Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 32—21,120 minutes

So, there were quite a few powerful reactions to the last chapter. Some sided with Christian; some sided with Ana. There was a lot of crying and some cursing. People were all over the spectrum with how they felt about the situation. While some folks want to “tar and feather” me, others are sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for Saturday and still others seem to be just bored. One person held me personally responsible asking “how could you do this to them?” Le sigh… So now you get to see what happens in the days that followed, where Ana went, and how our lovers handle things on their own. Let’s see if you still have the same views after you read this chapter…

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 32—21,120 minutes

GREY

“Gone where!?” I ask him, feeling like my heart is about to explode out of my chest.

I have no idea, but she is definitely gone.”

“Get Gerald on the phone. We need to file a missing persons report quickly. Something may have happened to her,” I say to Jason, before turning back on Davenport. “You have one job—one—and that is to keep her safe, and now she’s missing?” I yell at him.

“Sir, she’s not missing, and she’s not on one of her angry jaunts. She left. Marilyn is tight-lipped and won’t budge, but she spent the afternoon loading up an SUV with food and necessities for Ana, who slipped out of the back entrance while I was sitting in the lobby.”

“How could you let her get away!?” I roar. “I told you that she would be upset today. Why did you let her out of your sight!?”

“Sir, I didn’t let her do anything. I sat in the same place that I’ve sat everyday for eight months, and this is the day that she decided that she wanted to leave and not let me know. Every other time, even at the gym when she was angry at you, she let me know that she was leaving. Now, she didn’t even want me to know. I’m her bodyguard, Sir, not her warden.” I can hear the anger in his voice and it only fuels mine.

You’re fired.” I hiss at him. His eyes grow as large and prominent as the shock in his face as well as Jason’s. He stands there gape-mouthed for a moment. “I’m not going to repeat myself. Get the fuck out of my house.” He straightens his shoulders. After reaching in his pocket, he throws something over to Jason. Once Jason catches it, I realize that it’s a set of keys. Without a word, he turns around military-style and walks out of the apartment. His calm is a bit unnerving, but I don’t care right now. All I want is my Butterfly back.

I turn around and see Jason eying me with obvious disapproval.

“Something you want to say, Taylor?” I am met with immovable silence and a stoic expression. “You know what to do. Find her.”

“Yes, Sir,” he says with a menacing calm, much like that exhibited by Davenport moments ago. He turns with the same precision and walks off into his office. Fuck alcoholics, I need a damn drink!

*-*

It’s been a week—a whole damn week—and not a word from Butterfly… well, not directly anyway. Marilyn knows where she is but won’t tell me. Allen has spoken to her, but since he still works for me, she will only check in to let him know that she hasn’t fallen prey to kidnappers or fortune-seekers. She must be calling from a different phone, completely untraceable though we don’t know how. She’s driving, so we can only assume that she still in Washington, or one of the neighboring states at best. I am being hounded by my family, her father, and the Scooby Gang for details about where she is and why she left. Unlike the time when she “checked out,” this one is totally on me. I confess to them all that in a moment of uncertainty, I canceled the wedding—that we were fighting like cats and dogs and I thought that we should take some time to figure out what was wrong before we jumped into marriage.

Many of these brilliant people came to the same conclusion I did, that we had plenty of time before our wedding to iron out our differences. Yet, I came to that conclusion a moment too late. She was already gone even though I didn’t know it. Tamara is continuing with our wedding plans based on what she and Butterfly had already discussed. Like me, she believes that Ana will come to her senses and come back. With each passing day and no contact, I’m not so sure. I saw her that last day before she left. She was crushed. Only the fact that she is keeping in contact with Marilyn and Allen gives me comfort and lets me know that she is okay.

Our family and friends are split on how to treat me. Mom and Dad are supportive and say that Ana will be back when she cools off and realizes that we love each other. Elliot is disappointed in me and Mia is livid! Ray is not to happy with me, either, and Mandy is trying to stay neutral. The Scooby Gang is a bit standoffish, but cautious—not judgmental, but not overly friendly or supportive except for Allen and James. I believe that Gail could care less whether I lived or died at this point but keeps over-feeding me for the sake of my mom and Ana so that I don’t starve myself like I did before. Jason just kind of grumbles, mumbles, and hisses in my presence, talking only to give me updates on Myrick and Hamilton and to tell me that there’s no news on Ana’s whereabouts.

At the 10-day mark, I’m losing my mind. I go in to speak to Dr. Baker to try to get a handle on my thoughts, but it does me no good. She tells me that the way that we are both feeling and reacting is perfectly normal, particularly for a couple planning a wedding. Her only advice to me was to wait it out, that Ana will return when she’s ready.

That Friday night, I completely lose it. My nights have been plagued with dreams and nightmares—nightmares that she is gone forever or dreams that she is back in my arms, safe and loving me. The dreams are worse, because I awake the next morning reaching for her only to find that she’s not there. No one really wants to talk to me, so I’m keeping this all in except for talking to Dr. Baker and John—John as a friend, not my shrink. I don’t want his advice, I just want to sound off to someone. I pick up my blackberry and dial a number.

Hi Chris.”

Nobody cares about me,” I say into the phone. “If it wasn’t for her, no one would care if I lived or died. I know that I hurt her. I accept that, but I’m hurting too, and nobody cares about me—not even my own family.”

That’s not true, Chris,” Allen says. “You know that we care about you. We just don’t know how to handle this right now.”

“Neither do I.” I feel the tears burning down my face. “This is what I get for thinking I could be a normal guy.” I didn’t mean to say that out loud, but it was too late.

What do you mean by that?” Allen asks.

“Nothing. I’m sorry I bothered you.” I end the call and throw my phone on the breakfast bar. I retrieve a bottle of bourbon from the bar and go to my piano. She sat here with me the last time I sat here. I take a shot of bourbon straight from the bottle. I put my fingers on the keys and try to play but nothing comes to me, absolutely nothing. I feel like I’m hurting all over as I take another swallow of bourbon, anything to numb this never-ending pain.

I tried. I tried for days to be strong, to think positive, for nearly two weeks. I kept planning the wedding, kept working. I put on the face like everything was okay and I was unshakable, but when it comes to her, I’m not. I admit it, I’m not. I wasn’t breaking up with her, I just thought we should wait. I was wrong, and I figured that out, but I still wasn’t breaking up with her. Why did she leave me?

Still unable to find music, I make the mistake of turning on my iPod and choosing a song that describes my feelings at this moment—Marvin Gaye, I Wish I Didn’t Love Her So Much. For the first time since we have been together, I wish I could turn off these feelings because they burn inside. They hurt more than anything I have ever felt and I can’t stand them for another second. I don’t know how many minutes, hours, shots of bourbon have passed and how many times I have listened to this song when I find myself banging mindlessly on the keys, sobbing like the maudlin drunk that I am.

“Christian! Christian, stop!” I didn’t realize how strong James was until I found him holding my injured, bloody hands. I have destroyed several keys on my piano and I am staring at him through my tears. “Stop,” he says again.

I sit there frozen, staring at him. When did he get here? I frown a bit, questioning, when I look up and they are all here—Maxine and Philip, Allen, Valerie and the brother who isn’t speaking to me, and Garrett. Marilyn is conspicuously absent for obvious reasons.

They do care… I guess.

I slump into a mound on my piano seat, weeping—probably more from too much alcohol than anything, I think. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“Where is that music coming from? Turn that shit off!” I hear my brother say, and someone behind me locates the remote to my iPod, ending my misery serenade.

“Bring him over here,” I hear Gail say. James leads me from the piano bench to the breakfast bar where Gail has a bowl of cold water waiting. “Put your hands in here so we can stop the bleeding and I can see the cuts.” I obey, still weeping like a drunken bitch.

Hold your head up, for Christ’s sake. Your hair is getting into the bloody water!” It appears that Gail is still angry with me even though she’s tending to my wounds. That makes me cry even more for some reason. Like I said, maudlin drunk.

“Oh, for the love of God, pull yourself together, Bro!” Elliot barks. “You did this to yourself, you know.”

“Elliot!” Valerie scolds.

“Well, he did! He had the perfect girl for him—the perfect girl! He goes through this big, elaborate production of proposing to her, then he tells her that he doesn’t want to marry her! He’s a fucking idiot!”

“That’s not… what… I s-said,” I say through shuddering breaths.

Well, that’s what she heard,” Elliot barks. “She heard that after dealing with all of your crazy shit—and hers—that you didn’t want to be bothered.” I look up at him. Has he been talking to her?

“How do… you know that?” I ask him.

“Because when God was handing out emotions, He gave me one that apparently slipped by you. It’s called empathy!” Oh. Yeah, that. Okay. I drop my head again and into the bowl of water I go.

“Dammit Christian!” Gail exclaims. Another set of hand lift my chin and are now gently wiping my face.

