First, I would like to thank you all for you concern about my mom. Things are going well so far, so we are in the wait-and-see portion of things. Second, I have to apologize for not sending out an email when I posted the last chapter. That was my fault and I am sorry. I was concerned about my mom but still wanted to get my chapter posted before I had to leave town. Thanks to all of you who read and comment. Again, emotions are split on who is at fault and why Christian always takes the blame and Ana needs to grow up and on and on and on. Differing opinions are, of course, just fine. I hope you enjoy this next little segment.
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 34—Come To Jesus
“Marry me… today… please.”
“No, Christian. We’re getting married on June 29 in a castle just like we planned, but we have a lot of work to do.” She raises up on her elbows to look me in the eye. It’s about 9 or 10am on Monday morning and we are still on the sofa. “I’m sorry that I left you, but you had to know that I couldn’t stay.”
“I think I understand, but I really need you explain to me why you left instead of trying to talk to me,” I say. She takes a deep breath.
“Christian, we don’t see eye-to-eye. We are two very different people. We have dealt with different challenges in our lives and we see the world in different ways. I never asked you to agree with everything I say, but I was never, ever so foolish to think that we wouldn’t fight. When I said that one or both of us would cancel the wedding, I meant that we would have a meaningless argument about something frivolous like placemats versus chargers, cancel the wedding, go to our corners and come back and talk about how silly the whole thing was. I never for a moment thought that we would have a fight and then one of us would cancel the wedding not because of the fight, but because of the fact that we’re fighting.
“Couple this with the fact that you walked out, you ignored texts asking if you were okay, and you pondered this issue for hours before you came back in the early morning hours and announced to me that you were calling off our wedding. By the way, I still don’t know where you went. The last time that you didn’t answer texts from me, you thought that I was screwing Elliot. True, the text weren’t from my phone, but they were from me because I know that Jason told you that I was worried. So somewhere around the midnight hour, I’m asking where you are and you’re not answering me. I wait up for you as long as I can—my mind dancing from horrible car accident to another woman…”
“Ana!” I say in disbelief.
“Did you tell me where you were going?” she says while shrugging defensively. She’s right. I didn’t tell her where I was going, so there’s really nothing that I can say about where her mind may have wandered that night. “Like I said, I waited up for hours thinking the worst and you show up at 3am telling me that I’m not getting married anymore. And Christian, you can choose whatever wording makes it easier to live with, but the bottom line is that you told me that on June 29, we were not getting married. Can you see that?” I sigh and shake my head.
“Yes, Butterfly, I do.”
“So with my already fragile state, I get this news. I could barely put together a cohesive thought! I went to work completely expecting to see patients that day until Marilyn’s horrified silence signaled that I was in no condition to attempt to help anyone else.” She sits up completely and I follow, sitting next to her on the sofa. “I pondered just going home since I was useless in the office, and then I thought of going back to Escala—and seeing you—and I just couldn’t take it. My heart was breaking all back over again and I was falling completely apart. I knew that wherever I went, you would follow me or you would send someone or my friends would follow me and hound me and I didn’t have the heart to tell any of them that after that big rose ceremony and production, my happily ever after just got up and walked away.” She stops for a moment and I can tell that she is reliving the pain of the moment when she wipes a lone tear away before she continues.
“I didn’t know where I was going. I hadn’t planned anything. I just wanted to go where no one would find me and I could be alone with my grief. If you guys had just looked in my desk drawer, you would have found my phone. I made all the travel arrangements on the Internet on my phone because I was sure that you would comb through my computer to find our where I was, but apparently, Marilyn played watchdog everyday and none of you could get into my office—that is until Chuck came and told her that he was fired, which was something like a week or so later. I was surprised that you didn’t fire him immediately.”
“I did fire him immediately,” I tell her. She looks at me.
“Well, you can hire him back or I will, but I’m telling you now that I’m not breaking in a new CPO. So the choice is yours.” She stands up and starts to pace a bit. “Montana seemed secluded enough to mourn the loss of my dreams, so long story short, I left everything behind that could identify me and had Marilyn rent the Tahoe in her name, withdrew a very large sum of cash from my savings and disappeared.” She looks up at me. “You couldn’t stay in your own home because I wasn’t here. I’m sure that you can see why I couldn’t stay.” I nod at her.
“I see, Butterfly, and I’m so sorry. I know that I want to marry you. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. So why won’t you marry me today?” I ask her.
“You are feeling the effects of being without me, not necessarily the error in calling off the wedding in the first place. If you want to call of the wedding, call of the wedding. That is your choice, but make sure that you’re doing it for the right reason. You called off our wedding because you said that we fought too much. We’re going to fight more. There are all kinds of things that we have to iron out in our lives, and you can best believe that you won’t win all those fights, Buddy. So then what? You lose a fight, we get a divorce? Do you see how ridiculous this is? Don’t agree with me if you don’t see it.”
“I see it. Believe me, I see it. It’s been banged into my head repeatedly. I was the first person to ‘bang’ it because I realized before I even left Grey House how ridiculous it was. The problem was that no one could hear me because you were already gone. So I got to the part where I said ‘I called off the wedding,’ but never got to the part where I said ‘I figured out it was ridiculous,” and you know why? Because I had already ruined everybody’s life, mainly yours. Everybody was hurt and angry and nobody heard anything that I said after ‘I called off the wedding.’ If I could have gotten one person to listen to what I was actually saying, I may have gotten you back home weeks ago.”
“I don’t think it would have been that easy, Christian,” she protests.
“No? You’re saying that if I had come to your office before you left, fell on my knees and told you that I went to Newcastle Park and sat there for several hours trying to clear my head and came out of that experience with the dumbest ‘solution’ to the problem that I could have possibly come up with, that I was dreadfully sorry that I made a rash decision in haste and anger not to marry the woman who I would rather spend 365 days fighting with than one day away from… that you still would have left?” She frowns and ponders the thought and I can read in her face what her answer is. “Mmm-hmm, that’s what I thought. On the same hand, you’re telling me that if Marilyn or Al had told you that I told either of them that I realized that it was foolish for me to call off the wedding for fighting when I knew that we would be fighting about something for the rest of our lives and that I begged you to come home and marry me that you still would have stayed away for three weeks?”
