I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.
Chapter 43—Back Down Memory Lane
Luma thanks me profusely for helping her grieve last night. Her voice is still gone, but she looks less like the broken widow who has just lost both of her children that walked into Helping Hands yesterday. She told me that American custom did not allow her to grieve for any of her losses the way that she should, so she never got to release the pain of losing her husband, and now her daughter and Richard. I don’t bother asking her how she is able to mourn Richard when he killed her daughter. Everyone loves differently and none of us has a right to put them in judgment.
She informs me that Christian arranged for Richard to be cremated today and that she wanted to be there when it happens. We dress the girls and get them safely to school, after which I call Christian to let him know that Luma is ready to pay her last respects to Richard. When he meets us at the crematorium, he has the strangest expression on his face.
“Are you okay?” I ask him.
“It was a rough night. Let’s do this. I’m sure Luma would like some closure.” I eye him carefully, then agree.
“Yes, she would,” I respond. “Don’t try to talk to her too much. She doesn’t have a voice.” He frowns at me questioningly. “Her throat is sore and she has no voice.” He just nods and takes me by the hand. Walking over to Luma, he takes her by the hand as well. Without a word, he kisses her on the cheek and I learn quickly that he has become very fond of her in a short time. It’s just more evidence of his massive ability to love.
She opted for a simple oak casket and Christian ordered white roses to cover it. A priest agreed to say a few words over the departed as a kindness to Luma even though Richard was not Catholic and his death was a result of a suicide. We then follow the casket to the cremation, where Luma says her goodbyes in Portuguese before pushing the button that started the process. We watch at the oven fires and the platform carrying Richard’s body rolls inside.
Christian will arrange for his staff to collect the remains next week after they have cooled and been placed inside the urn of Luma’s choosing. She will then have them interred into the family crypt.
I could feel her breaking down again as we leave the crematorium. I look at her, silently asking her if she needs to go back to the woods. She smiles at me and whispers, “I am fine, now, Ms. Ana. I can grieve and remember like I should. Thank you. Thank you for everything.” She squeezes my hand and I can’t help the tears that fall. Christian puts his arm around my shoulder and takes Luma hand.
“You have no other family now,” he says solemnly, and she nods without raising her head. “You will be part of mine.” Her eyes shoot up to his as does mine, and I don’t think my heart could fill any more with love for him than it is right now.
“Mr. Christian…” she squeaks.
“Christian. We’re family now,” he corrects her. Her eyes well with tears as she throws her arms around his neck and weeps. He doesn’t flinch as he embraces her warmly, comforting her in her time of grief.
“It was a terrible thing to lose my anjinho and then my Richie, but God loves me, because he gave me you,” she squeaks to Christian, then looks over at me, “and you.” I squeeze her hand unable to stop my tears.
“Welcome to our family, Luma,” I tell her. She smiles the biggest smile I think I have ever seen… well, maybe not. Christian has a really big smile.
“I would like to go home, now. I want to prepare my home so that I may tell my girls. I will tell them of the story where Richie could not be without his Débora, so he went with her to watch over us. Then I will tell them about the wonderful family that he left for us so that we would not be in America alone…”
“… Or ever again,” I add, trying to contain my melancholy.
“My family is having dinner on Sunday,” Christian says. “We will come by around three to collect you and the girls so that you can meet the rest of them.” As if it could, her smile grows larger.
“Thank you, Mr… thank you, Christian. We will be ready.” As if on cue, Chuck offers his arm to her. She takes it and walks over to the car. Christian nearly drags me to the SUV and gestures to Ben. He nods and waits while Christian is hurrying me into the back seat. The door is barely closed and Christian is all over me, kissing me feverishly like I have been on another month-long trip.
“I love you. God, I love you so much,” he breathes between kisses. Fire is igniting in my soul as I allow him to consume as much of me as he needs at this moment. I don’t know if it was the funeral service or something else that has him so passionate, but he is madly trying to get me out of my coat. What’s going on? What’s wrong? What happened last night?
I think he suddenly realizes that we are outside of a funeral home and it would be highly inappropriate to have sex in the car. He is no longer trying to disrobe me, but his breath is heavy and his kisses are urgent as he tries to compose himself.
“Don’t ever leave me again,” he beseeches, holding my face and pressing his forehead to mine. His eyes are closed and his breathing is still heavy and erratic. He has me pinned to the seat and I am unable to move. “Please… please, don’t ever leave me again.” I reach up and brush the hair from his forehead so that I can see his face.
“Christian,” I breathe. He opens his eye to look at me. “What’s wrong?” His eyes are searching mine, pleading it seems. He kisses me again.
“I just know that I couldn’t survive without you,” he says, his voice thick with… fear? Grief? I don’t know. I gently brush his hair back again, then kiss him softly.
“Nor I you,” I say, looking into his eyes and begging him to believe me. The change in his gaze lets me know that he does. He nods and kisses me again and he is able to allow me to sit up now. Smoothing my hair down, he says, “Thank you for taking care of Luma. In a very short time, she has become very important to me. I don’t know why.”
“Because you are a good man and she has a good heart. She needs you and you need her. Embrace it, My Love,” I tell him. He kisses me again.
“I love it when you call me that. I know that you mean it.”
“Yes, I do.” I breathe. He sighs.
“I have an appointment. I have to go. I’ll meet you later.” I nod.
“Be safe. I’ll see you this evening.” I kiss him again and exit the SUV.
“Please remember that regression therapy is Pandora’s Box,” Ace warns us when we begin the session. “It’s going to unlock the fears that have kept you hostage for the last 10 years. Consequently, you are going to remember things that you would much rather forget, review things that you have pushed away for years, and possibly reveal things that your conscious mind has forgotten to protect itself… like that fight with Elena last week. It may cause nightmares and daydreams, so you have to be prepared for that. If that does happen and it’s something that we can’t control, then I would seriously recommend medication. Bearing all of this in mind, would you like to proceed with regression therapy?”