“You really need to pull it together, Christian,” Maxine’s voice says softly. “You’re a mess. May I add this is not what I expected to find when I returned from my honeymoon.” She’s drying my hair and her kind eyes smile at me. It slows my crying a bit but I still want my Butterfly.

Well, your hands are cut up pretty badly, but none of the cuts look to need stitches. You may need a tetanus shot, though,” Gail announces

“I don’t… need… a sho… shot.” Now, I have the hiccups. Before I can protest further, my know-it-all brother is on the phone.

“Hi, Mom… yeah, I’m at Christian’s… Listen, he had a hissy-fit and cut his hands up on his piano keys. Does he need a tetanus shot?… Yeah, yeah, sure. Does he need a shot?… No, Gail says he doesn’t look like he needs any stitches. It’s a lot of little cuts but no deep or long ones… Okay, Mom. Thanks… yeah, yeah, yeah, okay bye.” He ends the call with our mother. “She says if he doesn’t need stitches, he most likely won’t need a tetanus shot.”

What else did she say, Elliot?” Valerie presses. There is a moment of silence.

“She said to stop antagonizing him and to tell him that she loves him.” That felt good, to hear that someone still loves me.

“She’s right. Stop antagonizing him!” Valerie scolds. “He’s suffering enough.”

“He deserves it!” Elliot snaps. “Maybe this will make him stop doing stupid shit when he gets her back.” I look up at him, my eyes asking my question for me. “Oh, get off it! That woman loves you more than God! Why, I’ll never know, but she does, so she’ll come back, and you better not fuck up when she does or I’ll never let you live it down.” I just look at him. I have no strength to fight anymore. Now the tears roll silently down my face. Elliot has to turn away. Even in his anger, he has never been able to watch me cry. “Dammit, Bro,” he mumbles under his breath. “And stop listening to this damn break-up shit! That’s probably what got you in the state that you are now.” I just nod. Gail finishes bandaging my hands, cleans up the mess and walks away without a word. She is clearly not letting me off so easily.

“Doesn’t anybody… see my side in… th-this? Why I th-thought this… might be the right… decision at the t-time?” I still can’t stop the shuddering and the hiccups.

After you’ve explained it, yes, we do,” Garrett says, “but whose opinion really counts right now?” I feel the crying coming on again. I drop my head and try to combat it.

“Pe-people. She made me… n-need people… I was fine… on my own… b-but s-she made… me need p-people…” I breathe heavily after I finally get the words out of my mouth. Maxine sits on the stool next to me and holds my hand, no words, just silently holding my hand. Valerie holds my other one and brushes my yet again overgrown hair out of my face. Why does it always seem to grow wild when Ana leaves me?

People… she made me need people. I can’t do this alone.

“You’re not alone, Chris,” Allen says, reading my mind. Thank God for that.

I look around the apartment and everything that I see reminds me of her—the kitchen where we share our meals; the fireplace in the great room that I never used until she got here; the dining table where we host F&L; even the marble floor where she left Elena in a bloody mess. Almost on cue, Jason appears from where he was hovering around the corner. I know why she left now. I can’t stay here either. It’s too much.

“Get me out of here,” I beg him, my heart and soul cracking all over again. I don’t care what you do. Take me to a hotel. Drop me off at a homeless shelter. Just get me the hell out of here. Jason looks at me and his stoic and impassive expression drops for the first time in 12 days.

“Okay, Boss,” is all he says.

*-*

I awake in my usual suite at the Alexis Hotel. The room is dark and I don’t know what time it is. I do know that I dreamed of Butterfly and that she’s not here now. Resigned to my fate, I pull the covers over my head, close my eyes, and think of Butterfly…

*-*

The sunlight is barely shining into the room now. I still feel so exhausted. If I keep waking up every few hours, I’m never going to get any rest. Back to thoughts of Butterfly…

*-*

I don’t even bother taking the covers off my head this time. Back to sleep I go…

*-*

You know we need to get up, don’t you?” she says, softly in my ear.

No, we don’t. We can stay right here.” I pull her tight into my arms. “We don’t have anything to do today.”

We have a lot to talk about, Christian, and we have to finish our planning. The wedding day will be here soon.” I kiss her just under her ear. “Mmmm, or… maybe not…”

I go for the maybe not,” I say as I roll over on top of her. “You are so beautiful.” I kiss her gently before I sink into her.

Aahh!” she moans, pushing her hips into mine. “You feel so good.”

Oohh, so do you, Baby,” I say, feeling her warmth surround me. This is the best feeling, being buried inside of her.

Christian… aahh… Christian… I’m coming!”

I know, Baby,” I hiss, thrusting into her fast and hard. “Give it to me!” She groans loudly and my release is right behind hers—hard and violent.

Oh, yes! Oh, fuck!” I cry out.

I am jolted awake midway through my ejaculation and grit my teeth as it finishes. Fucking hell! I haven’t had a wet dream in years! The sun still hasn’t risen completely in the sky. Fuck of all fucks! This has to have been the longest night of my life. I am drenched in sweat—and now cum, too—so I throw the covers off of me and go to the bathroom.

I step out of my clothes from last night and let the water run over me. My hands don’t hurt nearly as badly as I thought they would after that beating that I gave my piano. Shit, my piano. Do I repair it or just replace it? As the water runs over my head, I notice that my hair is actually flopping down my back a bit. This will never do. I was actually due for a haircut before the shit all hit the fan. Now, it’s imperative.

I scratch my chin to see that my beard has grown in quite quickly. I just shaved! I know I’m not crazy with that one. Fuck it, maybe with all the crying and emotions, I have some super-active female hormones at work inside me. As long as I don’t grow tits and still love to fuck, it’s all good. After removing the ridiculous amount of hair that accumulated on my face overnight, I find some gauze in the first aid kit in the medicine cabinet and re-wrap my hands. I put on a sweater and jeans over my T-shirt and boxer briefs and go search for coffee.

I open the door and see Jason on the sofa in the sitting room. He is eating chicken cacciatore and Italian bread. What the hell?

Breakfast of champions, Jason?” I ask, going for the coffee pot and noticing that it’s empty. What’s this? I turn to throw an accusing look at Jason and he just sits there looking at me. This begins the silent conversation that sends my already fragile mind into a tailspin. I stand still waiting for an explanation when Jason gestures to the window. The sun has disappeared into a beautiful twilight sky. Okay, yeah, pretty. Now where the fuck is the cof…

Twilight sky.
Twilight.
It’s nighttime!
That was the sunset that I saw, not the sunrise.

Shit, Jason, you let me sleep away the whole day?” I bark.

“Why? Did you have plans?” he says sarcastically. Fucker. “And you didn’t sleep a day away…” I point to the night sky.

“I specifically remember seeing the night sky and then seeing the dawn. Now I see the night sky again. I’d say that was a day!”

“You didn’t let me finish,” Jason says calmly. “You didn’t sleep a day away, Christian. You slept away two days.”

I feel like the air was just sucked out of the room.

Are you… serious?” I can’t even be angry. I’m just stunned. He hands me my blackberry and sure enough, it reads Sunday, March 10, 2013, 7:16pm. Fuck me. “How…?” I’ve never slept that long in my life. Even when I was hospitalized for dehydration and exhaustion last year, I didn’t sleep that long.

First, you reeked of bourbon. You’re lucky you didn’t get alcohol poisoning. I’m surprised that you didn’t piss yourself in the bed. Second, you needed the rest. You were two seconds from a psychotic breakdown. You were blubbering and hiccupping in a room full of people. You needed to sleep, to give your body and mind and opportunity to recuperate. Third, with the sounds that I heard coming from that room, there was no way in hell that I was waking you up—screaming, snoring, nocturnal emissions…” I glare at him with that last revelation. “With all due respect, Christian, I slept in a barracks. I am well acquainted with all of those things. When you were ready to wake up, you would wake up… and you did. Now order some dinner. You’re going to need some nourishment. You haven’t eaten in two days.”

“I just want some coffee,” I say, dialing for room service.

“You haven’t eaten in two days. Order some dinner. Besides, we’ve got a road trip ahead of us.” I turn to look at him. Road trip. That can only mean one thing.

“You found her,” I say.

Yes, I found her. I got an anonymous call this morning from a woman that says she rented a cabin to someone fitting Ana’s description. No doubt, she’s looking for a payoff, but something had to pop up after that story ran.”

“What story? The one about her mother? That was at least 10 days ago.”

“No, the one about you. Apparently, the Alexis or one of its staff appreciates a quick buck more than they do your business.” Jason hands me a copy of Break-Up Magazine. Oh God, this can’t be good.

Billionaire and once-again bachelor Christian Grey was seen checking into the Alexis Hotel late last night with his bodyguard, Jason Taylor. A hotel employee says that Grey was “sweating alcohol and barely able to stand.” Other sources say that Anastasia Steele, the other half of the now-doomed AnaChris, hasn’t been seen at the penthouse for several days. So if the Bad Boy is at the Alexis and the Sweetheart is elsewhere—most likely at her condo—then who’s staying at the penthouse?