“Well, maybe not three weeks…” she says timidly. I look at her.
“What do you mean?” I ask. She tilts her head at me.
“Christian, we are still getting married… on our date… in our castle… but I did have some time to think, and I do feel like I’m losing myself in everything that’s happening. I think I did need that time away from everything—even though I still really didn’t get away from everything with all the news, if you can call it that—to regroup and refresh myself.” I flinch.
“You heard about the headlines?” I ask her.
“Which ones?” she asks.
“Well, there were only two that I know of…” What has she heard?
“Then, yes, I’ve heard,” she says and sits down on the sofa next to me. I take her hand and trace her fingers. I’m taking great joy in this small gesture right now because I didn’t know if I would be able to do it ever again. “Were you able to regroup?” I ask cautiously. She nods.
“I was able to regroup… and grieve… and think about some things. We spend too much time in each others’ faces, Christian. We’re going to have to spend some time apart or our relationship will get very old very fast.” I start to panic when she says this. Noticing my expression, she says, “Not like this—not three weeks or anything drastic like that, but more than just the workday.”
“Can we hold off on that particular part of the relationship-building process? I’ve effectively been without you for three weeks, and I can’t even conceive being without you again at this moment,” I admit.
“Yes, we can. Um… and the sex…” Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Wait a minute! I’m not giving up sex!
“Ana…” I say cautiously.
“Christian, fight and fuck, that’s all we did. That’s why you called off the wedding. There’s a problem there. Whenever we get angry and try to get to the bottom of our problems, we end up fucking! The one time we didn’t fuck, you called off the wedding. Sex is not a solution—it’s a cover! No more fucking before we solve the problem.” I run my fingers through my hair… my very long hair.
“But that’s how we release frustration,” I whine. “Otherwise, we would fight all night.”
“Well, then, that will be our motivation to solve the problem. No sex before solution. I’m not budging on this one, Grey.” Oh shit. Grey. She’s serious. I release a very aggravated sigh.
“Fine. No sex before solution,” I concede, sounding every bit like a moody teenager—which I will be, no doubt, if I don’t get enough sex!
“So, what conclusions have you come to since I’ve been gone?” Uh oh, was I supposed to have some great epiphanies during our time apart? Should I just tell her the truth? Here goes…
“That I need people and I don’t like it.” She glares at me.
“Care to elaborate?” she says.
“Not really, but I will,” I say, dropping my gaze to our entwined hands. “Everyone treated me like a leper. True, it was varying degrees of leprosy, but a leper nonetheless. No one wanted to be in the same room with me. No one called me. None of your friends would talk to me…”
“Oh, they’re my friends again,” she says sarcastically. I shake my head without raising it.
“Let’s face it, Baby. They were always your friends and they always will be. They are only my friends when I don’t fuck up. If there is ever a side to be taken, I’m always going to be the odd man out. I’m not happy about that, but not because of how they feel or anything they did. It’s because of how I feel.” I pause for a moment and she says nothing, so I keep going. “Ana, I’d rather just be your friend, your man, and stay to myself then to have a bunch of people desert me when I don’t fall in line. They were all hurting and upset while you were gone and they clung to each other, but nobody came to see about me because I was the villain.
“Nobody treated me badly or accused me of anything, but I could have been dead in here and none of them would have known except maybe Allen and James. When you’re wrong, they will all stick by your side because they are your friends and that’s what friends do. When I was wrong, I was all alone. Even my brother deserted me and went with the crew and he’s never done that before. He has been hell-fire and brimstone mad at me more times than I can count in our lifetime, but he has never deserted me.
“I have always been independent. I became a loner because of my business and my lifestyle. Then I met you and people are drawn to you. So I had a choice. Either I start letting people in, or I get cut out of a very large part of your life. I wasn’t willing to do that, so I let people in. Last Friday was the first time I truly regretted doing that.” I finally make eye-contact with her and I see that blasted empathy Elliot was talking about all in her eyes. That’s why I only want to be her friend, because she understands me.
“I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to do in terms of needing people around me now. I’m not going to be that guy that I was when I had the issue with them last year because this time, I really was partially at fault and I can understand them rallying behind you—but consider this. My staff wasn’t talking to me, my family wasn’t talking to me, and then these people who loosely called themselves my friends ostracized me too. I don’t need fair-weather friends, Ana. I don’t want them either. You’ll talk to me and we’re cool as long as I stay in line? No thanks.” I’m careful to say my words with no malice because I want her to know that I am not angry. I would rather just be alone than to have friends that could turn their backs on me at a moment’s notice.
“I didn’t really want to turn into that guy I was becoming, but I felt like I had no choice. If I turned off my feelings and kept everything away from me that could hurt me and didn’t let anyone talk about you, then I would be okay.”
“I thought you had already decided that was no way to live,” she protested.
“It worked for the time being. I concentrated on business and was able to focus on the weak spots in these damn small subsidiaries that I acquired. Did Al tell you that I unwittingly acquired Cassie Hamilton!?” She nods. I shake my head in horror. “I’m completely doing away with the concept of miscellaneous subsidiaries. I’m not buying shit else unless I know exactly what it is!” I shiver a bit then continue. “I would have just stayed at the office if I could. Those little businesses need so much work and some of them barely holding on by a thread. I have no idea what to do with them at this time, but they are backed by the Grey name and I either have to rebuild them—like Vansteen—or fold them, like I plan to do with Hamilton’s little outlet.”
“Al called you the Angel of Death,” she says. I frown.
“Why—because I’m getting rid of some small failing businesses?” I ask incredulously.
“No, because you walked around silent and ominous and you brought the air of doom into the room with you. I felt it when you walked in the door last night.” I shrug.
“I was preoccupied,” I say, “but I think Angel of Death was a bit extreme.”
“Think about it, Christian. Death doesn’t come barreling into the room like War. It comes in quietly, it sneaks out quietly, and unless it was a bloody, violent or loud and painful battle, you don’t even know it’s been there until you find the body.” That is such a creepy fucking analogy… but so damn true! “Then you’re walking around in this funeral garb looking like shit—all you needed was a hood and scythe!” she announces. Then she grabs a handful of hair and declares, “and what the hell is this!?” I almost forget myself for a moment.
