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 7—Still In Hell
Oh my God! Please tell me she didn’t. Please tell me that I‘m not seeing what I think I’m seeing…
I was in a meeting this afternoon when the call came through that something was wrong with Butterfly. I was trying to get out of the meeting, but I was finally locking down the deal with Feldon, River Rouge, and Russia and I couldn’t possibly leave at that crucial moment. I knew that Butterfly would understand, but I had no idea what was really happening. I had Jason keep tabs with Davenport to see what was going on.
Jason texted me that Butterfly had locked herself inside her office and wouldn’t let anyone in. They were aware than she wasn’t hurting herself or anything—not that I expected that anyway—but I have discovered that my Butterfly is much like me in that she has cameras installed inside her office. However, hers are there for an entirely different reason. She deals with people with mental and emotional issues and problems. Although the cameras have no sound to protect the privacy of the patients, they are also there to protect Butterfly in case one of her patients has a moment of uncontrollable instability. Marilyn watches the cameras while Butterfly is in session to assure her safety. So when she locked the door, Marilyn could see that she was just sitting at her desk, even though she couldn’t see what Butterfly was doing.
Marilyn and Davenport were relaying details to Jason who, in turn, relayed them to me about what was going on with Butterfly while she was in the office. According to them, she sat there for hours just looking at the computer. Davenport informed us that Butterfly had unknowingly been treating one of her attackers for the last several months. Well, maybe not one of her attackers, but the woman confessed to being the person who shot the video as well as the person who sent the video to Butterfly last week. At Butterfly’s screaming request, Davenport put her out after having to assault her companion to get them to leave. Once he returned, he discovered that she had locked herself in the office. Marilyn had a key but was remiss to use it since Butterfly is her boss.
By the time I seal the deals and get away from the meeting with the steel companies, at least three hours have past and it is very late afternoon. When I get to Butterfly’s office and she still hasn’t emerged from the seat at her desk in front of the computer, I request the key from Marilyn. When I open the door, she is sitting at her computer and I am horrified by what I see.
She’s not crying. She’s not talking. She’s not blinking. She’s not moving. She’s not doing anything. The only thing that moves on her is her index finger. It clicks the left button of the mouse strategically positioned over a button on the screen labeled “replay.” She has been sitting here for approximately four hours…watching that fucking video! How many times did she watch it? Why didn’t Jason or Barney or somebody’s delete that shit from her email? Fuck!
She is completely catatonic right now. There is no way to read what she’s feeling or thinking or anything.
“Anastasia, turn it off, please.” She doesn’t move. I can’t stand watching this video. I’ve only gotten to the part where they pull her out of the trunk and then I can’t watch it anymore; but she has watched it repeatedly—for hours—and now, she won’t speak.
“Anastasia, Baby, please…” I try to get through to her again, but it’s like she doesn’t hear me. Her eyes are fixated on the screen and if I didn’t see her sitting here, I would think that she wasn’t even alive. She’s scaring me now. What’s going on?
“Baby, talk to me.” She still doesn’t move. I motion to Davenport and he nods, pulling the plug from the computer. The screen goes black. Butterfly turns to look at me.
There is nothing there.
Her eyes are completely empty—a deep, beautiful ocean blue that I have become accustomed to, but there is absolutely nothing in them. No anger, no pain, no questions…
It’s like I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. I put my hands on either side of her face.
“Butterfly… are you okay?”I question, and I can hear the crack in my own voice. She still says nothing. Oh my God… where is my Butterfly?
“Baby, please… say something. I need you to say something to me. I need to know that you’re okay.” She doesn’t flinch. She doesn’t even blink.
“Boss… I think she’s in shock,” Jason says, softly. “We need to get her out of here.” I look up at him and nod.
“Okay.” I look back at Butterfly. “Baby, we’re going to take you home, okay?” I reach down and take her hand wondering if I will have to carry her to the SUV. Instead, she stands in her stocking feet still looking at me and waiting.
Her stocking feet… She took off her shoes! Oh, shit! Oh shit oh shit oh shit!
“I’ve got you, Baby,” I say in a soft, soothing voice pulling her to me. I wrap my arm around her waist and lead her to the elevator. She cooperates with me and walks without resisting, stopping when I stop her, and looking straight ahead. When the elevator comes, I lead her into the elevator and we ride in silence. When we get to the ground floor, we realize that we have yet another problem.
The paparazzi is here.
Fuck! What do they want?
“What the fuck?” I look over at Jason.
“Sir, don’t you know?” Know what? I shake my head. “Sullivan was arrested today. Whitmore is under investigation on corruption charges, and the news is out that most of this was triggered by what happened to Her Highness.” I sigh heavily. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. I shake my head in dismay. Still no response from Butterfly.
“Is there another way out of here?” I ask Marilyn.
“The service entrance in the back,” she responds.
“Where is your car parked?” I ask her.
“Coincidentally, I park in the back.” I nod.
“I will take Butterfly out the back to Marilyn’s car and get her back to Escala. Marilyn, will you please drive her car back to my apartment?” She nods. “Jason, you and Davenport will have to create a distraction for me. You go out the front and bring all of the Audis to the curb and wait for me, including Butterfly’s. Just stand out there looking official. When she and I are well on our way to Escala, Marilyn will come out, get in Butterfly’s car, and drive it back to the apartment. Have Williams and Lawrence waiting at the service elevator at Escala when I get there.”
“Yes Sir,” Jason says, and he and Davenport go about the business of creating a distraction. I nod to Marilyn and she takes me and Butterfly out the service entrance to her car. I forget that Butterfly wasn’t wearing any shoes and now her nylons will be ruined. I can’t be concerned about that right now, though. I sit her in the passenger seat of the Marilyn’s gold Toyota Camry and attach her seat belt. I turn her face to me and kiss her gently, hoping for some sort of response.
My heart is breaking every second that I see her like this. I don’t know how much of this I can take, I really don’t, but right now, she needs me and I’m going to take care of her.
