I try to remember birthdays when I see them, so Happy Birthday to Laura Burdyn and Leah St Onge. A special shout-out to Aviance Bellamy, who was counting down the days, lol! Saturday is here, love.
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. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 18—As The World Turns
“Ana, you can’t possibly mean that!” Annabelle Hightower is nearly hysterical when I speak to her later that afternoon.
“Yes, Annabelle, I’m afraid I do. Now, I can refer you to some other doctors that may be of more assistance to you, to help you move on to the next part of your treatment, whatever that may be. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do it. I have to focus on my health and recovery since the accident. My own children will be born in less than three months and I need to be in tip-top condition when they get here. I just can’t do all of these things at this time, so something has to go.”
“So you decide to desert your patients!” she nearly hisses. No, this woman is not trying to give me a guilt trip! I almost died, lady! Do you think I give a fuck about the four patients I still have that won’t let go of the tity?
“I don’t see it that way,” I say, my voice a bit firm. “I see it as being more concerned about my health and well-being than I am about someone else’s, since this is my body. I understand that you may feel the same way about your health and well-being, which is why I have suggested that I direct you to another doctor.”
“I see,” she says, perturbed. “So you’re not deserting your position as director of that charity, but you are going to push your patients by the wayside. If I were to come and see you at that Center, would you then find time to treat me?”
What the fuck is this? This woman is acting like a jilted lover! She’s been my patient for years, almost since the beginning. I would have thought if anyone would have understood, it would have been her!
“Mrs. Hightower, I am certain that I am unable to be of any further assistance to you,” I say, changing my tone from friendly and apologetic to coarse, businesslike, and a bit perturbed. “My near-fatal accident has been all over the news. Each day, I’m working on relearning parts of my life and my past. I’ve had a traumatic brain injury that causes me more than a bit of discomfort and inconvenience. Having said that, the very last thing that my doctor or my husband would want to hear is that I’m arguing with a now ex-patient who can’t seem to understand the importance of my recovery. Now, the only thing left for us to discuss is if you would like for me to refer you to another doctor.” You disagreeable, selfish, inconsiderate little witch.
“No,” she says sharply. “I think I’ve had my fill of shrinks. I’ll probably be better off on my own.” Good! Glad to hear it, you dependent little twit.
“In that case, I wish you good day, Mrs. Hightower, and good luck!” I end the call quickly and take a deep breath. Something told me to use Marilyn’s phone to make that call and I’m so glad that I did.
“Good grief, I knew she’d be a hard sell, but I didn’t think she would be that hard!” Marilyn exclaims.
“Tell me about it! You would think I was breaking some type of secret pact between us.” Before the words are out of my mouth, Marilyn’s phone rings. She looks at it and I can tell by her expression that it’s Annabelle calling back. I angrily reach for the phone, but she puts one finger up to pause me and answers her phone.
“Hello, Marilyn Caldwell speaking… This is Marilyn Caldwell. Who is this?… Hello, Mrs. Hightower. Yes, this is my phone… I’m sorry, but Dr. Steele-Grey is currently unavailable… Unfortunately not. She’s terribly upset right now, and I assured Mr. Grey that I would keep an eye on her during her recovery. I’m sure you can imagine how detrimental stress can be to her in her delicate condition—carrying twins and all—and that horrible accident has put her in an even more precarious position. I couldn’t imagine having survived something so horrendous only to wake up two weeks later and have to learn several things all over again, can you? It must have been terrifying for her!” Marilyn sounds so syrupy sweet putting this woman in her place that I have to cover my mouth to keep her from hearing my laughter.
“Yes, that’s correct. Dr. Grey’s number has been changed. Her phone was destroyed in the accident, so when Mr. Grey replaced it, he also requested a new number for her—for the sake of privacy. You know that the accident is still under investigation… Oh, yes, I completely understand that, but just this once, I will have to pass on a message to her as I am not at liberty to give out her new number. Truth is, I’ve only seen it once and I don’t really remember it just now anyway… Unfortunately, no, Mrs. Hightower, I won’t be passing all of Mrs. Grey’s messages to her. I will only pass one message on to her and she will make the decision whether or not she will return your call…”
I notice through the call that I’ve gone from “Dr. Steele-Grey” to “Dr. Grey” to “Mrs. Grey.”
“Well, no, Mrs. Hightower. As I really do like my job as her personal assistant, I won’t be passing on that message, but I will be happy to relay something more professional for you…” Ooo, she’s mad. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to end this call now because you continue to use profanity with me and I’m not going to relay that to my boss. Have a good day, Mrs. Hightower.” She ends the call and proceeds to push some buttons on her phone.
“Blocking her?” I ask.
“Yep,” she says after pushing a few more buttons before raising her eyes to mine.
“What if she calls back unknown?”
“Unknown callers are already blocked from my phone. What’s next on the agenda?” And just like that, no more Mrs. Hightower.
I turn my attention to the guest list for Thanksgiving—all of the Greys and their significant others, Daddy and Amanda with provisions for my little brother, Allen and James, and Gail and Jason. I’ll have to ask if Christian plans on inviting anyone else. What about Chuck and Keri? She’s very far away from home and Chuck won’t be able to cook for her. I’ll have to see what my husband says.
“Marilyn, would you like to join us for dinner?” I ask.
“Oh, no, thanks. Gary and I are driving to Portland to see my folks.” I raise my eyebrow.
“You’re taking him to meet the folks?” I ask. “You’re there.”
“Yes, we’re there,” she laughs, “but only there, Ana! Don’t go pushing us down the aisle.” I put my hands up in surrender.
