Chapter 64—We Still Do!
I still have a butterfly in my hair when we begin the receiving line. I thought the poor little fellow was caught on a curl or something, but someone manages to wave him away and he just flies in a few circles and lands up there again. It must be my conditioner or perfume. He stays until just after the last person greets us in the receiving line then flies back to the garden. Incredible! I will call him Monty—my monarch butterfly that stayed with me while I greeted our guests.
I met Christian’s grandparents in the receiving line. That was an experience. Grace’s mother examined me like I was an alien being. I felt a little strange around her, but even stranger around his uncle… Henry? No, Herman. It could have just been me, but I felt like he was looking at me like a T-bone steak. It’s a feeling that soon passed when I met Carrick’s father and Christian told me that this was their first time meeting. From the looks of Mr. Grey, it may be their last. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but he doesn’t look well at all.
“What’s wrong with him?” I whisper to Christian. He shrugs.
“I don’t know, but I’m sure that we’ll find out.” He seems a little sad about it. I can imagine—to meet your grandfather then have him snatched away from him just as quickly. I guess that’s what happened with Alexandria, but not really. She insulted my father and that’s a deal-breaker. As I am trying to rid my mind of her, I raise my head to see a welcome sight.
“Auntie Cyn,” I say with a warm smile as I embrace her. “I’m so glad you came.”
“Anastasia, I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” she says as she returns my embrace. “I can’t believe how far you’ve come. I’m so proud of you.”
“Thank you, Auntie Cyn,” I say as we part and look at each other.
“Oh! This is my husband, Larry. Honey, this is Anastasia Ste… Grey, the young woman that I was telling you about.” Larry looks at me then at his wife.
“This is her?” he asks. She nods. He takes my hand and gives it a gentle shake. “My wife tells me that you are quite an extraordinary young woman,” he says with a smile.
“If I am, I have her to thank for all that she did for me,” I reply. He looks adoringly at Auntie Cyn.
“Yes, she is pretty amazing,” he says. I look up at Christian who holds me close to him and gives me a little squeeze and a smile. I hope we are still that loving in 10 or 15 years.
“Forever,” he whispers in my ear as if reading my thoughts.
“Congratulations, Christian. Ana, you are a beautiful bride,” Luma approaches next. Christian leans down so that she can kiss his cheek.
“Thank you, Luma,” he says kissing her hands. “I’m so glad that you could make it.”
“Miss Ana, are you a princess?” Mariah asks and I giggle.
“I am today, Sweetie,” I say, cupping her cheeks.
“You’re a pretty princess,” Celida says, smiling widely. I look at these happy, beautiful girls who just lost their mother not long ago, now wearing bright-colored dressed with beautiful ribbons and curls in their long, brown hair, most likely looking at me and thinking of their own future Cinderella story. I squat down to meet them at eye level.
“What a wonderful thing to say. That makes me very happy coming from the two prettiest girls I know.” They both embrace me and make me anxious to have a daughter of my own. I kiss them both on the cheek as Luma looks on, smiling widely.
“Thank you for inviting us, Ana,” she says sincerely.
“Nonsense. You’re family. Of course we would want you here.” I stand and kiss Luma on the cheek. “Thank you for coming. You all look so beautiful.” We chat a few moments more before the receiving line continues and I can’t help but wonder at the fact that my family has grown so much over the past year.
Christian and I can’t keep our hands off each other when we start taking pictures by and inside of the Bentley. We take several pictures all over the garden and castle grounds with the parents and the wedding party, but when we get to the Bentley, it’s just us. God, I want him and I don’t know how much longer I can wait. Eight-handed Christian worked me into a frenzy and now the real thing is standing here looking all scrumptious. I wonder if we can sneak away really quickly and…
“Okay, you two. I have to get you to the reception, so let’s get going.” Fuck! So much for that idea.
There is a cocktail hour in the Great Hall that was taking place mostly while we were taking pictures. Now the guests have begun to file out to where the reception is to be held on the other side of the castle near American Lake. A large marquee houses several tables, the dancefloor, and the band while more tables are set up out in the open across a flawless, velvet-green lawn with a breathtaking view of the lake.
As we come around the castle to the reception area, the rest of our wedding party is waiting for us, ribbing us about what took us so long and telling me to fix my lipstick. I shake my head at all of them while Christian slips his arms around me from behind, pulling me close to him and kissing me on the cheek.
“Okay,” Tammy says. “The MC will announce you all before you enter the reception. James and Al, you’ll be first. Jason, you and Gail will follow, then Elliot and Valerie, followed by John and Maxine and then Ethan and Mia. Then, of course, our bride and groom will bring up the rear.”
“Tamster, did we…”
“Yes, Al, we did.” I wonder if I should ask what that’s all about.
“It’s nothing, Jewel,” Al says. “I just wanted to make sure that when we are announced that James is introduced as my partner and not my boyfriend.” I raise my eyebrows at him.
“Something you want to tell me, oh best friend of mine?” He smiles shyly.
“No. I wish. I just think that saying he’s my boyfriend sounds too trivial. He’s more than that to me.” I raise my eyebrows to him again.
“So are you saying that when Christian and I referred to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend, that relationship was trivial?” I rib.
“You know as well as I do that was different,” he says. “When people see a guy and a girl together, they can easily see Romeo and Juliet or Snow White and the Prince. They don’t see that with me and James for obvious reasons. Besides, your relationship progressed and you became fiancés. Until Washington makes gay marriage legal, that’s not happening with us. So until we can progress like you two…” He throws a look over my shoulder at Christian that I can’t quite read. “…James is my partner and not just my boyfriend.” I nod once and he looks at Christian again. “I meant what I said,” he says flatly.
“I know,” Christian replies. Now I want to know what transpired between them.
“Al, did you threaten my husband?” I ask, partially playfully and partially serious.
“Yes,” he says, without pausing. I’m taken aback momentarily. Did he say “yes?” “Don’t worry, Jewel,” he adds, “I didn’t have to go through with it.”
I don’t know what to say to this. Did he really threaten Christian or is this some kind of joke? Before I get the chance to ask, the MC is announcing the Man of Honor Allen Forsythe and his partner James Flemings.
“Come on, Allie,” James says, taking Al’s hand. “Put Rocky away for now and let’s enjoy the party.” Al turns his attention to James and they walk hand in hand into the marquee. I turn expecting to Christian.
“Don’t worry about it, Baby,” he says, his voice soothing. “He had something that needed to be said and he said it. I don’t fault him for it because he was totally justified.” Oh, God. Did he…?