I look over at Christian who is holding my hand. “Are you ready?” I ask him. He takes a deep breath, then lets it out.
“I’m here for you, Butterfly,” he says firmly. I nod.
“I want to proceed,” I tell Ace. He nods.
“Sit in this chair,” he instructs me. I reluctantly release Christian’s hand, then move to a leather recliner. Ace makes sure that I am comfortable, reclining the chair and fluffing pillows behind me. “Christian, it is imperative that you remain silent during this time. You are part of her present and her future, not her past. Your voice could halt her memory, and if this is to work…”
“I understand, Dr. Avery. Keep my mouth shut and don’t try to save her,” Christian says. Both Ace and I smile at him.
“Good. So, let’s begin.” Ace turns to me. “Ana, I need you to relax. Breathe in and out and concentrate for me. Think very hard about your childhood. Put yourself in that place… what do you see?”
I close my eyes and relax. That’s not hard to do. Turning off the shrink is what’s hard to do. I wipe my thoughts clean and describe the first thing that comes to mind…
The porch swing in Montesano. I sat out there a lot. I never really fit in, but I explored many worlds on that swing. I used to get books from the library about exotic places and imagine that I would go there some day. Then I just started getting books about everything. I was starving for knowledge and the world just seemed too small to hold me…
“Annie?” a voice calls from inside.
“Can you please come in here?” My latest destination is Australia and the Sydney Opera House. I place the Australian tour book open on the porch swing and run into the house to find Ray. I am always barefoot and wearing some sort of dress—that is most comfortable. Mommy always puts my hair in big curly pigtails. I like that. I like how they bounce when I run. I am stopped, frozen by balloons and streamers and a cake with eight candles.
“Happy birthday, Annie!” Mommy and Daddy say together. I clap my hands feverishly at the German chocolate birthday cake—my favorite! I run into the dining room, decorated like a fabulous party hall with confetti and a sign with my name on it. A-N-A-S-T-A-S-I-A! We have cheeseburgers and french fries for dinner. Mommy makes them. She makes the best cheeseburgers in the world. I tell them about my trip to Australia today and my trip to India a few days ago. Mommy smiles and tells me how she always wanted to go to India. She is happy when I tell her that I will go again and she can go with me.
Now it’s time to cut the cake. I blow out the candles and make a wish. I wish for Mommy to have fun on our trip to India. Then we cut the cake. Coconut is the best icing. Mommy and Daddy let me lick some off of the top since it’s my birthday. We eat cake and vanilla ice cream and I get to have two pieces. While Mommy cleans the dishes and puts the food away, Daddy dances with me. We’re dancing to a song about grapes—that’s strange, but it’s okay. Daddy really likes this song.
We dance and dance until I get tired and Mommy comes out of the kitchen. I curl up in the comfy chair while Daddy twirls Mommy around and around. She laughs a lot. She loves it when Daddy twirls her around. Then another song comes on, it’s a slow song about love. Daddy holds Mommy really close and they dance. Mommy is smiling and she lies on Daddy’s shoulder. Daddy kisses Mommy’s hand. I watch them dance for a while and now, I’m sleepy. Before I close my eyes, Daddy kisses Mommy on the lips. They say they do that because they love each other. I like it when they kiss…
“When did Mommy and Daddy stop kissing?” I hear a voice say. When did Mommy and Daddy stop kissing? They kissed a lot, but I do remember when they stopped.
I was eleven. I came home from school and Mommy and Daddy were arguing about something. Mommy came home really late last night. I remember that I fell asleep before she got home.
“I want more, Ray,” Mommy yells. “I’m tired of this tiny town and this tiny life. Ana shouldn’t have to travel the world through books and the Internet. She should see the world. Really see the world. Society girls are traveling by the time they are twelve years old. Ana will be there in six months and she hasn’t been anywhere.”
“How do you expect me to do that, Carla?” Daddy asks. “We’re a military family for the most part and I’ve managed to keep us stable so that Annie wouldn’t have to go from place to place making new friends. I’ll be retiring in a few years. Maybe we can do some traveling then.”
“On what?” Mommy barks. “You refused military housing so that you can buy this fixer-upper and now we barely have any savings, just a few thousand dollars. Where would we go—Disneyland?”
“Are you saying that you were out until 3 a.m. because I don’t have any money? We’ve been together for 10 years, Carla. When did this become an issue?”
Mommy doesn’t say anything. Neither of them even know that I’m standing there. When she does say something, they fight and fight and fight until Mommy finally walks away. Daddy falls onto the sofa and cries. I just walk back out to the porch and sit on the swing. I never saw them kiss again after that.
“Tell me about the day you moved away,” the voice says. I have to think hard. I have tried for the longest to forget this day. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I didn’t know who to spend more time with. If I spent time with Al, I was missing time with my Daddy. If I spent time with Daddy, I was missing time with Al. My heart was breaking. I didn’t want to leave either of them and no matter how I begged, Mommy wouldn’t stay and she wouldn’t let me stay with Daddy. I cried the entire day. Daddy hugged me and Al held my hand.
Mommy was angry, very angry. She had changed in the last few years. She never, ever seemed happy anymore. She yelled a lot—at Daddy anyway. More and more, she seemed like she just ignored me. She wasn’t around that much anymore either. She would get dressed up and leave and not come back until late at night. I would fix dinner for me and Daddy and we would listen to music and dance. Still, Daddy was very sad. Then one day, we moved out. We moved to a house a few streets away, but I was still able to see Daddy and Al. The next thing I knew, we were leaving. We were moving away to another state and I didn’t know if I would ever be able to see Al or my Daddy again.
I am still crying when Mommy knocks on Daddy’s door to tell me that it’s time to go. I cry and cry and beg her not to make me leave. She doesn’t listen. She tells me to say goodbye and orders me into the car with her and Stevie as she calls him. I don’t like Stevie and he doesn’t like me. He calls me Ann and I hate that. The first day that he met me, he talked about how skinny and pale I was. He didn’t even know me and he had started teasing me already. I should do that karate chop on him Daddy taught me. That’ll teach him to call me skinny—but I haven’t perfected it yet, and now I’m leaving. I hug Daddy and Al really hard and promise to keep in touch. Daddy tries not to cry, but it’s no use. We are weeping into each other’s arms when Mommy orders me out of the house and into the car.
