So here’s a bonus chapter since I have scared everyone with the threat of angst and I don’t want you to have to suffer too long. There are those of you who feel like I subject Christian and Ana to too much angst. If you have a problem with me putting my characters through the wringer, you might want to skip the next few chapters. I love torturing these characters and bringing out their real personalities, so I’m afraid that people are just going to have to get used to it. They won’t be tortured in every single chapter of every single thing in their lives, but there will be some torture. You pretty much already know how it ends, you just don’t know how we get there. So please, feel free to sit back and enjoy the ride or… you always have the option to choose a different mode of transportation. 🙂
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 fanfic in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.
Chapter 31—What A Difference A Day Makes
“Mr. Grey, what a pleasure to meet you.” Marsha Sims is a slim woman with blond hair, athletic build and average features—not stunning, but definitely not unattractive. She is wearing a brown business suit and has a commanding presence not dwarfed by her extremely large office at Vansteen Security.
“Ms. Sims,” I say impassively as Jason and I enter her office. Jason stands near the door on the inside of the office at my instruction. As this woman is the head of a security company, I expect for her to know that this is outside of protocol.
“Mr. Grey, I can assure you that there’s no threat in this room. Your personal security doesn’t need to guard the door,” she says.
“I’ve had a very trying day, Ms. Sims,” I tell her. “A trying weekend, in fact. So, yes, he does have to guard the door.” Her posture straightens defensively. She is a bit affronted and quite frankly, I don’t care.
“To what do I owe this impromptu visit?” she says, folding her hands on the desk and unsuccessfully trying to hide her obvious offense.
“Oh… don’t you know?” I ask impassively. “I have internal auditors in nearly every department of this building. I would think that surely, you would have expected a visit from the man in charge… or has that fact slipped by you as well?” Her offense has now transformed into irritation.
“Well, usually the requester waits for the results of an internal audit before they pay a visit,” she says curtly. Is she deliberately trying to piss me off? Exactly how many internal audits has she experienced!?
“Which begs to question why you aren’t a bit more contrite that I even had to request an internal audit,” I say frowning.
“Contrite!” she says, mocking the word. “That’s an interesting choice of words, Mr. Grey. Why exactly should I be contrite? It wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the fact that I am a woman and the director of this company and you feel that I should be a little more intimidated by your presence, would it?” I glare at her and turn to look at Jason, who just shrugs. Woman, you picked the wrong day.
“No, but it would have a lot to do with the fact that the man who signs your paycheck had to take time out of his busy day to come down here personally because the director is running this company like a fucking circus!” I spit back at her. Now, I see a bit of the contrition that I was seeking as she sinks a little in her seat. “Let me make this very clear, Ms. Sims. I couldn’t care less what equipment you’re working with down there. You could be male or female… fuck, you could be a hermaphrodite for all I care. I will tell you that you will show some respect to the per-son that is responsible for you to be able to sit your haughty ass in that seat. My wick is very short right now and I’ll explode all over you so fast and so hard that your grandchildren will be pulling shrapnel out of their asses!” Anger flashes in her eyes, no doubt wondering how I could have the audacity to speak to her that way.
The feeling is mutual, Witch!
“Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, maybe you can tell me why my company that I own is responsible for security in my fiancée’s condominium, and she has been violated in that same building—not once, but twice right up under your fucking nose!” I hiss at her. Her eyes narrow again and the contrition leaves her face as she sits up in her seat again.
“So this is personal,” she says, snidely.
“On the contrary, this is business. If I was handling this as if it were personal, our visit wouldn’t half this cordial! Had this not happened to someone so closely related to me, I would have had no clue of what a ‘bang-up’ job you’re doing down here,” I say sarcastically. “Who do you hire as guards for these sites, zoo monkeys? What kind of training and screening do they go through?”
“I thought that was GEH’s duty—to screen your employees.” Is she serious? This is getting worse and worse the more I hear.
“GEH does the background checks to make sure that we are not hiring criminals and fugitives. You are supposed to be in charge of hiring the guards and deeming them qualified fit for employment.”
“You do not personally oversee the hiring of each employee of GEH?” she asks.
“No, I don’t. I have a human resource department and specialists in every area for that.”
“Thank you, Mr. Grey, and so do we,” she says and folds her arms.
“Well, what the fuck are they doing? You don’t have any idea what’s going on at the sites of your own company, Madam Director?” She took high offense to that.
“I don’t have time to follow around behind every single site, Sir! I’m trying to keep this company afloat!”
“Afloat!? Afloat!? You are a subsidiary of a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate! This company is doing more than floating… it’s flying!” I turn to Jason. “I own this company. Why am I arguing with her?” He shrugs at me again. “Get me Martin Walker, now!” Jason is gone in a moment.
“He’s not going to tell you any differently than I am,” she snaps at me while folding her arms and crossing her legs, getting comfortable in her seat.
“Oh, I don’t expect him to, I’ll be doing all the talking.” That piqued her curiosity. Jason is back and we are now waiting for her second in command. “What office space do we have available at GEH?”
“The fifth and 17th floors, Sir,” he says.
“How soon can they be ready for occupancy?”
“They’re ready now, Sir,” he confirms.
“Good. There are about to be some immediate changes.” I can see the problem now. If the leader doesn’t care about the company, why should anybody under her supervision give a shit? I fold my arms and wait for Walker to arrive. He steps into the office a few minutes later and I greet him at the door.
“Walker, Christian Grey,” I say before this harpy has an opportunity to speak.
“Mr. Grey, yes sir, a pleasure to meet you. Congratulations on your engagement, Sir,” he replies.
“Thank you. Ms. Sims here seems to think that you will take the same view on my concerns that she does. What do you say to that?” He looks from me to Sims and back to me again.
