He never assisted me in finding another psychiatrist either. He almost tried to retain my medical records instead of releasing them to my new psychiatrist. He was very bitter that I fired him. We finally got a recommendation from Maxine’s office for someone who was accustomed to dealing with extremely delicate situations. I had to start all over with my life story until my Dad gently convinced Flynn to release my medical records… in an official capacity, of course.
“The temperature is nicer than I thought it would be,” Butterfly says rubbing my arms around her waist and changing the subject. “I thought it would be colder today.”
“Maybe you feel warmer because you are wrapped in my arms,” I say. She looks over her shoulder and smiles at me.
“You could be right, Mr. Grey,” she says seductively. I feel so lucky to be spending my Thanksgiving with this beautiful woman. I lean down and kiss her gently on the lips. I am lost in Butterfly’s beautiful blue eyes when my trance is broken my my sister’s shrill shrieking voice.
“Oh my God!”
Her cry curdled my blood and sent me nearly crashing through the patio doors as Valerie screams, “Ana! Christian! Come quick!”
Typhoid Mary was a cook and a carrier of typhoid salmonella who thought washing her hands was an unnecessary waste of time. She kept changing jobs and, as a result, spread the typhoid disease for 11 years resulting in the deaths of an estimated 50 people, and then she was quarantined for 21 years until she died.
“Certaines personnes n’apprennent jamais.”—”Some people never learn.”
“Tu m’étonnes!”—colloquial, more sarcastic way of saying “never would have guessed/oh really”
Well, my lovelies, in my usual Bronze Goddess fashion, I have left you with a cliff hanger. You expected it… admit it… but you still love me.
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Love and Handcuffs!