Stevie badmouths me the whole way to Nevada. When I shut him out and go on one of my mental trips, he yells at me to get my attention so that he can insult me some more. Somewhere in the mountains, I don’t respond at all and Mommy yells, “Listen to your new father!”
“He’s not my father!” I yell back. Mommy turns around and says, “Ray’s not your father either.”
That’s when I find out about my real father, that he died in the Army or something and Mommy met Ray after he died. They got married really quick and changed my name so no one would be the wiser, but Daddy never adopted me. I don’t care. Ray Steele is my father, not Stevie and I will never call him that.
“You let me know what you want to be called, but it won’t be Daddy. I have one of those,” I say to Stevie, ignoring my mother’s painful words.
“I told you. Ray is not your father,” she repeats.
“I heard you,” I say to my mother before turning back to the scenes out the windows. It was then that I knew that I wasn’t part of this family. Mom only cares about “Stevie” and he couldn’t care if I lived or died. I get the feeling that he didn’t really want me around and that Mommy only took me away to hurt Daddy. She wouldn’t let me call him Daddy in her presence. That’s how I ended up calling him “Ray” and “Daddy.”
The first time I called him “Ray” on one of our phone calls. It was because Mommy and Stephen sat there and listened to the call, making me call him “Ray” every time I addressed him. He was heartbroken and so was I. I later called him collect from a pay phone to tell him what happened. He was relieved that I was still his Annie and he was still my Daddy, but angry at how I was being treated. He tried continuously for months to get my mother to send me back to him, but she wouldn’t.
“How was school?” the voice asked me. “School… I was excited to go to school… until I got there…”
Growing up in Montesano, I was pretty much a country girl. Montesano wasn’t the country, but we lived a simple life. It was quiet and I was happy. I was pretty much a misfit in Montesano, but it was really no big deal.
Green Valley is 100 times worse.
The girls all look like supermodels and dress like rock stars. The guys all drive fancy cars or jeeps and they are always in clusters. If you don’t have a cluster, you are nobody. I didn’t have a cluster. There are mean to me and I’m fine with that because I paid them no attention. The poor girl with the good grades in the expensive neighborhood—how did I end up here anyway?
We are still poor—we just live in a big fancy house. My mother keeps trying to bring some of the ladies in the neighborhood over, but as soon as they see how we were really living, they quickly lose interest. My mother often blamed me for that, saying that I am bringing undue attention to the family while I’m in school. I don’t know how that’s possible. Then again, something is always my fault. Everything is my fault.
“Tell me more…” the voice wafts through my visions. They just keep coming and coming and coming. When I got teased or bullied at school, it was my fault. The office often sided with the rich girls and I got left out in the cold. They did harmless things to me—knocked my books out of my hand, splashed me with muddy water on a rainy day, called me names. I used to stay after class when the bell rang, leaving only when I had 30 seconds to get to class to avoid being in the hallways. I always made it to class on time, after I learned the long ways around and how to dodge being tripped. A whole year of that shit… Then, as if it couldn’t get any worse, it all came crashing down one day when I was walking home from school.
“You want a lift?” I look up and see none other than Cody Whitmore next to me in his Rubicon. I look around to see who he is talking to. He can’t be talking to me. “Yes, I’m talking to you, Ana. It’s cold out. Do you want a ride?”
He calls this cold? This is nothing. Spend a winter in Washington then tell me about cold!
“No, I’m fine. Thanks,” I tell him and keep walking home.
“Come on. Riding is always better than walking,” he say. He’s right about that. I shrug and get into his jeep. “How long have you lived in Green Valley?” he asks.
“Not long,” I answer, clutching my books to my chest. I can’t believe I’m in the car with Cody Whitmore. He’s so popular and a lot of girls in school like him. He shows a real interest in me—what I like, where I’m from. I’m so distracted with our conversation that I don’t notice he’s taking me all the way out towards Boulder Highway and I live closer to Silverado Ranch. They are miles apart.
“Um, Cody, this is nowhere near where I live,” I tell him.
“I know,” he says. “I want to show you something.” We are driving through the desert and it’s getting dark. What does he want to show me way out here? He stops in the middle of a sandlot out of clear view of the street. “You’re very pretty, Ana,” he says. I frown.
“Are you teasing me?” I ask. Nobody likes me in that school. Why would he like me?
“No, I’m not, You really are very pretty,” he repeats. “I just want to spend a little time with you, that’s all.”
“Way out here?” I ask, skeptical.
“I know,” he says, sounding chastised. “It’s just that everybody knows me and I wouldn’t get a moment’s peace to talk to you if they saw me.” Yep, he’s right about that, too. “Can we sit in the back?”
“Why?” I ask.
“Because I would like to put my arm around you, and I can’t with the gear shift between us.” I’m really smitten… and flattered. Of course, I want him to put his arm around me. I’m starving for affection. I have no friends; my mother and her husband hate me; school is bad and home is worse. I smile at Cody and move to the back seat. He is next to me in moments. I feel very safe in his arms. He talks about his family a bit and we laugh about the differences between Green Valley and Montesano. I want to stay in this place, but it’s getting late and I need to get home.
“I really need to go, Cody,” I tell him. “It’s going to be a beast when I get home.”
“Just a few more minutes,” he says… and then he kisses me. His lips are so soft and I like it, but when he kisses me again, something changes. It’s harder and he’s more aggressive. He starts feeling my breasts through my jacket and the lights and sirens are going off like crazy in my head.
“Cody, don’t,” I protest, but he won’t stop. “Cody, please, stop. Take me home.”
“Don’t fight it, Baby,” he says making quick work of my button and zipper on my jeans. I am terrified now and fighting to get him off of me.