“Did you… tell him…”
“No,” he cuts me off, “and I don’t want to think about it today at all… please…” That’s why Christian looked like a ghost when I saw him in the garden before the ceremony. It’s probably been eating at him all day. I want to say that I’m glad it did because I want him to remember that feeling—but I’m not. This is his wedding day, too, and I want him to be happy. I put my hand on his face and plant a lingering kiss on his cheek. When I look in his eyes, there’s that longing again. Oh, Christian…
“Pay attention,” Elliot warns, “you might miss them announcing the bride and groom,” he says before he and Val walk to the marquee. I turn to look at the lake and lean back into Christian’s arms. I really love the water. I could live here. Well, maybe not here, but by the lake, definitely. We haven’t talked about where our house will be or even if we’re buying a house, except for that conversation that we had in wine country. That was a wonderful time. I can still remember everything I said to him about our home. It’s a permanent picture in my mind—but I’m getting ahead of myself. Escala is beautiful and we have no reason to leave there right now. We haven’t even started a family yet. It’s just the two of us… well, the four of us, but Escala is huge!
“Come on, Baby, that’s our cue,” Christian says as he guides me towards the marquee. They must have announced us… and I missed it. We walk around the tables set up on the grass and into the tent. It’s pretty large and one entire side is open to the tables on the lawn while two sides are partially open to allow long banners in our wedding colors to hang and blow in the breeze. Blue, silver, and white fabric is billowing softly out of the tent on both sides and the inside is spectacular. White linens and chair covers, each table alternating between royal blue and silver accents, bows, and covers. Tall centerpieces bursting with tulips adorn each table along with table numbers on white cards with bold black script lettering and blue satin ribbon. Silver chargers and crystal stemware complete each table setting.
A blue runner makes a path into the tent that leads to the bride and groom’s table which is set slightly up on a podium while the wedding party is slightly below us, but still up on the podium/stage. A backdrop of columns, white curtains, and swags of blue and silver complete the décor behind our table, which happens to be lighted underneath, as are the desert tables, the gift table, the favors table, and the cake table. Speaking of the cake table, it is off to the side, but is a spectacle all by itself. The square table is situated inside a gazebo made of four arches of what looks like an aluminum frame wrapped in tulle with twinkle lights inside. It’s really very beautiful and it’s the first time I seen something like this. What’s more confusing is that there are three cakes on the table—our wedding cake, the groom’s cake, and a third smaller cake. I’ll investigate when I get closer.
Ambient blue and soft white lighting inside the tent gives it a twilight feel though it is still early evening. I step over to the MC and make a quick request. When I get back to Christian and take his hand, the MC announces again,
“Ladies and Gentlemen, may I announce for the… I guess, second time…” There is laughter in the reception before he finally says, “Mr. and Mrs. Christian Grey.”
There it is!
My heart leaps at the sound of my new official name. Mrs. Christian Grey. I could dance all the way down this runner at this moment but I just throw my hands in the air with my bouquet and smile so wide I thing my face will break. Christian takes my hand and leads me down the blue runner, his smile equally large, and I direct him to the cake table.
Our wedding cake is a combination of our flavors, but the set-up is enough to bring you to tears. It’s three layers, our icing choices covered by white fondant and intricate white piping, beading, jeweling and designs. The display consists of an embellished silver platform that holds the largest cake. Each of the two tiers above it are supported by clear square podiums with lights inside. On top of the third layer is another little round, lighted podium that houses Cinderella’s glass slipper. That podium in turn supports this cake’s topper, which is an old-fashioned Cinderella castle complete with the pointed battlements. Each upper layer—including the castle layer—has large Swarovski crystals dangling from it and capturing the light.
I actually ordered the second cake which is the groom’s cake. It’s about the size of a half-sheet cake on a black and white marbleized platter—a perfect replica of Christian’s piano.
“Ah!” he says, when he realizes what it is. “Look at that!” A model Christian with flopsy red hair sits at the piano cake in a business suit ready to play. He laughs heartily when he see his surprise and he is very pleasantly pleased.
My eyes are now drawn to the third cake. I immediately got the clue when the model Ana with long, brown hair and wearing a blue skater dress complete with glasses and stilettos has both of her hands dug into the coconut frosting.
It’s German Chocolate.
Wouldn’t you know it? I have him all distinguished sitting a piano in a business suit and he has me in a mini dress digging fist-first into a German Chocolate cake!
“Christian!” I scold him.
“Oh, no,” he says through his laughter, “as much as I would love to take credit for it, this is not my creation.”
“It has to be!” I chide him. “I remember that exact outfit! I wore it somewhere near the beginning of your group sessions. I remember because I was trying to impress you that day and I didn’t even know it… with that dress!” I hardly ever wear my glasses in public, so I know it had to be him.
“You were?” he says again, still laughing. “Well, it worked!” he says, gesturing to the cake. “However, although I may have had some input on the outfit, that position and that cake were not my idea.” I examine the cake a little closer and the position of Little Ana.
“Daddy!” I turn around and yell out like a toddler having a temper tantrum. The reception guests erupt into laughter while my father badly feigns innocence. Imagine seeing your daughter march over to you in a wedding dress with her fists on her hips across a large, elaborately decorated marquee.
“What’s wrong, Sunflower?” he says, unable to hide his mirth.
“Don’t you Sunflower me,” I scold. “That’s horrible!” I throw my arms around him. “I love you, Daddy. Thank you.” I kiss him on the cheek and give him a smile. Leave it to Daddy to get my favorite cake and then incorporate the 2-year-old fist-smash into it.
“You’re welcome, Annie Babe,” he says holding me around my waist. “Save a dance for me?”
“Of course, Daddy,” I smile at his obvious question and kiss him again.
As the sun sets over American Lake, we party our hearts out! I would have expected the party to be a little more reserved considering this is Christian Grey and the Grey Family that we’re talking about, but no. These people really know how to let their hair down. While a band played the music that serenaded us through dinner and the first part of the reception, the DJ took over for the rest of the night playing favorites from every genre. Jason’s best man toast was both touching and funny, while Al’s toast just brought me to tears. There are no scenes, fights, or drunken mishaps, but this reception is alight with revelry and unleashed celebration.
I don’t know more than half of the people here, so in all honesty, this became Anastasia Grey’s Debutant Ball so to speak. I am introduced to most of Seattle society and business élite, much like at the Adopt-A-Family Affair. I shake hands with the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Mayor, members of the City Counsel, several of Christian’s business associates, and even more socialites desperate to get me to back their causes and be on their charity committees.
It’s strange to me because I always thought that it was just a rumor or a stereotype that rich ladies support a charity and do fund-raising and that’s pretty much all that they do. I have come to realize that although they don’t all do that, a lot of them do. Some of them simply sink into the money and hide in their husband’s shadow. After we have had dinner and Christian is off somewhere making his rounds, I find myself in a very interesting conversation with one woman about just this particular topic.