“Well, I’d have to hear your concerns first, Sir,” he says cautiously. That says a lot to me. Anyone in my company would blindly jump off a cliff behind me with a backpack strapped to them without even bothering to look inside simply because I told them there was a parachute inside. Why would they do this–because they trust me. They know that I know what I’m doing and I don’t make bad decisions, so they follow me blindly. That’s not the case here and Walker has just confirmed that.
“How long have you worked for Vansteen, Mr. Walker?” I ask.
“Seven years, Sir.”
“How long has Ms. Sims been your superior?”
“The whole time,” he answers cautiously. I’ve done my homework and I know that GEH acquired Vansteen five years ago, so he has seen the company under both owners.
“What do you think of the company?” I ask.
“I like my job, Sir…”
“That’s not what I asked you. I asked you what you thought of the company.” He’s feeling nervous.
“Um… we could use some… tweaking…” he says cautiously. I see it again. I’m firm and I can bring people to their knees on a business level because, again, I know what I’m doing. She’s a bully, because he’s afraid to speak… even to me. I turn to Jason.
“Call HR, Maintenance, Barney, and Welch at GEH. Tell them that Vansteen Security offices are going to be moved to the fifth floor upon completion of the internal audit. Get started on it right now. Inform HR that every Vansteen employee must reapply for their position—every employee. GEH will oversee the restaffing of the restructured company and the human resources department here can thank Ms. Sims that their jobs will now be performed by GEH. They are free to reapply for their positions as well. Anyone who hasn’t reapplied within the next two weeks will be considered a voluntary resignation and will no longer be employed with Vansteen at the completion of the audit.” I turn to face Sims.
“You can’t do that!” she hisses. “We have tenure. Everyone here has tenure!”
“No, you have tenure with Vansteen, not with GEH–and Vansteen is, at best, about to be restructured. You see, that’s your problem. The moment that I walked through that door, you should have realized how delicate your situation was. Do you realize that I own four security companies? Four! I could walk out of this building today, lock these doors, and there’s not a damn thing that you could do about it. I’m done talking to you. You have given me all the information that I need. I didn’t even need an internal audit. All I needed was to come down here and talk to you to pinpoint the problem.” I turn to Walker who is standing there gape-mouthed.
“Mr. Walker, I will need you in my office at GEH on Wednesday morning. We will discuss the new direction that I have in mind for Vansteen Security. I am afraid that you will have to reapply for your position as well. However, during this transition, you will be acting director.” I hear Sims gasp. “I am expecting the internal audit to last about four weeks, after which the rehiring and transitioning of the company could take anywhere from two weeks to two months, maybe more. You may apply for the position of director as well, but please note that you will have competition as I will actively be looking to fill that position. I will, however, give you first consideration depending on your qualifications and level of assistance with the transition. You will work closely with my head of corporate security, Alexander Welch. He will be the one who advises me if Vansteen Security is still a feasible enterprise or if I should reassign all Vansteen sites to my other companies and just close the doors entirely.”
Walker is stunned into silence and Sims is glaring at me the entire time, still trying to ascertain where she fits in with all of this, no doubt. I turn her phone around on her desk and call Andrea’s direct line at GEH. I put the call on speaker. Jason is still taping notes into his blackberry.
“Grey Enterprises Holdings, Mr. Grey’s office, Luma Arias speaking.” I am very happy to hear Luma’s voice. She sounds very professional and happy.
“Luma, it’s Christian. How are things working out?” I ask kindly.
“Very well, Christian. Thank you so much for the opportunity!”
“Good. I’m very glad to hear it. Please put Andrea on the phone.”
“Yes, Sir. Please hold one moment.” A few moments later, “Yes, Mr. Grey?”
“Andrea, let McIntyre know that there will be a massive overhaul and restructuring of Vansteen Security. She will need to comprise a press release as there will most likely be a lot of complaints about it. Tell her to make sure that she includes the security breaches at Ana’s condo and the need for an expensive internal audit to see what other sites have similar complaints. Tell her to email me the release for approval as soon as it is complete. I want it ready for release this evening.” Sims is turning every color of the rainbow as she now realizes that she is out of a job.
“Yes Sir, Mr. Grey,” she says and I end the call. “Notify Welch that Mr. Walker will be coordinating the transfer of all the recordings from Cristalla Condominiums from as far back as September 1. Mr. Walker, I want the recordings from all security cameras in the building. I want them chronologued and labeled according to location, and they need to be in GEH’s possession in the next 48 hours. My IT team is at your disposal, so if you need additional assistance, you have but to ask. You may use this office as your workspace from now on.”
“You’re firing me?” she says, finally.
“No,” I respond. “I’m demoting you. Then, I’m suspending you—thirty days, without pay. I’m convinced that you are running this company into the ground and that the problems that are evident in the hiring practices, screening protocol, and training and leadership are a direct result of your incompetence, arrogance, and lack of concern. Feel free to reapply for your position in the interim.”
“You can’t just run in here and tear everything down like that!” she demands.
“Oh, yes, I can. I own the place,” I say calmly. “The only reason why I am not shutting the doors today is because this company employs 600 people, and I don’t think that they should lose their jobs at a moment’s notice because of you.” She falls silent for a moment. “They will, however, be required to prove that they should be allowed to keep their jobs because I don’t trust your judgment for one second. I’m pretty certain that the Lexus that you are driving is a company car, so you will have to make arrangements for a taxi.”
“You can’t do this to me! I will sue you for wrongful termination and, trust me, I will win!” she barks.
“You do that, because I am certain that once I have completed this now totally unnecessary internal audit, I will be spoiled for choice for reasons to have you dismissed, notwithstanding your blatant insubordination in my presence today. Nonetheless, you are not being terminated… yet. You are being demoted for failure to perform your job duties and suspended pending investigation of the findings of the internal audit. You will be resigning your position if you fail to reapply for it as that means that you show no interest in keeping it. By the way, you will be reapplying for the position of assistant director if you think you are qualified for it. Your performance clearly suggests that you are not qualified for the position of director. Make sure you include all of this in your lawsuit.” She is seething at my words.