“If you don’t want me to fuck you, you better let it go,” I hiss. She releases my hair quickly and shivers a bit. Oh yeah, Butterfly, I feel it, too.
“Anyway,” she says, quickly changing the subject, “you need to get rid of that shit… a fucking ponytail. Indeed!” She actually sounds angry.
“I guess that means I should find my way to a barber,” I say, scratching the stubble that has grown on my chin again.
“I need a trim, too,” she says. “That mountain air is pretty frigid and it wasn’t kind to my hair. I have split ends everywhere.”
“Oh, I have the perfect idea!” I tell her.
I could hear hearts breaking all across the room when Christian and I walk into Miana’s hand in hand in the early afternoon.
“Ana! Bella!” Franco greets me in the usual way before seeing Christian attached to my hand. “Mr. Grey!” he says in genuine surprise. “Ana! Mr. Grey! Together! Fantastico!! Esmerelda! Champagne! Champagne!” I can’t help but laugh. This little Italian man has gone insane! Maybe he thought Christian would sell the salons since they are named after Mia and me. “What can I do for you? Oh, Mr. Christian. Tsk tsk tsk… what have you done?”
“Apparently, I have allowed my hair to grow a bit too long and my fiancée doesn’t like it. So I need you to—in her words—get rid of this shit,” Christian says.
“And I’ve spent some time in some very frigid weather, so I need to get rid of some split ends,” I declare.
“I tell you what. Why we not do whole couple’s spa day for you? Hair, manicure, pedicure, mud bath, whatever you like,” Franco says. Christian does that half-nodding thing he does when he’s pondering something.
“That sounds fabulous, Franco,” I say on both our behalf.
After our couples’ afternoon of massages and hair cuts and lounging in luxurious baths while sipping on champagne and eating the best hors d’oeuvres that money can buy, I feel like a million bucks and Christian is back to being his well-groomed, hot self. We step to the front of the salon only to see a gaggle of reporters waiting outside. Christian smiles uncharacteristically and hands Franco his Amex black.
“Mr. Christian, you own the place!” he says, his voice devoid of his practiced Italian accent. Franco! You tricked me!
“And I’d like for it to stay in business,” he winks at Franco, who snickers a bit and runs the card.
“As you wish,” he says, handing Christian a receipt with more digits than I care to count. Good grief, I could never afford to come to this salon on my own. After taking his receipt, Christian nearly drags me out of the salon to his waiting RS7.
“Ana! Christian! Is the wedding back on?” I hear someone ask. I conspicuously put my left hand with my engagement ring on the roof of the car. Christian is holding the passenger door open while I turn around to the crowd and frown theatrically.
“Back on?” I say with a scowl. “Who said it was off?” A shocked silence momentarily goes through the crowd, but then someone in front says “Break-Up Magazine.”
I pretend to stifle a disbelieving laugh. “And you listened to them?” I say with a harsh cackle. “Really, People, I heard that To Tell The Truth ran a story that I was carrying an alien baby. Did you believe that, too?” A rash of laughter ensues.
“Seriously, Ana, you heard nothing about that story? It was all over the Internet and Christian even addressed it earlier in the week.” I turn to Christian.
“You did?” I ask him. He shrugs. “And exactly what did Mr. Grey say?” I ask.
“That you were going through some hard times and having problems,” a sassy female reporter happily reveals. I glare at her because I know that Christian would say no such thing… at least not without a qualifier. Another reporter steps forward and clarifies the quote.
“What he actually said,” he began while opening his notebook, “was ‘Yes, we are having some difficulties; yes, we are working through them; and no, I am not on the market.’” He closes his notebook and glares at the woman. Yes, I know he did it to gain brownie points, but I’m glad he did. I would hate for Christian to make a blanket announcement like the one that she just insinuated, and I’m sure that she knew that. I look over at her and shake my head.
“Maybe you should go work for Break Up Magazine. It seems they can’t get their facts straight, either.” I kiss my fiancé—money shot! Then I get in the car. He closes the passenger door and goes around to the driver’s side. Closing the door behind him, he starts the car and smiles over at me.
“Magnificent!” he declares before dropping the gear and speeding off down the road.
I’m standing in the guest room looking at all of my wedding stuff—most of it is exactly where I left it, I think. Something is missing and I can’t tell what it is. Our mailed copy of the save-the-date card is sitting on the top of the pile, delivered and unopened. Our names are scratched in beautiful calligraphy on the front of the envelope. I pick up and examine it. The postmark is February 28—the first Thursday that I was in Montana. He did continue with the wedding plans.
To the right of the save-the-date card is another unopened envelope from Thornewood as well as a copy of a fax of what looks to be possible menu and wine choices. He—or someone—has crossed out some of the choices, such as baked Alaska, gourmet barbeque pork, and steak tartare. Eew! Who the hell serves raw beef at a wedding?
Will Christian still want everyone to be in the wedding after the events of the last three weeks? Did he even get the opportunity to ask everyone to be in the wedding? Are he and Elliot even speaking?
I go in search of him. He went to his study when we got back from our spa day. He was having the reports and clothing and things brought back from the Four Seasons and Jason went to check out for him. I don’t know if he’s back yet and if Christian maybe has buried himself in the “miscellaneous subsidiaries” again or what. I wander down the stairs towards his study and I find the door to his study is slightly ajar. I am about to knock when I hear him on the phone in a very disturbing conversation.
“No, I never felt suicidal,” he says. “I just felt lonely and dismayed. I felt like there was no hope. I’m not saying that death may not have seemed a more favorable option than the pain that I was feeling. I’m just saying that I never considered ending my life.”
What is he talking about? Is he talking about our ordeal? He wanted to die? I listen some more even though I know it’s very rude. I can’t help myself. I’ll never get a straight answer if I ask him outright.
“I never said that. I didn’t even say that they let me down, because I don’t feel that way. They didn’t owe me anything—I completely understand that. I guess I just had a different impression of what a so-called friendship should be.” There is another pause and I wait to hear what he will say next.