“Cody, please, don’t!” I beg. He has my body pinned under him. I don’t know how he did it, but I end up on my back on the seat with my pants at my ankles. He is ignoring my cries while he unzips his pants.
“Relax, Baby. It’s gonna feel good.” He moves so fast that I have no time to resist before he moves my underwear to the side and penetrates me. It hurt like hell and I scream as he rips through my virginity. “Fuck, you are so tight! Are you a virgin?”
Not anymore I’m not, I’m screaming to myself! I cry and cry and beg him to stop. I try to fight him off, but he holds my hands down. It hurt so bad that I think my head will explode, but he keeps going and going until he comes inside of me. When he falls on top of me, I am still weeping.
“Shut up!” he commands. “You know you liked it!” I keep crying. I can’t even find my words. “Bitches get on my damn nerves. You wanted it and you know you did. Get the fuck out of my car!” He gets off of me and jumps into the front seat of his jeep, throwing the door open so that I can get out. I crawl over the seat and slide out of the car with my pants still down at my ankles, still weeping. I’m barely out of the jeep before he takes off, throwing my books and purse out the window as he speeds away leaving me in the middle of the desert. I get to the street the best way that I can. I can hardly walk and I’m bleeding. When I see a bus, I ask the driver where I am and how to get home.
“What happened next?” the voice happened next? The inquisition…
Stephen confronted Cody and his father and they denied everything. Cody swore he was nowhere near Boulder Highway and that he only knew me from seeing me at school sometimes. When Carly walked in, it was over. Stephen refused to believe anything else that I said after that. He went home and told Carla and she bought his story without even caring that I was hurt. I was afraid that I was losing my Mommy. I was hoping that being away from Daddy would make her happier and we could have our relationship back. I didn’t know that I was already too late. She had stopped caring long before that. It was only then that I realized I had lost her completely.
I cried all night that night. I cried because I had been raped, because nobody loved me, because I was alone and miserable and I wanted my Mommy and my Daddy. Nobody came to comfort me. I just cried and cried. The next day, I learned that Cody was mad at Carly and he only wanted to sleep with me to piss her off.
“Ana? Ana, can you hear me?” I hear the voice again.
“Yes,” I answer.
“Take a deep breath and open your eyes.” I breathe in deeply and open my eyes. Ace is right in front of me with his hands on both armrests. My face is cold. He hands me a box of tissues. “Are you okay?” I take the tissues after I realize that I’ve been crying.
“My head hurts,” I tell him as I wipe my face. He hands me a couple of ibuprofen and a bottle of water. “Why did we stop?” I ask.
“Because we’re nearly out of time. We need to go over what we’ve discovered,” he says. “You’ve uncovered some pretty significant things today.” He sits back in his chair and I finally see Christian leaning on Ace’s desk. He’s pale as a ghost and his hair looks like a bird’s nest.
“You look a fright,” I say frowning. He just shakes his head. I look back at Ace. He sighs.
“Your first memory was of your eighth birthday party. What was significant about that?” I think for a moment, then I remember.
“That’s the last time I remember seeing Carla and Ray dance together,” I respond. He nods.
“Then we brought you to when they stopped kissing,” Ace presses.
“Yes. Mom was seeing someone else. I knew it and Dad knew it, too, but nobody wanted to admit it. I don’t know if it was Stephen at the time, but whoever it was convinced her that she could have her heart’s desire if she just left Ray. She used me as an excuse when the truth was that she was discontent with her life and she wanted out. From what I could see, Ray wasn’t going to just let her walk out without good reason, so she decided to punish him… and me.”
“Why do you think she was punishing you?”
“Because I couldn’t hate Ray with her. She thought that telling me that he wasn’t my real father would make me hate him—that it would make me slide Ray out and put Stephen in his place. It did the exact opposite. I loved Ray even more because he treated me like his own child even though he knew that I wasn’t. He even let me carry his name. I never knew why he didn’t adopt me, but I have a feeling that it had something to do with Carla and her attachment to my birth father. Either way, Ray Steele was my father and always will be, and she has resented that since the day we left Montesano.” Ace nods.
“The next place we went was the day that you moved away,” he says.
“Yeah,” I say, with a sigh.
“Talk to me, Ana,” he says. I look up at Christian who is just looking at me with those big gray eyes saying nothing.
“I’ve tried to forget that day. I almost succeeded, but that day is key…”
“Key to what?” Ace asks. I shake my head and wipe away a few tears that fall.
“That was the day that she broke everything,” I say looking up at him.
“What do you mean?” I shake my head.
“Ray loved that woman. For what reason, I don’t know, but he loved her. She came to his house with another man in the driver’s seat and ripped his family away from him. He had to watch while the only child he knew and the woman that he loved rode away to another state with another man. What’s worse, she let me go to his house and cry in his arms up to the last minute just so that she could see for herself the pain that she was causing him. She’s probably masturbated to that vision for several years after, she’s so evil, and the pain that she was causing me was just collateral damage if it wasn’t a fucking bonus.” I drop my head.
“She hurt me so bad that day. I thought she was unhappy because of Ray. Now I realize that I made her unhappy, too. She wanted that big happy family in that big beautiful house and Ray couldn’t give her the lifestyle she wanted. So she dragged me along while she chased her happily ever after, trying to get me to call some man that I didn’t even know ‘Dad’ so that it would fit into her little picture. I hate her most for using me against Ray. He’s one of the kindest, sweetest, most generous human beings that I ever met, and that witch used me time and time again to hurt him.” My chest hurts at the thought.
“Ana…” Ace’s voice floats over to me. I look up at him with tear-filled eyes.
“Can’t you see?” I ask him. “She was never there when I needed her, and I needed her so much.” I drop my head again. “I needed her to comfort me when I hurt my Daddy. I needed her to help me take his tears away. Something in me just broke when Daddy hurt and I couldn’t stop it, and she loved it. She loved both of our pain. Why? Why did she love our pain so much? Why did she choose Stephen over Daddy? I saw her life with Daddy and her life with Stephen. The only difference was the house. The stuff inside of the house was still from a working man’s income. In the house with Daddy, she had love and we were at peace. In the house with Stephen, it was constant turmoil and we were broke. Why did she give up contentment and serenity to go to hell?”