“I refuse to kowtow to you just because you’re a man!” she sneers. “You expect women to fall at your feet and now you’re firing me because I won’t? My lawyer will have a field day with this!”
“Ms. Sims, you need to understand something about men like me. We are constant targets for people who have frivolous lawsuits, hence the reason for my security standing inside the room as well my practice to never attend a possibly volatile meeting without some kind of recording device.” Her face falls when I say that. “Now, once again, you are not being fired. You are being suspended pending the outcome of the internal audit. You are also being demoted for failure to effectively perform your job duties. Should the internal audit produce different results than my initial findings, then you will be reinstated to your position, assuming that you have followed the proper protocol and reapplied for your position.” She folds her arms confidently.
“No offense, Mr. Grey, but with my qualifications, I can very easily find a job anywhere in my field,” she says smugly.
“Well, then, Ms. Sims, I suggest you get your resume in order,” I reply.
I feel like Darth Vader, choking useless captains and admirals with the dark side of the force and replacing them with a word.
Security escorts the ex-director of security off the premises, and the employees all watch silently as she takes her walk of shame. We are on our way back to Escala when McIntyre forwards me a draft of the press release.
“Should we blackball her, Sir?” Jason asks as I am reading the last words of the release and sending emails to HR to send notification to the employees of Vansteen.
“Absolutely not,” I say to his surprise. I raise my head from my blackberry. “That woman is a walking disaster. The best thing that she can do for me is going to work for one of my competitors. Hell, I’ll even write her a letter of reference if she had the balls to ask for it. Since she’s so concerned about being in a man’s world, she should probably grow a pair,” I say while typing in my blackberry. “She’s a ticking time bomb. Let her explode all over one of them.”
“Yes, Sir,” he says as he pulls into Escala’s parking garage.
“She’s behaving as if she doesn’t know what to do with herself,” Gail tells me when I ask of Butterfly’s demeanor. “She’s fidgety and angry—she looks like she’s about to have a nervous breakdown.”
… And now I have to tell her that asshole had a key to her apartment and is responsible for her missing gun… and that he most likely has an accomplice.
“Where is she now?” I ask.
“In her office. She’s been there since she got home.” I run my hand through my hair. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything right now. I should just wait until… until when?
“You need to tell her, Boss,” he says, reading my thoughts. Yeah, I know, I know, but I don’t have to like it. I loosen my tie and remove my suit jacket. Tossing it on the sofa, I ascend the stairs to her office. I feel like I’m headed towards the firing squad. I’m not particularly happy when I get there.
I peek inside to see her cleaning her two remaining guns. She frantically cleans those things when she’s particularly ill at ease and right now, it’s written all over her face. I step inside and pull a chair up to her desk. She doesn’t raise her head to look at me.
“I need to talk to you, Butterfly,” I say to her.
“I figured you would,” she says impassively, her eyes never leaving her task. Geez, where do I start? “Did they put him in the hospital?”
Huh? Why is she concerned about this asshole?
“No, not that I know of.”
“Well, I guess that’s something,” she says, brushing away at the barrel of one of the firearms.
“I need your attention, Butterfly.”
“You have it,” she replies, wiping down the parts now.
“No, I don’t,” I say, “but we can always have this discussion another time.” Knowing that she has been pulling her hair out waiting for details, I sit back in my chair and await her decision. She puts her dismantled gun back into the lockbox and sits with her arms folded, waiting for my dissertation. With the sequence of events of the day, I don’t bother to ask why her mood is so pissy.
“Myrick has a key to your apartment,” I say. Her irritated and annoyed expression quickly morphs into horrified concern.
“What?” she says, barely audible. “How?”
“He copied your keys during one of our visits to my parents’ house. We think it was Thanksgiving but we’re not sure.” She’s still staring at me. “He has an accomplice… a woman.”
“How do you know?”
“We watched the security video of your apartment yesterday. We know that it was a woman who walked in but she was concealed by a hooded sweatshirt and bulky clothing. She’s, no doubt, the one that took your gun.”
“How did you find out that the two are related?” she presses.
“Myrick asked if you were missing something when he was leaving your office. He was forthcoming with the information about the key, but he won’t give up his accomplice.” She cocks her head at me.
“Forthcoming?” she says, her voice dripping in sarcastic cynicism.
“Yes, forthcoming,” I nearly hiss, noting the inclination of her tone. “I just told you that he stole your keys and had someone break into your house and steal your gun. I now have all the recordings from the last six months from your condo being forwarded to my office so that we can see exactly how long this fucker has been lurking around, and it seems to me that you are only concerned about our information-gathering tactics. Why the hell are you so concerned about this guy anyway?” I say, somewhat accusing and very angry.
She rises out of her chair and straightens her back. She appears to grow in her stance and her rage is palpable and a bit frightening.
“I don’t give a fuck about that rodent!” she growls. “I care about you! I don’t want you and your macho hit-squad to do anything stupid that will affect our future! This creepy little spineless asswipe got on my waiting list and then used that opening to possibly get close to you. We weren’t even together yet–it just appeared to have worked out that way! Before you walked in here with your ‘forthcoming’ information, all I knew about this dipshit was that he claims to be the son of the man who was the cause of some of the most terrifying moments of your young life! He’s angry with you because he thinks you somehow ruined that cocksucker’s life when in fact, it was the other way around. Now I find out that this worm-eaten, ignorant, deceitful, hateful, worthless bag of primordial ooze has basically had someone break into my apartment and steal my gun, and even after this revelation, you have the nerve to even suggest that I care what happens to that abject, treacherous, vile, scheming little fuckhead scumbag!? How dare you! How fucking dare you!”