“Say nothing to the press. Just walk out to the car normally. Get in the car and stay between the SUV’s.” I instruct Marilyn.
“Okay,” she nods before taking the keys to Butterfly’s Audi and giving me the keys to her Camry. I bought Butterfly the Audi S7 in Estoril Blue after she refused to drive her Chrysler 300 anymore. She paid off her lease and took the 300 back to the dealership once she saw the Audi. I remember that she was beside herself with glee over the car and she has driven it every day since. I’m sure she won’t mind Marilyn driving it back to the apartment to make sure that it gets there safely.
I get into the driver’s seat and start the car. Once I exit the parking lot, I look behind me to see if we are being followed. No one. Good. We gave them the slip.
“We got away from them, Butterfly. I’m sure that more of them will be waiting at Escala, but you know how this goes. There won’t be many of them since they think we’re at your office.” I decided to have Jason, Davenport, and Marilyn wait to leave Butterfly’s office until we are safely inside Escala and I text Jason as much. Sure enough, there are paparazzi at Escala—more than I expected, but still not many. They are not expecting to see a Camry with Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele inside, so they pay the car absolutely no attention as it pulls into the Escala parking garage.
Perfect! Now to get her upstairs.
Lawrence and Williams are waiting in the garage at the freight elevator as expected. I get out of the car and walk over to the passenger side, release Butterfly’s seatbelt, and lift her in my arms. Even as dead weight, she is light as a feather. Lawrence gets into the driver’s seat of the Camry to take it to a visitor’s parking space so as not to arouse suspicion while Williams accompanies Butterfly and me to the service elevator. Again, we ride in silence up to the penthouse and I carry Butterfly pass a stunned Gail Taylor into our bedroom and sit her on the bed.
“Notify Jason that we have made it home,” I instruct Williams. He nods and heads to the security office. I turn back to Butterfly. The last time I got the silent treatment from her, it was murder, but this is different.
“I’m going to take care of you, Butterfly. I’m here, Baby.” She turns her head to look at me. It’s the only acknowledgement that I get. She’s not completely gone, but she’s not here.
I get her undressed and put her to bed. She lies there looking at the ceiling. If I didn’t see her chest moving up and down, I wouldn’t think she was alive. Again, I leave the door open so that I can hear her and walk slowly into the great room.
What do I do?
I look up into Jason’s questioning face.
“She was watching that video for hours. She watched it over and over again. I couldn’t watch it after they took her out of the trunk and she watched it for hours,” I say to him in disbelief.
“Boss,” he says hesitantly, “how is she now?”
“She’s the same. She hasn’t said a word. I don’t even think she blinked. Shit! I better take her to the bathroom!” I rush back to the room and pull the duvet back, gently helping Butterfly sit up.
“Come on, Baby.” She willing moves to my gentle coaxing and I lead her to the bathroom. I pull down her underwear and she immediately begins to urinate. This is more than I can take, I think. I am like a fish out of water. I don’t know what to do for her. I wait for a moment to be sure that she is finished. Then I clean her and take her back to bed. I lay her down and she stares blankly in front of her again. I gently stroke her face.
“I’ll take care of you, Butterfly. Whatever you need, I’ll be there for you. If you can hear me, please come back to me.”
I kiss her forehead and leave the room.
“Christian,” Jason’s voice stops me from running right into him as I am walking with my head down. “Maybe you should take her to the hospital.” I throw a look at him that could have sliced through his body. “Okay, well at least call Dr. Grey. Someone needs to check her out. You know that I’m right.” I stare at him for a moment longer and nod for him to call my mother. I sit at the breakfast bar for a moment, my elbows on the counter and my hands buried in my hair.
“Can I get you anything, Christian? Some water or something stronger, maybe?” Gail’s kind voice asks. I shake my head. I do need something stronger, but it’s not in the kitchen. Also, it wouldn’t do me any good to get wasted right now… not when Butterfly needs me. One drink won’t hurt though.
I go into my study and pour myself a double shot of bourbon and throw it back quickly. Replacing the bottle and the glass on the shelf, I sit down at my desk and open my email. I click on the video that Butterfly watched repeatedly this afternoon. I couldn’t even watch it once and Butterfly watched it repeatedly. I take a deep breath, click the “play” icon, and grasp my armrests tightly.
It was worse than I had imagined.
The fear on her face…
Listening to her pleading for her life and calling out for her mother…
Seeing her be bludgeoned and then violated so horribly…
Hearing her scream and watching her skin actually ignite momentarily as the first burn was administered…
Watching this heartless bitch holding my Butterfly down with her foot while she ruthlessly burned the third letter into her back…
I’m shaking violently by the time Jason comes into the room. “Christian!” I hear him say, and he closes the study door behind him. As if he could read it in my face, he grabs the trash can and shoves it in my face before the bourbon, my lunch, and the very lining of my stomach are all launched from my body.
“Did you see it?” I cough through my tears. “Have you seen it?” He sighs heavily.
“Yes, sir… I have,” he says mournfully.
“H… how? How could someone… do this…?” I’m barely able to get my words out. I’m still grasping onto the armrests as the computer screen goes black. “Jason… h… how?” Jason puts the trash can on the floor and goes to the door. He calmly calls for Gail and when she steps inside, her horrified look tells me that I look as badly as I feel. I want someone to erase from my mind the vision of my Butterfly being pissed and spit upon, kicked and punched while she was bound and unable to escape. I want to forever forget her cries for mercy… but they are there now. They will forever be etched in my memory and my soul hurts for her. I want to go and hold her and keep her close to me every second of every minute of every hour of every single day for the rest of our lives. I want to keep everything and everyone that could ever hurt her away from her so that she will never know pain again. Most of all, I want every last person in this video to die a long, slow, painful death and as heartless and cruel as it might sound, I take the slightest and tiniest shred of comfort in the fact that the person that shot this video is doing just that!