“Because it wasn’t hell for her,” Ace answers. “It was hell for you. She was where she wanted to be. She stayed with that man until he died…”
“Yes, and now she’s penniless and alone, working as a nurse’s assistant and living in a house where she probably can’t even pay the property taxes. What does she have to show for all of this pain she caused?” My head is down again. “And I still don’t have my Mommy.”
“That’s what it always comes back to, doesn’t it?” Ace says. I nod without raising my head.
“I needed her. I loved her. She was my Mommy…”
“Is your Mommy, Ana.” I shake my head.
“No, Ace,” I say, my heart breaking again. “Was my Mommy. I don’t have a Mommy anymore. That woman died. She died when she broke my father’s heart. She died when she left me to the monsters that climbed out from under my bed, walked into my real life, and tried to eat me alive. I love my Mommy. I love her so much, but she’s gone. She left when no one else’s feelings mattered but hers. She couldn’t see past her own needs. As a doctor, I understand that. As a girl who needed her mother, and often still does, I can’t accept it. I know now. I know what I have to do. I don’t hate her. I love her. I know what I have to do.”
“And what’s that?” Ace says. I look up at him.
“I can’t say. I need some time. I have to deal with some things, but I really need you to help me. I know what I need to do about my mother, and I will do it. It’s not time yet, but soon. Right now, I need you to help me stop running. Please, help me stop running,” I beg him. He nods and gestures to Christian. Christian is by my side in a moment, still looking rather frightful, but grasping my hand and kissing it gently.
“Here’s a good place to start,” Ace says. “This is your future. Your past was horrible, but your future is looking pretty good. Remember those feelings that made you want to run, that made you want to shrink. Don’t hide from them. Remember them and then compare them to the feelings that you are feeling now. Remember just how bad they were and that nothing in your life is as bad as it was then. Remember that there are a lot of people who love you—your friends, your family, and your fiancé—and there is no need for you to run anymore. Remember that Ray has found true love and he is starting a family, and that he will never stop loving you as his daughter. Remember these things when you want to run—that even though you don’t have the Mommy that you once had, that you did have her once upon a time and that’s more than a lot of people can say. Remember that the evil woman who has taken her place can’t hurt you anymore and you have no reason to be afraid of her, or even angry with her because she has no impact on your life anymore.”
“That last part I’ve already got. Appreciating the Mommy, that’s going to be hard, but it will help me do what I have to do when the time comes,” I tell him.
“We really need to call it a night, Ana. We’ve gone over your time.” I nod.
“I’m sorry, Ace. Make sure you bill me, okay?” He nods and I stand. Christian still looks like he’s going to faint. I’m making my way to the door when Christian says, “Wait a minute…”
I don’t even know what to say right now. I had to sit here and watch her relive all this crazy shit and I couldn’t say a word, but he was able to guide her from scene to scene with his voice and able to bring her out of it with just a few words. This is the first time that I am at a loss for words, but it only takes a few moments for me to find them. “Wait a minute..” Butterfly turns around to look at me, but I’m looking at “Ace.”
“Has this kind of therapy ever backfired?” I ask him. He frowns at me.
“What do you mean ‘backfired?'” he asks.
“There are a lot of people who have fought to overcome the struggles of their past. Believe me, I speak from experience. Now, here’s this therapy that opens all these old wounds and lets these old ghosts out of the closet. I’m asking if this has ever backfired—done more harm than good?” Avery folds his arms.
“I’m sure there are some cases where it hasn’t been the most productive form of therapy…”
“Don’t bullshit me, Avery. I asked you a direct question. It requires a direct answer.” He stands up straight.
“I told you before that I won’t answer to Avery, Mr. Grey, and I told you why!” he says firmly. I try not to glare at him.
“Fine, Dr. Avery, direct question… direct answer,” I clarify.
“I gave my patient the risks before she opted for this type of therapy. I also repeated them before we undertook this therapy. You were present a little over an hour ago when I explained those risks. Was there anything unclear about what I said?” I am so accustomed to people bowing to me when I ask a question that this independent, stand-up-to-me shit is irritating.
“Okay, I’ll try to ask this question again…”
“Don’t bother. I’ve already answered it,” he replies. “I refer again back to the risks I mentioned at the beginning of this session. Do you have any other questions, Mr. Grey?”
“I don’t understand this. How could you do that? How could you sit there and listen to that—to let her go through that again without bringing her out?”
“Because that’s what she wanted,” he says calmly. “That’s what she needed. She’s looking at this whole thing through the eyes of an angry, hurt child. She’s not that child anymore. She’s a grown woman—a doctor—and she needs to look at these events through different eyes so that she can get past them… or would you rather she be content with running away and shrinking?” I hate that his voice is so damn controlled.
“Please tell me what I can do,” I say, turning to Butterfly.
“Well, first of all, you can stop attacking my therapist!” she says, a little horror in her voice. “He didn’t force me into this, Christian. This was my choice. I’ve talked this thing to death and nothing is working. I’ve got to get to the heart of it and dig it out… just like you did.” I immediately know that she’s talking about my revelation with Lincoln. I thrust my hand through my hair again.
“Are you okay?” I ask her.
“I’m fine,” she says.
“Do you remember?” Ana nods. “Everything?” She nods again. “Baby, if you relive the beating, I can’t stay. I’m sorry, I can’t watch it. I can’t watch you suffer like that again… I can’t…” She takes my hand.
“I understand. I may not have to, but I don’t know that for sure yet. I think I know what I need to know now, but I still have a long way to go. If you can’t take it, I’ll have to bring Al. It’s time he knew all the gory details anyway.” I sigh.
“I’ll be here for you if I can, I promise.”
“I know.” She smiles. I turn to Avery.
“Sorry… Ace.” I say contrite. He snickers.