Whooooooooaaaaaaa! She is MAD! I have never seen her this mad in my whole life. She growled that entire scholastic insult dissertation. Bag of primordial ooze—yep, she is livid.
“I’m… sorry. I’m really very sorry,” I say. I feel like a scolded second grader. I mean, when she lays it out like that, it not only seems ridiculous that I thought she cared about Myrick at all, but completely ludicrous, impossible, and totally unheard of.
“You should be, you idiot!” she spits. There is pure unadulterated rage in her voice and stance and I have to bring her down. She looks like she just might hurt me.
“Please, Butterfly. You’re right. I’m an idiot. I wasn’t thinking straight. I should have never even considered anything like that from you. I’m a fucking moron. Please forgive me.”
“Goddammit, Christian!” she says, clearly resisting the urge to throw something. “Didn’t we cover this shit at my office!?” Yes, we did, and it didn’t turn out well then either. She throws her hands up and tries to get past me.
“Ana…” I try to stop her.
“Get out of my fucking way, Grey! I’m going to the goddamn gym!” She glares at me and I wisely decide to let her pass. It takes her less than two minutes to change and dash her ass out the door. Jason is in the great room, just looking at me and I gesture to him to follow her and keep an eye on her. He nods and leaves the apartment hot on her trail.
I don’t know how I keep managing to go back to this every time. Why in the world would I think she cared about that dirtbag? I think it was the way that he looked at her this afternoon after she saved his life, or that he gave us the hint that he was the one responsible—indirectly—for her missing gun. He didn’t have to tell us that and we never would have known, so what were his motives? It’s making me uneasy and I’m losing control yet again. Dammit! I wish she hadn’t gone to the gym because I sure would have. Drinking when I’m angry is not a good idea—that’s how alcoholics are made, so that’s out. I don’t feel like running, and even if I did, Jason is with Ana. I go into the bedroom and change into a T-shirt and jeans. I’m in my RS7 in moments speeding down the I-5. We should be planning our wedding, not fighting about some crazy motherfucker who thinks he’s my brother and wants my head on a platter.
Before I know it, I have steered the car across the bridge to my park… my secret place where I asked Butterfly to move in with me. I get out of the car and walk across the grass. It’s dead and cold this time of year. I stand there looking out at the water, remembering my time here… our time here. Elena wanted to remove everything that I was, anything that possibly kept me grounded and away from her. Butterfly brought it back to me.
I stand on the spot where we made love in the grass. I can hear that Paul McCartney song playing in my head from when I took her on the hood of my car. I never told her that I saw Elena’s car driving away that night and knew that she had watched us make love—twice. I was hoping that she would see that there was truly no room for her in my life anymore… that it was all about Butterfly now, but that only seemed to make it worse. It seems that so much is working to drive a wedge between us and I just don’t get it—first Cassie Hamilton and now the Louis/Myrick fucker. I look at my watch—not too late. I make a call that I almost forgot to make.
“Harland, Christian Grey here.”
“Hello, Christian. To what do I owe this phone call?” he asks.
“Are you in a place where you can talk privately?” the line goes silent for a moment.
“Give me a minute.” I wait for a while and listen to him say something to his wife about an emergency at work and he’ll only be a few minutes. I hear the voices of his wife and children fade away into the background as he no doubt walks to a more secluded part of his house.
His wife and children—I don’t know why he wants to risk something so precious, but who knows why anybody does anything these days?
“Okay, I’ve only got a few minutes. I know this isn’t business because you’re calling me after hours, so what’s going on?” His voice is a combination of irritation and concern.
“I just wanted to remind you how important it is that our lifestyle stay private. We are both respected businessmen and stand to lose a lot if a story were to leak about our… recreational activities.”
“I haven’t said anything about you, Grey! Why would I shoot myself in the foot? What’s this about?” he accuses.
“Not me, Harland. You. Your current is a young woman named Cassie Hamilton, correct?” The line is quiet.
“What is it? You want her? That pretty little thing you’ve got is not enough? Is this reciprocal, Grey—if I share Cassie, do I get a taste of your latest plaything?” I nearly hang up the phone on him. Let Cassie drag his ass down and he can find out for himself about her loose lips. If I wasn’t so hell-bent on burying this bitch, I would do just that.
“You may not be monogamous, you stupid asshole, but I am! So no, you cannot touch my ‘latest plaything,’ nor do I want yours because I’ve already had her,” I hiss.
“Then why the hell are you calling me?” he hisses back.
“To remind you that loose lips sink ships, and your pretty little sub has the loosest lips in western Washington, but if you don’t want to know then I’m sorry I bothered you…”
“Wait! What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
“I mean that my soon-to-be wife wanted to use her services as a wedding planner, that is until Cassie hosted the meeting dressed like a hooker and then proceeded to tell my wife about our past relationship and that she could have me back anytime she wanted. Luckily, I had already told her about me and Cassie, so no harm done. I made her sign an NDA and she went blabbing to my fiancée at her first opportunity. What do you think would happen if your wife found out about your extracurricular activities?”
“Just because she did that to you doesn’t mean that she’ll do it to me, and anyway, she did this after your relationship had ended, not during your contract.”
“Oh, on the contrary, she did both. She called my exes flaunting that she was my current. That’s why her contract ended. Can you afford to take that chance?” The line goes quiet again.
“How did you find out about us, Grey?” he asks.
“Like I said, loose lips sink ships, Harland,” I say, leading him to believe that Cassie was my source.
“Shit! She was the best fucking sub I ever had! The best! How do I know you’re not just doing this to get back at her?”