The employee who wishes to remain anonymous indicates that Grey had been visibly crying and his hands were wrapped in bandages. Did he find his sweetheart in bed with another? Is there a pulverized home-wrecker walking around the streets of Seattle somewhere?

Of course, Steele could not be contacted for comment. Sources believe she is holed-up in her downtown condo, nursing a broken heart and shattered dreams. But guess what, girls? That means that the once-elusive hot billionaire is back on the market! Saddle up, Ladies! Who’s going to get to him first?

“Oh for fuck’s sake, will this ever end?” I lament.

No, Sir, it won’t,” Jason says from in front of me. “There will always be rumors and tabloid lies and some sick fuck in love with Ana or some ex-sub that wants to get you back. You and Ana may disagree more than you agree, and just when you think the storm is over, some woman is going to show up saying that you are the father of her baby. Ana is going to be testifying in Green Valley cases for a really long time and somewhere in between, she has the kidnapping case and the various lawsuits that she has initiated. There will be good and bad publicity from the Faces of Abuse campaign, there’s a psycho claiming to be your brother, and we still don’t know where Lincoln is. Somewhere in all of this mayhem, you’re going to manage to love her, make babies with her, build a home with her, and a life with her, and when your children get here, they will present a whole new set of problems for you. So no, it will never end. Now, the question is do you want this woman or not?”

That’s a no-brainer. I can’t go back to being the man that I was, not in a million years. I can’t love anybody but her, but I can’t go back to being that other man. I simply can’t. If I can’t have her, it would be a life of torment—never-ending torment. I don’t know what I’d do. I have no idea how I would survive.

“Pack our shit, get the car, I’ll pick up something to eat on the way.” I go in search of shoes.

 


 

STEELE

Three days. I cried for three days once I got here. I locked myself in, closed all the curtains, and cried.

Tuesday I left Seattle bound for Glacier National Park after seeing an advertisement for it on a travel website. The scenery is beautiful and I may be just out of touch enough to get my mind in order. Only, the minute I cross state lines, the dogs would be after me and I don’t want to be found. I just want peace. I need to clear my head and decide what I am going to do next.

I left my tether iPhone in my desk drawer and hit the I-90, following the connectors east straight into Montana. There was some mountain driving which was a bit scary, especially at night, but I managed to get through. Marilyn had withdrawn a substantial amount of money from my bank account as well as purchased some prepaid visa cards for me and rented the Tahoe on her own credit card to throw seekers off the scent. Amex Black and Discover would only alert them of where I am.

It’s a terrible responsibility to put onto Marilyn, but I needed someone to help me or I never would have gotten away without 50 questions—if I had gotten away at all. I know that I can trust her. She has always had my back. I love how she acted like she was talking to an old friend when I called to let her know that I was on the I-90 and well on my way.

Hello?”

“It’s me, Mare. I’m on my way out of the city. Any problems yet?” I asked.

Oh, hi. I’m quite well and you?” I could see she is talking in code.

“He’s right there, isn’t he?” I asked about Chuck.

Absolutely! It’s great hearing from you.”

“Does he suspect anything.”

Not at all. Everything has been going great with me. How about you? It’s been so long.”

“You are such a dork,” I jested at a time when I don’t feel like laughing at all.

Well, you know me. Same old Mare. Nothing much has changed over the years.”

“Okay, well, thank you again for helping me. Make sure you cancel the appointments like I asked and let them know that I have a personal emergency that couldn’t be avoided.”

Oh, no problem. I’d love to get together and talk sometimes. We have so much catching up to do.” Yes, Mare, I know.

“When I get there, I promise that I will call you on the Sat phone and tell you everything. Okay?”

That sounds wonderful! I really look forward to hearing all about it,” she says, remaining in character.

“I’ll call you again when I’m crossing the state line. Leave in half an hour as usual. I don’t want anyone getting more of a head start on me.”

No problem. I get off in half an hour and we can meet then if you like.”

“Thanks again, Mare. Talk to you soon.”

Absolutely. I’ll see you then! Bye!” Marilyn is a bit too good at that, but I needed every bit of those theatrics because that extra 30 minutes that she doesn’t tell Chuck that I’m not in the office will buy me about 40 miles on the freeway before I discover that there’s a tracking device on my gun or something.

As promised, I did call Marilyn when I crossed the state lines and she told me that shit really hit the fan when Chuck discovered that I wasn’t in the office. She stood her ground and told him nothing, just like she promised. She only said that she would let him know if I didn’t check in, but nothing more. This guaranteed that I had to call in everyday to make sure that she knew that I was alive and safe.

I rented a private cabin in Montana up in the mountains. It was about two in the morning when I got there and I didn’t think that the owner would wait up for me. Luckily, she did, and once I had given her $2500 in cash, she helped me to unload the SUV then left me in peace to begin my mourning and wailing.

Christian jilted me. After all of that waiting, he wants to wait some more because we fight like normal couples fight. Sure, it’s more than usual, but we’ve had some stressful times around here! And we’re planning a damn wedding! Of course, we’re going to argue! That’s no reason to cancel our wedding.

You told him that one of you would cancel the wedding at least… how many times?
Yes, but he briefed the staff! That means that he was serious about this cancellation. Not only that, but he was the one who told me that he wouldn’t cancel.
You didn’t give him time to retract his statement. And you made your plans before you discovered that he briefed the staff.
It doesn’t matter. Christian is not a fickle man, and he notified someone besides me that our wedding was canceled. He doesn’t make frivolous decisions and then notify his staff. He was serious. Now shut up, because I can’t handle you in my head right now… and I mean it.

So here I am, three days later, my head feeling like lead from crying every bit of the water out of my body. It’s well into Friday afternoon when I decide to make the call that I have dreaded.

Jewel, what the hell? Christian is beside himself.” I’ll just bet he is.

“I need some time to myself, Al.”

Well, what’s going on? Where are you?”

“I can’t tell you.” The line goes silent.

What do you mean you can’t tell me? I’m your best friend. You tell me everything. Are you in trouble?”

“No, I’m not in trouble, but you also work for Christian, and I don’t want to pull you in the middle of this,” I say.

Jewel, I don’t care about this job! If it comes down to choosing between him and you, I chose you!” he declares.

“I know, and I don’t want you to do that. That’s why I won’t put you in the middle.” He sighs.

Well, you still haven’t told me what’s going on, and I deserve that much.” My turn to sigh.

“He called off our wedding,” I say in a low voice, like if he didn’t hear me, it wouldn’t be true.

He did WHAT!?” Allen roars, and I can hear the entire office behind him fall silent.

“Allen, please, calm down,” I beg him.

Are you serious? He called off the wedding? This wasn’t an angry outburst or something and you could be mistaken?”

“I wish I were mistaken. He said that we fight too much and that he thinks we should wait before we get married.”

So you were fighting when he said this?” Al says, hopeful. “He could take it back, Jewel, if he was angry…”

“No, we weren’t fighting. We had been fighting early in the evening and I went to the workout room and he left—alone, no Jason. He stayed out for hours, wouldn’t answer texts about when he was coming home. When I awoke at about three in the morning, he was there sitting in a chair. That’s when he told me that we should wait. I spent the night in the bathroom vomiting.” Al gasped at that revelation. “The next day, he reinforced that he thought this was best and he even told the staff what happened.”

Well, he didn’t tell me, and I’m the staff,” Al says. It’s been three days. What is he waiting for?

“He was probably waiting for me to tell you. So now I’ve told you. I’m not getting married. My fairytale wedding to my prince in a castle is off!” I start to cry again.

I’m sorry, Jewel. I want to come to you, please. Tell me where you are.”

No. Not yet, Allen. I really need some time to myself. I just want to cry and be ugly and eat ice cream or don’t eat… I just need to be by myself.”

For how long, Jewel?” I shrug. Oops, he’s on the phone. He can’t see the shrug…

“I don’t know yet, but I’ll call you everyday. I promise.”

I guess now I know why I couldn’t reach you,” he says mournfully.

“I didn’t want to be reached,” I say. “I’ll keep you posted, Al. I love you.”

I love you, too, Jewel. I’m glad you’re okay… physically anyway.”

“Thanks, Baby. Bye now.”

Bye, Jewel.”

I hate keeping Allen in the dark, but I don’t want to drag him into this, even though he is my best friend.

I try to make myself some dinner, but I still have that lump in my stomach from being jilted and I’m afraid that it won’t stay down. I make myself some warm chicken soup and that stayed down well enough. It also felt really good going down while I’m nestled in the cold mountains of Montana. I fall asleep on the sofa in front of the television, trying not to think of Christian.