“I am fully aware of how it feels to want to be a knight in shining armor. Have you seen that hottie in the lobby?” Avery says.
“Sorry,” I say puling Butterfly close to me. “I only have eyes for one hottie.”
The ride home is silent, as is dinner and the hours that follow. I am lost in thought, reliving those things that Butterfly relived. Surprisingly, I don’t know what to say to her now. She handles that dilemma for me.
“I’ll take Al the next time I go to therapy. If he can’t do it, I’ll go alone,” she says while she’s brushing her hair. I look over at her while I’m pulling on my pajamas.
“You never told me everything about the rape,” I say. “I mean, I didn’t expect a play-by-play in our pillow talk, but now since I’ve gotten one, I don’t know what to say.” She turns around to face me.
“There’s nothing to say,” she says. “It happened. He was a selfish, entitled asshole who thought he could rape women and get away with it. Now, he’s in jail, hopefully getting ass-raped himself.” I glare at her. “Yes, I said it,” she says. “I hope he is getting anally raped repeatedly by a big guy named Bubba with a two-foot dick who uses baby powder as lubricant—and I hope Vincent is taking it down the throat.”
Egad! That’s harsh. My horrified expression prompts her to keep talking.
“That’s how I deal with the fact that he raped me and effectively got away with it. I remember that I’m out here free as a bird planning my wedding and the main ringleaders of my attack are now behind bars. Carly stopped living that charmed life that she was living a long time ago, George and Vincent could end up being cellmates, and if there is any such thing as Karma in the world, Cody Whitmore is—as we speak—somebody’s bitch.” She’s brushing her hair with a bit more fervor now.
“I don’t want you to think that you can’t depend on me, Butterfly. I just don’t know that I’m strong enough to sit through all these terrible things happening to you… again.”
“Well, imagine how I must feel,” she says, somewhat under her voice, but loud enough for me to hear it. Shit, I don’t know if I should have gone at all now. Maybe I should have just sat there and kept my mouth shut, not said anything to Avery at all about how I was feeling about this.
“Tell me what I’m supposed to feel here, Ana,” I say.
“Don’t worry about it, Christian. You won’t have to sit through that anymore. You certainly won’t have to relive the beating. I may have forgotten pieces of it, but after seeing that video, I can guarantee you that it’s committed to memory now!” Her voice is getting harsh, and I am remembering what Dr. Baker said this afternoon…
“She’s not angry at you. She’s angry at the situation. Remember that, because she is likely to lash out when this is all said and done.”
I silently stand by while she continues to speak.
“I don’t need to regress to relive the searing pain of the brands on my back, or my begging them to spare my life and asking them what I did wrong. The only thing that I need to remember from that experience is that I called for my mommy in my head and she never came. Then again, she couldn’t come because she didn’t know what was happening to me. What’s worse is that I don’t think she would have come if she knew that I was in danger. So there’s no need for you to ever hear of that dirty little incident again!”
She’s screaming and throwing her brush by the time she is done with her speech. She jumps up from her chair and stomps to the bathroom door. She doesn’t go through it. She just stands there crying, her fists balled and her head down. I walk around the bed and come up behind her. Sensing my presence, she protests.
“No! Don’t touch me. I want to run!” she cries. Respecting her wishes—and shocked and proud that she’s working through this—I back up and sit on the bed. I hate most of all watching her stand there and cry, but I sit there and watch her ready to catch her if she falls. Her shoulders shake as she cries and I count to keep from running to her. Somewhere around 58, I see her breathing visibly change. She’s calming a bit. By the time I get to 75, she is taking deep breaths, though some of them are shuddering breaths. By lucky number 100, she has turned around and is facing me.
“Can I hold you now?” I ask.
“Yes,” she breathes. I have covered the few feet between us before the “s” gets out of her mouth. “Oh, Christian…” she gasps as I crush her in an embrace.
“I’m sorry, Baby. I’ll be there for you,” I promise her.
“No. I didn’t realize… I don’t want to put you through that.” I gather into my arms and carry her to our bed.
“I hate to see you suffer,” I say looking into her eyes, “but I’ll be damned if I let you suffer alone. I’ll be there for you.” She buries her face in my neck and weeps some more. “I made it about me. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I won’t do that again.”
“I should have considered your feelings. Please forgive me.” She responds. I pull her close to me.
“I like this new ‘us,’ warts and all,” I say and she chuckles a bit through her tears.
“I loved her,” she says with a heavy sigh, and I know that she’s talking about Carla. “Part of me still loves her… still loves my Mommy, but she’s gone now. I don’t know if she left when she divorced Ray… Daddy…” She starts to cry again. “Help me to remember to never ever call him ‘Ray’ again,” she says through her tears.
“I’ll help you,” I promise, and she nods.
“Whenever she left, she wasn’t there when I needed her most, when I wanted her most, and now I can’t deal with conflict because of it.” She wipes her eyes.
“You said that you knew what to do about it. Do you want to tell me what you meant?” I ask her.
“Yes,” she sighs. “I need to confront my mother.”
“I thought you already did that… at Morton’s funeral.”
“No, that was anger talking. That was not me talking to my… my Mommy. I can’t do it right now. It’s going to take some time before I can. I don’t know when that will be, but… I have to confront her.”
“Just let me know what I can do,” I tell her.
“Right now, you can hold me and kiss me until I fall asleep,” she says.
I lay her on the bed and get up to turn off the lights. Coming back to her, I lie down next to her and cover us both with the sheet and comforter. I pull her into my arms facing me and entwine our legs together.
“With pleasure, my beautiful Butterfly,” I say before bringing my lips to hers.
“Mom, Dad, I want you to meet Luma and her granddaughters, Mariah and Celida.” I introduced Luma and the girls to my parents. Mom gives that big smile that she has to Luma and invites them in. I had the conversation yesterday with her about inviting Luma to Sunday dinner and to meet the rest of the family.