“Actually, I am doing this to get back at her,” I admit. “I’m going to ruin that bitch for what she tried to do to me and my fiancée and I’m going to make damn sure that she knows that if she crosses me again, she’s going to wish that she were dead. I’m just warning you, Becker. You can be on that ship when it sinks if you want, or you can get off now while the iceberg is still in view. The choice is yours.” I end the call and look out over the water.
Why do we keep fighting? I don’t understand it. It’s getting to the point where if we are in a room together, we are either fucking or fighting. Hell, Mom had to give her a sedative on Saturday because she had a damn anxiety attack. Everything is happening all at once and now we are about to get married…
I can’t spend my life fighting with her all the time, and I know that’s not what she wants either. So what do we do? My blackberry buzzes and I see a text from Jason.
**It’s getting late, Sir, and Her Highness is wondering where you are. **
I look at my watch. Shit! I’ve been gone for several hours and it’s nearly midnight—but right now, I’m dreading going home. I can’t keep fighting and I don’t know what to do. I run my hands through my hair and sigh. The air is cold and I can see my breath. I walk back to my car and lie on the hood. You can see the stars very clearly from here. It’s peaceful and it’s quiet and I’m not concerned about saying the wrong thing or getting mad at her or her getting mad at me or all the fucked-up shit that seems to be going on. I feel my blackberry buzz in my pocket again, but I just lie there and look at the stars.
Jason has texted Christian twice and he hasn’t responded. He always responds. Has something happened to him? Jason offered to stay up and wait for him, but I know I won’t be able to rest until I at least know that he’s okay. We seem to be fighting all the time, over the smallest—and largest—things. What is this all about? Could it be the stress of the wedding? I look at my ring and twirl it around my finger. It’s really beautiful. I walk over to the wall of windows in our bedroom and stare out over the city of Seattle.
What’s going on with us? Every time it seems like things are going right, something comes in and fucks things up. I don’t even want to list all of the things that have overshadowed our days just over the last two weeks. I mean, we always manage to reconnect, but I am truly getting weary of this back and forth. Something has to give.
I walk around the dark, empty apartment, the night sky illuminating the glass wall. I try to think of all the ways he has changed—we have changed—since we’ve been living here together, since the first day I met him. God, he was such an asshole. There was nothing attractive about him in my eyes because his attitude and ego made his physical beauty nearly non-existent. Then he crashed my disaster-date with Edward and everything changed. I fell hard and I fell fast, and I never looked back.
I remember going snorkeling in Anguilla and we talked about getting a waterwall with fish in the bottom… maybe. Edward had turned me off from home aquariums and I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest time or money into getting another one, even if it was Christian’s money. I remember our conversation that week after we moved in together. It will be our first joint acquisition. We will both pick it out and both pay for it. I told him that I still wasn’t ready for it the time—that I would not get an aquarium until I felt that I was completely comfortable with it. Christian became edgy and worried with the conversation because he knew what the aquarium represented and he felt like I was saying that I wasn’t completely comfortable with him.
I admitted that I was indeed partially saying that, but told him that he had to understand the significance of the aquarium in my life. I thought Edward was going to be my prince, even though he was my first love. I was ghastly wrong, so I didn’t want to leap off into another situation where I give my whole heart and it gets crushed again. Although there was no doubt that I loved Christian and still do with my whole heart and soul, there is still one little piece of me that is uncertain and terrified of getting hurt. It soothes a bit as time goes on, but I wanted to be certain before I jumped completely—much like us waiting to get married until we decided that we were both sure.
I touch the wall where we had decided the waterwall would go, and still no waterwall. We just never got around to it. Something was always happening, something was always more important or getting in the way. I think I’d like that waterwall now, but after the wedding, I guess. It’s a big decision and we already have one big decision on our hands.
I sit down at Christian’s piano. I could never play, really, but I learned one tune by ear when I was a kid, so I place my hands on the keys and begin to play…
Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loved ones’ watch am keeping,
All through the night
Just for a moment, I wish I was as accomplished a player as Christian, just so that I could feel close to him right now. I don’t even remember why I was angry with him now. I just want him home. I wipe a single tear from my eye and close the piano cover before going back to our bedroom.
It is the dead of night and I have fallen asleep in the middle of our bed. Christian still isn’t in bed with me. Where is he? I lift my head to see him sitting in a chair near the glass wall looking out at the night sky. What’s this? I sit up in bed but don’t say anything.
“I think we should wait,” he says without turning around to look at me. I frown. What is he talking about?
“What?” I ask, looking for clarification.
“We fight like cats and dogs, Ana,” he continues. “Every week, sometimes more than once. We fight and then we fuck. Isn’t it making you weary?” Where is he going with this? Is he saying what I think he’s saying?
“It’s tiring, yes, but we’re planning our life together. We’re being faced with some heavy decisions, especially with the trials coming up,” I try to reason with him.
“Maybe it’s too much all at once,” he says. “Maybe we should wait until after the trials, when we are more relaxed and can think more clearly.” Oh my God, he is saying what I think he’s saying.
“Wait for what?” I ask impassively. He hesitates in his answer. “Wait for what, Christian?” I ask again. Say it. I need to hear you say it.
“To get married. I think we should wait until things die down a bit,” he says solemnly, still not making eye-contact with me. My heart breaks almost instantly. I feel like a dark hole has opened in the earth and is threatening to swallow me alive.
“You… don’t want to marry me?” I ask, my voice almost non-existent. He sighs and drops his head.
“No, that’s not what I’m saying, Anastasia. I’m saying that I’m tired of all of this fighting and that we may need to figure out what causing it before we get married. Aren’t you tired of it, too?” Of course, I am, but not enough to call off my damn wedding! Yes, things are stressful. We are a high-profile couple with high-profile shit going on. There’s always going to be something going on—it’s the nature of the beast. Yet… he wants to postpone the wedding. He’s been gone for hours and when he comes back, he wants to postpone the wedding. We picked this day–June 29–specifically, because of its significance to us. Now he wants to wait until God knows when for things to die down a bit? All on my own, I have enough drama to fill the tabloids for months–may even years– but he’s Christian fucking Grey! When does he ever expect to for things to die down a bit??