I wake on Saturday morning and decide that I’m going to explore a bit. First, I need to explore this cabin as I have been here for four days and I simply have not paid attention. There is a living room with two sofas facing each other and a small entertainment center with a 26” flat screen television. There are hardwood floors throughout the house and the living room has a big fluffy rug on the floor. The kitchen has granite countertops and a small granite breakfast bar, wood cabinets and black appliances—just small enough for one person to get in there and cook although the cabin sleeps eight.

There are two bedrooms on the first floor, each with a queen bed and a flat screen. In the middle of the open floor plan, there is a quaint wooden spiral staircase that leads to a loft, which houses two more queen beds. There is a slate walk-in shower with multiple shower heads and the granite vanity matches the granite from the kitchen. There is also a stacking washer and dryer and the landlady Desarae—God love her—brings me bagels, danishes and coffee every morning.

A large deck wraps around the front of the house and carries patio furniture for lounging and the large backyard basically opens to the mountains and Glacier National Park and has a fire pit. Though I will use the Wi-Fi since the house has a computer, I won’t use the telephone since it can be traced.

I decided to take a snowshoe walk with a group of tourists from the Great Bear Inn. It was nice to get out on the trails and walk around, admiring the mountains and becoming one with nature. I only became melancholy once, thinking of Christian and our trip to Wallace Falls, but it didn’t last long and I was okay by the end of the trail. We get back to the lodge before nightfall and I indulge in a large mug of that divine cocoa with the marshmallows. I chat with a family from Louisiana who are here with another family of four. We just talk about nothing for a while before I decide to go back to the cabin and turn in.

The next day, I decide to go on a sled ride—dog sled, that is. It’s a little strange, but it was fun nonetheless. I call Marilyn and Al and tell them about my adventures and communing with nature. Marilyn actually sounds a little jealous but Al asks me the same question every time I call.

When are you coming home?
Sorry, Al, I still don’t know yet.

I stay in the cabin on Monday and veg out in front of the television. I go over to the computer while the television is watching me and type in a Google search for me and Green Valley.

There’s a new hit.

I nearly dread looking at it since my weekend seemed so healing. I’m moving from maudlin to angry now. I don’t want to go back to maudlin. I click on the link and settle in for the voice of doom…

An investigation into the financial records of Franklin Whitmore provides more damning evidence against his son Cody in the case of the malicious beating of Anastasia Steele and the murder of her unborn baby. According to the AG’s office, a large sum of money was transferred to the joint account of Carla and Stephen Morton and a second smaller sum to the sole account of Stephen Morton in 2001, months after the vicious attack. It’s highly believed that this was hush money paid to the Mortons to ensure their daughter’s silence. Circumstances surrounding the transfer strongly indicate that Steele was unaware of the transaction. The AG’s office can only speculate what the money was for, but has summoned Carla Morton in for questioning as Stephen Morton passed away last month. AG Herbert Larson indicates that with only one side of the story to be told, he is aware that the tale will be terribly skewed and he may have to enter the facts as circumstantial evidence. Noting that the widow Mrs. Morton is having a very public battle in the media with her estranged daughter, Larson intends to handle Mrs. Morton as a hostile witness. The transfer is still under investigation. However, Larson indicates that depending on the office’s findings in this matter, Widow Morton could also be facing charges of evidence tampering and witness intimidation in this case.

Yes! I think to myself. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I told them! I told them that I couldn’t talk about it because it was an open case. I told them that if they listened to Carla, they would be sorry! I should fucking sue Hello Magazine, damn it, but I already have Edward’s lawsuit on my plate. Al tells me that fucker tried to settle for 3.5 million so that he could have something left. No, Asshole. It’s all or nothing. If I lose, I’ll turn your ass over to Christian and let him do with you what he will! Well, maybe… if we’re still together after this.

*-*

Tuesday after lunch, I go horseback riding on some of the clearer trails and have cocoa again in the lodge with some of the families. My Louisiana family is leaving tomorrow, so I hug them all and wish them a safe journey. I pull up to my quaint little cabin to see one of those heavy-duty pickup trucks parked out front and an unknown figure sitting on my porch. It’s not Christian, which was my first fear, but now I’m even more afraid because I have no idea who it is.

With my doors still locked, I load my Glock and leave my purse in the car. I walk carefully around the Tahoe and proceed toward the porch. I train my gun on the figure and announce, “I have a gun and I am licensed. Whoever you are, come into the light—slowly. Any sudden moves and I will shoot.”

The figure stands slowly raising their hands and walking into the light.

“I come in peace,” he says. I adjust my eyes. I recognize that voice. Fuck! It’s Chuck. I drop my arms and my gun.

“Did he send you?” I ask impassively as I go back to the Tahoe and retrieve my purse.

“No, he fired me.” I glare at him.

“He fired you?” I ask incredulously.

“Yep, for letting you get away,” he answers flatly. I shake my head and we walk into the warmth of the cabin.

“Blame anybody, just don’t take the blame yourself,” I mumble. “Well, now you work for me,” I say, putting my keys and purse on the breakfast bar. Chuck laughs.

“No offense, Ana, but you can’t afford me,” he says with a smile. I put my hands on my hips.

“You have better offers on the table?” I ask him. He shrugs.

No. Not yet anyway, but I will, assuming the great Christian Grey hasn’t blackballed me yet.”

“Well, until those sacks of cash start rolling in, you work for me, but you’re right. I can’t afford you, so what do you suggest?” He shakes his head.

“We’ll work something out. Right now, can I please have something to eat? I’m starving.”

It’s late and I’m tired and I don’t feel like cooking, but I do have some leftover beef stew from last night. I reach in the refrigerator and grab the bowl, handing it to Chuck and pointing to the microwave.

“Have at it. You want a beer?” I say.

“Um, no thanks. Soda or coffee is fine.” I immediately kick myself for forgetting that Chuck is a recovering alcoholic. 

“Sorry. I wasn’t thinking,” I say as I reach into the refrigerator for a soda and a bottle of Abyss. “I hope you don’t mind if I have one.”

“It’s understandable with what you’re going through, and no, I don’t mind at all if you have one.

I hand him his soda and wait for him to take his dinner out of the microwave. I sit across from him at the breakfast bar and let him get a few bites in. Before I even get the opportunity to ask, he says, “Don’t fire her.” That’s when I knew that Marilyn told him where to find me. “I was really worried, Ana. We all are. Your friends, your father, Christian…” Shit! I forgot about Daddy. Maybe I should call him, but then he would want to know what was going on. Christian was too chickenshit to tell Al, who’s on his fucking payroll. I know he won’t tell Daddy.

That still doesn’t let Marilyn off the hook.

Tell me one good reason I shouldn’t fire Marilyn,” I say, taking another swallow of my beer.

“She indispensable and you know it. Besides that award-winning performance that she gave last week when she was talking to you on the phone…” I tried not to give it away, but he got me, “she refused to tell me anything until she actually verified that I wasn’t working for Christian anymore.”

“How did she verify?” I ask skeptically.

She called GEH human resources in trying to verify employment. They told her that I was separated as of last week.”

“Last week? You’ve been unemployed that long?”

“That’s not long, Ana. Besides, I made good money and I can float for a long time until I find another job.” He takes a swallow of his soda. “Marilyn thought that you might go easy on her if I reminded you that your successful Houdini act actually cost me my job.”

“I’m sorry, Chuck, but it would have cost you your job either way,” I tell him. “You can stay here as long as I do if you can stand the cold.”

“How long are you staying?” and there’s that question again.

“I don’t know yet. I paid the owners for two weeks, but I may stay even longer. Maybe a few more days, maybe a week, I don’t know.”

“Do you plan on going back to Seattle, Ana?” he asks bluntly. I hadn’t thought about not returning to Seattle. I wouldn’t let myself think that far ahead. I was just enjoying my sabbatical, not having every moment be about Christian Grey.

“Let’s just see how tomorrow goes, okay?” I say, evading the question completely.

*-*

Chuck and I don’t talk much about me and Christian in the days that follow. I didn’t come up here to think about him everyday, although I’m not willing to admit at all that I came up here to forget him.

On Saturday morning, Chuck puts the Tahoe in four-wheel-drive and we tackle some of the beautiful scenery on Going To The Sun Road. It was dark when I traversed this road the first time, so I didn’t get to enjoy how breathtaking it really is. We stop and walk some of the mountain trails—the less treacherous ones. I stand a safe distance from the edge of a cliff and watch the waterfall on the opposite mountain. I’m surprised that the water is still moving in this cold. I look up and Chuck is snapping pictures with his phone.

“You’re going to want some reminders of your trip. I’ll text them to you when you get your phone back.” He smiles at me and we walk back down to the Tahoe. I have to say that it’s good to have someone else here. Now I wish that I had told Al where I was, but I still don’t want to get him involved.

When we get back to the cabin that night, I call Marilyn and scold her for letting the cat out of the bag.

“Well, I just thought he…” he voice trails off.