“I won’t!” I confirm. “I know that marriage can’t be rushed… except with my dad and stepmom. He couldn’t wait to make her Mrs. Steele.” I smile as I fondly remember Daddy’s wedding and the look in his eye when he saw Mandy. I also not-so-fondly recall a certain flaxen blonde’s attempts to derail the night along with Daddy’s best friend, Brian. Talk about unwanted advances!
“What’s got you scowling, Ana?” Marilyn asks.
“Evelyn… Elaine…” The image of children come to my mind. “Oh God…” I’m snapping my fingers trying to remember. “Pedo-Bitch…”
“Elena,” she says. I shiver all over.
“That bitch!” I say. “Was she at Daddy’s wedding?”
“Kind of,” she says hesitantly. “She ambushed Christian in the men’s room. You guys had a big fight about it…”
“Yeah, I remember that part,” I lament. “She’s in jail, right?”
“Yeah, for trying to…”
“I know, I know,” I interrupt her. “Enough of this shit, back to Thanksgiving. So as I don’t quite understand it, Valerie and I are not speaking, so we may be short two people. Far be it from me to tell Christian that his brother can’t come to Thanksgiving. I’ll let him handle that. It looks like we have a solid 18 people, but I know I’m leaving someone out, so I better prepare for thirty.”
“Better more food than not enough, right?” she says. I nod in agreement.
“Do we have any food allergies that you know of? Maybe we should have Gail in on this.”
“Definitely!” Marilyn says.
Gail, Marilyn, and I are all sitting around the kitchen island having drinks and some quick finger sandwiches that Gail made and working out the most fabulous Thanksgiving menu I’ve ever seen. Apparently, Thanksgiving is something of a four-day affair, to which the women in my family will be reintroducing me. I’m giddy with anticipation to be hosting this year, and Gail has agreed to do all of the heavy lifting in terms of making sure the spare bedrooms and guest quarters are in order. It’s one of the reasons that we’ll be needing extra staff.
We have the Adopt-A-Family Affair the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and since I was a bit indisposed, I never got my gown. As I’m lamenting about it to the ladies, Gail informs me that Christian would most likely be able to arrange something for me. What a perfect reason to call my perfect husband.
“Hello, Beautiful,” he says when he answers the phone, eliciting an impulsive girly giggle from me. “What a beautiful sound.” His voice is like melted butter. “To what do I owe this afternoon delight?”
“I… um… oh! Yeah,” he almost made me forget. “I don’t have a gown for the Adopt-A-Family Affair. I would hate to try to find something off-the-rack, but if I have to, I will. Gail says that you might be able to arrange something…”
“Yes. Yes, I can get you a personal shopper. When would you like to see her? She can probably come by the house, or would you like to go into town?” Hmmm…
“Having someone show me gorgeous in the comfort of my beautiful, luxurious home… hmmm…” I think aloud. Christian laughs.
“I take it you want her to come by the house,” he says with a chuckle.
“You take it correctly,” I confirm.
“I’ll have her call you, Butterfly.”
“You can have her call me, but you’re the only one that can call me ‘Butterfly.’” There’s silence on the line for a moment.
“Don’t make me leave this place early,” he says, his voice seductively.
“There’s nothing between us but air and opportunity,” I reply, my voice wanton. He gasps, then hisses on the other end.
“Dammit! I’ve got a meeting in ten minutes and now I’ve got a raging boner. Why do you do this to me, Mrs. Grey?”
“It’s not intentional,” I say innocently, “this time.”
“After work, woman,” he promises. “I’ll see you after work!”
“I’m counting on it. Don’t forget the personal shopper.” I hear his fingers snap.
“I almost did. I’ll call her now and work on getting this boner down.” I don’t like the sound of that.
“You’re going to call the shopper and work on your boner?” I ask.
“Baby, Athena’s Spear only sharpens for you.” I break out in uncontrollable laughter.
“Our honeymoon!” I exclaim. “You’re terrible!” I can actually hear his smile on the other end.
“And you’re wonderful… and beautiful. Now let me call the shopper. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Christian. Have a good afternoon and I’ll see you when you get home.”
“You can count on it,” and he ends the call. I put my phone down, smiling from ear to ear and turn around to the knowing face of Gail and Marilyn. I can actually feel the blood rushing to my face.
“You forgot other people were in the room, didn’t you?” Gail says. I purse my lips.
“I did,” I say, coyly, and the ladies have a laugh at my expense. Now, back to planning Thanksgiving.
“I need to order some furniture for the two empty guest apartments,” I declare as I look at the list of people who will be staying for the weekend.
“You’ve got the one big room upstairs that’s empty—the one with the balcony,” Marilyn says.
“For some reason, I think we’re saving that for something else,” I tell her. “It connects two of the rooms and it’s the only room that doesn’t have a private bathroom. We’ll have plenty of room with the four spare bedrooms and the guest apartments and we have the boat house if anyone wants extreme privacy. I just need to find someone who can deliver furniture and set up in two days for those two empty guest quarters.”
“Let me see what I can do. Any preferences?” Marilyn asks as she types into her tablet.
“New, clean, and classic,” I tell her. “Simple, nothing fancy.” She nods.
“I’m on it,” she says without raising her head.
“Not only that, but I really need you to meet with the candidates that we’re considering as staff for the house,” Gail interjects. “I did most of the interviewing while you were in the hospital and Jason saw to the background checks. Christian has done some preliminary screening, but he hasn’t approved or vetoed my final choices yet. He says he wants you to meet with them because he trusts your instincts.”
“I think Mr. Grey has forgotten that my instincts are not what they used to be,” I say, looking at Gail. She shrugs.
“He said that your instincts have always been spot on,” she retorts. “He says that you had him pegged the first day that you met him, so that means that they were impeccable all along. He insists that you have the final say on who gets hired.”