“Surely, you’re not returning to work after your honeymoon!” she asks horrified as if the thought is preposterous. “You’re marrying Christian Grey,” she adds, like that’s supposed to answer all the questions and be the end of my story.
“Mrs. Ringhold, I’m a doctor. Just because I’m marrying Christian Grey doesn’t mean it completely defines who I am. Yes, I am returning to work after my honeymoon and Christian supports my decision whole-heartedly.” I don’t bother telling her that I’m going to only be working part-time because that’s really none of her business. She smiles at me and her expression is laced with… pity?
“You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into, do you?” she says with no malice, but that’s not how I take it.
“What do you mean by that?” I nearly hiss.
“Do get angry, Sweetie. I’m just letting you know. You may think you have this whole independence thing underfoot, but make no mistake. You are no longer Anastasia Steele. You’re not even Anastasia Grey. You are now Mrs. Christian Grey, and they are not one and the same. You will now be defined and described only in terms of him. Everything that you have done before now—except the negative stuff—is null and void. You will be measured by his accomplishments and his failures. Anything that you do in public will most likely be national news. You are Lady Grey, and any of your accolades or misfortunes will be reported as ‘wife of Christian Grey.’ I’m not trying to upset you, but I am attempting to school you. Make no mistake, marrying Christian Grey totally defines who you are from this point on.”
At first, I don’t know how to respond to this. Who does she think she is telling me this at my wedding reception? Is she attempting to plant seeds of doubt in my mind and heart before my marriage even begins?
“I appreciate the information,” I begin. “Let me assure you that I have no problem whatsoever being identified or described or listed or labelled or—fill in the blank—as ‘Lady Grey.’ He’s a remarkable man and I think any woman would be honored to stand in my place and call him ‘husband.’ However, you make it sound like I should just throw away my life and follow my rich husband around like a sick puppy. I’m happy to tell you that’s not going to happen. I was a strong, independent woman when I met Christian and that’s what he fell in love with. This wedding has changed nothing about that but my last name and my net worth.
“Have you watched the news lately? You don’t think I’ve lived as ‘Lady Grey’ since I moved into his apartment? When I went back to my condo to pick up my things, it became a headline. I may not have walked this line for decades, but I’m not new to this ballgame. I’m not a social climber, so I’m not trying to make a name for myself off of the Grey name. I just want to live and be happy. So if that means that a lot of what I do or all of what I do is accompanied by a tagline that says ‘wife of Christian Grey,’ I can certainly live with that, but I repeat—just because I’m marrying Christian Grey doesn’t mean it completely defines who I am. So, yes, I will continue working and doing the things that I love, and Christian whole-heartedly supports me for it.”
I clasp my hands in front of me and give her a full-on phony smile. She returns it with a phony smile of her own.
“I’d love to see you in a few years,” she says, cocking her head to the side. “Just wait until the nights get longer and the whisperings start; when the women begin to show up with babies that look just like your husband; when nothing that you have belongs to you anymore, not even your identity. You’re going to remember this conversation. I wish someone had had it with me, so I’m doing you a service. Be prepared, because all the promises that you see in his money will pale in comparison when you lose his heart.”
This woman is out of her mind. Who the hell is she and who let her in here? I mean, I know her name but that’s all I know. I’m glaring at her trying to control my voice, but I am completely livid. How dare she say something like this to me!
“I’m really sorry that happened to you, but don’t wish that on me,” I tell her. “That’s a horrible thing to say to a woman on her wedding day.” As if she realizes what a mistake she has made, her face goes pale and she straightens her stance.
“I’m only telling you what I know,” she says. “The money makes them feel invincible, like nothing can affect them or touch them. They become cold, distant. You find yourself sleeping alone night after night until…”
“Mrs. Ringhold!” His voice is not loud, but it is forceful. “Have you completely lost your mind?”
She and I both nearly jump out of our skin at the sound of his voice.
“I… I…” Of course, she can’t say anything. She was totally busted telling me that my husband was going to fuck around on me before we even left the reception. Christian’s eyes narrow and she stumbles over her tongue. From nowhere, one of the security detail for tonight’s festivities is by his side.
“Find Ken Ringhold,” he says without taking his eyes off her. “Tell him that he and his wife are being ejected from my reception because his wife doesn’t know how to keep her mouth shut!”
She looks at Christian like she expects him to take it back.
“You can leave quietly, Mrs. Ringhold, or you can be carried out of here kicking and screaming. The choice is yours.” He stands awaiting her decision. She decides that quietly is the best way to go and follows the security detail out of the marquee.
“And it begins,” he says shaking his head. “I was hoping that we would at least be able to get back from our honeymoon before the venom started flying.”
“Oh, she’s a bitter woman in a loveless marriage. I can only feel sorry for her.” I look up at him. “I know those things happen, but please tell me that won’t happen to us. I see Daddy and my mother… but then I see Carrick and Grace. I know that true love can last. Please, just tell me that I won’t wake up one day and…” His lips find mine and silence me immediately. I melt into his arms and he caresses my cheek as I slowly forget what I was saying.
“That won’t be us,” he says softly, his lips only a breath away from mine. “I will love you with my last breath, and I’ll spend every breath between this one and that one proving it to you. I will cherish you for as long as we live and nothing will ever change what I feel for you this moment.”
Oh my God, I think I’m going to swoon. His eyes capture mine and I am lost in his gaze. Good God, I love this man.
The nerve of that woman! I’m doing everything that I can to prove to Butterfly that I’m not an insincere, unfeeling, dominant goat, and this cow comes along and basically tells her that my money will be more important than she is and that in a few years, I’ll be cheating on her and making other families with other women. What the hell is Ringhold doing that this woman feels the need to tell my wife to beware?
I don’t like seeing the uncertainty in her eyes. I’ve worked too hard to make sure that she knows that she is everything to me. Even in my barbarianism, I have only wanted to show her how important she is to me and that the thought of another man having her makes me crazy. God, I know that there will be other hateful women that will try to make her feel like my loyalties lie elsewhere. I just hope she knows that they are truly with her. I once told her that she was the most important person in my life second only to my family. Now, she is a part of my family. She’s carrying my name and soon, hopefully, my children. She has to know what she means to me. She has to…
“Grey, what’s going on? Why are we being removed from the reception?” Ringhold has made his way over to me before the usher was able to stop him. Where’s Jason?
“I see that the usher didn’t tell you, so I will,” I say, pulling Butterfly close to me and tucking her under my arm. “I won’t begin to assume what’s going on in your household or your marriage, nor am I interested in knowing at this time. However, you’re being kicked out of my reception because your spiteful wife decided that it was her duty to tell my beautiful new bride that she—like your wife—will very soon be locked in a loveless marriage where my money will become more important than my family. She even went so far as to say that in a couple of years, I may even be bringing home babies from other women. That’s a wonderful picture for a brand new wife to take on her honeymoon, don’t you think?” I hiss at him. His eyes grow large and he clearly had no idea that his wife had said these things. He looks over at her and she scowls at him before leaving the tent. He drops his head before turning around to face me.