My breathing starts to come back to normal as Gail wipes my face with a cold washcloth. She puts a glass of water to my mouth and instructs me to take a mouthful and rinse. I follow directions, swishing the water around in my mouth to capture the flavor of bile left in my cheeks from my regurgitation and spit the vile fluid into the trash can. My grip on the armrests release a bit as she tells me to repeat the process, after which she sprinkles a bit of table salt on my tongue and I am finally rid of the awful taste. I taste several swallows of the water to replace the fluids I had lost and notice that my shirt has been damaged in the process as well.
“Sir, your mother is here,” Jason finally informs me once he knows that I can hear him. I nod and take in a deep breath, removing my shirt and throwing it into the trash can as well. I go to greet my mother in a T-shirt and dress pants with sweaty hair and swollen, red, puffy eyes.
“Christian,” she gasps when she sees me, immediately putting her hands on either side of my face. “Wants wrong, Son?” Her voice is strained and tortured and I lean into her hand, taking comfort in her touch. I take a deep breath and look at her.
“It’s Ana. I think she’s in shock or something, Mom. She’s catatonic and I don’t know what to do for her.” My mother’s face blanches.
“What happened?” she asks.
“She saw something very shocking and upsetting. Please, Mom, come and see for yourself.” I lead my reluctant mother to the bedroom where Anastasia is still staring at the ceiling. My mother goes over the bed.
“Anastasia, can you hear me, Darling?” I can’t see what Ana does but she apparently does something that makes my mother say, “yes you can. I’m going to examine you, okay, Dear?” She looks over at me telling me that I need to leave the room. That’s the last thing that I want to do, but I want Butterfly to come back to me, so I comply. I pace impatiently outside the door while Mom checks her out.
“What is it, Mom?” I ask when she comes out of the bedroom.
“She’s fine, Christian… physically anyway, but she’s stunned.” Stunned? I’ve never heard of that before. Reading my thoughts, my mother continues. “She’s… sort of in shock… but not quite there yet because she’s still very coherent. She’s just…” Mom struggles to find the correct explanation. “Whatever she saw has her displaced. I’m not a psychiatrist, so I can’t really explain this, but you may want to take her to the hospital.”
“I can’t take her to the hospital, Mom. Didn’t you see the paparazzi outside? They’ll have a field day with this—they might even traumatize her even more!” I protest.
“Christian, what is going on? Why are you two being hounded by the paparazzi again and why is Anastasia in that room in a state of shock?” Grace Grey has lost her patience. I sigh and take her to my study. I quickly close the video that sent me into a vomiting frenzy and do a Google search for Green Valley and George Sullivan. If Jason knows about it, then it’s on Google by now. Sure enough the news report of Sullivan’s perp walk is the first thing that pops up in the search.
“Sir?” Jason is trying to get my attention. I stand and offer my mother the seat.
“This will explain it, Mom,” I tell her pointing at the news report and video exposing Sullivan and Whitmore. I follow Jason out of the door to see a very irritated Elva McIntyre standing in the great room.
“It looks like someone forgot to tell me something,” my head of Public Relations says, her arms folding. Shit! I did forget to tell her. I look at Jason.
“I called her, Sir,” he admits. “There is way too much publicity and speculation. We won’t be able to do anything without it being some kind of Mission Impossible convert operation… and with Her Highness like this…” He trails off.
“Her Highness like what?” McIntyre barks. Oh, this is just getting better by the minute. “God damn it, Christian, if you don’t tell me about these things in advance, I have no way of heading them off and if you don’t let me in the loop, I have no way of handling them. Now what the hell is going on?” She is quickly losing her patience and I have already lost mine. I run my hands roughly through my hair and actually see a few strands in my hand when I pull them out. McIntyre and Jason quietly look at me and await instructions.
“I am not. Going to keep. Repeating this nightmare. You… sit!” I bark at McIntyre who quickly and quietly makes her way to the sofa. I turn to Jason. My voice is almost at a growl. “You are here, so I assume that Marilyn is either here or has returned to her home.”
“She’s here, Sir,” he says in his official voice.
“Bring her into the great room from wherever she is hiding.” I sigh heavily and pull out my blackberry. I go to my contacts and type in the name I have assigned to the group and type in six words:
**Contingency. Escala. ASAP. Respond to confirm. **
McIntyre has put the word out that there will be a statement from the Grey camp by morning and that members of the press that do not leave Escala property will not be privy to it. The press fled like roaches.
Once again, the large sofa in the great room is full of our friends. I have even put in a call to Amanda since she is here in Seattle and to Ray since this is going to be something that is going to reach in many directions. We are waiting for Ray to arrive when I address the group in the great room, my mother and McIntyre included.
“I wanted to wait for Ray, but someone will fill him in when he gets here…” I begin.
“I’ll take care of it,” Allen volunteers.
“Thank you, Al.” I breathe in a heavy sigh. “Many of you know and some of you are learning for the first time this moment that Anastasia was the victim of a vicious and brutal attack when she was 15. The attack was prompted by Ana’s confession that she had been raped by a boy in her school in Green Valley. She was in a coma for three weeks and… she lost the baby that she didn’t know that she was carrying at the time. No one has every been prosecuted for it.” There are gasps in the room from those who didn’t know with more to come since very few know the whole story. “When Ana was kidnapped, she had run off to be alone because I had started an investigation into her attack without her knowledge. Once the kidnapping ordeal was over, we shared our information. It turns out that the cop that was first on the scene buried the evidence because he suspected that his brother may have been involved in the attack. Anastasia and I have been working together to identify as many people as possible in an attempt to bring them to justice.”
“Why now?” Phillip asks, almost accusing. “Why not before now?”
“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I can only say that I think she was afraid. I mean, she was in a community with a bunch of rich kids and when she tried to out one of them, this is what happened to her.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t explain why she would change her mind and want to do something now!” Garrett still presses for answers. I know what they’re thinking, so I’m going to step up.