“Are they aware that they will be working on Thanksgiving and possibly the entire weekend if they are selected?”
“Yes, they are.”
“Well, then we need to do this soon. I don’t want to hold up anyone’s holiday if I decide against them. When are we supposed to meet with them? The sooner the better.” My cell rings just as I’m asking the question. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Grey? This is Victoria Stewart. Mr. Grey requested that I give you a call to dress you for a gala this weekend.” My brain freezes for a moment. Oh! The shopper.
“Yes, Ms. Stewart. We have the Greater Seattle Adopt-A-Family Affair this weekend and I don’t have anything at all to wear. I’m six months pregnant and while I have attire for other occasions, I have absolutely nothing formal.”
“I’m sure we can find something that you’ll be pleased with, Mrs. Grey. May I ask what your choice of color would be?”
“Oh, I’m versatile. I just want it to be pretty and not make me look so much like a whale.” She laughs nervously.
“What size were you before you got pregnant?”
“I was between a four and a six, but everything has gotten bigger… and I do mean everything—hips, butt, boobs, everything!”
“Got you. So I can bring a few choices by your home and we can work with color, style, and sizing. When would you like to meet? The sooner we can meet, the sooner we can complete any alterations that may be needed.”
“Gail, when were we supposed to meet with the candidates for the staff?” I ask.
“They’re on standby waiting for my call,” she tells me.
“Maybe we should meet with them tomorrow—probably as a group and then individually. That would help us to see how they might interact together. Can you set that up?”
“Sure can,” she says and goes over to another counter in the kitchen.
“Ms. Stewart,” I say, turning my attention back to the phone, “I wouldn’t suppose you would be available this evening, would you?”
“For you, Mrs. Grey, I can have some wonderful ideas at your home in an hour,” she responds.
“Oh, that’s wonderful! Yes, please, I would be so grateful.” I’m so pleased to hear this.
“Fantastic. Now, Mr. Grey told me that your home is on Mercer Island, but he didn’t give me the address…”
I give her the address and notify security that she should be here in about an hour. Gail is at the other counter setting up the group interview for tomorrow and Marilyn is awaiting instruction.
“Mare, any luck with furniture for those guest apartments…?”
Later that afternoon, Gail has set up the mass interview for tomorrow for several people that she’s hoping to choose as members of the staff. She will be the estate manager and everyone will report to her or me. Most of her past duties are going to be delegated to someone else over the next few months as she has agreed to become part-time nanny for our children. That will be her primary duty and everything else will be secondary. I’ll only need her to assist with the twins as my focus has now shifted from my practice to being a mom and to Helping Hands.
Immediately, we are going to want three housekeepers—Gail will serve as executive housekeeper until the New Year, at which time she will have to hire one. For the holiday season, we will also need a laundress, two butlers, three additional cooks and two servers. We already have between 7 – 10 security personnel on the grounds at all times whose jobs include securing the grounds and the waterways and shoreline at all times. Chuck is out of commission, so Ben is currently my personal security until Chuck is back on the job, at which time I’m told that they will both most likely be guarding me and there will be a third when the twins are born. Val’s going to have a field day with that—selfish cow.
Marilyn has almost secured delivery of the furniture for the guest apartments when a gorgeous 30-ish African-American woman arrives with a young assistant and several clothes bags that require Chance’s help in bringing them in.
“Mrs. Grey, I’m Victoria Stewart,” she says, extending her hand to me and flashing a wide smile.
“Ms. Stewart, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Please call me Ana.” I shake her hand.
“Thank you, Ana, and call me Vickie, please. This is Adele. She’ll be assisting with the fitting.”
“Mrs. Grey,” Adele says, her arms full of clothes bags.
“Adele, call me Ana. Please, come and bring those things to the parlor. Your arms must be about to fall off. Marilyn, would you please come and help her?” Before Marilyn can get out of her seat, Chance quickly retrieves the other clothing bags from her hands.
“I’ll take care of that, Mrs. Grey,” he says. “The parlor, you said?”
“Yes, thank you, Chance. Ladies? Marilyn, you, too, please.” I follow Chance and lead them to the parlor.
“Where would you like these, Ms. Stewart?” Chance asks. She shows him where to put the bags that he’s carrying and another member of our staff shows up with even more bags—shoes I think.
“Oh, I guess I should have told you, I have more shoes than any one woman should have—probably more than any five women should have!” I tell her. She laughs good-naturedly.
“That’s usually the case,” she admits. “I bring shoes just in case, so that you can see how the dress looks with different shoes and heights, we can get an idea of any lengthening or shortening need to be done. Also, if you see a pair of shoes that look good with the dress, you can match it up with a similar pair out of your collection.” I purse my lips and nod.
“That’s a really good idea,” I tell her. “It keeps me from dragging everything out of my shoe closet.”
“Exactly! Now, Mrs… Ana, now that we’ve met, I have a few pieces that I’m sure you’ll be pleased with.” She starts to pull different dresses from her clothes bags and I have to say, I’m more than impressed.
“Oh, Vickie, these are stunning!” I exclaim while admiring the texture of the chiffon and silk pieces. I have to pick just one?
“Well, do you have somewhere that we can use as a dressing room? Let’s see how these look on you.”
“We can use my office…”
After trying on at least ten absolutely breathtaking dresses, I narrowed my choices down to three and couldn’t decide between them. So I got them all. At first, I felt guilty for getting all three, but Vickie assures me that they will all be ready by Friday as they are free-flowing dresses and require very few alterations. That really put my mind at ease as I still don’t know which one of them I’ll be wearing to the affair.