“Mr. Grey, Mrs. Grey, my sincerest apologies for my wife’s behavior. I have no explanation,” he says.
“There’s no explanation needed, but you should probably go find your wife,” Butterfly answers for both of us.
“This… doesn’t change anything… about our business dealings, does it?” he asks, looking at me. Is he on crack to ask me that right now?
“Ask me after my honeymoon,” I tell him. That shut him up. He nods tightly and leaves. “Where the hell is Jason?”
“Well, he’s your best man, so I would say that he’s probably enjoying the reception,” Butterfly reminds me. I take a deep breath and look down at her and close her in my arms again.
“It will only always ever be you,” I tell her with conviction. “Please don’t ever forget that.” She looks up at me.
“You’re a good man, Christian. Please don’t ever forget that,” she replies. She tells me that a lot. She knows that I need to be reminded. I love her so much. “Other families,” she says a little sadly, “It’s bad enough to have to deal with a cheater, but then to have him bring home more children. She’s probably devastated.”
“She has my sympathy, but that was no reason for her to plant those thoughts in my wife’s head. She had no right.” I’m trying not to get angry again. “You shouldn’t be thinking about things like that on your wedding day… or ever. You should be happy and enjoying your day.”
“I am blissfully happy and very much enjoying our day. She’s not the first and she won’t be the last to spit that kind of venom at me or us. It’s something that I just have to get use to.” She lays her head on my chest and holds me around my waist. “You’re stuck with me, Grey. Do you think you can handle that?” I put my finger under her chin and lift her face to mine.
“For the rest of my life.” I kiss her softly, again and again and momentarily forget where we are until…
“Mr. and Mrs. Grey, you’re needed on the dancefloor.” The DJ’s voice floats to my ears, but I’m lost in her kiss. The attention of the reception guests all turn to us and I can hear Elliot say, “You should have known they were making out somewhere.” I smile and touch my forehead to hers.
“Dance with me, Mrs. Grey,” I say, noting the yearning in my voice. She nods, a bit kiss dazed. She puts her wrist through the loop in her train and follows me to the dance floor. Once we get there, I take the loop from her wrist and put it on three of my fingers.
“Hold me,” I say softly as Love All The Hurt Away begins to play. She cannot control her tears as she wraps her arms around my neck. I hold her close to me and rest my chin on her shoulder as we sway to the music. We coast across the floor, our dance much more intimate than any other boring first wedding dance, not raunchy or sensual, just… intimate. I spread my hands across her back and press her body against mine. I close my eyes and feel her warmth, the delicious smell of her skin, and my intense love that feels like it’s going to explode out of me and consume us both. I raise my head just enough to look into her ocean blue eyes. It’s hard to remember that other people are here when she’s in my arms and looking at me like this, like her whole world begins and ends in my eyes.
The sound of the beating of my own heart is rushing through my ears, nearly drowning out the music. I’m softly singing the words to our song in her ear while gently kissing her on her temple and her cheek right in front of her ear. Again, my emotions threaten to overcome me and I need her closer to me. I lift her off the floor and hold her wrapped in my arms. She clings to my neck and we are gliding on our cloud to the song the helped us first realize that we loved one another. I am lost in her love and her embrace, and I only come back to myself when I hear our guests clapping signaling the end of the dance.
“Dry your eyes, Lady Anastasia,” I say softly. “I’ll protect you, and I’ll love you forever.”
Oh, good one Grey. Was that supposed to make her stop crying?
She clings to my neck, still weeping and unable to control it. After a few moments, the DJ announces that the bride is a bit emotionally overwhelmed and beckons the bridal party to join us on the dance floor. I don’t want to let her go. I just want to stay here in her arms forever. She’s as light as a sheet of paper, and I’m holding her with one arm wrapped firmly around her waist and the other caressing her bare back. I can feel the goosebumps rising on her skin as I caress her back and her crying begins to cease a bit.
Why, Mrs. Grey, are you getting aroused—here at our wedding reception in front of all these people?
I continue my caress as the bridal party slowly joins us on the dance floor. She is reduced to whimpers and shuddering breaths as Breathe begins to play and once again, we are floating on our cloud… in each others’ arms.
I don’t know how long I danced with my wife or to how many songs. I just know that we danced until she felt better and it was time to cut the cake. Butterfly and I are both amazed that she thought about getting a miniature Christian to sit at the piano and Ray—with my help—orchestrated a miniature Ana smashing into the German chocolate cake. It goes to show that great minds think alike and that this woman truly is my match in every way. We cut into our cake and fed each other as the DJ plays Because You Loved Me. I can’t stop looking into her eyes the entire time. I never thought she could possibly be more beautiful than she already is, but today, she capativating… breathtaking… downright enchanting.
Her dress is timeless—the lace clings to her in all the right ways and falls modestly just past her hips. I can say that I’m happy that she didn’t get a full, tight-to-the-knees mermaid dress. I’ve always thought those things were so tacky. No, not my Butterfly. Her dress only slightly hugs her hips before it fans out and compliments her gorgeous figure. The way that if frames her sensual back and showcases her flawless arms—back on track, Grey. You’ve got to dance with your mom soon.
I slowly feed her the cake as I want to spend as much time with her as I can.
“You’re stalling,” she says softly as I feed her.
“Yes, I am,” I admit. “I don’t want to mingle anymore. I want to stay here with you.”
“Right here?” she asks, raising her eyebrows.
“Anywhere with you,” I say, kissing the corner of her mouth. She gasps and I can tell—that was the right thing to say. She releases a deep breath.
“I…” She’s panting a bit. “Don’t do that to me,” she says, squirming. “I have to go dance with Daddy.” I kiss her again, reverently, on her cheek.
“Go dance with Ray. He’s waited a lifetime for this.” She smiles at me.
“Have I told you that I love you?” she asks. I smile back.
“A few hundred times… tell me a thousand more.” She gasps again.
“Christian…” she warns. I take her hand and kiss her palm.
“Go dance with your father.” Her eyes twinkle as she stands and informs the DJ that it’s time for the father/daughter dance. He waits for her to go to Ray before he announces that they will be dancing. He begins to play Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman and they start to sway across the floor. I watch her some more as she moves with her father and I can only think of how remarkable she is, how she changed my life so drastically in just one year. She is everything that I never knew that I wanted and I don’t know how I was so lucky to find her. I remember our very first conversation, if you can call it that…
“Um, Sir, it’s Dr. Steele…or Ana, if you prefer… it’s your turn, Sir.”
“My turn? For what?”