“I appreciate what you are doing, Christian, but trust me. You can’t help every needy family in the world. I work for a charity. I know how it is to want to help them all, to get attached to them like stray kittens. First, the Martins; then the Whiteheads; now, Luma and her girls…”
“Mom, let’s clarify some things. First, the Martins were our adopted family from the Adopt-A-Family Affair. Everything that was extended to them was based on their need as our adopted family. Although I do keep tabs on them, I am not involved in their lives any further. Second, the Whiteheads were Ana’s project. If you’re going to liken them to stray animals, Marlow was Ana’s kitten, Luma is mine… and I’m keeping her. Any more questions?” The line goes silent but I can hear her smiling.
“I guess we’ll have three more for dinner,” she says.
So here we are, with three uncomfortable people in the Grey household… until…
“Oh my God! How cute are they?” Mia comes bolting down the stairs and straight over to the girls. “Hi! My name is Mia,” she says, kneeling down to them. “What’s your name?”
“I am Mariah, and this is my sister, Celida,” Mariah says, protectively taking her sister’s hand.
“Would you like to come to my room? I have my own apartment, but I still have my room here. It’s the girliest room you’ve ever seen.”
“Even girlier than Felicia’s?” Mariah says.
“Who’s Felicia?” Mia asks.
“She’s a girl that goes to my school. She has Hello Kitty everywhere!” Mariah says, stressing the everywhere.
“Well, I don’t know. You’ll have to tell me if my room is girlier.” Mariah looks over to Luma who gives her a single nod.
“Okay. C’mon, Celida!” and off the three of them go up the stairs. Ana shows Luma around some parts of the house while my mother decides to pull me into the kitchen for a chat.
“My boys aren’t speaking,” she says, as she pours me a glass of wine.
“How do you know?”
“Oh, you mean besides the fact that Valerie called here in a fright in the dead of night on Friday morning to get your father to help pry a bottle of gin for Elliot’s hand?” Ooo, Mom does not sound happy. “Look around, do you see him?” I did notice that Elliot is conspicuously missing from Sunday dinner. “He can’t even face you, Christian.”
“Mom, you don’t understand. You weren’t there for how he talked to me and how he treated me.” I take a sip of my wine. “I was hurting so bad, Mom, so bad…”
“Christian, I had no idea,” she says, remorseful.
“That’s because I wasn’t advertising it. I didn’t want everybody to know. Then there’s this group of people who were supposed to have been my friends and they just left me hanging. It was my mistake to think that they were my friends, but it still stung like a bi… really badly. Then Elliot shows up and he just rakes me across the coals. Talk about adding insult to injury.” I drink more of my wine. Mom sits on the stool next to me.
“Why didn’t you call me, Christian? I am your mother after all.”
“What was I supposed to say? ‘Mom, I suggested that we postpone the wedding, but Ana thinks I called it off. Can you please come and hold my hand?'” I shrug at the end of the rhetorical question.
“Quite frankly, yes,” Mom says, surprising me. I shake my head.
“I was too low. I don’t think even you could pull me out of it,” I confess.
“I never thought I’d see the day when a woman had you so deep in love that you didn’t know what to do with yourself,” Mom says as she brushes butter on some pastries. “Love looks good on you.” She puts the pastries into the oven and walks over to me. “You’ve brought a stranger to our home and have asked us to welcome her as family, which we will do, yet you can’t forgive Elliot. There’s something wrong with that, Christian. Talk to your brother.” She wipes her hand on her apron. “Now send Luma in here so that she can help me with the tarts.” I nod and go in search of Luma.
She’s right, there is something wrong with the fact that I can’t talk to Elliot. Dr. Baker even says that I have to let go of that pain and welcome Elliot back into my life. I’m trying. I’m really trying, but it’s so hard to get past the betrayal. I could barely concentrate on mine and Ray’s meeting yesterday thinking about all the changes going on with the people around my life.
I don’t know if I’m going to be able to sit still through another one of those regression sessions with Butterfly, but I know that I have to try. I don’t know how she’s going to react to what Ray and I are doing. I would think that she might be pleased, but I really don’t know. I’ve shaken my anger towards the “Scooby Gang.” It’s kind of hard to hold someone to a standard that they never really achieved in the first place. The friendship was all in my mind—it wasn’t real. So I had no problem letting it go. I don’t even really have any hard feelings towards them anymore. I just know where I stand and I won’t make the mistake of thinking that it ever was or ever will be true friendship… not in my case anyway.
And then there’s Elliot.
We’ve been through a lot of shit—shit that nobody else knows about. Brothers do that… they keep each others’ shit and they get into shit together and they get each other out of shit. He stopped me from getting arrested once. I helped him get girls out of the house before Mom caught him plenty of times. He helped me hide bruises and fights many times; he even fought side-by-side with me in a few of them.
I notify Butterfly that Luma is wanted in the kitchen. She agrees to go with her as a buffer between Luma and my mother just in case one is needed. I go out to the patio. Dusk is falling and the sky is streaked in cloudy purples and oranges as the sun sets over the water. I used to watch this scene often when I was a kid—that is, when I wasn’t with the Pedophile or running off to my secret place. I don’t know how long I go through my reminiscing when I hear the French doors open and close behind me. For some reason, I know who it is without even turning around, just from the shift of energy in the air.
“I hear you tied one on the other night,” I tell him.
“Yeah,” he says solemnly. “I need to work through some things. Not the best method, though. Dad was really pissed at me. He put me in a cold shower fully dressed. Either I was really drunk or Dad is really fucking strong for an old man.”
“I think it’s both.” There’s silence between us for a few moments.
“He actually put me on punishment. I’m not allowed to drink anything for 30 days, not even beer.” I look over at him.
“Are you going to do it?” I ask. He nods.
“Out of respect for my father and the fact that he had to come to my house and make sure that I wasn’t suffering from alcohol poisoning at two in the morning… yeah, I’m going to do it. I probably won’t drink until the wedding, and then only champagne for the toast.” He drinks some of his orange juice. I don’t know what to say to him. Small talk is okay, but anything in-depth, I can’t really put together right now.