While I was being sized in my regal gowns, Marilyn managed to find a store that would let her order the items she found online and would deliver and set-up on Wednesday. I couldn’t believe she could find someone on such short notice, but I’m no fool. I’m certain that the name Grey and the location on Mercer Island had a lot to do with that. Once Vickie and Adele have packed up and bid me Goodnight, Marilyn shows me the furniture she purchased—simple, tasteful, exactly what I asked for. That makes me happy, too.
“Why do I feel like I’m planning my wedding all back over again?” I lament a bit as I sit in one of the more comfortable chairs in my office.
“Because you’ve lost a lot of time and you’re trying to squeeze a lot in the little time that you have left. Let’s face it, Ana. Two weeks for you might as well be dog years.” Marilyn stands and puts her purse on her shoulder. “If I’m honest, I have to say that I’m glad you let go of the practice. If it had been my only job, I’d be hyperventilating right now. Since you made me your full-time personal assistant, I can tell you that it would have been too much for you… especially Mrs. Hightower!” She shivers as she says the woman’s name.
“Yeah, the last few people that I had left were proving to be more stressful than most of the patients I had. It was becoming a bit trying. I’m glad I let them go, too. I haven’t told Christian yet. That means he’s going to want to do something else with that building, now.”
“Um, Ana, I think that building is yours now,” she says. I frown.
“It is?” she shrugs.
“I’m not sure, but I think so. Wasn’t it in some contract you guys signed or something?” I think hard.
“I know my condo’s in the prenup, and I know that once we got engaged and he discovered my office was in the office building, he eliminated my rent.” That was when I ran away to Montana to consider leaving him completely. I can’t even imagine having that thought now. “I don’t remember him giving me the building, though.”
“Well, he’ll be able to tell you once you tell him that you’ve closed the practice. I’m sure he won’t have a problem with it.”
“Are you kidding? He’ll be thrilled!” I exclaim. She laughs.
“Well, I need to get going. I’m meeting Gary for dinner in an hour. I want to freshen up.”
“Before you go, can I have just a few more minutes of your time?” She sits down in the seat across from mine. “You’re available to me at a moment’s notice. I know that may cut into your personal time a lot and I really appreciate it.”
“It’s really no problem, Ana,” she says sincerely.
“Let me ask you—where do you see yourself in ten years?” She takes her purse off her shoulder and put it in her lap.
“I don’t know,” she says. “I was thinking about going to school while I was working for you, but I didn’t know what I wanted to study. Then my job duties changed and there was no time for school, so I just dropped the idea.”
“Would you still like to go to school?” I ask. She shakes her head.
“No, I don’t think so,” she admits. “I’ve been your secretary and then personal assistant for quite some time now. I’ve actually garnered some contacts and learned some things. I’ve done some research on being a personal assistant and I really think this is what I would want to stick with. If I couldn’t do it for you, then I would do it for someone else, but I can honestly do this until I can’t walk anymore at which time, I could become a virtual assistant. I don’t even have to go to school for it.”
“You have no idea how happy that makes me,” I say, breathing a sigh of relief. “I can see your job duties changing again.”
“Really?” She sounds uncertain.
“Yes, really. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to renegotiate your compensation.” She swallows hard.
“Um, in what way?”
“Well, first, you’re traveling out to Mercer Island now. You’re not going to downtown Seattle anymore. In addition, there’s going to be a lot of running around that you’re going to be doing for me—a lot of it—which you’ve already seen.”
“Yes?” She still uncertain.
“I’d like to give a 10% raise. I’d also like to give you an expense account and an Amex card for emergencies.” Her eyes grow wide.
“You’re kidding!” she breathes.
“No, I’m not. I know that you can write off most of your expenses, but you have to pay them first. That can be very costly, especially with the cost of gas and vehicle maintenance.”
“Yes… it can,” she laments. That makes me even more certain about my next offer.
“I’d also like to buy you a car.” She gasps loudly.
“It doesn’t have to be an Audi. It can be whatever you want, but like I said, you now have to travel across the bridge to get to me and there’s going to be a lot of running around that you’re going to be doing for me.”
“Wow… I don’t know what to say…”
“Before you say anything, you may want to consider a few things. Your wardrobe may have to change a bit because you’re going to be going places with me. You don’t have to dress all fancy, just a little more refined. When we’re here at the house or at the Center or doing the things we normally do, you can dress your normal way, that’s fine. But you’re going to want to have something with you that’s a little more polished if I need you to go somewhere with me or represent me somewhere. We’re going to have to get you some red carpet clothing, too. There may be a time when I need you at one of these infernal events.”
“Is something about to happen, Ana?” she asks uncertainly.
“It already has, hon,” I answer, struggling out of my seat. “I did one of my impromptu interviews when I was leaving a baby boutique a few weeks ago. The next day, some crazy bitch T-bones my car and I end up in a coma for two weeks. That little YouTube-esque video of the interview went viral! I have three local talk shows wanting me to make an appearance and talk about my experience and Helping Hands. If Christian hasn’t heard already, he’s going to flip when he does. Whatever the case may be, one way or another Helping Hands is about to get a lot of exposure. Things are about to change.”
“That’s going to be one wild ride,” she says, and I think she’s having second thoughts. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” I sigh.
“Really?” I ask, relieved.
“Really, and you’re offering me all these perks, too? How could I say ‘no’?”
“Oh, thank God!” I say, walking over to her and embracing her warmly. “It’s going to mean you might lose some of your privacy. The paparazzi can be a bit brutal.”
“I was preparing for that anyway,” she admits. “They already started when you were in the hospital, so it’s not really new to me.”
“Thank you, Marilyn. That really takes a load off my chest.”
“Don’t mention it,” she says with a smile.
“So, your first order of business is going to be getting my office cleaned out,” I tell her. “It’ll probably just be best to pack the small personal stuff and hire movers for the rest.”