“People can only give you what they are capable of giving you. I perceived my standing in the group to be higher than it was. I don’t blame them for that—it was my own fault. I got comfortable in the setting. I put too much faith in them and in my perceived position in the relationship. I considered myself an extension of Butterfly and I take responsibility for how I am feeling right now and how I felt then.” To my horror, I realize that he’s talking about the Scooby Gang.
“Someone told me that I have a low tolerance for imperfection. I didn’t think it was so, but maybe I do. Now, I’m seeing that this is most likely the case with a lot of people, because when they see my imperfections, I become the devil. So that’s what I did. The devil doesn’t have any friends. Nobody really loves him. People may worship him and figuratively sell their souls to him, but only because they want some kind of reward. He’s under no misconception of their so-called loyalty, but I was. I expected more from them than they were willing to give me—probably than anyone is willing to give me, except maybe Butterfly. I was so caught up in being a part of something that I didn’t realize that I wasn’t a part of it at all.” This is so much bigger than I thought. We’re going to endure the separatism again… I just know it.
“I won’t be peculiar,” he says almost in response to my thoughts, but most likely in response to whomever he is talking. Who is he talking to anyway? “I won’t make my fiancée or her friends uncomfortable, but I won’t get comfortable around them anymore. Even more valuable than friendship is knowing where you really stand with someone. I don’t have a problem with it now that I know what’s really going on. That’s what was so terrible the first time I felt like they abandoned me. I expected more than I was entitled to. Now, I just won’t expect so much.” So now, he’s willing to put on the not-so-happy face for me around my friends so that he can keep me happy—along with a bunch of people that he doesn’t slightly consider his friends anymore.
“Hmmm, probably the fact that my brother stood with them against me instead of backing me up… well, no, they weren’t against me, but the sure weren’t for me… I don’t know. I don’t think he wants to talk to me right now, and I’m not sure that I want to talk to him either… People have seen me as such a non-feeling monster for so long that they can’t see me as anything else. They can’t see me as a flesh-and-blood man who really does have feelings and a heart since this woman came into my life… I really would have been just fine locking myself in my office and spending my life making money hand over fist if the alternative meant that I had to live the pain that I was feeling.” I didn’t doubt that the experience was painful for him. Hell, it was painful for me, too.
“I’m not asking for sympathy for a situation that I brought upon myself. I can deal with the consequences and I was fully prepared to accept them. I just can’t deal with the pain that I felt—the pain of having no one there for me at all. I don’t care about the reasons, I just know how I felt. Butterfly felt betrayed and jilted by me and she ran away. For three long weeks, I had to wonder if the happiness that I felt for eight months had ended. I couldn’t bear to even think about a life without her, so I didn’t think about her at all. I moved out of my house, didn’t think about the plans we had, the life we built, or the friends that I thought I had made. I only concentrated on work, and when my thoughts wandered to her and happier times, I practiced that infernal control that has become part of my subconscious and eventually, I was just fine… Yes, I know that, but it worked for the time being, and that’s all I had. That very moment—I just had to get through that very moment. The next moment would have to take care of itself. If it meant that in the end, I would find myself in a dysfunctional mound of goo crying over the incredible love that I had lost, then so be it—but I couldn’t focus on what would eventually happen. I just had to survive the moment.”
To a psychologist, he sounds completely illogical. To a mourning woman who thought her dreams had just been flushed down the toilet, he is spot on.
“It’s still very surreal to me, Dr. Baker. I still feel like I might wake up and she’ll be gone.” Dr. Baker!? Shit! I’m listening to one of his sessions! How the fuck did I not figure this out sooner? Shit! Shit! Shit! That’s what I get for eavesdropping! I step away from the study and dash back upstairs to the guest room.
Shit! Shit! Shit!
As a rule, you never listen to someone else’s session without permission.
Shit! Shit! Shit!
I have to tell him that I heard him, that I eavesdropped on his conversation because I was afraid that he wouldn’t tell me what he was talking about.
Shit! Shit! Shit!
God, I’m such an ass!
I push my hands through my wedding things to try to reacquaint myself with what I was doing. I feel like a big steaming pile of shit shit shit. I distract myself by calling Tammy.
“Ana! Hi!” she says, surprise clear in her voice.
“He told you, didn’t he?” I ask. Isn’t it obvious?
“Yes, he did. He told me that you were away thinking some things through, but I’ve done this for many years. So which one of you called off the wedding?” Boy, she’s good.
“He did. Why is irrelevant, but I couldn’t stay under the circumstances,” I tell her.
“So… are you calling me to tell me to stop planning or that the wedding is back on?” There’s that cautious hope again.
“It’s back on,” I reply. I can hear her clapping.
“I knew it! I knew it!” she says gleefully. “So we really should start thinking about the dress. You have wasted precious time on your sabbatical, My Dear, and we have got to get this show on the road!”
“I wouldn’t call it ‘wasted time,’ Tammy,” I say defensively.
“Forgive me, Ana, but three weeks in wedding-planner time… count dog years!” she says. I guess she’s kind of right, especially now since it’s mid-March and we’re getting married in late June.
“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say. “So what do we do?”
“Well, I seriously have twelve designers who have sent ideas over for you to consider. You can see if any of them strike your fancy or if you might see some ideas that will help you design your own dress. Whatever the case, you have wa… lost so much time that you now need to pin down some sort of idea in the next two weeks. No one—and I mean no one—is going to be able to get an Anastasia Grey original masterpiece done for you in less than two months. So unless you want to pick a dress off the rack, we need to be getting together sometime tomorrow, looking at samples, talking to designers, and trying on dresses.” Well! Quite frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with a designer dress off the rack! Maxie wore one and it was beautiful!
“Anastasia, you are getting married in a castle! You will not be wearing a dress off the rack!” I guess my pause was a bit too long.
“Fine! My patients aren’t expecting me back before next week anyway. I’m yours for the week!” I relent.
“Good. Now we’re getting somewhere,” she says.
“Tammy, what did Christian plan while I was away?” She gets quiet on the line.