“To tell us who you are…and why you’re here.”
“And why are you here, Grey?”
“You said ‘just Grey.'”
“Fine! Mr. Grey…why are you here?”
“Yes, Dr. Steele. Christian Grey. And thank you for announcing to everyone in the class that Christian Grey has court ordered group therapy sessions!”
“Well, no, actually you did that, Mr. Grey… And what do you expect to get out of these sessions, Mr. Grey—that is, besides your signed form of completion?”
“I’m not sure, Ms. Steele. What can you offer me?”
“Mr. Grey, my name…. is DOCTOR… Steele. And when you’re done counting, I would like to inform you that I would like to conduct this session with some modicum of professionalism and courtesy for all parties involved. So you can either tell us what you would like to get out of these sessions, or I will kindly move on to the next person.”
I remember thinking that she was a real pill back then. That’s because she’s the only one to ever beat me at my own game—and a woman, no less. That’s not something that a Dom can allow or admit to, so she was on the top of my list to go down. I just didn’t think down would mean in my bed… well, not at the time anyway.
I remember our first real fight when she told me that she was going to turn in my completion form to the court and label me a lost cause. I remember feeling like I would walk on water to catch her when I thought she would pass out right after that fight. I remember our first kiss. Fuck, that was hot. That’s the first time I ever remember losing control with a woman. She had me all hot and bothered and I just wanted to swallow her whole. I remember simply having to taste her…
Shit! This fucking woman is standing so close to me. I can smell her—she smells like fear…and anger…and pure primal unmitigated lust. I am furious! And with every breath I take she is invading my nostrils. This fucking, infuriating, unreasonable, desirable, irresistible, sexy woman! I have to have her… now!
Her lips are like ripe strawberries—delicious, juicy. Open your mouth, Baby. That’s it. Oh yes! Hot and soft and wet. Fuck, I can’t get enough. I have to hold her… closer. She’s electric. Her body is so soft, she feels so good. She’s melting into me… we fit together… her smell… her touch… her taste…
Snap out of it, Grey!
Fuck! The spell is broken just as quickly as it is cast. Step away from her, Grey. You’re fucking everything up! Breathe, Man, breathe. Shit! Why the fuck did I just do that? Why the hell does this woman seem to make me lose my good sense when I’m around her? I run my hand through my hair and vaguely remember that I am not alone in the room. Damn! What the fuck must she be thinking? I compose myself to turn around and face the music, but she’s not there anymore.
“Ana!” I step out of my office to see Andrea and Olivia looking at me confused. “Where is she?” I bark.
“In the elevator, Sir.” Andrea answers.
I pick up the phone to call Taylor.
“Ms. Steele is in the express elevator. Stop her! Don’t let her leave!”
“How do you expect me to detain her, Sir?’
“Just catch her and tell her to wait, please…” I hear him call her name, and I can hear her shoes clicking across the lobby floor at high speed. Shit! She’s running! “Taylor!” I yell.
“Sir!” He yells back. I forgot about the earpiece in his ear. I can tell by the dissipating clicks that she’s already out of the building.
“Have Reynolds follow her,” I say more quietly. “She drives a pearl blue Chrysler 300.”
“I remember, Sir. For how long?”
“Until further notice. Light surveillance. I want reports every four hours and as needed. Tell him to use whomever he needs.”
She had already captured me. I tried to pretend that she didn’t, bit I was a goner. I should have known it then, but the great Christian Grey can’t admit to being taken by a woman! Hell, no! Not a chance!
I was sweating like a pig when I didn’t hear from her after I left my business card on her windshield the night that she quit as facilitator. Going to that place without her made me sick, and I do mean physically ill. That fucker Carlisle was only too sure that he had my card… and if I’m honest, he did.
“Tell the kid I said hello when she gives you that apology…”
Arrogant ass fucker. He did hit the nail on the head, though. Come to think of it, he would have gotten a real kick out of this. Hell, he still will when he reads it in the paper, if he’s still around, that is. A bottle of wine and a broken heel later, I find myself in her kitchen using my strongest moves to get her to bed…
“I don’t know when it happened and I don’t care when it happened. But I want you, and I know that you want me. So are we going to continue to pretend that’s not what’s going on between us or are you going to let me take you to bed and give your body what it so richly deserves? What’s it going to be, Ana? Do you want me to go home alone and sleep tonight, or do you want me to stay here with you and make you scream all night?”
She was puddy in my hands… and I was anything but puddy in hers. I remember that day like it was yesterday. She was fucking hot! That was the beginning of some of the most mind-blowing orgasms I ever had. I mean, damn! She was more than just a hot fuck. I felt things for her… feel things for her, and that’s makes the sex that much more extraordinary.
I come out of my stupor to see that Butterfly has now changed dancing partners and is dancing with Allen. He was a character from day one, barging into the apartment like he was about to save her from a fate worse than death only to find her curled in my lap in her robe.
“So it looks like you’re free for the evening, Hon, after we have one last drink so…she’ll call you in an hour, Handsome?”
He called David Two Dicks or something like that and I never found out what it meant. I don’t think I want to know. My own secrets were terrifying enough. I was scared shitless when I told her about my lifestyle and the Playroom; about Elena and our strange relationship; about the women who had been there before her. She took it all in stride, loved me in spite of it, and even embraced it because of me. I remember her presenting herself to me for the first time in the Playroom. She withstood a lot that night, allowed me to test her limits and wore her chain-burns like a badge of honor when she showed them to Elena.
Elena. Shit, that’s the last person I want to think about on my wedding day. My family loved Butterfly instantly, but Elena hated her just as quickly. It must have had something to do with the way that they met. Ana was standing between my legs wearing nothing but my shirt with my tongue down her throat when the vinyl-clad Mrs. Lincoln came barging into my apartment one inconvenient Sunday afternoon and left with a bloody nose and a chipped tooth. Yeah, not the best introduction. I have to say that I would love to be a fly on the wall when she hears that the nuptials have take place.
As I watch her and Al having a meaningful conversation on the dance floor, I stroll down Memory Lane a bit more and recall how she stood up for me at my parents’ house, both when Elena outed me and recently when Mia tried to make me the villain when it came to Ethan and the behavior of his witch sister. I think about the times that I almost lost her—when I foolishly thought that she might have been seeing Elliot, and when David kidnapped her right after I returned from Green Valley. I remember wanting to put her in a protective shell when I got her back and never wanting to let her out of my sight. She was so broken, but her spirit and her bruises healed with time. I remember her face being swollen and purple from Harris’ attack and her thinking she was ugly and hideous. I don’t know how to explain it, but I didn’t even see the bruises. I only saw my Butterfly. She was safe and she was back in my arms and that’s all that mattered to me.