I pull my knees up to my chest and wrap my arms around my legs. Resting my chin on my knees, I silently listen to him explain how unpredictable things have been and that we can’t continue indefinitely like this or we will just end up hating each other. He seems to have thought about this in great detail and he is convinced that it’s what’s best for us right now. I can only feel my soul caving in.
Hold it together, Girl. Listen to him. He’s not saying that he doesn’t want to marry you. He just saying that he wants to wait.
Where have you been hiding all this time?
I’ve been here. I’m always here.
I’ve waited forever, it seems, forever for him to tell me that he wants to marry me, and now he has waived the brass ring in my face—literally—only to take it away again.
He’s not taking it away…
I can’t hear you right now.
I must have zoned out for a moment because Christian is standing next to the bed, calling my name.
“Ana, are you alright?” I blink up at him, but right now I just see the night sky out the window behind him.
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine,” I lie. “Whatever you think is best, Christian.” His shoulders fall, almost like he’s disappointed. As disappointed as I am, not likely, but if this is what you want…
“I just think… we need to wait… just a bit, and decide what’s best for us right now,” he continues. I nod looking blankly ahead of me. He waits for a few moments before he leaves the room. I sit there for a while in the middle of our bed, feeling like I’m sitting on one of those deserted islands with one lone barren palm tree and no hope of rescue. The silent tears begin to burn a trek down my cheeks and soak my nightgown. There’s a violent battle going on in my stomach and I know that, very soon, I’m going to lose that battle. I calmly walk to the en suite and close and lock the door behind me. Almost on cue, my stomach begins to violently empty its contents. I nearly miss the toilet.
Several minutes later, I am sitting on the floor completely out of breath and begging my stomach to calm down and grant me a reprieve. Thankfully, my gut listens, but my heart doesn’t. There is excruciating pain in my chest and I can’t stop it. I push my hand hard against it in an attempt to alleviate it, but it won’t go away. I grab a towel and shove it into my mouth to muffle the wails and screams that are aching to get free. I couldn’t stop them if I tried. I cried and screamed until my eyes and throat hurt before falling asleep on the bathroom floor.
“Anastasia! Anastasia, are you alright?” I wake to Christian banging frantically on the door. My head is killing me and the ache in my heart isn’t any better either.
“I’m…” All of the vomiting and crying has taken my voice. I clear my throat and painfully call out. “I’m fine. I’m… just not feeling very well.”
“Open the door, Ana!” he says, his voice both pleading and demanding. No… no, I don’t think so. I drag myself off the floor and drop my nightgown at the door of the shower. I turn it on and step inside, not waiting for the water to get warm. I still hear Christian banging on the door, but now my head is hanging under the stream of water, wishing I could wash away the events of the last day… month… my whole screwed-up life. The tears start to stream down my face again and I am in the perfect place to let them fall.
Why can’t I just wash you all away like you never existed? Of course, if I wash away Carla, then I would have never existed—or maybe I would have been someone else’s daughter. Maybe I would have had a mother who loved me and cared for me and my whole life might have turned out differently. Maybe I wouldn’t have been raped by a selfish monster and beaten by a cruel, unfeeling mob. Maybe I wouldn’t have met my wonderful father, or my friends… or Christian.
Yeah, and maybe a little old lady is going to pop up in a blue cape with a magic wand singing “bippity-boppity-boo” and make all of my dreams come true.
Christian is still banging on the door and now it sounds like he’s trying to tear it down as I pour shampoo into my hair and work it through my scalp and locks. I put my conditioner in as I wash my body thoroughly and rinse the soap away down the drain, but unfortunately, not my troubles. I rinse the last of the conditioner out of my hair when I feel a cold rush of air breeze through the shower. I turn off the water just as a very angry Christian snatches the shower door open.
“Goddammit, Anastasia!” he chastises. “Why the hell didn’t you answer me!? Why are you locked in the goddamn bathroom!?” Well, you see, my fiancé called off our wedding early this morning after he had been out most of the night only God knows where and I was a bit preoccupied.
“My mind was somewhere else,” I say, stepping out of the shower and reaching for the towels.
“I’ll say! I was banging on the door like a madman and finally tore the damn thing off the hinges! I was afraid you were hurt or something in here!” I quickly wrap a towel around my body and reach for a second one for my hair.
“No… not hurt,” I say, not physically anyway. I don’t make eye-contact with him until he touches my arm.
Oh my God. Pain lances through me at his touch and it’s almost like I can’t stand it. I don’t know what he sees in my eyes when I look at him, but an unknown pained emotion runs across his face.
“Ana… are you okay?” he asks. Yes, I’m just ducky, thank you—besides the fact that I feel like a golden dragon has ripped out my heart and is using it for a volleyball, I’m just fabulous!
“I told you, I’m not feeling well,” I say flatly before turning on my blow dryer. A few minutes later, my hair is dry and kind of stringy down my back…
…and he’s still standing there.
“If you’re not feeling well, maybe you shouldn’t go to work today,” he says softly. Oh, and sit around here all day? Not a chance!
“I just need to get in and see my patients,” I say, shoving my toothbrush into my mouth and brushing quickly so that I can get the hell out of this bathroom with him since he doesn’t seem to want to leave.
“Ana, you look like hell,” he says. Gee, thanks, I say to myself and my body must have relayed that same sentiment as I pause my brushing. “That’s not what I meant…” he tries to explain. I spit, rinse my mouth and spit again.