“He picked some flowers, not all of them, but some. He vetoed some of the menu ideas…” I saw that. “He chose the chair covers—royal blue and a beautiful muted silver—almost gray, but clearly silver. He’s set up some of the miscellaneous vendors… options for wedding favors and gifts for his groomsmen. He has a couple special things that he’s looking into but he would have to tell you what they are.”
“Why can’t you tell me?” I ask, my voice sounding like a whining child.
“Because it’s not up to me to tell you. It’s up to him. So don’t ask me and don’t hound the man because you might just make him change his mind,” she warns. Okay… no harassing Christian about whatever these surprises are supposed to be.
“Okay, fine. So who are the dress designers that are all supposedly clamoring for a meeting with li’l ole me?” I say, mocking modesty.
“Well, Justin Alexander Bridal wants a moment of your time. Ralph & Russo also got wind of your upcoming nuptials and asked to be squeezed in. You absolutely must meet Vera Wang, whether you choose one of her dresses or not…”
“Wait a minute. Are you seriously telling me that these people want to meet me… to design my dress?” I ask incredulously. She grunts at me.
“Ana, this is one of the biggest pieces of news that the west coast has seen for years. You are Carrie Bradshaw marrying Big in the New York Library, Babe….”
“No, no, no… that wedding didn’t happen, so don’t compare me to those two,” I tell her.
“Well, they still ended up getting married, so that doesn’t count,” she said in one breath. “Anyway, David Tutera is flying out tomorrow. That meeting was already set up before you left and I wasn’t going to tell him that the bride flew the coop until the last minute.”
“Oh, Tammy,” I say, dropping my head and covering my face. “This is so much more than I expected. I mean, really, I’m just now digesting that I’m getting married in a castle and now… David Tutera? Ralph & Russo? Vera fucking Wang?”
“Hey!” she scolds. “Don’t take the name of the Wang in vain! Anyway, she has dressed all the A-list celebrities for their weddings. Jessica Simpson, Kim Kardashian, Elin Nordegren, J-Lo…”
“You realize you have just named people who have all divorced, right?” I point out. “You’re 0-2 for analogies here, Tam. I think you should quit while you’re ahead.” I hear Tammy sigh on the other end of the line.
“Okay, let’s try this. If you don’t meet with these designers, you are going to come off like a stuck-up, snobby bitch who felt like she was too good to meet with some of the best. It’s like you said, you’re getting married in a castle. You don’t think you should at least talk to Vera Wang about her concepts?” Tammy’s voice is serious and almost sounds like Christian’s when he goes into CEO mode. God, I wish I didn’t care what the papers said about me, but the publicity is so important right now with the trials and pending lawsuits. I can’t be made out to be a disagreeable bitch in the eyes of the public. I sigh, defeated.
“Tell me where to be and I’ll be there,” I lament.
“Good. Keep tomorrow free. We have Tutera at 10. I’m going to see who else we can squeeze in. With any luck, we can get them all in before Friday and then sit down this weekend to do preliminary eliminations. We can have them ready to prepare some final presentations next week and then make some choices by the end of next week.” Oh, God, this is so overwhelming.
“Can you really get these people to do this? I mean, these are high-end designers. I can’t see them jumping through hoops for someone they have never met,” I protest.
“Then you obviously don’t know how this industry works. You are going to be plastered all over the paper for the next several months whether you like it or not. Your trauma as a teenager is playing out all over the press. Your battle with your mother is front page media. You will soon be involved in the trial with you kidnapper ex-boyfriend. A close ex-friend of your husband’s family is somewhere on the loose evading charges involving child pornography. Bad publicity is publicity nonetheless, and while you are playing America’s tormented little sweetheart—no offense—anyone that can ride that gravy train of being part of the beautiful love story that flourishes in the midst of turmoil is not only going to jump through hoops to do it, but they are going to claw, fight, kill, and eat other for the opportunity. Why do you think Hamilton is shitting herself right now? Word has it that she has lost four big clients since you turned her down—something about a bad reputation and the most sought-after vendors not wanting to work with her. I thought it wasn’t public knowledge that you met with her because of the… sensitivity of the situation,” Tammy says.
“It’s not… unless she’s been telling people. Losing clients, huh? I thought once you paid your deposit, you’re locked in,” I say frowning.
“Not if you can’t deliver what you promised. When you lose the ability to work with local boutiques, you’re on shaky ground, but garments can be shipped from anywhere in the world. When you lose the ability to work with local florists, it’s getting worse. Flowers are more fragile merchandise, but can still be shipped safely from various locations. When you lose the ability to work with local bakers and caterers, you might as well hang up your hat. The mayor does not expect to hire a planner for his daughter’s wedding only to have to pick up the cake himself.” Wow, Christian works fast. Her business is going to be garbage in no time, giving him all the reason he needs to dump her ass. It reminds me of the fate of the Heirloom. That bar was closed within a few days after that owner kicked me and the girls out on the night of Maxie’s bachelorette party. I don’t know what Christian did, but that place was history in no time and has not recovered.
“Nobody fucks with Christian Grey,” I say under my voice. “So what else do I need to focus on right now?”
“Well, has Mommie Dearest come up with more names that need to be added to the guest list yet? She knows that with your sparse numbers, she can add about 140 more people doesn’t she?” Tammy asks.
“Not that I know of, and don’t call her that,” I say, firmly. “Grace and I may have had a difference of opinion, but she is one of the best women I have ever met in my life, so please don’t talk about her that way.” The line is quiet for a moment, then a moment more.
“I apologize, Ana. I was way out of line. I shouldn’t have said that,” Tammy says, sincerely.
“We won’t draw it out as long as you don’t let that happen again,” I continue.
“I won’t happen again, I assure you,” she says, her voice very professional.
“Good, now what should I be focusing on?” I ask again.
“Have you picked all of your bridesmaids… um, men… um, you know what I mean!” Oh shit! I still haven’t told Al that he’s my man of honor. I better tell him soon.
“I have, but I don’t know how it’s going to look, yet, so let me get back to you on that.”