“Got it,” she says, tapping on her tablet again.
“I recommend getting an iPad,” I advise her. “Wait until I get you the credit card. It should be about a week, maybe a little more because of the holiday. Think about what kind of car you’d like. You won’t be here for Black Friday shopping, so we’ll have to plan a shopping trip soon to get you some necessities. Think about if you would like to have an office here in the mansion or if you would rather have an office at home and just be mostly mobile—or both. We have two libraries downstairs. One of them can be converted into an office.”
“Okay, I’ll give it some thought.”
“Okay, go meet your boyfriend. I’ve kept you long enough,” I say, shooing her away.
“Thank you, Ana. This means a lot to me. I won’t let you down.”
“I have no doubt,” I say with a smile. She returns my smile and leaves. I make my way to the middle of the mansion and the gourmet kitchen.
“I’m starving!” I say to Gail. “I want cheesy crushed potatoes. I feel like I haven’t made them in forever.”
“That’s because we haven’t,” she says with a glint of fondness in her eye.
“Do we have all the ingredients?” I ask. She nods.
“I think we do.”
“Well, what are we waiting for?” I say. She smiles widely and reaches into a narrow door—some kind of closet—and hands me my chef’s apron.
Now, you’re talking!
“There’s a Carla Morton on line one for you,” Andrea tells me. Mini-Morton? What the fuck does she want? Does she think Butterfly’s memory of how she treated her was lost in the accident?
“Grey!” I snap when I answer the phone.
“Christian, it’s Carla.” Her voice sounds different—softer, but I don’t allow it to deter me.
“I know who it is. What do you want?” I hear her sigh on the other end.
“I saw the news. I didn’t want to bother you while… well… I just want to make sure she’s alright,” she says. I can hear the concern in her voice, nothing like the Mini-Morton who showed up in the hospital after the kidnapping, or the woman who came to visit her last year before the wedding… for the last time.
“She’s fine,” I say firmly, but softer. “She was touch and go for a moment, but she’s fine now. She’s expected to make a full recovery from all of her injuries.”
“Nothing too serious, I hope.” I can tell that she’s sincere, but I still don’t trust her intentions.
“Nothing that won’t heal,” I say, giving her the shortest answer possible. She sighs again.
“Thank you. That’s all I wanted to know. I didn’t mean to take up your time. Goodbye, Christian.” Her voice is still soft, like a real mother, when she ends the call. I silently replace the receiver and almost feel a small twinge of guilt for how I spoke to her… almost.
Almost the second I end the call with Mini-Morton, my cell vibrates. It’s Butterfly. Should I tell her about Mini-Morton? No need, she’s got enough on her plate. She’s all giggly when she answers the phone and by the time I hang up, I’m all horny. I have five minutes to convince a personal shopper to drive to my house on Mercer Island—possibly today—with gowns for my wife to wear to a red carpet affair on Saturday. Who to call? Who to call?
“Victoria’s. This is Adele speaking.”
“Hello, Adele. May I speak to Ms. Stewart please?”
“She is currently doing a fitting. May I take a message please?”
“This is Christian Grey. My wife needs a formal immediately and I didn’t know who else to call.”
“Christian Grey?” she repeats. I hear her broken speech for a moment and some fumbling before I hear, “Christian, you sonofabitch! How could you not call me all this time?”
“Hello to you, too. Victoria. I don’t have much time, I’m heading into a meeting. Ana needs a formal by Friday for the Adopt-A-Family Affair on Saturday. Can you help me?”
“You know I can help you. That’s why you called me. How is Ana? Doing better since the accident, I hope.”
“Much better. I should tell you, though. She… doesn’t know about you.”
“Of course, she doesn’t know about me, you idiot! Do I look like I fell off the turkey truck? ‘Hey, Baby, I slept with this girl ten years or so ago when I was at Harvard. I’m going to ask her to fit you for a dress. I hope that’s okay.’” And now she’s mocking me. “Besides, you know you were just a phase I was going through. I want Mia, not you. How is that little fiery ball of sexiness these days?”
“Engaged to be married, haven’t you heard?” I retort.
“Yes, I’ve heard, but she’s not married yet. Fifteen minutes with me and she’d forget all about Eggbert, Emmanuel, whatever the fuck his name is.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Victoria, that’s my sister!” I bellyache.
“Get used to it, Grey. She’s hot!” she replies shamelessly.
“So is my wife. Do I have to worry about her around you?” Victoria scoffs on the other line.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” she exclaims. “I’ll admit Ana’s a hot little morsel, but I’ve kind of gotten used to this whole breathing thing, okay? She’s going to love me, though. She’s going to ask me to come back. So don’t come at me with a machete and shit when I make her look like a million bucks and she calls me every time she needs a dress. She’s gonna love me, Grey. You just watch.”
“How are you so successful with that mouth?”
“Because I don’t talk to everybody like I talk to you. You’re one of my boys. These ladies need to feel like princesses. I have to speak their language and believe me, I do… in more ways than one,” she adds suggestively.
“If you approach my wife…” I begin in a threatening tone.
“Man, will you keep your damn shirt on? I’m not going to come on to your wife! Are you like this with everybody?”
“Yes, I am,” I answer truthfully.
“Well, you need to put a lid on it,” she scolds. “It’s unbecoming and irritating. Ana’s what—five months pregnant? I highly doubt she wants some bitch licking her clit, even though I am the fastest tongue in King county.” I roll my eyes.
“She’s six months pregnant—with twins. Let her tell you that. She’s very subconscious about her size.”
“Most women are, then they’re not even as big as they think they are. When will she be coming in?”