“Christian, I know that I fucked up, and I don’t know if you’ll ever forgive me, but I’m not going to beg, Man,” he says looking me square on but with no malice in his voice.
“I don’t want you to beg, Elliot. That’s not what this is about…”
“Then tell me what it’s about,” he says.
“It’s about finding out that the one person that I thought would have my back didn’t. It’s about trust. It’s about all the shit that has gone on in our life going down the drain over some pussy. Not so long ago, you heard that I used to beat little brown-haired girls because of my birth mother. That didn’t shock and appall you. However, the fact that I postponed my wedding with my fiancée—my fiancée—made you completely drop the crest and walk away. The only person who had the right to be upset or hurt was Anastasia. Everybody else who walked around all bruised and battered because I postponed the wedding made it all about them when it was really none of their business.” I can hear myself going off on a tangent. This doesn’t need to be rehashed anymore.
“I needed you, Elliot, more than I can ever remember needing you before…”
“And I wasn’t there…”
“No, you were there,” I correct him. “You were there and you saw my pain and you still kicked me when I was down. That hurt like you’ll never believe.” I stand up and walk to the edge of the balcony. This time I don’t want him to see my tear, so I dash it away quickly.
“I still have to work out some anger issues I have when it comes down to what Kate did to me,” he says from behind me. “I really loved her. Well, if I’m honest, I thought I loved her. I did in the beginning, but near the end… Anyway, I had no right to take that out on you and I know that. It was my fucked-up situation to deal with and I didn’t do very well. Then when you asked me to explain it, I wanted you to just get over it; forget that it happened and forgive me. That’s why I was so callous when we talked about it. I just wanted you to let it go.
“She calls me to meet her for lunch nonstop. I thought if I ignored her, she would just go away, but she keeps calling and calling and calling. It was making me angrier and angrier. I finally called her back once and asked her what she wanted and she wouldn’t tell me. So I told her to stop calling me. Do you think she stopped? No! She just keeps calling and calling, telling me how much she wants to see me and how much has changed. I guess that Roger fucker dumped her.” I turn around to face him. He’s clutching that tumbler like he is praying that it turns to Vodka.
“Why didn’t you tell me that she was still calling you like that?” I ask him. He shrugs.
“I thought I could handle it—girl problems, you know? The more she called, the more she stayed in the front of my mind—all that time that I wasted on her and the plans we made; what our life was supposed to look like. Then you and Ana…” He trails off. “… And I took it out on you. I was so mad that I thought my head was going to burst and I took it out on you. I really thought I could handle it. I guess I was wrong,” he laments. I sigh. I wish he had explained it to me like this before. I would have understood more clearly.
“Hurt people hurt people,” I mumble recalling the words that Allen said to me the first time the Scooby Gang threw me under the bus.
“It’s something I heard once. Hurt people hurt people. You were hurting and when something happened that compared to what you were going through, you lashed out and ended up hurting me,” I explain to him. He drops his head and nods.
“Yeah, sounds right,” he admits taking another drink of his orange juice. I sigh heavily. I’ve never been at odds with my brother, not like this anyway, but it’s really going to take some work for me to trust him again like I did before.
“I’m working on forgiveness, Elliot,” I tell him. “It is going to take some time, but I won’t shut you out anymore. It’s not doing either of us any good.” He looks up at me.
“I appreciate that, Bro, and I understand. All I can tell you is that I won’t let you down again, especially not over some stank piece of cheating trash like her. I may need you to bang some sense into me from time to time, though,” he adds. I chuckle.
“That I can do,” I tell him. He stands and extends his hand to me. I accept it and shake his hand.
“I won’t let you down again,” he repeats.
“I’m going to hold you to that,” I respond, still shaking his hand. “Do you want me to speak to Kavanaugh?” He shakes his head.
“No, I’m going to change my number since she’s stalking me. If that doesn’t work, I’ll send Val over there. She wants a piece of that woman really bad.” I raise my eyebrows.
“Now that’s a fight I’d pay to see,” I jest—well, not really jest. I would pay to see that fight.
“Well, you might get your wish if this woman doesn’t put a lid on it,” he confirms. Just then, I hear a delicate throat clearing. I’d know that voice anywhere.
“I hope I’m not disturbing anything,” she says coming out of the shadows.
“No, Ana Montana. We were just finishing up here.” Elliot makes his way over to her and embraces her. They have a 30-second conversation and then he goes back inside.
“What was that about? Did you send him out here?” I ask.
“No, your mother did,” she says, walking to me.
“What was that little…” I gesture with my hand, trying to formulate the words to ask why they were whispering.
“I can’t tell you,” she says. Excuse me?
“Why can’t you tell me?” I ask.
“Why couldn’t I tell you before?” she says, maintaining her cool demeanor. My mind immediately goes to five days without Butterfly, food, or water. My mouth forms a small “O” as realization dawns. “See? Cute and you got a little sense, too.” She tiptoes and plants a kiss on my lips.
“How’s Luma doing?” I ask her.
“Grace took her to the kitchen and I think she’s in stunned happiness.”
“And the girls?”
“They haven’t emerged from Mia’s room yet. I think they have fallen into the girly vortex.” I couldn’t help but laugh at that one. “They are going to need a lot of time, Christian.”
“I know,” I sigh. “I just couldn’t leave them alone.. not now. Not ever, I think.” She puts her hand on my chest.
“You’re a good man with a good heart. I just want you to be careful with it.”
“You and my mom,” I lament.
“We love you. We don’t want to see anyone take advantage of you, not that Luma ever would. She is one of the most genuine people I have ever met and I don’t really know how I know. I just feel it. I hope that I’m right.”
“You’re right,” I tell her. “Anyone who can show that kind of love to the man who murdered her daughter has a heart of pure gold.” She nods.
“Well, then in that case, I would say that she does need someone to take care of her right now.” She smiles at me before taking my hand and leading me back into the house.
A/N: Ana and Ray were dancing to I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye on her eighth birthday.