“Okay, so Christian says that he wants the men to wear black tuxes, the best. He’s letting you pick the color of the accessories. I say have the men wear the silver vests and ties and have the women wear the royal blue dresses with silver accessories. Anyway, we’ve actually got a tailor coming to the penthouse to fit the men, which means that you need to lock down your bridal party and what you want them to wear…”
We cover so much ground in that conversation that I feel like we have nothing else to plan, but I know that’s too good to be true.
Will we do a Rolls Royce or a Bentley?
Exactly who will stay at the castle and for how long?
When do we recruits photographers, videographers, and DJ?
Will someone sing at the wedding?
By the time I am done talking to Tammy, I am completely weary. My notebook of things to do is just about full to the end. This is what I get for taking three weeks off from life. That shit won’t happen again!
“Jewel, Darling. I’m surprised Chris let you come up for air,” he says. I laugh wearily in his ear. “What’s wrong?” he says immediately noting my tone.
“Oh… nothing. I’m just exhausted. Tammy just slammed me with a trillion things that we have to do for the wedding. Do you know that I am meeting personally with David Tutera and at least three other designers tomorrow and Vera Wang on Friday? Ralph & Russo have arranged an early private showing of their fall collection for Thursday… fall collection! It’s not even spring yet!” I declare into the phone.
“Ooooooo, I’ve always wanted to meet David Tutera! Can I come?” he squeals on the line.
“Um… yeah, about that… what kind of time will you be able to get off of work this week?” I ask him. There is momentary silence.
“Well, I don’t know. Chris kind of surprised me by not coming in today, although I really should have expected it. Anyway, he had me put together a panel to help him comb through those miscellaneous subsidiaries… which I did… but I don’t know how hands-on he wants me to be with it. I was going to set them loose on his findings today, but again, he surprised me by not coming in. He didn’t even tell Andrea that he wouldn’t be here.”
“Well, he had to get that shit cut off his head and I went, too, to get rid of my Montana split ends,” I tell him.
“Is that all?” he asks skeptically.
“Actually, yes, that’s all.” There is silence on the line again. “We haven’t had sex yet, Al.”
“Well, what the hell are you waiting for?” he asks, dismayed.
“I don’t know. I told him that we had to stop fucking our problems under the rugs, but we just haven’t approached the topic other than that,” I respond.
“Shit… well, um… so why did you want to know if I could get time off? Does it have to do with that hottie David Tutera?”
“Yes, it does.” I’ve got his attention now. “I don’t know if there are going to be any changes to the wedding party as such after recent events, but one thing remains constant…” I pause. I… want you to stand up with me… as my man of honor.” The line is silent for several moments now. “Al?”
“I was waiting for the punchline,” he says sarcastically. Uh oh, was this a mistake?
“There… is no punchline,” I say hesitantly. After another pause…
“You’re not kidding…” he says. “Jewel…” he says wistfully, then he gasps. “Oh, Jewel, you’re serious! Oh my God, Jewel! Yes! Yes! Absolutely! Oh God! I can’t believe this! What… what about Val? And Maxie? They’re going to be so disappointed!” His joy immediately turning into sympathy.
“They’ll understand, Al. They have to. You have been the one constant in my life since we were 14 other than my dad. It has to be you.”
“Oh, Jewel,” he says, his voice cracking. “Why did you tell me this over the phone? I don’t get the chance to hug you and get all weepy.”
“Well, you can get all weepy, but the hug will have to wait,” I say with a smile. “Now listen, Forsythe. Being my MOA is going to be hard work. You are going to have to help out in a lot of ways with a lot of the planning, so get ready.”
“Hell, that just means I get to see everything before everybody else does,” he giggles, “including that yummy David Tutera, right?” I chuckle at his excitement.
“Be here tomorrow at 9:00am—if the Angel of Death will let you have the day off—and you will certainly meet David Turtera.”
“Oh he will give me the day off, and I will be telling him exactly why. We are going to have so much fun, Jewel,” he says giddily.
“I’m glad you think so, because right now, it’s just a bunch of work for me,” I sigh.
“Well, we’re going to turn that all around. Now, I’m giving you an assignment for tonight. Go grab Diamond Dick and a jump his bones! It’s been three weeks for Christ’s sake!” I shake my head.
“Goodnight, Allen,” I say ending the call. I drop my head in my hands for a moment and let my freshly-cut hair fall onto my crossed legs. “What was I thinking?” I lament aloud. “I have so much to do.” I look over at the list of things that my wedding planning website says that I should have done by now…
Finalize the guest list.
Set up our registries.
Search for an officiant and a ceremony musician.
Choose the wedding party and invite them to take their roles.
Start shopping for the wedding gown…
And 55 other tasks!
None of this stuff can be delegated. I, or at least we, have to do it all. I feverishly start checking things off the list.
We have blocks of rooms reserved discreetly at the Four Seasons, the Renaissance Seattle, the Fairmont Olympic, and the Hotel 1000 downtown. The Alexis has been conspicuously deleted from our list of guest choices since their employees can’t keep a leash on their tongues. This information will be forwarded to Grace for out-of-town guests and family that may need accommodations. Christian says that Grace’s mom is definitely flying in the week before the wedding. She still lives in the manor in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where Grace grew up, but RSVP’ed while I was away that she wouldn’t miss this event for the world. Her father passed away quite some time ago, I’m told. As I understand it, Carrick and his in-laws never really got along since he took their “baby away from them and moved her across the country to Seattle.”
Carrick’s family will be sparsely represented. As it turns out, he comes from very humble beginnings. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but moved to Detroit with his family when they were very young. He was the first to graduate from college, then law school, and when he passed the bar, he secured an internship with one of the most successful law firms in Southeast Michigan. His family, however, has always been comprised of blue-collar workers making a modest living—nothing to be ashamed of, mind you, but not as much as Grace and Carrick. His mother passed away when he was very young from breast cancer and he was raised by his father with his three brothers. They are not estranged, but the family is not very close as his brothers and father contend that he moved to Washington to get away from them and the “simple life.” Carrick doesn’t deny it, but that kind of attitude has put a bit of enmity between their children and Carrick’s children—particularly because Carrick’s children are all adopted. To that end, we are still uncertain if any of Carrick’s family will be at the wedding.