“It’s probably because of me,” I confirm. “We want to move on with our lives, and there are chapters in our lives that must be closed before we can. Ana has some bru…” Just as I am about to say the words, water and bile threaten to make a reappearance. I can feel the tears burning the back of my eyes as I see the branding iron pressed on her back and the momentary flames leap from her flesh. Her cries echo in my ears and my knees go out from under me. I am panting for breath again and I am relieved that these are our friends watching this breakdown and not a boardroom full of suits. Several people rush to my aid but I assure them that I am okay, rising back to my feet and taking a few deep breaths.
“Ana has some bruising on her back which has now been camouflaged by a tattoo.”
“Ana has a tattoo?” Valerie asks and Al nods. I continue the tale.
“The bruises are… brands…”
“Brands!?” My mother blurts out. “Like… cattle brands!?”
“Exactly like cattle brands, Mom. I don’t know if any of you can understand that when I saw that and she told me what they were, I was obsessed with getting to the bottom of this. I went to Green Valley and I talked to a few people—the cop was one of them. There is absolutely no remorse. They are a bunch of snobby, cruel, entitled motherfuckers and none of them cares what happened to that girl that was damn near beaten to death, branded in the dirt on a horse ranch, and left dead with her unborn baby already dead inside of her!” I was growling the words by now and Jason put his hand on my shoulder.
“So what happened today and what’s going on now? Why isn’t Jewel speaking?”
“Three things happened today. First—breaking news. The cop that buried the evidence was arrested today and the father of one of the keys players—and the man who paid off the Mortons to keep quiet—has been exposed and is under investigation for all kinds of fraud.”
“No doubt Jewel has seen this.”
“No doubt,” I confirmed Allen’s suspicions. “Second—a horrible confession. Most of you know about the video that showed up last week of the attack…”
“Someone recorded it?” My mother gasps again in horror.
“I told you, Mom. They don’t care.” A tear falls from my mother’s eye and Valerie quickly comforts her. “Nonetheless, the video was filmed by a woman named Melanie Coleman. She is 27 years old and currently dying from cancer. She’s stage IV, I believe—and Ana has been treating her for months for Dignity Therapy.”
“Get the fuck outta here!” Garrett exclaims, anger heavy in his voice.
“Yes. She found out today that Coleman was operating the camera. That’s not the worst of it,” I say.
“What could be worse than that?” Phillip asks.
“Third… Showtime.” I pause, but it only takes a moment for Maxine to figure out what I meant.
“No!” she exclaims in a harsh whisper and I nod.
“What?” Valerie asks.
“She watched the video,” Maxine says solemnly.
“What?” Valerie’s question is more in disbelief now. “Why?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what could have possibly made her want to see that thing, but she did… repeatedly.”
“Oh my God!” Maxine jumps from her seat and dashes to the bedroom where Ana is laying down. I am right behind her. Ana is still on her back, but now her eyes are closed and her breathing is rhythmic. She’s asleep. Maxine examines her closely.
“What are you looking for?” I ask.
“Signs of REM sleep,” she responds quietly before leading me out of the room. “Right now, her brain is not processing things like it normally would. Instead, she’s shut down. It’s a defense mechanism. You have to be prepared for her to have a complete breakdown when she comes out of this. I know that I’m not telling you anything your mother hasn’t already told you, but she needs to go to the hospital.” I begin to protest, but she holds up her hand. “If you are not going to take her to the hospital, then she needs to get as much sleep as possible—not rest, sleep. That means that you can’t be in there groping her, stroking her, breathing in her face, and brushing her hair away so that you can look longingly at her.” Damn! Has this woman spent time in my bedroom? Exactly how much does Butterfly tell her in those damn sessions!? “If she hasn’t snapped out of this in four days, you need to take her to the hospital.”
“She’s not going to the hospital. I can take care of her.” I say, my voice forceful.
“Christian, I appreciate that you love Ana so much and I know that you can squash me like a bug, but know this. I saw that girl when she came back to Washington. I saw first hand what condition she was in. I watched her fight her demons even though at the time, I didn’t know what they were. I watched her rise up from hell even though that fucker Edward David tried to drag her back down there again. I know how powerful you are, but I will fight you and 14 other people more powerful than you all the way up to the President when it comes down to her well-being. I am her doctor. I am her therapist, and I will pull rank on you and get an emergency court order to take her to the hospital in four days.”
She is looking at me unblinking and I don’t know whether to get a background check on her and prepare for battle or admire her for the way she will put it all on the line for my Butterfly. “I don’t want to make an enemy out of you Christian, but I will go toe-to-toe with you all the way to the wall no gloves when it comes down to the woman in that bed.” She is still not blinking and neither am I, but I have chosen to admire her… for now. I just haven’t told her that yet. “We both want what’s best for her. I know that those Batmobiles that move you around the city draw a lot of attention. We can arrange for a private ambulance service to meet you at the service elevator to transport her if it becomes necessary. It will be much easier to do this with your cooperation, but I don’t need it if you won’t give it to me,” she says firmly.
When she gets no argument—and no concession—from me, she turns around and marches into the great room. Grabbing her coat, she leans down and whispers something in Garrett’s ear, then throws a look at Phillip that has him leaping from his seat like a grasshopper. It’s not until she has marched out of the door with Phillip in tow that I realize Ray has arrived. It appears that Allen and Amanda were filling him in on Butterfly’s condition when Monsoon Maxine came breezing through.
“What was that all about?” Allen asks.
“We had a slight difference of opinion,” I respond.
“A difference of opinion that had her running out here without saying anything to any of us?” Valerie accuses.
“It would appear so,” I say. She looks at Garrett.
“What did she say to you?” she asks him.
“‘Keep me posted,'” he says, his gaze never leaving me.
“Why would she say something like that?” Valerie asks, her tone still accusing.
“Why don’t you ask Maxine?” I say, defensively. What the hell is this?
“Oh, we intend to.” Garrett’s tone is confrontational and absolutely seals the fact that these fuckers have all come to interrogate me to see what I’ve done to “Little Ana.”