“What is it, Mare?” I ask.

“It’s Christian. I don’t think he’s doing very well. We were all out together, you know, the group, and Al got a call. It was Christian. He was only on the phone for a minute—I mean literally, 60 seconds tops, and they were all up and on their way over there. He said he didn’t like how Christian sounded. He was talking about nobody caring about him.” Nobody caring about him? Christian doesn’t care if anybody cares about him. He’s an island!

“Why didn’t you go?” I ask.

I thought it best that I didn’t. He would just try to get me to tell him where you were and if he’s as bad off as Al says he is, I may have been tempted to tell him. I only told Chuck because he doesn’t work for GEH anymore so I thought, hey, no harm… I guess.” Now, I’m torn. Two wrongs don’t make a right, I know, but as God is my witness, I’m trying to heal and figure out what I’m going to do with my life from here.

“Thanks for letting me know, Mare. Try not to worry about it too much, okay? He’s a big boy.”

“You’re not mad at me for telling Chuck?” she asks.

“Only because his story checks out, but don’t tell anyone else and I mean it. I don’t care what they say, because my father is going to come to you next,” I scold her.

“Okay, I won’t. Tell him I says hello.”

“I will. Goodnight, Mare.”

“Ana?” I wait for her to speak again. “You should call him.” I sigh.

“I’m not ready, Marilyn,” I respond. I don’t know if I ever will be.

“Goodnight, Ana,” she says softly. Fuck! I hate how he turns shit around on me! He’s the one who jilted me and now he’s all soft in the middle because I don’t want to sit around and watch him rule his kingdom while I wonder why he didn’t want me. What the hell does this man want from me?

“Ana?” Chuck breaks me from my thoughts.

“I’m going to bed, Chuck,” I say before quickly retiring to my room, changing into my pajamas, and throwing my covers over my head, quickly putting the kibosh on all thoughts Christian Grey and drifting off to sleep.

*-*

I close the door after handing Dasarae a payment for the next week and turn around into the expecting face of Chuck Davenport.

“Another week, huh?” he asks expecting.

“Yes, another week,” I say.

“You really plan on making the guy suffer, don’t you?” I pour myself a cup of coffee.

“This…” I gesture around myself in a circle, “this particular thing is not about him. If it were about him, I would have left last night and been back in Seattle by now. I hate to know that he’s suffering. I haven’t stopped loving him and I don’t think I ever will, but this… this is about me,” I say definitely. “This is about my heart, my soul, and my survival—outside of Christian Grey. It should have been about that before, but I was so busy looking at him and waiting to see what he was going to do and waiting for our life to start that I couldn’t see that my life appeared to be ending. I love Christian and nothing’s changed—I want to spend my life with him, but not on those terms!” I sit down and drink my coffee.

“So what does he have to do to get back in your good graces?” he asks. I narrow my eyes at him. What the hell is this all about? “Hey, look. No love lost here, the fucker fired me. I just want to know.” I drop my head.

This is not a test. I don’t know what he has to do. I’m doing what I need to do right now, because I need to do it. Everything was about him, and when I woke up two weeks ago and I was no longer ‘Christian Grey’s betrothed,’ I had no idea who the fuck I was. When I tried to put my life in order in terms of what little box I fit in all on my own, I didn’t know what little box that was. It was all about Christian and nothing about me. It has to be about me, now. I have to think of myself for a while.” I take my coat and my coffee and go out onto the deck. Chuck is right behind me as I sit in one of the wooden chairs.

“Well, Darling, you may want to figure that out soon, because the paps already have their take on the story.” He hands me his iPad and there’s a split picture of me and Christian, somewhat back to back, the headline across our faces declaring that we are “calling it splits.”

“Exactly who is he talking to? Where did this come from?” I ask, a bit impassively.

Well, according to the article—if you can call it that—he and Jason spent the night at the Alexis Hotel. Christian was drunk and crying when he came in and his hands were all bandaged…” which means he hit someone or something. “They know that you are not at Escala, probably because of the usual paps that hang out looking for a story, but right now they think that you have barricaded yourself into your downtown condo and that Christian is back on the market—drunk, but back.” Chuck explains. I shake my head.

I can’t even deal with this right now,” I say throwing my hands up in the air.

“Well, you had to know that this was coming,” Chuck says as he shows me the headline on the Break-Up website. “The cat is out of the bag now, Ana. You need to go back. Your patients are going to start seeking help elsewhere.”

Maybe they should,” I say absent-mindedly. Chuck frowns at me. “I’ve been thinking about leaving Seattle, starting fresh somewhere. I don’t want to go back as Christian Grey’s jilted lover.”

“That’s pretty drastic, don’t you think? What about your father and Mandy… and the new baby on the way? What about your friends?” I nod.

“There is that, but I just don’t think I can take it, Chuck.”

“He’s an asshole, but he does love you, Ana,” Chuck says and I nod.

“Yeah, just not enough to marry me,” I say. “I can’t go back to being his girlfriend… not after this, not after this public humiliation. I can’t do it.”

Well, you should probably know that while this story says you two are Splitsville, this one says that he is continuing with the wedding plans with Tammy.” I look at him frowning and he nods. “Yep, the save-the-date cards have gone out, Thornewood is still reserved, and Tammy has been instructed to continue on schedule.” I shrug.

That’s just him keeping up appearances, or trying to lure me back. Marriage means that we are going to be together forever, which means that even though we are going to be loving forever, we are going to be fighting forever as well. He’s okay when we’re all lovey-dovey-kissy-huggy, but when the reality of the whole thing hit him, he couldn’t take it.”

“Is that what you think?” Chuck and I both nearly jump out of our chairs when a familiar voice floats to my ears from the left of me. Christian comes walking around the porch into full view. His hair looks strange. It’s combed back off his face—neat. I don’t like it.

“I thought I fired you,” he says to Chuck.

“You did. I hired him,” I respond, still a little awestruck but knowing that once I was back in the paper again, my hiding place would soon be revealed.

“I see. Are you two…” he trails off.

“Yes, Christian, that’s exactly what we are!” I say sarcastically. “My fiancé jilts me and in a matter of two weeks, I run to the arms of another man. Why are you here?” The words come out harsh even to my ears. He is clearly taken aback at my tone. Chuck stands and makes to go inside. “You don’t have to leave, Chuck. Clearly you’re my lover now!” I spit. Chuck shakes his head.

“No offense, Ana, but I’m not in this. This is between you two.” He walks into the cabin and closes the door. Fine. I can face this man by myself. This gorgeous, beautiful, hunk of man that makes my body scream every time he’s near me. Yes… I’m pissed enough to understand that and face him on my own. I turn back to him folding my arms.

“You’re mad,” he says, like it’s a new observation. I roll my eyes and shake my head, grunting sarcastically. You can do better than that, Grey, I think to myself, still glaring at him with my arms folded. “I, um, was an idiot. I… didn’t think this thing through clearly…”

“No,” I say, flatly.

“No?” he asks bemused.

“No. Not gonna work. You did think it through. You thought it through while you were wherever you were on Monday night and in the wee hours of Tuesday morning when I was waiting for you to come home. You thought it through after you informed me that our wedding was off and you left me in the bathroom vomiting all night. You thought it through when you told the staff to handle me with care because you had canceled our wedding. You thought it through plenty, Christian. You just thought that I would be angry and still stick around like I did with Flynngate. If you didn’t think anything through, you didn’t think that maybe I would look at this whole situation and question what wanted!” I declare. He looks at me stunned for a moment.

“You never gave me a chance. We didn’t even talk. I said what I thought and there was no rebuttal, no opposing argument. You didn’t even try to talk to me to get me to understand that my way of thinking may have been in error. I never claimed to be right about everything, Anastasia. I told you what I thought we should do,” he rebuts.

“Exactly how was I supposed to respond to that? My fiancé comes home and tells me that we shouldn’t get married. What am I supposed to say? Oh, please don’t call off our wedding? Please still love me, please still marry me?”

“Anastasia, I was wrong for asking you to wait. I figured that out before I knew that you were gone, but by then it was too late. You didn’t even give me a chance to tell you that I was wrong. You cut me off completely. For all I knew, you could have been dead or hurt or in danger…”

“But I wasn’t! All that was wrong in this situation was that you weren’t in the know. Quite frankly, you didn’t need to be in the know. You told me what you wanted. I had to decide what I wanted, and I couldn’t do it with you staring in my face expecting me to act like everything was okay, getting reports on my every damn move. You had already made it clear to me that disagreement is unacceptable and could result in the destruction of all my hopes and dreams. So I thought that maybe I should get some new hopes and dreams.” I’m yelling now. I didn’t intend to yell at him. I don’t even want to fight with him. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to fight about. He said he didn’t think we should get married yet…

But he said that he was wrong about that and he discovered that before he knew that you had left.
That’s very convenient and I don’t know if I can believe him.