I breathe a heavy sigh when I think about those days without her. My chest feels heavy and my stomach feels sick. I quickly wipe away those thoughts and watch my beautiful bride kiss her man of honor as their song ends. She smiles that smile that makes everything right with the world as they walk off the floor together. I watch her for a moment before I realize that Mom is most likely expecting her dance as well. I take a deep breath and walk over to my mother. I need this.
“Dance with me, Mommy,” I say as I hold my hand out to her. She smiles widely as I take her hand and lead her to the dance floor. I leave her there to get the microphone from the DJ to make my announcement.
“First, let me thank you all for coming. As you know, this is my beautiful mother and I would like to dance with her. Now, Mommy, I know that those are tears of joy, but I can’t stand to see you cry.” The room is filled with “aw’s” after that statement. “I’m happy and I want her to be happy, too. So forgive me if I stray from the norm a bit for the mother/son dance. No sad songs for you, Mommy.” I hand the DJ the mic and whisper to him what song I want to hear. As I get back to my mother, we hear the upbeat guitar rhythm of Kool and the Gang Celebration. My mother laughs and bounces while clapping her hands. I take her in a hold and for the first few bars of the song, we dance a lively foxtrot.
And then we boogie!
This was what I wanted for my mother—not the tears and the feeling that she’s losing her son, but the lightheartedness of a celebration and that she’ll be gaining more family. It’s been hard for us over the years and I know that dealing with the new, emotional Christian couldn’t have been a walk in the park either, but she always stood by me. She hugged me and let me cry when I needed to cry and she slapped me upside the head when I fell out of line. The laughter in her eyes makes me feel ten feet tall, and that’s how it should be.
I can tell that she is much lighter when the dance is complete. Her laughter is genuine and her smile lights up the room. I give her a kiss and the party breaks out in more celebration, just as it should be. I find my wife and dance with her until we are both exhausted. Her smell and feel is driving me crazy and I have to remember that we are at our wedding reception so that I don’t steal her away and fuck her in a closet somewhere, but that won’t be the order of business tonight. No, no… the first time that I am inside of her as my wife, I’m going to relish that feeling… make it last as long as I can. I’m going to commit it to memory so that I can spend the rest of our lives recreating it every time we make love.
The thought makes me want to touch her and hold her some more, feel her skin under my fingertips and I do just that on the dance floor. I can smell pheromones seeping out of her pores and mixing with her perfume. It’s driving me wild and I tell her all the ways that I want her right now. God, she is so ready for me and we are going to have to ditch this party soon as it’s taking every control technique I know not to walk around with a raging boner. I’m almost relieved when we part to go greet other personal guests as a few more moments in her presence may have resulted in uncontrollable and inappropriate public displays of affection.
While she goes in search of people that she wants to see before the night is complete, I seek out the woman who’s been avoiding me. I find Mia nursing a glass of champagne and people-watching in a quiet corner alone. It’s very un-Mia-like and I momentarily wonder where Ethan has gotten off to. My presence seems to surprise her a bit. She starts talking before I even sit down.
“It was such a beautiful ceremony, Christian,” she says with a smile. I nod and fold my hands on the table.
“You’ve been standoffish since the brunch.” She shrugs and looks down.
“I haven’t been doing it on purpose. I’ve just been… trying to do things on my own.” I frown.
“What does that mean?” I haven’t interfered in Mia’s life in any way. I’m there if she needs me for something, but it’s never been more than that. I don’t tell her how to live, what to do…
“I just…” she sighs. “I don’t know how to deal with this new you,” she answers candidly. “Every time we come together for something big or important, I manage to piss you off. In case you haven’t noticed, I seem to have a terrible case of ‘foot-in-mouth-itis.'”
“Yes, Mia, I’ve noticed,” I respond, to her dismay. “Did you expect me to disagree?”
“Well…” she trails off.
“That’s the problem, Sweetie,” I tell her. “You can’t deal with being wrong. You can’t deal with not being the center of attention… and you can’t deal with the fact that your protector has flaws and feelings.” She looks up at me, her brown eyes large.
“Did Ana tell you…? I frown again.
“Tell me what?” Now, she feels like she has let the cat out of the bag. She’s struggling with what to say right now and I immediately know that at some point in the last week, she and Ana had one of those heart-to-heart conversations that people always have with my Butterfly. Oh, my lovely wife—everyone is so comfortable talking to her, and she is a vault.
“It doesn’t matter,” I say. “What matters is that you understand those things about yourself. I’m not saying that you need to go as far as I did and have therapy, but I am saying that you should examine yourself and think about how you’re going to treat people in the future. I’m a very broken and flawed man, Mia. I’ve worked for years to hide those flaws and hold myself together and I’ve done a damn good job of it until Butterfly came along. She wouldn’t let me hide. She peeled back layers of me that I refused to show to anyone else and exposed me to the world. She actually did me a favor when she left me and went to Montana.” Mia frowns deeply.
“How did you come to that conclusion?” she asks.
“She made me stand on my own after she exposed me to the world. She opened me up and left me raw and then she said, ‘here, now deal with it.’ I was able to see everybody for who they really were and those who chose to look could see me, too. All of the façades were dropped and there were no more ‘representatives’—what you saw was what you got. Those of you who chose to shun me, ignore me, or chastise me missed a great opportunity to see who I really am.”
“I already knew,” she says softly.
“No, you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did,” she says without raising her eyes. “I knew about the nightmares and the waking up in sweats. I saw you once… only once… when we were kids. You still came to my room that night, but I saw you.”
She saw me? She never said anything. I just look at her stunned and she never raises her eyes to me.
“I remembered thinking that if the Boogie Man was after you, too, how could you possibly protect me? Even then, I…” She quickly wipes a tear away from her cheek. I don’t know how to take this. She knew. All this time, she knew and she still treated my like a heartless bastard at her beck and call. I can see the pain that she’s in now over the whole thing, but I’m having a hard time reconciling all of this.
“Mia, how could you still be so self-centered if you knew what I was going through?” I ask. I’m not scolding her; I really want to know.
“I don’t know,” she says, shaking her head. “I did feel it once—when I found out that crazy bitch molested you. I just…” She covered her face. “I just lost it. I was so pissed that I couldn’t see straight. I just wanted her to die.”
“I remember,” I say, recalling the day that she climbed over the sofa and lunged at the Pedophile upon learning that she had molested me as a child. “What happened to that Mia? Why didn’t she stick around?” I ask.
“This Mia is stronger,” she laments, “the one that likes shopping and sparkly things and for everyone to notice her.” She says the words with disdain. “I don’t know what it is, Christian. It’s how I was always treated and it’s how I’ve always expected to be treated. Little cute adorable Mia always got what she wanted. If she didn’t, she pouted or threw a temper tantrum and it always fell into place… until it didn’t.”