“It’s okay, I know what you meant,” I say with no malice before happily escaping the bathroom… well, maybe not happily, but relieved. I go to the closet and haphazardly grab a pair of skinny jeans, a plain white shirt with a brown oversized sweater and my Cole Hann tall leather camel boots with black fleece cuff. Christian stares at me like something totally unfamiliar when I step out of the closet.
“You’re going to see patients dressed like that?” he asks. I look down at my outfit. Sure, I don’t usually wear jeans to the office and my boots have a two-inch rubber sole instead of my usual stilettos, but I don’t have a damn dress code!
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” I ask him.
“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong with it, it’s just very… casual.” I look at it again, then shrug. I breeze past him and up to my office to get my gun. I forgot that I didn’t finish assembling the Magnum last night and I don’t feel like doing it at this moment, so I just take My Boo and put it and the magazine in my purse instead, which I had also left in my office last night. At least I had the good sense to charge my phone. I shoot off a text to Chuck to get ready and that he’s driving. I pull my Jackie O glasses out of my purse and turn to leave only to find Christian standing in the door of my office.
“Ana, are you… going to be okay?” he asks cautiously. I couldn’t help but roll my head in disbelief at his question. You basically broke off our engagement last night and you want to know if I’m going to be okay? Do I look okay? My hair is all over my head, I haven’t even thought to put moisturizer on my face, I’m dressed like I’m going to the damn amusement park, and you want to know if I’m going to be okay? Do I fucking look okay?
My insides are screaming, but my mouth simply cannot find the words to say, so I just nod. He knows that I’m full of shit because of my initial reaction, so he just lets me pass and I leave the penthouse, without a word to anyone and without breakfast.
Chuck is eerily quiet in the front seat on our way to the office and I wonder if Christian or Jason gave him a heads-up on what’s going on. No matter, I’m all alone in my grief anyway. Tears are still falling down my face and I wipe them off before I get to the office.
“Hi, An—” Marilyn stops her greeting cold when she sees me, telling me without a doubt that I look like shit. That’s it, I’m not seeing any patients today.
“Marilyn, can you bring me a cup of coffee and come into my office, please?” I say as I breeze past her. I go in and fire up my PC—why, I don’t know. I’m not going to be working today. I check to see if there are new alerts on the issues in Green Valley. Nothing. Marilyn comes into the office with my coffee.
“Thank you Marilyn. Can you cancel all of my appointments today? Do it in the conference room. I don’t want Chuck to hear you.”
“All of them?” she asks, incredulously.
“Yes, all of them,” I reiterate, looking at the screen like it’s the most important thing I have ever seen. She stands there for a few moments more, then leaves the office to finish her task. I sit here and ponder my situation. I’m so hurt that I can hardly breathe. No matter how hard I try right now, I can’t see the good in anything. All I see is darkness and pain and horrible everywhere I look. I want to vomit again, but there’s nothing left. I consider getting drunk, but that won’t help either. I hate clichés, but at this moment I truly feel like my whole world is falling apart and me right along with it.
He’s right about one thing—we fight too much. We fight all the time, but neither my head or my heart can reconcile calling off our wedding. The girl can’t see it, the woman can’t see it, the doctor can’t see it… The Bitch is trying to make me understand it, but even she went silent after a while.
When he was in the bathroom with me earlier, all I could think was that I wanted to get out of there—not because I was angry, but the proximity hurt so much. It was almost unbearable. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I hurt so much—I don’t even remember hurting this much when I dumped Edward, and that shit really hurt!
I sit there pondering for a few moments more, or so I thought, when Marilyn comes in with a croissant sandwich—chicken salad, I think. I look at the clock and see that it’s nearly noon. I’ve sat here for half the day doing nothing. I just nod in thanks at her gesture. It was very sweet of her, but there’s no way that I’m eating that.
When she leaves, I pull out my phone and begin a search on Google. After about twenty minutes, I call for Marilyn again.
“Marilyn, I need you to run some errands for me. Remember that you work for me and no one else, and I need these things done quickly and discreetly.” She looks at me with questioning eyes.
“Sure, Ana, anything you need.” I give her a list of my needs and send her off on her mission with instructions that she needs to be back in less than four hours. She frowns as she looks at the list.
“Ana, is everything okay?” she asks.
“Please, do as I ask and don’t ask any questions. I can’t answer them right now anyway.”
“Are you in trouble, Ana?”
“No! Now please do what I asked you to do and don’t tell anyone… and I mean no one!” I nearly hiss. She freezes for a moment, then turns around to leave. She pauses at the door. “Marilyn, please…” I beseech her, fighting back the tears that have threatened to fall all day. She opens the door and walks out of my office. I watch the monitor to see if she says anything to Chuck before she leaves. She silently gets on the elevator, thank God, but Chuck rises and heads toward my office door. Dammit! I should have told her to lock it. I quickly change my screen back to the search for Green Valley updates before he breaches the office.
“Ana? Are you okay?” If one more person asks me that…
“Please don’t ask me that,” I say, never moving my eyes from the screen.
“Well, I’m sorry. It’s just that Marilyn just left here looking like she was going to the gallows and you have been locked in your office all day on one of your busiest days, so I am a bit concerned.” He’s a good man… and a good friend, but I simply cannot talk about this, and there’s no way that I’m going to tell anybody that I’m alright when I’m clearly not.
“I appreciate your concern, Chuck, but there’s nothing you can do and I don’t want to talk about it. So please, just let it go.” I still can’t make eye-contact with him. Hell, I can’t make eye contact with anybody, it seems.
“He, um, briefed us on what’s going on, as much as he could anyway.” Now I make eye-contact with him.
“He… briefed you?” I ask incredulously. Briefed you? What the fuck? Chuck is immediately uncomfortable, like he knows he said something wrong… which he has.