“What the fuck is this?” I say, my voice a cross of anger and horror—a sound that doesn’t get past Allen and clearly bemuses everyone else. Ray and Amanda remain mute—puzzled, but mute.
“Christian, that’s not necessary!” my mother scolds.
“Oh, but it is, Mom. I want to know what they’re getting at. I want to know what they think I could have possibly done—what in this great wide world I could have possibly done—to put Ana in this state!” I say, my hands gesturing wildly towards the bedroom where Ana lie resting. Let’s put this all out on the floor. Let’s not run around this shit anymore. What the fuck are you fuckers really thinking?
“Christian, you might just be jumping to conclusions here. Nobody’s accused you of anything, Son.” Ray quickly tries to diffuse the situation, but he hasn’t been here since the others got here.
“No? I’m sorry to dispute you, Ray, but you’re a little late to the persecution.” I turn my attention to the others. “Ever since you hit the door, you all have been looking at me like I’ve done something wrong. When Garrett and Phillip started questioning me, they were waiting for me to ‘fess up’ that I had done something to cause this!” I look at Garrett and he couldn’t deny it, neither could any of the others because that’s exactly what they felt when they came into my home. “I left my office and walked into this just like the rest of you. Yet, somehow or another, I became the bad guy before any of you even had any idea of what was happening. Now, you all are looking at me accusingly once more because Maxine goes marching out of here without telling anybody why, like I’ve done something again!”
Silence falls over the room before Allen decides that he should be the spokesperson for the group.
“Chris, it’s just that this is all new to us. None of us knew that Jewel was suffering like this and we’re just trying to get some answers. Yes, you are going to get some questions that may seem a little harsh because everybody is just trying to find out what’s going on. You’re new to our group and we appreciate that you love Jewel so much, but if we come at you in that way it’s only because in some ways you are still an unknown and we tend to approach with caution. You just have to give us the benefit of the doubt, we’re really trying here.”
“Everybody keeps telling me that!” I bark. “Everybody keeps telling me that I need to give people the benefit of the doubt in what they feel about me. How about how I feel? When do my feelings become paramount? Does the fact that I have a lot of money mean that I don’t feel just like everyone else? Why do people treat me like I don’t have a problem or a care in the world? Do you want to know how I feel? How I really feel? I just carried the love of my life up the service elevator to our bedroom, undressed her, sat her on the toilet so that she could piss and put her to bed. I sat there crying, begging for her to come back to me. When she wakes up, I’m probably going to have to feed her. Because I wanted to be able to empathize with her in some way, I watched that fucking video… once! I watched it once—and ceremoniously vomited everything I had eaten the entire day. Then I sat there crying again. Even after all of that—calling my mother, calling Ray and Amanda, trying to hold off the fucking press so Ana can have a little dignity—I had the wherewithal to activate your fucking contingency!
“You want to know why Maxine went storming out of here? She told me that Ana needs to go to the hospital, just like my mother did. My mother told me to wait for a few days and if she doesn’t get better, take her to the hospital. Maxine walks in and says ‘take her to the hospital.’ I tell Maxine that I can take care of her and that she doesn’t need to go to the hospital and Maxine starts threatening me with court orders! And when I say threaten, I mean threaten! Her exact word to me involved making an enemy out of me, going toe-to-toe with me ‘all the way to the wall no gloves,’ and the only thing that I said to that woman was ‘she doesn’t need a hospital, I will take care of her.’ You tell me where the ‘benefit of the doubt’ comes in there!
“For five months, I have done nothing but love this woman. I have never hurt or mistreated her. She is my whole world and I have made changes for her that I have never made for anyone… ever! Now you all come in here—after I called you—ready to try and convict me and you have the nerve to tell me to give you the benefit of the doubt? What do you people want, a fucking blood oath? How long to I have to love her before I am acceptable in your eyes? At what point do my actions and my intentions stop falling under suspicion with you?”
They have all fallen silent again. I think I read guilt on their faces but I’m not sure. It could be conviction for all I fucking know, and these damn emotions that Dr. Baker is working so hard to get me to control are bubbling up inside me—and I don’t have my Butterfly to help me control them.
“Garrett, be my guest. Tell Maxine every fucking thing I do! Make sure that she knows my every move so that she can feel like shit when she sees that all I want to do is love and care for her friend and patient. While you’re at it, you let her know this. Let her know that she’s going to need an injunction to get Ana out of here, because before I allow Ana to wake up in a small white room with no windows wondering why we stuck her on the psych ward, they’re going to have to hogtie me and throw me in jail! The only reason why I’m not putting your judgmental asses out of my apartment right now is because Ana wouldn’t like it if I did. So by all means, feel free to use my home to conspire against me, jump to conclusions, and come up with other reasons why this shit is all my fault! Mom, Ray, Amanda—my apologies!” I storm out of the room and go to my study, slamming the door behind me. I am furious and at the same time anxious as I hope the slamming door did not wake Butterfly.
I feel like I’m hyperventilating. I’m trying to breathe but no air is coming in. I’m trying to push the picture of the frightened little boy standing in the closet back into the recesses of my mind like Dr. Baker has been teaching me.
“She’s not well. She hasn’t left me, she’s just sick right now. She’ll be fine.” I repeat this mantra several times until my breathing becomes normal again. Then the tears fall. My Butterfly is sick. She is hiding somewhere in the recesses of her mind, probably where the sickest thoughts go to hide, and her closest friends think I had something to do with it. No wonder Butterfly is so damn angry… who can hold on to this kind of shit and not be angry? And why do her friends think I would hurt her?
Am I really that bad a guy?
I’ve gotten past swiping all of the stuff off of my desk—I think—but I do make a little space to lay down my head… and the tears are still falling. I hear the door of my study open and I know it can only be Jason.
“Is she still asleep?” I say, trying and failing to keep my voice from shaking.
“Yes, Boss. She hasn’t stirred,” he responds, sympathy evident in his tone.