She’s right. We created this monster. During our childhood, I always hid my demons in the closet or under the bed so that I could chase hers away. She learned from routine that she was the golden child and that the world revolved around her and she still expects that treatment now. Should I let her off the hook since I assisted in creating this Frankenstein?
“It’s time to grow up, Mia,” I tell her. “It’s time to understand that you are not the center of the universe. I take responsibility for the role that I played in making you think that it’s okay to act like this, and I’m sorry, but it’s not. You will always be my Meelo, but you need to understand that you’re not the only one who counts. I have feelings, too, and you have hurt them more than once. I can’t tolerate it anymore, and I won’t. I’ve discovered that I have a high physical pain threshold, but a low emotional one.” She flings herself into my arms and weeps.
“I’m sorry, Christian,” she sobs. “I’m really so, so sorry. I was selfish and conceited and I’m really sorry.” I hug her and try to comfort her a bit.
“Sssshh,” I hush her, “don’t cry, Meelo.”
“No,” she says, wrenching herself away from me, but still holding my hands. “I understand now. I really do. I knew that you had monsters following you. All this time, I knew, but I never let it sink in. All this stuff that’s happened, I just… I really need you to know how sorry I am.” She looks down and shakes her head. “The argument at your apartment about Ethan knowing about you and Elena… the whole Katherine Baby-Mama drama… ‘this is Christian Grey’s wedding…'” She mocks what she said at the first meeting of the families about our wedding. “Oh, Christian,” she covers her face. “Please forgive me. I would diss my friends so badly if they behaved the way that I have.”
“I’m not letting you off the hook, Meelo,” I say, rubbing her arms. “You need to make some changes, Hon. You can’t act this way anymore. You’re an adult and it’s unbecoming of you, but I forgive you. I love you and I’ll never turn my back on you. Don’t ever do it to me again. It breaks my heart.” Tears stream down her face as she stares at me before embracing me warmly.
“I won’t. I swear. I love you, too, Cwis.”
I’ve been so caught up in the reception and the dancing that I completely forgot that I have an uncle and a grandfather. It’s starting to get a little late in the evening and when I spot them, I notice that Pops is looking quite weary. Uncle Herman is very attentive to him, fussing over him and such and it looks like Pops wants him to stop.
“Hey Pops, Uncle Herman. Are you enjoying yourselves?”
“Yes, yes, Son, we’re doing just fine,” Pops answers.
“May I sit?” I ask.
“Of course,” they say simultaneously. I take a seat next to Pops.
“I’m no doctor, but I’m a pretty smart man,” I say, putting my hand on Pops’ shoulder. “What’s wrong?” Pops and Uncle Herman look at each other before looking back at me.
“I can’t lie to you, Son. I’m a sick man, but I didn’t come out here for a handout.” I can see in his eyes that he’s sincere about what he is saying. “I’m diabetic. My kidneys are shot. I’ve been on the transplant list for 10 years, but they can’t seem to find a match. Without it, I’m getting sicker and sicker. I can’t handle the doctor bills and I’m just getting tired of fighting. I just wanted to see my family before…” he trails off. He still hasn’t totally accepted that he’s dying although that’s clearly what he’s trying to tell me.
“Pops,” I say with a heavy heart. I just met him. I like him and he’s going to die?
“We really didn’t come out here for a handout, Christian,” Uncle Herman says. “I really wanted to see the family, too, but I’ll be honest. I tried to convince Dad not to come. He’s not well and he’s due to have dialysis in a couple of days, so we’re only going to have to fly right back out. All this traveling can’t be good for him, but he insisted.” I shake my head.
“Does Dad know?” I ask. Pops shakes his head.
“We… we didn’t plan on telling him. We were just going to come in for the wedding and leave. Dad thought he could do it, but…” Uncle Herman shrugs.
“I can help, you know. There’s got to be something that I can do,” I say. I’ve never felt so helpless.
“You can’t buy me a kidney, Son… well, maybe you could, but I wouldn’t accept it,” Pops corrects himself.
“But I know how this works. Dad could get tested. I know I’m not your biological grandson, but I could get tested, too. I know Elliot and Mia would want to get tested…”
Who is Mia?” Pops ask. My eyes grow large.
“Oh my gosh, you haven’t met Mia?” I ask. They both shake their heads. I scan the room for Mia again and find her leaning against Ethan nearly fast asleep. “Do you see the girl over there with the black hair in the bridesmaid’s dress leaning against the blonde guy?” They both nod. “That’s Mia Grey. She’s my sister.” They look at each other and back at me.
“There are three of you?” Uncle Herman asks. I nod. He sighs and shakes his head. “We missed a lot, Dad.”
“I know,” he says just above a whisper.
“Listen. You’re my grandfather—I’m only just realizing that I had… I can’t lose you now. Please… please let us help you. You have to let us try,” I beseech him. He looks at Uncle Herman who looks at me.
“Dad, can I talk to Christian alone for a minute?” he asks his father. Pops nods and Uncle Herman and I excuse ourselves and step outside of the tent.
“Christian, we’re a proud family. We take care of our own. We don’t take charity or handouts and we don’t ask for them. I have to be honest with you. I’m willing to accept your help, but that’s my father and he’s all that I have left. My children are all grown and gone, my wife and I are divorced. My life is taking care of my dad. If you make us regret this—if you make my dad feel bad in any way—he’ll turn down any help you give him and you’ll make an enemy out of me forever.”
If this were anybody else, I would be offended. How dare you threaten me when I’m only trying to help you? Yet, I don’t know Uncle Herman that well, but I feel like I’m talking to my father, and I understand completely where he’s coming from. His father is his life, and he won’t let anybody hurt him, not even his rich nephew.
“You have my word, Sir. I won’t hurt him or cause him any pain. Please, just let me help him. Please.” Uncle Herman sighs again.
“How would this work?” he asks.
“Well, how would you guys feel about moving to Seattle?” I ask. Before he has the chance to protest, I add, “The waiting list is national, I know. We can all be tested to see if any of us are a match. If all else fails and he is looking at his last days, at least we’ll all be together and we can spend as much time with him as possible, although watch out for Mia. She’s a ball of energy and she can be a bit much to take if you’re not accustomed to it.” I try to make light of the situation, but to my dismay, it doesn’t work. Uncle Herman looks at me for a few moments, then turns away and begins to weeps.
“Uncle Herman…?” He holds his hand up to silence me. I’m completely out of my comfort zone here. He takes a few moments to compose himself.
“I can’t let him see me like this,” he says, trying to stop his weeping. “He can’t see me like this.” That’s when I realize just how big a burden this must be on him. He must be taking this on all on his own. I thought my dad had another brother? Two? I don’t remember.