“Well, that’s just the military in me talking, Ana. He told us what happened… about the wedding. I just want you to know that… I’m here if you need to talk,” he says sympathetically. So it’s true. It’s not a bad dream or something that I hope will blow over. He’s calling off the wedding. He’s really calling it off.
“Thank you, Chuck,” I say as I begin to weep again. I feel his hand on my shoulder and I jump at his touch and shake my head. I don’t want anyone to touch me right now. Touch hurts too much. I just want to be alone. I hear him leave the office and close the door behind him. I drop my head on my desk and cry that only too familiar cry that never seems to end.
It seems like it took forever for Marilyn to get back. She has done everything I have asked her to do and fetched the things I have requested. I take the shopping bag that she has brought for me. I clear my browser history and turn off my cell phone, leaving it in my top desk drawer. I give Marilyn more instructions before taking my purse and the shopping bag and leaving out of the side door of my office.
I take the stairs down to the service entrance and go to the parking lot in the rear of the building. I retrieve the key fob from inside the shopping bag and press the unlock button. A dark blue Chevy Tahoe comes to life. Perfect. I get inside and start it up. The back seats are filled with the items that I requested Marilyn retrieve for me. I’m ready.
You said that you would never do this.
He jilted me. All bets are off.
He didn’t jilt you. He just wants to postpone the wedding.
Well, my heart can’t tell the difference.
I put the SUV into gear and I’m off. I get on the I-90 heading east and away from Seattle—just me, my fuzzy head, and my broken heart.
Ana was supposed to come to the studio with me to do her segment of the Faces of Abuse PSA, but according to Davenport, she hasn’t left her office all day and won’t see anyone but Marilyn. That means that she canceled all of her appointments and most likely only left the apartment so that she didn’t have to be near me, but I was coming to work anyway. Does she think this is easy for me? Does she think I came to this decision lightly? We are fighting all the damn time! Who can live like that?
It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to marry her. It just means that I want the damn fighting to stop and it seems that it has gotten significantly worse since we’ve been planning this damn wedding. What’s funny is that we are not even fighting about the wedding. We’re fighting about everything else.
I quickly do my spot for the PSA and get it perfect on the first take. I inform the studio that Ana is indisposed and will do her segment at a later date but to continue with the filming. When I get back to GEH, Carrick is there to tell me the details about how they found Elena’s picture collection inside her collection of priceless books in the library and someone has laid claim to the collection and wants reimbursement for the damaged items. He makes it clear that someone is not Elena, but I would love to know who would be more concerned about the books and less concerned about what was found in them. What’s more, who allowed Elena to store their priceless first edition collection of classics in her library?
After a detailed meeting with Welch concerning Myrick, Hamilton, and the Vansteen move, I check my phone to see if there is any contact from Butterfly. I don’t know what I expect—she was shattered this morning when I finally got the bathroom door open. I had to warn security that she would be on a terror and why. Even behind those practiced, impassive expressions, I could see the disapproval on all of their faces. She has worked her way into everyone’s heart and anything that hurts her is a definite no-no. Even Gail was chilly to me at breakfast this morning.
Of course, there are no messages from her. I’ve kept my blackberry close just in case, so I know this to be so, but I check anyway. I have flashbacks of the day that she launched her iPhone into the bushes because I hadn’t called her all day. I resist the urge to introduce my blackberry to the nearest wall.
I try to fill my afternoon with work and not think about Butterfly, but it’s impossible. I hate when she hurts more than anyone and it was evident by her behavior and clothing this morning that she was definitely not herself… at all. She wore what looked like hiking boots this morning. Hiking boots and jeans to work! Never in the months that I have known her has she gone into the office dressed casually, nor has she ever left behind her stilettos and opted even for a stylish sandal or pump. It’s always stilettos.
She can’t handle it. That’s what that means. That’s what that always means. I never forgot her “I can do anything in stilettos” statement. When she can’t do the stilettos, something is definitely wrong.
I’m doing the right thing… aren’t I? I mean, we can’t keep fighting like this. We have to get to the bottom of it. However, the wedding is… well, was… four months away. That would be plenty of time to work through whatever issues we have—with some premarital counseling maybe. Oh God, another shrink. We simply can’t go on like this. We just keep fighting, and planning this wedding would definitely get in the way of getting to the bottom of this.
My own words come back to me…
We are not even fighting about the wedding. We’re fighting about everything else.
Flynn, Cholometes, Hamilton, Myrick…
Everything else… except for John, things and people who would love nothing more than to ruin our wedding—all of these people sore spots in our lives in one way or another.
Not the wedding… everything else.
“Fuck!” How can I be so intelligent and so damn dense at the same time? I dial her number and her phone goes straight to voice mail. That’s never a good sign.
“It’s me, Butterfly. We really need to talk. I… we just need to talk, Baby. I’ll see you at home. I love you.”
Maybe she’ll get the message and call me back. Maybe she’ll give me the silent treatment for the next couple of hours. We’ll just have to wait and see.
It looks like Butterfly took the latter of the two and opted not to call me back. Jason is eerily quiet on the ride back home. He doesn’t even look into the rear-view mirror. The silence follows us all the way into the parking garage, up the elevator, and into the apartment. Davenport is waiting in the great room when we get there.
“How is she?” I ask him.
“I don’t know,” he says, slightly perturbed.
“That bad?” I pursue.
“No, that’s not what I mean. I mean I don’t know. I have no idea how she’s doing,” he elaborates. What?
“What are you talking about?” Spit it out, I’m not in a playing mood right now.
“Mr. Grey, Ana’s gone.”
A/N: Well, there you have it. The storyline that would not let me sleep–the REAL angst has begun. Let her rip, but let me tell you that I will not hesitate to delete derogatory comments. See you on Saturday.
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