“Good,” I continue. “Please, leave me.” It’s all that I can say. I hear the door close and I let the tears fall some more. My Butterfly is gone. Where, I don’t know, but it’s nothing either of us did this time. I know that she needs to come back but I don’t know how to help her. I don’t know how to bring her back. I felt exactly this way when that fucker had kidnapped her I didn’t know where she was or how to get her safely back home. It’s that exact same feeling of hopelessness, of being out of control and only being able to wait until something happens. I hate this feeling. The door opens again.
“I told you to leave me, Jason,” I scold, my voice heavy with the tears that are now invading my face.
“It’s not Jason.” I look up into the kind and empathetic face of my mother. Before I know it, I sink into her stomach and weep as she cradles my head against her.
I feel like my head is going to explode. Now, I’m the villain and I don’t even know how that happened. I left the meeting with the steel heads to find my beloved Butterfly in a state of shock, and somehow I’m the villain. Her shock isn’t even because of something that I did, but still somehow I’m the villain. My mother has left after I have convinced her that I am okay and I am camped in the armchair that I have pulled next to my bed to watch Butterfly sleeping. The sun has gone down now, and I’m still trying to figure out how I became the villain.
“Christian?” I rub my eyes and turn around to see Ray standing in the doorway. After I locked myself in my study, and cried off my frustration, I came straight to the bedroom without even looking at who may or may not have remained in the great room. This meant that I forgot about Ray. I drag my butt from the chair where I was sitting and walk out of the room so as not to disturb Butterfly.
I haven’t yet discovered where Ray stands in all of this. Does he see me as the villain, too? These are the situations that I try to avoid. All of my life, I have tried to avoid situations where I was the weakest link. Now, I find myself in a face-off with against Butterfly’s closest friends and maybe even her family—but if they think I’ll back down and go away quietly, they’ve got another think coming!
“Allen told me what’s going on… but I need to hear it from you. What’s going on with my Annie?” I look in the great room and Allen is still here with Mandy. I storm into the great room ready to do battle with the this man if I must.
“What did you tell him?” I say to Allen as calmly as my emotions would allow. He’s looking at me strangely. I’ve only seen that look in his eye one other time.
… When Butterfly was kidnapped.
“I told him exactly what you told me, Chris,” Allen says, impassively. It’s only now that I see James slowly rise from the sofa on the other side of the room. I can’t take much more of this. I want my Butterfly. I don’t know what’s wrong with her and it’s scaring the shit out me. I go to rub my eyes again and my knees give way from under me. Someone’s hands guide my body to the sofa so that I don’t hit the floor.
I’m not a weak person. I’m a strong man. I always have been a strong man—but Butterfly has weaved herself into my heart and soul and broken down my defenses. If she’s not whole, I’m not whole.
“What has this woman done to me?” I say it aloud without knowing that I did. “I can’t think!”
“Christian…” I don’t know whose voice this is, but I can hear the concern laced in my name. I sit up straight and run my hands through my hair.
“Ray, do you know the whole story of Ana’s attack?” I ask, steadying my voice and steeling my nerves.
“I do now,” he replies, his voice full of hatred.
“You know about the rape, and the beating, and the baby…” I kept going without pausing.
“Y… Yes, I know,” Ray, too, is now steeling himself.
“Do you know about the video?” There is silence from Ray. I look over at him. “Do you know about the video, Ray?”
“Yes,” he says, his voice soft and menacing. “I was hoping that it wasn’t true, that there was some sort of mistake—but yes, I know about the damn video!” he spit.
“If you need to hear it from me, then here it is. Ana has been treating the bitch that shot that video for dignity therapy for the last four months. I think she sought Ana out for some sort of absolution before she died. She sent that video to Ana anonymously last week, and Ana had a breakdown when she saw what it was. I was under the impression that she was unable to watch the entire video before she destroyed the monitor in her office and I had my IT guy bring her a new one. However, today she discovered that she had unknowingly been assisting one of the people directly involved in her attack to make peace with her actions. I think she just snapped, locked herself in her office and proceeded to watch the video several times. Her assistant has keys to the office but did not disturb her because Ana’s office is fitted with cameras just in case one of her patients become unstable. Marilyn could see that Ana was sitting calmly at her desk and felt that there was no need for alarm—until I got there. I found Ana in a zombie-like condition. I carried her home, put her to bed, and contacted all of the people who now think I’m responsible for it!” I spit.
“Christian, they don’t think you’re responsible,” Allen protests.
“They don’t?” I spit, angrily. “They could have fooled me! They sat here interrogating me like the Spanish Inquisition! The hatred and mistrust that they were throwing at me was tangible! Even Valerie—and she’s fucking my brother! She spent four days at my childhood home for Thanksgiving and she really thinks I would do something to hurt Anastasia?”
“They were hurt, Christian. They just wanted answers. It was right, but that’s what it was.” I just glare at him. Fuck them! Fuck what they wanted. They sat in my home after I called them insinuating and silent accusing me of hurting the woman that I love. I don’t give a fuck what they wanted. My feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are quickly being replaced with anger.
“What about you, Allen?” I ask sharply, not even acknowledging that James is stepping protectively closer to him. “You keep saying ‘them’ but what about you?” He frowns.
“I never doubted you, Christian. Did I ever give you any reason to think that I doubted you?” He says defensively as James put his hand on Allen’s shoulder.
“I don’t feel any remorse for asking,” I say plainly. “I stood in my own home being accused of…” I won’t say it again. I fucking won’t say it again. “I don’t feel any remorse for asking.” I reinforce. Allen says nothing. I turn to Ray.
“I don’t know what your plans are, but you are welcome to stay here,” I tell him.
“I’m staying with Mandy for the night, but I’ll be back tomorrow and then I’ll stay with you until Annie gets better if that’s okay.” I nod and walk over to the breakfast bar. I don’t want to sit in the great room right now… or my study…
“Christian, dinner is ready. Would you like something to eat?” Gail says cautiously. Of course, I wouldn’t! How could I possibly eat at a time like this? Then I think of Butterfly at the hospital making me promise to never starve myself again after the Elliot fiasco. Of course, my mother’s lecture comes to mind next and I am certain that she will burst through the doors at any moment and demand that I sit down and eat every morsel that Gail has prepared.