“Is it just you and Pops, Uncle Herman?” I ask. He nods, still facing away from me. “Nobody helps you?” he shakes his head.
“My brothers have all moved away and gone on with their lives. They keep in touch and they’ve been tested, but they all have families of their own just like Rick. My dad needs real help—someone to cook for him and clean and do his shopping. I try, Christian. I really do.” He turns back around to me and his eyes are glassy and bloodshot. He’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, trying to take care of his father on his own. “This… is the first time in years that I’ve seen… any light at the end of the tunnel.” It’s worse than I thought. I put my hand on the back of his shoulders.
“Walk with me, Herman,” I say, and we head off for a stroll around the lake.
“Where did you two get off to?” Dad greets me when we get back to the tent. I don’t know how much time has passed, but I’m hoping a certain Butterfly hasn’t noticed my absence.
“Christian! How could you not tell me we have a grandfather? And an uncle, too?” Mia leaps from her seat next to Pops and nearly skips over to Uncle Herman. “You must be Herman. I’m Mia. I’m your niece.” She looks nothing like the tuckered-out bridesmaid I saw before we left the tent. I lean over to Uncle Herman.
“See? I told you,” I say to him and he chuckles a bit.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mia,” he says as he leans in to her exuberant hug.
“Christian, I suggest you find your bride. She’s been looking for you,” Dad says. My shoulders fall. Shit. I had hoped she didn’t notice that I was missing.
“How long have I been gone?” I ask. Dad looks at his watch.
“Well, Dad said you guys had been gone for about 10 minutes when I came over and we’ve been talking for about 20 minutes. So you’ve been gone for about half an hour.” Shit. That’s all I needed to start my marriage off right—disappear from my reception for 30 minutes. I don’t see her. Where did she go? “She’s wandering around somewhere with her aunt,” Dad adds and I nod. I look at Uncle Herman and he nods the go-ahead.
“Dad, Pops, if you two agree, I’d like for Uncle Herman and Pops to move here to Seattle with us,” I say cautiously. Pops looks up at me and Dad frowns.
“Son, don’t you think this might be a bit sudden?” Dad asks. He looks at his father. “Is this what you want, Dad?”
“I… Herman?” Pops is out of his element here. Uncle Herman takes his seat.
“I think it’s a good idea, Dad. I really do, if Rick agrees.” They both look over at Dad. Dad’s a little shell-shocked at the moment. I have one question that I want to ask for my father.
“Can I… please ask you a question?” I say to Pops and Uncle Herman. They look at me expecting. “Why didn’t you guys come before now?” Uncle Herman looks at Pops.
“I’ve wanted to come before,” Pops begins, “but I was such an asshole to Rick… I didn’t even know how to reach out to him. I was ashamed, and I thought he might have been ashamed of me. I was a fool. I missed so much time…” His voice cracks on his last words and tears start to fall from his eyes. I squeeze his shoulder a bit. “Then I got the invite to your wedding and… well, hell, I thought, why not? It was a chance for me to see Rick and Gracie again, and I could see the grandchildren that I never met… 25 years… I’m such a fool.”
“Pops,” I say taking his hand with my free hand, “you’re here now. We can’t do anything about those 25 years, but we can live right now.” He looks up at me with hopeful eyes.
“I’d like that, Son,” he says. “I would really like to spend time with my family.” I look over at my father.
“Dad?” A small smile creeps onto Dad’s face, the smile that says he’s holding something back.
“Dad, I would love for you to be here. What do we need to do?”
“Well,” Uncle Herman says, “I can make a few calls and try to get the ball rolling tomorrow, but I won’t be able to do too much until Monday.”
“Okay. You do as much as you can tomorrow and we’ll get you settled in to the manor on Monday. You’ll be more comfortable there.”
“The manor?” Pops asks.
“Our home,” Dad says.
“Oh, no, Rick. I’m sure we can find a little place somewhere. I’ve got a little savings left…” Pops protests.
“And if you would like to do that, by all means, please do. Until you find a little place that you are happy with, you’ll stay at the manor. There’s plenty of room and it’s much more comfortable than a hotel. Please, Dad… I’d love to have you,” Dad insists.
“What about Gracie? Don’t you think you should run this by her?” Pops asks.
“We’ll talk about it tonight. I guarantee you that she’ll be fine with it,” Dad says with a smile. Pops smiles the same smile.
“If Gracie says it’s okay, then I gladly accept.” Dad’s smile grows larger.
“Good. Good. Now I need to go and find my wife and Christian, I think you need to go and find yours. Mia, you’ll keep your grandfather and uncle company?”
“Yes, Daddy, I will,” Mia says as she moves in closer to Pops. Her youth is reflected in his eyes and you can tell that he is happy to have her next to him. She starts talking to him about her and Ethan’s wedding next year as Dad and I leave the table.
“What’s wrong with him, Christian?” Dad asks when we’re no longer in earshot. I look over at him. No use keeping it a secret anymore.
“Kidney failure. He’s a diabetic.” Dad nods and I can see the wheels turning.
“We’ll all get tested,” he says, never raising his head. I put my hand on his shoulder.
“We sure will. We’ll find him a match. I’m sure of it.”
“How bad is it, Son?” He asks.
“It’s bad, Dad. He’s been on the transplant list for a decade. They just can’t find him a match. We’re going to have to find someone fast.” He nods again, clearly fighting his emotions.
“Definitely living at the manor,” he says before squeezing my arm and going off to find Mom, no doubt. I watch him walk away and my eye catches the vision in white that is my wife.
“There you are! Way to leave me at our reception. Where did you go?” she whines.
“You see that man over there?” I point across the room to where Uncle Herman and Pops are sitting.
“The old man talking to Mia and Carrick?” she asks. I shake my head.
“That’s not Dad,” I tell her. “That’s his brother, Herman and the old man is his father, Burton.” She gasps a bit.
“They could be twins!” she exclaimed. “I thought Carrick’s family wasn’t coming to the wedding.”
“They hadn’t planned to. They had been a bit estranged. Even so, they had planned on leaving tomorrow and flying right back to Michigan. We’ve convinced them to stay, though. Pops is sick.”
“How sick?” she asks.
“He needs a kidney transplant. He’s diabetic and he’s been on the list for 10 years. He was coming to see his family before he died.” She looks over at him.
“He does look very sick and weak. Where is he moving?”
“To Bellevue with Dad and Mom. He’s a proud man and insists on using the last of his money to buy his own little place. They’re a proud lot. It’s like twisting arms to get them to accept any help. That’s where I’ve been, talking to Herman. The man broke down and cried, Ana.”
“Oh, no,” she says, looking over at my grandfather and uncle.
“Would you like to meet them?” I ask.
“Of course,” she replies and we walk over to the table.
And now on to the final part of the wedding. Go on, you know you want to read it!