I cover my face and take a few deep breaths. I need to get my thoughts together. When I feel his touch on my hands, I pull away. “No… don’t,” I tell him. He frowns.

“I can’t touch you?” he asks incredulously. I shake my head. “Why?” He almost sounds like he’s gasping. I stand and walk to the far end of the deck. I have to put some space between us.

Because I love you and I want to touch you and hold you and fuck you and even though it may be what I want, it’s not what I need right now.” He stands and begins to close that space between us.

“Why not?” he asks seductively. I drop my head.

“Christian, I swear if you do that, I’m going to call that landlady back and pay her for another month,” I say definitely. When I look up, he is frozen to the spot.

“You would do that, wouldn’t you?” he asks.

In a heartbeat,” I respond. He is crushed. I see it in his eyes. He won’t say what he’s thinking at this moment, but it’s most likely exactly what I was thinking two weeks ago…

She doesn’t want me anymore.

“I’ve ruined us, haven’t I?” he asks, defeated. I don’t have time to stroke his ego and make him feel all better.

“Have you?” I put that ball back in his court.

“I don’t know. You won’t let me touch you. You’re talking like you don’t want me anymore. I walked up to hear you tell Davenport that you’re thinking about leaving Seattle. You’re so angry with me that you’re shooting fire out of your ears.” He speaks like a chastened toddler. “I’d say that I have.”

You ruined who we used to be—who used to be. I followed you blindly and even when I had a voice, it still felt like I didn’t. When I spoke up for myself or defended myself—right or wrong—or said anything that you didn’t agree with, it sent our relationship into a tailspin. One or both of us always came out feeling like the unequivocal bad guy and that’s simply not the way that it is. Each time you felt like it was all your fault, I was wrong for letting you feel that way, and you were wrong when the roles were reversed. It’s never black and white—never ‘I’m wrong and you’re right’ or vice-versa. It’s always gray. Always! That’s why the fights keep happening—because we don’t solve anything. We just fuck and hope the problem goes away! You knew that something was wrong, you just didn’t know what, and when we couldn’t fuck the problem away, you canceled the wedding!”

“Okay, but now you’re talking. You didn’t talk to me before…”

couldn’t talk to you before! My voice was gone, can’t you see that? My soul had been ripped from me and everything that I hoped and dreamed for was flying away like birds being freed from a cage! I became one of those bad chick flicks where the girl plans the wedding and the groom disappears. Hell, I became Carly fucking Madison!”

“Oh, God, no!” he exclaims. “I never would have done that to you!”

No, you didn’t run away to Cabo San Lucas. You had the decency to tell me to my face.” I turn away from him, wrapping my arms around my body trying to hold myself together. I hear him sigh heavily.

“You left me, Ana.” I can hear the sadness in his voice. I turn around.

“I’m not apologizing, Christian, because I don’t feel that I was wrong.”

“Ana, you ran off and left me when you promised me that you would never do that.”

“Yeah, and you proposed to me in front of my family and my friends and then told me that you didn’t want to marry me,” I shoot back.

“That is not what I said,” he groans.

“No, you said we should wait to get married until the fighting stops. Exactly when is that, Christian? When will the fighting stop?” He is silent. He knows that the fighting will never stop. We may not have knock-down-drag-out fights, but there will be more fights in our future. “You may not have physically left me, Christian, but I’m not the one who walked out.” I let that marinate before I say what I have been thinking for the last few days. “You told your mother that I was already your wife as far as you were concerned… that is, until we fight or heaven forbid, I do something that you don’t like. If that’s how you feel, then you’re right. We shouldn’t get married.” He runs his hands through his too-long hair. Although it is beginning to get the “just-fucked” look to which I am accustomed, I can’t help but think how I just want to get a pair of scissors to that shit!

“That’s funny. I was just thinking that we should elope. You’ve found the perfect little place here,” he replies.

I’m stunned by his statement. Part of me is shocked and thrilled that he still wants to marry me and the other part of me is livid that he thinks we can just sweep this situation under the rug.

Think again, Grey,” I say to his surprise. “I’m not going to marry you on a whim because you suddenly realize what it feels like to be without me, and now you want to lock me down so that I don’t leave you again.”

“That’s not why I…”

Be that as it may, you need to figure out what the hell you want. I’m far from perfect. As a matter of fact, I’m quite certain now that I’m even more fucked up than you are, but what you see is what you get. There’s no perfect ‘happily ever after’ here, Christian! It’s going to be a goddamn roller-coaster ride! Our first meeting was a roller-coaster ride. Our first fuck was a roller-coaster ride. Every-damn-thing about us is a fucking roller-coaster ride!

“We have the best damn sex session I had ever had in my life followed by a beautiful breakfast and then David shows up, sends me into a crying fit, and has to be kicked out of my apartment.

“We’re having an absolutely lovely breakfast at your parents’ house and then She-Thing makes way for the announcement to your whole family–and me–that you like to whip little brown-haired girls because of your birth mother.

“You whisk me away to a beautiful island paradise to help me heal from the horrific kidnapping ordeal, and we fight half the time that we’re there and most of the time on the plane on the way back.

“We’re having a fabulous joint birthday party when some genius decides that it might be a great idea to surprise us both with strip-o-grams! That went over like a lead balloon!

“We throw a lovely wedding and party for New Year’s Eve and Brian shows up announcing to you that he’s going to do everything in his power to take me away while Pedo-Bitch lures you to the bathroom and kisses you with her dragon lips, nearly resulting in a breakup on New Year’s Day!

“We announce one of the happiest days of our lives only to have the press tie it in with this Green Valley shit!

“Our fucked-up lives and trust issues and paranoid-delusional-obsessive psychopaths from our pasts are always going to be there and always going to pop up, but it never made me love you or want you any less! It never made me doubt or waver until you called off our wedding. So don’t judge me for my reaction to this situation because you pulled the rug out from under me, I fell backwards and cracked my head open, and you expected me to stand around and talk about it!” 

I’m breathing heavily and Christian has a truly stunned expression on his face. I don’t think I have ever seen that kind of shock and amazement in his eyes. Well, get used to it, Grey, because this is truly how it is. 

“I’m broken, Christian. I’ll always be broken, just like you. Parts of me will mend, but there will still be nights that I’ll wake up screaming after nightmares about the kidnapping and Green Valley; I will most likely need a shrink for the rest of my life for my mommy issues; I’ll always be angry to some extent about the way that Edward treated me when all I wanted to do was love him; and heaven only knows if I’ll ever get over the complete trust that I put in George Sullivan only to discover that he was protecting his brother the whole time. I don’t dwell on these things every minute of every day, but they are always in the back of my mind and they always will be. Are you going to accept me as I am–broken, vulnerable, shattered, and quite imperfect with anger and trust issues but strong and independent and ready to challenge you if I don’t agree with you–or are you going to be yet another one of my regrets?” 

I stand up and go back into the cabin, slamming the door behind me. I go into the kitchen and grab a beer, then walk out back to the fire pit only to find that Chuck and Jason got there before me.

“I should have known that you wouldn’t be far behind him,” I say to Jason.

“Yeah, I’m here,” he says, taking a swallow of his Abyss.

“I thought you didn’t drink on the job,” I say, looking at him in shock.

I’m not on the job right now,” he says impassively. “I’m having a drink with a friend… friends.” I smile at him. “So, I hear Chuck works for you now. No offense, Your Highness, but he makes more than you do.” My eyes grow large and my face falls as I turn my gaze to Chuck. He shrugs.

“Special set of skills, hazard pay, on-call 24/7… it adds up,” he says nonchalantly.

“Wow. I… had no idea. Look, Chuck, if you need to go on and find a real job, I certainly don’t want to hold you back. I mean, wow…” I say, a bit stunned. I make a fair sum of money and he makes more than I do!

I’ll let you know if it becomes a problem,” he says with a smile. There’s a moment of silence. “So, are we hearing wedding bells again?” Just as I am about to answer, both sets of eyes turn toward the house. I look up and see Christian walking towards us. I sigh heavily.

“I’ll let him tell you,” I say, agitated. I stand up and purposefully walk back to house without acknowledging Christian, go inside and slam the door… again.


A/N: So… he found her. How will he–or she–fix this? After Ana’s speech and Christian’s reactions to the situation, do you still feel the same way that you felt after the last chapter or no? I’ll have to say that if after reading this chapter and what Ana was feeling, if some of you have no change of heart whatsoever, then I hope that you NEVER have to learn what something like this feels like because if you do, you are in for a rude awakening…

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele/

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

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132 thoughts on “Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 32—21,120 minutes

  1. adrie says:

    I feel sorry for her… trying to get herself back… some never do so I hope it all works out soon

  2. Tavarsha says:

    I understand where she is coming from, but at the same time she needs to go see her shrink to have some sense knocked into her. Yes he said wait, but he never said how long, he just wanted to work through some things. As a therapist herself she should understand that moments get overwhelming. She has to learn to listen sometime to the bitch in her head lol.