“Not at this moment, Gail, but will you please prepare two plates? When Ana wakes up, we’ll eat together. I’ll most likely have to feed her. She’s been cooperative with what needs to be done. She just won’t do it herself.” Gail nods sadly and places a bottle of water in front of me with no question, then turns to prepare the plates as requested.
“We’re going to go now, Christian. I’ll see you in the morning,” Ray says with his hand on my shoulder. I acknowledge him with a nod. He squeezes my shoulder and then they leave. I turn around to see that Allen and James have left as well.
“Boss,” I turn my head slightly to see Jason standing there. “Ms. McIntyre has prepared a statement that she says she will email to you to be released in the morning. Your mother will check in tomorrow and everyone else…” he pauses.
“Everyone else what?” I spit. Are they all going to show up tomorrow with a protection order against me and drag Ana’s catatonic form from my home?
“They… um… they heard you, Sir.” I look at him confused.
“What do you mean? They heard me what?” I ask.
“Your office is not soundproof, Sir. They heard you weeping.” What the fuck do I care that they heard me? I was obviously broken about this whole thing.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean to me? Why should I care?” I bark.
“I was only telling you because I think that they may be remiss about wrongly accusing you, Sir.” Too little, too late. I may not know all there is to know about handling your emotions, but I bet wherever “the crew” is tonight, they’re holding each other together, and nobody was here for me. I had to cry to “Mommy.”
“I don’t care,” I say flatly before going back into my bedroom to check on Butterfly.
She’s awake… staring at the ceiling.
“Hey!” I say softly going to her side. She looks over at me… and she’s still gone. Her eyes are beautiful blue and hollow. I sigh heavily. “Come on, Baby. Let’s get you to the bathroom and then we need to get you something to eat, okay?”
I talk to her while I feed her, happy that she is there enough to eat for me but wishing with everything in me that she would say something to me. I’ll be there for her, for whenever she needs me—however she needs me. I will love her if she stays this way forever. I won’t let anyone take her away from me. I’ll take her to a foreign country and care for her for the rest of my days if it comes to that, but I won’t let them lock her away. I won’t let them put her in the psychiatric ward like some sort of crazed lunatic. This is a bad patch. I know it is, and I won’t let them take her away… I won’t…
“Christian?” I am roused awake by Ray’s voice. I rub my eyes to see that Ana is asleep in our bed again, and I have a terribly aching back from sleeping in the chair. I try to stretch and everything aches.
“Why are you sleeping in the chair, Son?” Ray asks.
“Because Mighty Maxine told me that I couldn’t touch her or kiss her or hold her or breathe on her or any of the things that I do at night when we’re sleeping,” I say disdainfully.
“You’re going to need some rest, Christian.”
“I’ll be fine. Right now, I need to take care of Ana.” I protest.
“That’s why I’m here now. I’ll help you take care of her, but you’re going to have to get some real rest.”
“I function on very little sleep, Ray. If I’m about to break down, I’ll go to bed.” I promise. That seemed to be enough for him.
“How did she sleep?” he asks.
“Well enough, I guess. She ate her dinner then I took her to the TV room and we watched a movie. When it seemed like she was getting sleepy again, I brought her back in here and put her back to bed. I talked to her for a while and she fell asleep. Then I watched her until I fell asleep,” I say, trying to stretch my back again.
“Christian, you have the look of a man who hasn’t gotten any sleep. If you are going to take care of my Annie, you are going to have to get some rest,” Ray tries to scold me.
“It’s no use, Ray. I’m not allowed to sleep with her, and I can’t really rest without her. I’m afraid this is the best we’re going to get.”
“Screw what Mighty Maxine says! Get in that bed and go to sleep with your woman. She’s going to be awake soon and she’s going to need you to be sharp!” he commands me quickly. Isn’t this a change! The girl’s father is demanding that I sleep with her! I don’t think this has ever happened in my life before and the irony of it is not lost on me. I climb under the covers next to Butterfly and take one whiff of her hair and I don’t remember anything after that.
I wake to the sun high in the sky and it feels like I have slept for days! I stretch out in my bed feeling for Butterfly and feel an immediate panic when I realize that she is gone.
“Ana?” I call out to her, hoping that she will answer. “Butterfly?” Nothing. I throw the duvet back and run to the en suite, thinking the worst. They took her while I was asleep. She’s not in the en suite. I dash out of my room and into the great room, breathing a heavy sigh of relief at the sight before me. Butterfly is sitting on the sofa, dressed in a long-sleeved maxi dress with black print, and my mother is brushing her hair.
“Christian?” Mom says when she notices my state of disarray. “Are you okay?”
“I… I awoke and she wasn’t there. I was… concerned,” I say softly, trying to mask my fear. My mother nods at me.
“Well, take a shower, Son. Lunch is almost ready.”
For the next two days, my mother, Ray, and I lovingly take care of Ana, but she is still not responsive. On Saturday afternoon, I have just put Ana to bed for a nap when Jason tells me there is company in the dining room. I don’t bother asking who it is, I just want to get rid of them as quickly as possible and get back to Butterfly. I didn’t sleep well last night because I kept thinking I was going to wake up and she would be gone again. I walk into the dining room, and I see them.
The Crew is here. I will fight each one of them with my bare hands if they try to take her out of this house. I look over at Jason to tell him my intentions. He sees it in my eyes and I note his discomfort, but he nods. I walk into the room without a nod.
“Chris,” Allen greets me. “Please sit down.” I only look at Allen.
“I’d rather stand,” I say impassively.
“Christian, please,” he implores me. I trust him for many reasons, one of which is that he is on my payroll, so I sit.