I will also forward the hotel information to Auntie Cynthia. I would love to meet her husband and I am hoping beyond hope that she can make it to the wedding. I so want her to be an active part of my life from this point forward. I don’t know what would have become of me if it hadn’t been for her.
Miana’s will take care of the pre-wedding pampering, but I have no idea who will be our ring bearer and our flower girl. I’ve gone through the damn list twice and I’ve only gotten it down to 54 tasks remaining that should have been done by now. At least that’s seven down.
Is Christian still talking to the doctor? It’s been hours now. I get up and stretch my legs before walking out of the guest room and down the stairs. I can’t find him anywhere immediately until I see his silhouette over by the piano. I quietly tread over to him and watch as he examines the once grand piece of furniture, now shockingly reduced to a big black beautiful shell with several missing keys. He is stroking the broken keys and open spaces with obvious regret.
“Christian!” I whisper, surveying the damage. I startle him from his thoughts but I am more surprised by the destruction that I am witnessing to one of his most prized possessions. I see the complete and utter sadness in his eyes as he absorbs the beating his piano has taken. He sighs heavily.
“I want to believe that I don’t destroy everything that I touch,” he says, the sadness seeping from his voice.
“Don’t be silly,” I say to him softly. “I don’t want to hear you talk about yourself that way.”
“Who does this?” he laments. “Who destroys a piano with their bare hands? A priceless Steinway, no less?” He is really agonizing over this. I close the space between us and touch his hands. “My mother helped me pick this piano,” he said and I gasp a bit. It has sentimental value to him besides being his midnight companion. “She said that it had a silent power that made her think of everything I had become and could become. Now, I’ve destroyed it.” I couldn’t argue with him. I have no idea how to fix this situation, but I know lamenting over it will not make it better.
I close the top of the piano and move between him and the mangled masterpiece.
“You do not destroy everything you touch,” I say softly, lifting his hand to my face and closing my eyes as I lean into his touch.
“I wished I had never met you.” What? What did he say? My eyes shoot open. “When I did this… I was in so much pain… that I wished I had never met you. I was alone and bereft and… I thought that it would have been better if…” I put my finger over his lips.
“It’s okay,” I tell him and note his surprise. “I understand. I’ve felt that way before, too.” I think of the nights that I cried until I was blind, cursing the day that I even met Edward David. “That pain is very consuming. I’m very familiar with it.” The sadness multiplies in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, and immediately, he thinks I’m talking about him. In a way, I am. Those first days in Montana were nearly unbearable. I was hoping that an angel would come and take me away from this earthly coil and all of that pain.
“Please, Christian. Let’s not dwell on those feelings anymore. Let’s concentrate on moving forward and planning our wedding and making sure that we never allow this to happen again… deal?” I look into his watery, gray eyes, silently begging him to release those feelings and join me in the here and now. Almost on cue, he pulls me forcefully into his arms and kisses me deeply—so deeply that it feels as if he would suck my soul from my body if he could. He releases my lips and with one arm possessively around me, and cups my cheek with the other and leans his forehead on mine, his eyes closed and his breath heavily.
“My God, Anastasia, do you have any idea what you do to me?” he says shaking his head, our foreheads still touching. “I didn’t know how I was going to go on. I’m an extremely powerful man. I can change lives with the wave of a finger. I say a word and companies are erected… or destroyed… but I couldn’t maintain the one thing that made my life worth living; the one thing that made me want to wake up each morning…”
His hand slides to my nape and he buries his face in my neck, inhaling deeply and shivering a bit as he exhales. “All I wanted was you and I couldn’t have you. All I wanted was you…” His despair is palpable. “I told Cholometes that I would turn the world upside down to get you back if I ever lost you; that I would unleash a hell on this sphere that could be likened to Armageddon… but I couldn’t bring you back. I just wanted you back. I would have given up everything I own just to have you back.” He sounds so broken.
“Christian, please…” I beg, cupping his face in my hands. “Please, stop… stop this, please…” I kiss his face several times, relaying to him that I here now, in his arms. I am back and I’m not going anywhere. “Please, Baby, stop this,” I press, kissing him tenderly on the lips. He embraces me powerfully and claims my mouth again, his strong grip around me lifting my feet off the floor and snatching the air out of me. I tangle my fingers in his hair and return the kiss, just as powerfully… and the fire ignites.
I instinctively wrap my legs around him, trying to meld myself into his body. At first, he pushes me hard against the piano, grunting in his chest and trying to burrow into my body. Then, like a flash, he effortlessly spins around with me in his arms and damn near sprints to our bedroom. He kicks the door open and dashes inside just in time for the door to slam behind him. Turning around, he slams my body against the door, his lips never leaving mine.
Oh my God, get me out of these clothes! I feel like I’m going to die, here!
In answer to my prayers he snatches my sweater over my head and spins around, crawling onto the bed with me still wrapped around him. He is ripping—and I mean ripping—my remaining clothes from my body and seconds later, he is naked with the exception of his linen shirt which I think I may have ripped open myself as I observe that there are no buttons on the thing.
With surgeon accuracy, he snatches me off of the bed and onto his awaiting erection. I gasp as he holds me in place, his penis balls deep inside of me filling me to the walls.
It’s been a long damn time!
I think I must be crazy because the tightening and tremors begin almost immediately. I try to control them with my breathing but… he’s doing something to me. His eyes are closed and he’s kissing the mounds of my breasts gently. His arms wrap tight around me and his hands splay across my back. I am sitting on top of him and I cannot move. He has total control of me… total control of my body.
His mouth is open, his eyes are closed, and he is inhaling deeply though his exhales are shuddering breaths. He moves his hips only slightly and pleasure shoots through me all the way to my eyes! I gasp again as he pulls out of me and rocks into me. Oh, God, this is so overwhelming.
Just as I try to speak, he begins a rhythm… not too slow and not too fast… a continuous burn that sears into my core and takes over my subconscious. He holds me in place masterfully and speaks to me through our joining bodies, everything he could not say before this day—everything he felt and no one listened—the love, the anguish, the pain, the agonizing that it would all end… I feel every bit of it and it’s almost as torturous as one of our playroom scenes.