    • CTHEWOODS says:

      I totally agree with you…Ana needs to grow up… She keeps saying it’s all about Christian,,.WOW…when all he does is try to love her…she’s got one thing right..she’s more fucked up then he is!…lol
      She’s “says” she’s too busy taking care of him…that’s because those are the only issues she’s willing to deal with!— she runs from everything else.
      I can see her being hurt about him POSTPONING the wedding… But instead of screaming from the rooftops Nooooooo, she runs, again. Nothing is ever solved by running. For either of them!

  3. 1962 says:

    Wow reading the reviews was almost drawing as the chapter! So much emotion, so much drama! I love it! This is my favorite story. I wait all week for it! I can’t say I love the way things are going but that’s because I’m a HEA person. But it makes for a fabulous ride! Thank you so much!

  4. Rushmr says:

    I agree that Ana should have taken the time away from everything and everybody to clear her head and truly focus on who she is and what she truly want for herself. However, I disagree with how she did it. I think that was very immature and irresponsible of Ana to just up and leave for days considering what’s happened to her before. Yes, she stayed in contact with Marilyn and Al, but she could have at least called or texted Christian once to let him know that she was okay and that she just needed this time to focus on herself. I think back on how she felt when she didn’t know where he was for those few hours before he called the wedding off. If she was worried for those few hours, she should have known that he was out of his mind with worry while waiting to hear from her for days. Tic for Tat will get you know where.

    Now seems like the best time for the both of them to focus on each other and figure out where they want to go from here while they are away from all the stressors and headaches that Seattle seem to bring. They both need to sit still and listen and hold their anger back if they hear something they don’t like. Their ultimate problem is that they’re both powerhouses so they both want to come out on top. Compromise and mutual understanding is what they need to aim for.

    Another bonus chapter would be nice, Saturday seems so far away…lol! Looking forward to this madness unraveling!

    • 1962 says:

      I love your review it is so true they both need to stay and to hash things out. it seems they both always go for the extreme! Where when we need to talk about all this arguing going could help them clear things might help, they go for the wedding is postponed! And where I’m really upset about postponing the can’t we talk this would help Ana is devastated and runs for the hills! They both need to look at thier coping mechanism. Cause neither are working!

    • ICE77 says:

      Hear Hear to the comment of ‘Rushmr”. I fully agree !!

  5. yogamom1318 says:

    Another chapter and it was as always, fantastic. Sometimes you need things like this to happen, being apart, to see the the picture clearly. You never disappoint. Loved it. Can’t wait for the next chapter. It was a bonus week with two updates. Have a Great Mothers Day. Thanks

  6. Katie says:

    “‘Have at it. You want a beer?’ I say.
    ‘Absolutely.'”

    Wait…isn’t Chuck a recovering alcoholic? I thought he didn’t drink.

  7. karen kuliszewski says:

    Love Your Writing,this Story Has Me On The Edge Of My Seat.

  8. nevahate says:

    I say they stay and talk/argue this out. I’m so happy Ana realized the pattern they were forming. She’s getting a real backbone with him now and not just the emotional tears and anger. I guess it seems not she kinda removed a bit of her emotions so she’s thinking more rationally. Loved this chapter. I’m finally caught up on your work. I’m absolutely in love with your writing. But now I have to wait for updates and that sucks. Lol

  9. She needed to think and he needed her. He realised he messed up and went after her. But Butterfly also needs to spread her wings not rely on the surge of air that CG always provides. She has her own mind and he loves that about her too. She just doubts herself too much xxx

  10. Carolyn says:

    Read these two chapters together. Quite a dramatic turn in the storyline but I can appreciate Ana’s reaction to Christian wanting to put the wedding on indefinite hold. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from here. I also love your original characters and Chuck is a great creation.

    I will be away for the next three week and won’t be able to follow the story until I get back, the bonus will be I might get to read the conclusion of these events in one fell swoop.

  11. ICE77 says:

    “Are you going to accept me as I am–broken, vulnerable, shattered, and quite imperfect with anger and trust issues but strong and independent and ready to challenge you if I don’t agree with you–or are you going to be yet another one of my regrets?”

    Anna, a very good question :), but does this also count for you if Christian asks this from you??? He seems strong but has a lot of issues also…. Compromise and mutual understanding is what they both need to aim for. Oh, and of course the above is from my own point of view LOL.

  12. Jenifer Barr says:

    Great job! Please don’t let anyone else’s comments ever dictate YOUR story!

  13. chastity says:

    This was a great chapter. I feel bad for the both of them having to go through this but it was needed. If i was CG this would make me think that i did the right thing by calling of the wedding. Shes making it seem like he has taken everything away from her. How can you be with someone who feels as if you have taken these things away from them. The one thing that really would get to me is how she could just walk away so easily. Shes says hes the love of her life but shes not going to go back to him. I think they need more time apart. I hate them fighting its heartbreaking and i actually cried reading this chapter. How do you talk to someone that lives to continously walk away. Shes good at doing that when they are in the middle of a fight. I do think Ana leaving to work on herself was the right thing for her to do just not right now. She should have done that along time ago.

  14. angalarte says:

    Luv luv this chapter, luv ana’s rant, they totally need to stay & hash it out with absolutely NO SEX bonus chapter would be great x x

  15. angalarte says:

    Ps, so glad the Scooby gang came & helped him, that was heartbreaking when he was crying & saying he’s got no friends sob x x

  16. paula says:

    Oh my i honestly dont no if i would be strong enough to go through what is hapening with these two xxxx

  17. Julie says:

    Well, I don’t like that he called off the wedding… BUT I also like that he realized he went about it the wrong way!
    Looking forward to the next installement.

  18. nik says:

    Read 30-32 in one go…seeing the story flip :O
    So much angst 😥 I hope it doesn’t last too long but anyway still can’t wait for sat :p

  19. Lorraine says:

    Yeah, yeah, i know she felt she had to run and hide, (wish i could sometimes) a little cowardly though and CG had to be made to realize what he had done and what he had, (you never do you know until it’s gone), age old saying- If you love it set it free, if it comes back it’s yours, if it doesn’t it never was. I just wish they didn’t have to keep hurting each other. She does need to fly though. Great job as usual.

  20. JasmineDragon22 says:

    Fantastic!!! This is exactly what they need. They need to stop with the whirl wind relationship and get down to brass tacks. Good for Ana for standing up and telling him what for. He’s playing the victim with the whole she doesn’t want me when he needs to stop the self pity and show her his own growth. Of course they are getting back together as long as they both are willing to out in the time and effort it takes to be truly together. I think they can do it and I hope int turns out that way. Can’t wait for the next one!!!

  21. Donna Murray-Hill says:

    omg, wow, fantastic, hope it all works out, i just want to hug them both and listen to them, can’t wait to read more xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  22. Rachel A says:

    I was Ana in this chapter with my ex-husband in that I was no longer Rachel and am still finding myself, albeit a little differently – thru kink now. This is great and needs to happen for them to hVe a healthy relationship. Ana needs to focus on her and maybe do couple’s counseling? You are a genius my friend! I wish I lived in Vegas so we could meet. We’d be great friends I think! Love ya girl! And I do shamelessly promote you at times on Fetlife! And with my kinky friends too! I tried to convince a friend to read ur story at “story telling time” at an upcoming leahterwoods kink camp out, but she wants “bad kinky writing”, so yours won’t do! LOL

  23. Rachel A says:

    I cried!
    I was Ana in this chapter with my ex-husband in that I was no longer Rachel and am still finding myself, albeit a little differently – thru kink now. This is great and needs to happen for them to have a healthy relationship. Ana needs to focus on her and maybe do couple’s counseling? You are a genius my friend! I wish I lived in Vegas so we could meet. We’d be great friends I think! Love ya girl! And I do shamelessly promote you at times on Fetlife! And with my kinky friends too! I tried to convince a friend to read ur story at “story telling time” at an upcoming leahterwoods kink camp out, but she wants “bad kinky writing”, so yours won’t do! LOL

  24. Michelle says:

    I can understand both sides, but they seriously need couples therapy!!They are both dominant personalities, with their own sets of issues, so it’s not surprising they’re going to fight. Especially with the added stress of the wedding. Should Ana have left? No. Should Christian have called off the wedding? No. But I think this needed to happen in order to get everything out in the open. I think the best way for Christian to make this right, is to re-propose to Ana. Then they really have to start communicating better.

  25. kelmal says:

    Another amazing chapter Lynn.

  26. jjgoldmann says:

    WOW they both have quite a lot of issues. But hopefully their love will survive and flourish. Incredible story.