“We’re assholes, Christian,” Valerie begins, and I’m a little floored. “You’re right. You have nothing to prove to us. You’ve proven time and time again that you love Ana and would do anything for her and at the first sign of uncertainty, we attack you unjustly.” Am I hearing her right?
“We know that you wouldn’t hurt her and that you only want to take care of her, but can you accept that we are afraid, too?” Mighty Maxine chimes in. “She’s been through so much in such a short time and this is just something else to add to her mountain and bullshit. We know we were being shitty, but please don’t fault us for being afraid.”
“We’ve always had each others’ back, Christian. We’ve always been there for each other,” Garrett says. “None of us have ever experienced anything worse than a really bad break-up before now—nothing as horrible as this… or so we thought…”
“I think one of our biggest problems is that she could tell you what she was going through before she could tell us—well, besides Maxie because she’s the therapist—but we were supposed to be her friends and she couldn’t tell us. That really hurt. We were sure that there was more to it that meant you would know and we wouldn’t,” Phil chimes in. I sit silently at the end of the table, a little stunned and partially waiting for the other shoe to fall.
“Chris, I don’t know if you’ve heard this before, but hurt people hurt people. That’s no excuse for them hurting you because like I said, I never doubted you, but these are the people who have watched Jewel suffering when they didn’t know why she was suffering. Do you remember when she came up missing and I told you that she and I had a contingency and that you were the unknown whether you liked it or not?” I do remember that conversation. I didn’t like it one bit, but I understood it. I nod. “This is the same concept. We feel like one of us should have seen this coming, and it nobody’s fault, but we’re still hurt that it happened and even more hurt that we are somewhat out of the loop. Next to Ray, I used to know Jewel better than anyone. Now, I think I’m being replaced.” I look up at him. I could never replace Allen in Ana’s life. What does he mean? “I don’t mind, Chris, and I don’t mean that I’m being pushed away because you can forget it, Buddy. I’m here to stay.” I laugh involuntarily at his comment. “However, I know that there is another very important man and I knew that I had to move over. You and I have already had this talk and I know that you won’t hurt my Jewel, but they don’t know you like I do yet.” He’s right about that. We have become closer than anyone on my office staff next to Ros since he has been working for me.
“We’re not making excuses, Christian,” Garrett says. “We were dead wrong to even imply that you had anything to do with this or that you were responsible in any way.”
“You’re right! You were dead wrong!” The voice I hear booming through my apartment belongs to Ray. “I haven’t had much to say about this, but I’m saying something now. What do you think Annie would say right now if she saw the way that you all were treating Christian?” Those words cut each one of them in the stomach. They grimaced as if they were in physical pain. “Exactly! You should all be ashamed of yourselves! For five months, I have watched him treat my daughter like a princess; turn over rocks and send out a worldwide call for her safe return when she was kidnapped; personally fly a helicopter into an unknown situation to get her back; hold her together when she was falling apart and care for her when she couldn’t care for herself—and this is the gratitude that he gets from her closest friends? I know that if she was coherent to see this, she would be very ashamed of you!” His words are harsh and cold—the words of an angry father.
“Christian, please forgive us,” Maxine says choking on her tears. Garrett, Phillip, and Valerie tender similar pleas. They have been duly chastised and I don’t have the strength to chastise them further.
“I won’t hold this against you all,” I begin. “I understand how she brings this out in people—how people just want to protect her from anything that can hurt her, but right now I’m hurt by this, and I just need a little time. I, Allen, or Ray will keep you all updated on what’s going on with her. Feel free to stay or to come back and check on her at any time, but right now, I just need to get back in there with her.” I don’t look at any of them while I am talking. This is not something that I do. I consider it a sign of weakness to not be able to look someone in the eye while you are speaking to them. However, right now, I am weak and I don’t care. I need to get back to my Butterfly. I hear various ones mumble ascent and I rise and go back to the bedroom to sit with my Butterfly.
Sunday evening, there is still no change in Butterfly’s condition… and Ray has been talking to the doctors in our midst. I don’t want to hide Butterfly from her father, but I will if he tells me to put my baby on the psych ward.
“Christian, I’m not telling you to put her on the psych ward. I’m telling you that she needs to at least go in for observation,” Ray protests.
“If we take her in there, they are going to put her on the psychiatric ward, Ray, I’m telling you! This is what they do! That’s who’s going to be observing her! Once they put her in there, we may not be able to get her out!” I argue.
“What else can we do, Christian? She’s been like this for four days!”
“I can stay with her! I can stay with her for as long as it takes for her to come back!” I’m nearly pleading.
“You have a company to run, Son. You can’t just drop your life like that…”
“She is my life!” I scream before I know it, and Ray is somewhat stunned into silence.
“What if she doesn’t come back?” he asks softly. “What if she’s irreparably damaged by this whole thing and she stays this way?”
“Then I’ll take care of her. I’ll do whatever I have to do.”
“You can’t do that, and you know it. For one thing, Annie wouldn’t want you to do that.”
“I’ll get her the best care possible. She’s going to come out of this—I know she is!” I insist.
“I hope so, Son, but that doesn’t change the fact that she has to get help, now!”
“Please, Ray! Please don’t let them take her away. Please don’t let them put her in that place. She’ll wake up alone and wonder why I let them do that to her!” I’m pleading again—nearly yelling.
“I don’t think we have a choice, Christian. She hasn’t changed in four days! Something else may be wrong!”
“Like what!?” I am screaming now. “What could be wrong with her? Do you know how much money I have? I will buy any specialists that she needs, but I’m not putting her in that place! I can’t do it! Please don’t make me do it!”
Ray and I both freeze. We failed to realize that we were standing right outside the bedroom door—which is always open so that we can easily check on Ana—screaming our cases at one another. Now, Ana is sitting straight up in bed… screaming at us!
“STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!”
We both burst in the room and Ana continues to scream several more times just before she breaks down in soul wrenching tears and body shaking sobs. Ray and I look at each other, both at a loss of what to do next. Instinctively, we both sit on either side of the bed and wrap our arms around her and just let her cry.
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