The pleasure and the pain, both so intense and so powerful and I can only absorb it… absorb all the pleasure and the pain. My body is aching and tingling and burning and my mind is spinning and begging. The whole experience is both exquisite and unbearable at the same time.
I squeal like one of the girls in those bad porn movies, but only because it feels like my hips are going to explode. The fire and passion that he is pushing inside of me is almost too much for my body and soul to bear.
“Christian… please… wait…” I beg, my voice high and unrecognizable.
“Baby… please… I have to love you…” he protests, still pushing up into me and holding me down onto his body. He won’t be denied; he can’t stop. He has me captive, body and soul, and he is pouring all of his pain, anguish, and love into this moment. It’s so powerful that I feel it on a cellular level and it’s more than I can take.
“God… help me…” I whisper, as I surrender to his will. He is everywhere, all over me, inside me… in my mind, my heart, my body, my blood. “Please… please…”
“Ssshhh,” he soothes, still loving me, his body starting to tremble, “I have to love you… I was made to love you…” Oh God, his words, the feel of him holding me, loving me, pouring himself into me…
My body erupts into a powerful, all-consuming, blinding, body and mind-shattering orgasm. I burst into uncontrollable sobs as my body is racked with pleasure and pain that I can’t contain. The shaking is so violent that have lost control of everything and Christian has to hold me up and he continues to drive into me with an unwavering rhythm and precision. My body hungers for him so much that the first explosion doesn’t even wane before the second one immobilizes me yet again. I can’t make a sound. I just let the tears fall as I try to hold on for the ride of my every loving life.
That’s when he grows inside me and I know he is about to release. The stretching of my vaginal walls cause my legs to clamp around him as he groans deep in his throat, laying his head on my bosom and beginning his ascent, his grip around me never changing, his hands still splayed over my back. His face is turning red and his whole body begins to tremble, including the sweat-soaked curls on his head. My never-ending orgasm finally seems to wane when he thrusts himself into me, pulling me down onto him powerfully as he groans deeply and buries his face into my breast.
“Ana, Baby…” he keens as he trembles violently, and his wildly releasing member is dancing so hard inside of me—throbbing and pulsating—that it sends me into a wave of delirious aftershocks as he holds me still for several moments and rides out the pleasure of my convulsing muscles around his exploding erection. “Mine. Mine…” he repeats between breaths. He kisses the valley of my breasts and I still can’t control my tears.
He has ripped my soul from my body, filled it with love, pain, anguish, and ecstasy, and is now trying to hold the two in place while my fragile mind and heart try to reconcile what just happened. I would stay right here forever if I could, in this position, holding this man. I may fall to pieces if he lets me go.
“Are you okay?” he says softly, his voice full of concern, no doubt at my inability to stop crying. My only answer is to thrust my hands into his hair, pull his head back so that our faces meet, and kiss him over and over and over again.
“Baby… oh, Baby… I love you so much,” he says, still accepting my kisses and showering me in return. “I love you… you‘re my life.” He poured all of his angst into me, all the pain that he felt over the last three weeks—even when he pretended not to feel anything, he was dying inside… and he showed it all to me. He showed it all to me and my soul can’t take it.
We have connected on a molecular level today. No matter how many times I may have said it happened before, it really happened today. I gave her everything that I had—everything—and now she can’t stop crying. I’ve heard of this happening to other people, but it has never happened to me.
I lift my Butterfly—my beautiful wilting flower—into my arms and take her to our bathroom. With her still in my arms, I turn on the shower and let it get nice and warm. She clings to me around my neck as I step into the shower, her tears flowing down my back. I remove the shower-head and wet both of our bodies, and her tears seem to subside just a bit—but they still don’t stop. Part of me wants her to feel this pain, so that she knows how real it is and never wants either of us to feel it again. The other part of me knows that she felt her own pain during the time that we were apart—pain that I caused—and doesn’t want her to feel any pain, hers or mine.
I lather the part of her body that I can reach, including her hair, and gently clean her skin and mine. “Let me wash you,” I say softly, and she allows me to place her feet on the floor while she continues to weep. I wash the rest of her tiny body and rinse the shampoo from her hair. I quickly wash and rinse my front as well and turn off the shower. When I leave the shower without her to retrieve a towel, she buries her face in her hands and begins to sob again. I wrap the towel around my waist and come back for her with one of the warm bath blankets she loves so much.
Yes, she feels it. She feels all of it.
I wrap her body in the bath blanket and carry her back to our bed. I gently dry her body with the blanket and slip her into one of my T-shirts while I quickly step into a pair of my pajama pants. Then I proceed to gently dry her hair while I sit behind her on our bed. I’m going to have to stop her from crying because she’s going to go hysterical if she doesn’t stop soon.
Once her hair is dry, I take her with me to the kitchen to get a large glass of orange juice and two Advil. It seems to get worse when I leave her, even for a moment. So I lead her around by the hand like a toddler, even putting her between my body and the open refrigerator door as I remove the orange juice; between my body and the counter as I pull the glass down to fill it and the painkillers for the headache she will certainly have in the morning. If I remember correctly, she’s supposed to meet one of the famous dressmakers tomorrow according to Tamara, but I can’t remember which one.
When she has finished her orange juice, I put her glass in the sink and lead her back to our room, sniffling and shuddering. I take her to the en suite and wet a washcloth with cold water. I pull back the duvet and climb into bed.
“Come on,” I beckon her gently and she lies down in my arms, her back to my front. I put the cold washcloth on her eyes and hold it there with one hand wrapped around her face while my other arm holds her close to me.
“I need you to stop crying, Butterfly,” I say softly in her ear. “I can’t stand to see you in pain. It hurts me terribly.” Her trembling slows just a bit and her breathing becomes more regular. I kiss her several times on her ears and neck before I serenade her to sleep with the last song that we played before I destroyed my piano…
I wish cross the ocean for you,
I will go and bring you the moon,
I will be your hero, your strength,
Anything you need,
I will be the sun in your sky,
I will light your way for all time,
For you, I will…
Carrie Bradshaw and Big—Sex and The City