“Um, yeah, about that. I need you to go to her. As you can imagine, she’s not 100% yet and her personal bodyguard is not back on duty yet. I’d much rather she stay put as much as possible over the next few days. You know, she’s under doctor’s care and whatnot…”
“Alright, alright, I get it. She at Escala?”
“No, she’s at our new house on Mercer.” Victoria whistles.
“Mercer Island!” she says. “I get to go across the bridge and stay in the playpen for a while. You have arrived, Grey.”
“Yeah, yeah. The house is like a fortress. I’m going to give you her cell number. You better call her or you won’t get in.” I give her Butterfly’s number.
“Any likelihood Mia will be there?” she probes.
“None whatsoever,” I say. “Mia won’t be at our house until Thanksgiving.”
“So can I get an invitation to dinner?” she presses.
“Absolutely not, and call me when my wife has picked a dress.”
“Damn, Christian, why are you cock-blocking?”
“That would be impossible, considering the fact that you don’t have a cock,” I reply matter-of-factly.
“You know what I mean.”
“Just call me when you’re done.”
“I’m not going to tell you what dress she chose.”
“I didn’t ask you to tell me what dress she chose, I said call me when you’re done.”
“If I tell you what dress she chose, can I get that invite to dinner?” she bargains.
“Asshole,” she says before hanging up. I look at my watch. Shit, I’m late for my meeting.
The afternoon drags by as I’m thinking about my Butterfly and I’m nearly giddy when I’ve finished my last meeting and it’s just about time to wrap things up. Vickie calls and informs me that the fitting was phenomenal and that Ana will have her choice of three dresses on Friday morning tailor-made for her beautiful body. I couldn’t be happier.
Home is certainly a sight for sore eyes and when Jason and I come into the mudroom from the garage, we are instantly hit with a familiar aroma. We look at each other, questioning.
“Could it be?” I ask him.
“I sure hope so,” he says, nearly pushing me out of the way to get to the kitchen. We are literally fighting like a couple of teenagers to get to the kitchen. There I find my lovely wife perched on a stool at the island with Gail sitting across from her. They’re sharing some private joke that has them laughing hysterically. Between them sits a mountain of southern fried chicken and none other than those long-lost buttery garlic cheesy crushed potatoes. I knew that’s what I was smelling!
“Is that what I think it is?” I say, dropping my briefcase on the counter and undoing my tie as I make my way over to the delicacy that my wife introduced to me when we were dating.
“Um, I don’t know. What do you think it is?” Butterfly says while sipping on a cranberry spritzer. Gail is trying to hide her mirth.
“Those garlic cheesy potatoes!” Jason says for me.
“Then, yes, it is what you think it is,” Butterfly says. Gail reaches for the plates on the other side of the mountain of chicken and hands one to Jason. I’m too busy with my nose in the pot to see Butterfly handing one to me.
“They taste even better than they smell,” she says, breaking my bonding moment with the garlic cheesiness.
“Get your fuckin’ schnozzle out the pot, man!” Jason protests. “I don’t want you contaminating the potatoes with your funky breath.”
“Shut the hell up before you’re looking for work tomorrow,” I threaten.
“Now, now, boys behave,” Butterfly scolds. “Come on, Gail. Let’s feed them before they kill each other.” Butterfly piles my plate high with that fluffy cheesy goodness and two extremely large pieces of chicken before handing me the piled plate with flatware. I completely forget about Jason and dig into this heavenly feast.
“Oh my God, these are so good,” I say taking a heaping spoonful of the potatoes.
“Slow down!” Butterfly chastises me. “Your food is not going to run away!” I don’t think she remembers how long it’s been since we’ve had these. They are so delicious, I can barely concentrate. She puts two large glasses of something—soda, I think—in front of me and Jason. He hasn’t said a word since Gail placed his plate in front of him. He’s buried face first into the plate, taking monstrous bites of this chicken that tastes like it was cooked by the gods.
“Either I’m extremely hungry or this is the best food I’ve ever tasted,” I say, rudely speaking with my mouth full. I can’t help it—it’s so good…
Gail and Ana continue with their conversation about Thanksgiving dinner, staffing needs, and where everyone is going to sleep while Jason and I continue to shove food into our faces. Once we finally show signs of slowing, Butterfly decides to include us in the conversation.
“Christian, help me out with the guest list for Thanksgiving,” she says. “So far, I’ve got your mom and dad, your grandfather and uncle, your sister and brother and their significant others if Val gets that massive bug out of her butt, Daddy and Amanda and Harry, Al and James, and Gail and Jason. I was also thinking that Chuck and Keri should come if she’s still here. What do you think?”
“Have you asked Charles yet? He may not feel up to being around a crowd of people yet,” I point out. She shrugs.
“No, I haven’t. It’s just that Keri is so far away from home that I thought it might be nice to invite them over. Do you think I might be too presumptuous?” she asks.
“No, I don’t, but ask him just in case. Jason has his new number. His phone was destroyed in the crash, too.” I so don’t want to think about the crash. That damn thing stole two weeks from our lives and could have killed my wife and children. It appears that Butterfly must have gotten lost in the thought, too, because she gets quiet and just kind of stares off into nowhere.
“Butterfly?” She turns to me like I’ve interrupted her, then looks down at her plate. “Talk to me, baby,” I say, putting my arm around her. She shrugs again.
“It’s not that I’m trying to relive this horrible experience, but I don’t remember anything about the accident. I only remember Chuck coming at me like a wild man and then absolutely nothing. Everything after that is like cloudy pieces of a dream that I can’t quite put together. Then I woke up in the hospital. It’s terrifying to wake up and realize that you lost two weeks of your life… then to realize that you actually lost about four years.” She shivers.
“But it came back to you, baby,” I try to comfort her.