  27. I’m really going to ask that you don’t take one line of the story and rip it apart like that. I can’t defend one line of the story, I can only defend it in context. I can’t defend it when it’s out there by itself like that. When it’s sitting all by itself, of course it doesn’t make any sense. Christian loves Ana and Ana loves Christian, and to see that statement out there by itself is like “gee, what happened?” So when you take it out of context of course it looks ridiculous. So please don’t do that because I have no idea what I’m defending unless I go back and read the whole chapter, and when I do, then your comment doesn’t make sense.

  28. Christian broke my heart and made me cry,but to be honest Ana pissed me off.

  29. truefeather77 says:

    Not sure if these is being read anymore, but I recently discovered this line of stories, and wanted to weigh in.

    Very disappointed with Ana right now. When in doubt — which is always — she acts like a two-year-old soap opera diva. This seems phony, and by now, it’s a tired gimmick. She’s done this several times, and it’s just boring. I like her character less and less. Which one is the therapist — or doctor (never clearly established, and I wish it were: psychologist or psychiatrist?) — in that relationship? Time for her to represent.

    Frankly, I can’t imagine trying to plan a wedding, wrangle Grace (aka P.T. Barnum), testify against multiple psychos (Jason gave it a pretty good rundown, so no need to repeat), at all (or et als), let alone dealing with the press and nosy people, and the hordes of hostile people who would rip up their happiness to see if they can steal some of it for their own, etc., while planning The Wedding from Hell. I thought postponing was a good idea, especially until they learn to handle the rollercoaster as a couple, not as petulant children.

    I loathe his ‘friends,’ his ‘brother,’ and now his staff. Jason should be furious at *her*, because her running off like this is epically (and typically) stupid. Where is their loyalty to Christian? Certainly, if they’re friends and not just staff, they owe him a little actual friendship?

    And Elliott is obviously having trouble with the three-syllable word “empathy” — he who recently rid himself of The Dragon Lady (or whatever they called her) and owes even his current girlfriend to his brother finding Ana, and he’s calling Christian stupid? Ana’s little Shirley Temple act must be pretty good. I don’t remember Christian yelling at him, in front of all his friends, about how stupid he was with Kate, and she was savaging Ana and all his family.

    I have trouble reconciling Ana’s “I am woman, hear me roar,” act — and believe me, I’m a woman who roars — with the Poor Little Nell act that is her knee-jerk reaction to everything. She learned to fight and be fierce, then do it, already. For someone who’s never had anyone to rely on, has had to protect herself all her life, she does a lot of running away, sucking her thumb, and whining.

    And Christian — is he even doing anything to find her? Sounds like a perfect time for Brian to make his move.

    • Dear Truefeather,

      Make no mistake, it’s being read and updated regularly. I didn’t even read your comment because I already knew the moment I saw your name and the first few lines that you were going to come off with a bunch of critical bullshit. The only reason why I allowed your comment to be posted is so that you can get my response in the same public forum that you put your bullshit comment.

      Apparently, you didn’t get the memo that I left Fanfiction and came to my own space because of abusive bullshit reviewers like you. Seventy chapters of one story and now thirty-two chapters of another and you are STILL giving that bullshit opinion that several of the 2000 PEOPLE on my private three-year mailing list who DON’T share your sentiments have said that I need to give you a piece of my mind. You’re not really worth a piece of my mind, but I’ll give you a small piece anyway.

      SHUT THE HELL UP AND TAKE YOUR CRITICAL, ARGUMENTATIVE ASS BACK TO FANFICTION AND GET THE FUCK OFF MY PAGE!

      I am friends with many writers who have fallen victim to your 8000-word dissertations and I’m not fucking interested. If you don’t like what you’re reading, go write your own damn story and leave motherfuckers alone that do this FOR FREE and to RELIEVE STRESS. Get the hell out of my sandbox if you don’t like the way I play and keep your snarky ass comments to yourself. Say whatever the fuck you want to say on Fanfiction, because I don’t give a fuck, but don’t think for a SECOND that you’re going to bring that bullshit over here!

      Please know that the moment I see your name or I see the tone of your comments in anything written to me, posted on my page, sent to me, or posted in comments, I will be deleting that shit IMMEDIATELY without even reading it. Now since the story is so damn substandard, carry your ass back to Fanfiction!

      BG

    • Alana says:

      Hey dipshit, you should actually read the story in to its current point. This is a long journey and most of you dribble has been addressed. They are flawed characters, obviously they need help, and they get that help in later chapters. Sure there are time I don’t agree with some of the places Bronzie takes HER story, and I have left constructive criticism a time or two, but we respect what she’s given us. If you don’t like it, why are you still reading? Are you unemployed and have nothing better to do than sit around and read fanfiction that you hate. Sounds pretty pathetic to me. I would have just stopped reading it.

      • Some people are a fucking glutton for punishment. She should know that I’m not silent or meek and I have some of the most fiercely loyal readers in the world and maybe she should just get the fuck off this page. Then again, maybe she likes the attention.

  30. truefeather77 says:

    Again, I have no idea if anyone will ever read this, but I have to say I love the complex texture of the emotional connection — and problems between them.

    But in this case, I think the problem is dueling dysfunction. Their strengths and weaknesses balance pretty nicely, but each of them has a deep, abiding terror of abandonment, and that is basically what has led them into the abyss every time.

    Ana was at fault in this case, I believe, because she fled without talking, even though she’s the one now complaining that they never talk. Why is this more her fault? She’s the shrink, for starters — if there’s anyone who should have been on top of this situation, and who should have pressed for talking things out all along, it would be the shrine.

    Christian’s flaw was not *guessing* that she would overreact, and since she always does, maybe he might have. But he suggested moving the date — there was never talk of not getting married. And it was for her sake, to take pressure off her to bring this together so quickly. She’d been kidnapped and beaten, she’d had the giant hell mouth from her past opened again and had to face all the facts and the perpetrators, she’s facing her psycho ex and his atpsycho ex, she’s planned two weddings in two months, and all the trial dates are hovering right around the wedding date. The wedding date had yet to be announced, so why not talk about moving it? Or about eloping? To make things easier for her.

    And it’s hard to continue to believe that she’s so nurturing and caring, when she not only — quite skillfully, since she’s a shrink and can know how to play upon his insecurities and demons — abandons him, but also abandons her patients, particularly the new ones who had been waiting so long on her list.

    I totally support her wanting to figure out her own identity as not just The Woman of Christian Grey, but this is a terrible way to do it. She’s run out on her family, her friends, her patients — and she’s not a teenager, she’s a mid-twenties professional.

    In this relationship so far, he’s had much more to put up with than she has. Her fugue states, while understandable, must have been unbearable to deal with, and at the slightest touch of doubt or adversity, she either curls up into a ball or pulls a disappearing act. All the while managing to ingratiate herself with everyone, and turning his friends and his family against him — and that is a skill she might even be doing more or less deliberately, a survival skill that is mastered by infants and young children: Charm the people who have the food/power, and manage to get all of the attention, because the more the better.

    Even her “domme” sessions alarm me, a bit. She has noticed that he sometimes looks like a child — indicating that she has triggered his four-year-old self. Elena did that deliberately, and reprogrammed his responses, but she seems to be doing the same thing! Triggering him back to his young childhood, and teaching him to heel. And isn’t that something like what Flynn was worried about?

    I agree she needs to remember who she is — I always thought of the original books as a tragedy, because she became more his sub than any who had gone before her. But she can’t expect him to practically be psychic, and then completely ignore his needs and his love, while pretending that she loves him.

    She needs to find a middle ground. It’s like the event in her dojo — she’s either mild, or militant. She needs to find a way to be strong without being hateful and contemptuous of everyone around who loves her.

    • Better2BeLoved says:

      True feather, when is the last time you had a normal bowel movement? Because you are so full of shit..amongst other things.

      It’s a new year, yet here you are tirelessly going on a long winded, pretentious rant over issues resolved in future chapters. Go write your own story instead, since it appears no one else’s is good enough for you.

    • nedbella says:

      WOW! Now that you’ve turned your chainsaw off and have finished tearing this author’s work to shreds, do yourself a favour and make haste towards the exit. Your brain obviously can’t handle the complexities of these characters and the world they live in. You must be a masocist if you keep coming back for more of this painfully lacking story. Don’t let the door hit ya where the goid Lord split ya…….or maybe let it. Ta taaaah.

    • Hopefully people only respond to these two comments. I’m deleting the rest. She deaf and doesn’t give a fuck. She just wants to cut people down and move on. Fuck that lonely bitch.

    • Look at the first line… “I have no idea if anyone will ever read this,” This means she’s just writing this shit to hear herself talk. It takes far less time for me to delete it than it does for her to type it…

    • Judi haverland says:

      If you’re going to “comment” on any story catch up.
      This is fiction, you know that means they’re not real. You are however real and have been asked to leave the site.
      and apparently refuse to do that. Perhaps a little self ananlysis is needed, and a lot less analysis of FICTIONAL characters.

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