“Not all of it,” she says, wiping a tear that escapes her eye. “I may never get it all back. I remember dates, but not places; people, but not events; one occurrence, but not another one that happened the same day…” She chokes back a sob after the last statement. I hate to see her like this. She’s still so fragile. I get off my stool and walk closer to her, holding her close to me while she lays her head on my chest.
“I know, baby,” I soothe. “I can’t imagine how you must be feeling right now, but I promise that you’ll get through it. We’ll get through it together, and if everything doesn’t come back to you, then I’ll remember for both of us and remind you what a wonderful woman, wife, and friend you are—and you’re going to be an outstanding mother.” She squeezes me around my waist and kisses me on the cheek.
“Thank you, Christian. I’m sorry for being so selfish. I keep forgetting that you’re going through this, too,” she says, softly.
“Hey, you have a right to be a little selfish,” I tell her. “I may have an emotional thing going on here, but you’re carrying the lion’s share of this burden—emotionally and physically. Just know that I, your friends, and your family will be here with you every step of the way.” She smiles a small smile at me. I know we’re thinking the same thing, but I won’t say it. One of her friends won’t be here with her, and that bothers her a bit.
“Okay, enough of that,” she says, wiping her cheeks with her hands. I reach into my jacket and give her a handkerchief. She looks at it and laughs quietly before continuing to dry her eyes. “This was my first memory,” she says, now looking at the handkerchief. “You pulled one of these out of your pocket in the hospital and I saw your initials. It was the first thing that I remembered—that your name was Christian Trevelyan Grey.” She caresses the letters gently as she speaks. It’s a very small thing, but it’s very significant to her… and to me.
“So… back to our guest list. Is Chuck out of the hospital yet?”
“He is,” Jason announces. “He was released yesterday. He’s a bit of a bear, though.”
“Oh?” Butterfly sounds concerned.
“Yeah, first, there’s the fact that we all know Chuck is a bit of a pretty boy, so those scars on his face have him none too happy. But more importantly, Chuck is very active in his recovery—from alcoholism, that is. He’s been in some serious pain and is quite remiss to take any pain killers. It took a collaboration between his AA sponsor, his doctors, and Keri to get him to understand that he had to take them. First of all, it’s inhumane to expect someone to suffer through the kind of pain he’s in—a broken tibia and fibula, three broken ribs, a collapsed lung. He’s got to be able to get enough pain relief to take a deep breath…”
“… Or he’ll develop pneumonia,” she says, completing Jason’s thought. He nods.
“He still won’t take his meds like he should. He’ll suffer and breathe through the pain. Poor Keri is in tears most of the time.” Butterfly shakes her head at this news.
“I don’t want to call him,” she announces. “I want to see him.”
“Are you sure about that?” I ask her. If he’s angry and he lashes out at her, it’s going to hurt her feelings and I’m going to be pissed.
“He’s my friend and he saved my life. Yes, I’m sure.” She turns back to Jason. “You’ll get me his address? Ben can take me tomorrow, I’m sure.” Jason looks at Butterfly, then at me. Oh, no, Buddy, you’re on your own on this one.
“Consider it done,” he says, following no protest from me.
“Wait!” Gail says. “We’ve got the interviews of the potential staff tomorrow.”
“Shit! I forgot about that,” Butterfly exclaims. “I’ll just have to go after the interviews,” she says. It’s plain to see that she’s not going to be swayed in this. She’s going to see Chuck and none of us can stop her.
“Okay, that’s settled. What’s for dessert?” I ask trying to lighten the mood. She and Gail look at each other.
“Well, we hadn’t gotten that far,” Gail says, “but there’s always ice cream.”
“Ice cream works for me,” Jason chimes in.
“Me, too,” Butterfly concurs.
“Sounds like it’s ice cream,” I say, and Gail goes into the freezer.
“Butterfly, do you remember Luma?” I ask her.
“Yes, I remember Luma. Are she and the girls coming to Thanksgiving?”
“I was hoping to ask them if you didn’t mind.”
“Absolutely!” she says. “I would love to see how they’re getting along.”
“Do you remember Marlow and Marcia?” I ask. She has to think for a minute. I certainly won’t tell Marlow that.
“Yes, and there was a little girl,” she says, finally.
“Yes, Maggie,” I say. “They’ll be joining us, too.”
“We’re going to have quite the party here, aren’t we?” she says with a smile.
“Do you mind?”
“Absolutely not! I think it’s fantastic. Now, I have to approach the elephant in the room. Has Elliot said anything about him and Val?” I purse my lips.
“No,” I respond. “The invitation has been extended because he’s my brother, but no response so far.” She nods her head and looks down at her ice cream.
“C’est la vie,” she says, taking a large spoonful of ice cream and shoving it in her mouth.
She’s in the sitting room in the big chair, looking out over the lake when I get to our room. Her hands are rubbing our babies and she’s humming a song I haven’t heard.
“What are you humming?” I ask her as I quietly approach.
“Tomorrowland,” she says. “My mother used to sing it to me when I was younger… much younger.” She adds that last bit with venom. Apparently some things you never forget. “I don’t know why the song came to me now.” I clear my throat. She must be on Butterfly’s mind and it can’t be a coincidence that I spoke to her this afternoon.
“She called today,” I confess. Butterfly’s glare whips over to me.
“Oh, you’re kidding!” she says in disbelief. “What the hell did she want?”
“Nothing,” I tell her, “just to see if you were okay.” She looks at me skeptically.
“Like she did after the kidnapping?” she asks. “What, has she spent all the money already?” I see the amnesia has not affected her bitterness towards Mini-Morton. I hope she doesn’t have to go through burying that hatchet all back over again.
“No, she just wanted to know if you were okay. I told her you were fine and she ended the call.” She scoffs and turns back to the view of the lake.
“She’s probably trying to get in on that ‘good mom gene’ that she lost somewhere along the way.” She continues rubbing our babies. “I feel sorry for her sometimes,” she admits. “She’ll never be able to meet her grandchildren or be part of their lives. She traded that opportunity to love, honor, and cherish a worthless alcoholic who isn’t even here anymore. He vowed to love, honor, and cherish that bottle and till death did they part.” She looks down at her swollen belly. “I love you, Christian. I really do, but please don’t ever make me choose between you and our children.” She doesn’t even make eye-contact with me when she says it. I walk over to her and remove her hands from her belly.
“I would never do that,” I say, my voice laced slightly with disbelief. “I would never, ever put you in that position. What kind of man would I be to ever think of doing something like that to you? To our children?”
“I know,” she says, shaking her head wildly. “It’s ridiculous. I don’t know why I said that!”
“Because you’re scared,” I tell her, cupping her cheek in one of my hands. “There are a lot of things right now that seem uncertain. As they come back to you, they come back with a vengeance. Do you know how hard it is to find that song, ‘Tomorrowland?’ You never even told me that your mom used to sing that song to you.” She nods.
“That’s when I first fell in love with Cary Grant,” she admits. “He was the most handsome man alive as far as I was concerned—second only to my Daddy,” she chuckles. “Every little girl wants to grow up and marry her Daddy one day and I was no different. Ray Steele was the whole kit and caboodle of what a man should be and no one would ever be able to measure up. Then she took him away from me and all I had left was Cary. I think of him every time your mom calls Carrick Cary,” she laughs. I realize that she’s rambling, but I just let her keep talking.
“As long as I saw him in movie after movie after movie—the gorgeous young man with the waxed, black hair—he would never grow old. The law of averages told me that he was dead by the time I was born, but I wasn’t having it. I wouldn’t even watch movies where his hair was gray because that would mean that he was aging. If I didn’t let him age, he never died. Even now, I have only seen one film where his hair was slightly gray, and that was Charade with Audrey Hepburn, but nothing after that. It’s always The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer or An Affair to Remember or Notorious.
“But then, terrible shit started happening to me. There was no Daddy. There was no Cary—only vicious teenage boys who rape you and lie to their vicious teenage girlfriends who organize vicious teenage mobs to try to kill you. Yeah, that’s when Cary died for me. Born Archibald Alexander Leach in 1904, Cary Grant died in 1986 at the age of 82 from a brain hemorrhage and all of my little fantasies died with him in 2001. Do you know I’ve been in a coma twice in my life? Unconscious for more than 24 hours three times in my life? Each time I was put in that state by someone who viciously wanted to hurt me for no good or valid reason whatsoever. I’ll spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder, waiting for axes to fly at me and hoping that my children aren’t subjected to the cruelty I had to face!” She’s getting angry now and I need to pull her back.
“I wish I could tell you that everything will be sunshine and roses from here, but I can’t, baby. All I can tell you is that I will be here by your side through all of the turmoil so that you will never have to face it alone—and we’ll manage to make some memories and some good times in between.” I can see her mind racing. Her doctor told me that things may come back to her at any given time and at an alarming pace, like a movie playing in her head. I think that’s what happened at dinner tonight and it looks like it’s about to happen again.
“What the hell is Brian’s problem?” she blurts out. Okay, I wasn’t ready for that one, but I guess I’ll just rip the Band-Aid off.
“Brian is in love with you,” I respond. “He has been for years. “ She frowns.
“Eeewww!” she exclaims and I can’t help but burst out in laughter. “I mean, he’s an attractive guy and all but… he’s like… Uncle Brian!” The entire time she’s talking, her face looks like she’s smelling something bad. It never occurred to me that she would look at sex with Brian as something incestuous. I just looked at the age factor… that is, until Ray married Amanda.
“He staked his first claim about a year ago,” I tell her.
“So I’ve been told,” she says. Who told her?
“He was the best man at your father’s wedding at Escala…”
“I remember that,” she says, “when that awful woman kissed you and I just wanted to scratch her eyes out!” She shivers at the thought. As a matter of fact, so do I.
“He let me know in no uncertain terms that he had no plans of going away. He tried to derail our engagement, and even though he was helpful during the hacker situation, he wanted to use that as ammo to win you from me. You put him in his place about that, though.”
“Yes, I know. Geez. I knew he had a little crush on me over the years, but nothing like this. He’s really got to let this go.”
“Yeah, he’s still hovering around. I think he wants to keep an eye on you since the accident. I hate having him here. He’s fulfilled his usefulness and he needs to take his ass back to Montesano, but I’m sure he won’t. The accident was quite a scare and I hate leaving you to go to work, but at least I get to come home to you. I can only imagine what he’s feeling.” She looks at me like she’s seeing an alien.
“Mr. Grey, is the empathy? For Brian, no less?” she asks. I shrug.
“I fucking hate the guy, but I can understand how he feels. You’re my whole world, Anastasia. I would die without you. I know I would.” She stares longingly into my eyes, then gently cups my cheeks and plants a tender, longing kiss on my lips. Suddenly, I’m longing to share that connection that we haven’t shared in what feels like so long. I don’t know how to tell her, but without a word, she slowly begins to undress me—suit jacket, tie, shirt, pants… When I’m naked, she removes her gown and gestures me to the floor. I sit cross-legged as usual and she climbs into my lap, wrapping her legs and arms around my body. She gently runs her fingers through my hair and I wrap my arms around her while she gazes lovingly into my eyes. She places her forehead on mine…
… and it begins…
A/N: Just a little something to move us from today to tomorrow. I’m in the mood for a little peace… just a little…
Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/
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Love and handcuffs 🙂