I like to give insights into some of the characters each time I can. This week, it’s Chuck. If you remember, when Ana came to his house and tried to convince him to take the meds the first time, he confided in her about how bad his alcoholism was, how it destroyed his life, and how young he was when he first started drinking. The best comparison that I can give you all as a label for his unfounded fear and paranoia is a combination of PTSD and Hypochondria. He is afraid that this ibuprofen 800, which has to be prescribed, is going to cause him to feel high. As a result, he would recall the feeling that he had when he was drunk—hence, the crazy notion that these just-stronger-than-aspirin painkillers are somehow going to become a gateway drug for alcohol. He is so 100%, bona fide, genuinely terrified of ending up where he was before that he would rather deal with the pain without regard to how it’s affecting other people. What he doesn’t understand (yet) is that the body doesn’t heal if the mind ain’t right. As a matter of fact, it’s the exact opposite. He’s doing more harm than good.
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…
Christian has been looking at me all morning like I’m the precious Holy Grail. He has this goofy smile on his face and he’s up under me, keeping me really close. I can’t say that I mind. After the heavenly way that we made love last night, it must be written all over our faces that we’re sated beyond belief if anyone could be bothered to notice. Quite frankly, I think just about all of us are stuck in perpetual afterglow.
It’s about eleven AM when everyone makes it down to the dining room for brunch. It’s nothing fancy—Sunday’s brunch will be a much more detailed affair. Today, it’s just late breakfast. Christian is wearing an adorable T-shirt that says, “I love my hot pregnant wife.” I’m wearing a black T-shirt that depicts an X-ray of mom’s ribs, spine, and heart with a little baby boy X-ray and a little baby girl X-ray—complete with a pink bow—at the bottom near the belly.
“You guys have a million of those shirts, don’t you?” Elliot says and I shrug. “What are you going to do with them when the babies are born?”
“Oh, that reminds me,” Christian says after swallowing some coffee. “We might as well get this out the way now. We’ve decided that there’s not going to be a welcoming ceremony for the twins. It’s just not necessary. We’re going to have a christening at a time of our choosing and that will be enough.” Mia is visibly disappointed and Grace is nothing short of horrified. Christian says nothing else. He just kind of drops that on the table and leaves it there. With no additional explanation forthcoming, Grace decides to pry further.
“May we ask why?” Grace says, somewhat indignantly.
“No, Mom, you may not,” Christian says with no malice. Grace jerks back in surprise and Mia’s eyes widen. I think my father knows to keep quiet because he’s just looking silently back and forth between the women, waiting for someone to say something. Christian speaks before they do.
“These are our children. You made a suggestion about them, and we said ‘no.’ We don’t have to explain our decision to you. Please remember this moment while we are raising our children, because we will be remiss to explain decisions to the family unless and until we feel it’s necessary. Now, we don’t want this to spoil our brunch, so we really would like to move on.” Christian tries to move the conversation on, but Grace is still feeling a bit slighted.
“Ana, don’t you think a welcome ceremony would be just perfect? The very first Grey grandbabies?” I’m a bit stunned. Is she trying to do this again? What—does she switch places depending on who agrees or disagrees with her? Surely, she doesn’t expect me to contradict my husband, and in front of all of these people! My brow furrows and I feel heat rising in my cheeks.
“Well, I don’t necessarily think they would be the first Grey grandbabies,” I say. “Carrick has other brothers and I’m sure they’ve had children and grandchildren, too.”
“Oh, you know what I mean,” she begins, waving me off.
“Yes, I know what you mean,” I say sharply, a little too sharply. Christian places his hand on my leg and I drop my head for a moment and take a deep breath. When I raise my head, I have Grace’s—and everyone else’s—full attention.
“Grace, even if my husband and I were in disagreement, it’s a conversation that we would have in private, not in front of everyone at brunch. However, so that there’s no misunderstanding, I completely and totally agree with Christian on this matter. He did say that we’ve decided that there’s not going to be a welcoming ceremony for the twins. Know that he never speaks for me without my permission.”
I’m trying to hide my ire at this moment. Grace is truly a wonderful person, but there can be times when she can really be quite selfish and inconsiderate. Christian and I were just talking last night about the headache that was the guest list. After all these months, I still smart a bit from her disregard of my opinion when I said that we couldn’t have all of those people at our wedding. She’s doing the same thing now that she did then—attempting to garner support from the “opposing” spouse without any consideration for the fact that it might pit us against each other.
“I just thought that a welcoming ceremony would be nice. It was a very good suggestion. While I recognize and I don’t discount the fact that there are, in fact, other Grey grandchildren, these will be my first grandchildren. It would be like a coming-out party.”
Is she hearing herself? A coming-out party? For babies? Coming out of what—my womb? Is she serious? I look at Christian in horror and he gives me a look that says that the topic is closed and there will be no further discussion. Sorry, Darling, someone forgot to tell your mother! I’m certain now that had I agreed to this, it would have been a pompous display of over indulgence—the worse three-ring circus ever seen by mankind.
“Ray, how do you feel about this?” Grace asks, attempting to garner support for her cause once she sees that there was no response to her last statement.
“Grace…” Carrick scolds gently.
“I just want to know how he feels about it,” Grace says, refusing to let it go. Daddy places his fork in his plate and swallows his food, all eyes now on him.
“I’m fine with their decision,” he says, without looking at me for guidance. “I never had my heart set on it. I just said that I thought it would be a good idea.” He now turns to me. “I love Annie dearly and I’ll love my grandchildren just as much, but I can’t tell her how to raise them anymore than she can tell me how to raise Harry.” Thank you, Daddy! I can always count on him to be the voice of reason. However, Grace seems simply unable to let it go.
“Well, I just think…” she begins.
“Mother,” Christian interrupts her. She freezes and glares at him like he dare not interrupt her in his home at his dining table about his children. “Please. Drop it. It’s not going to happen. That’s it.”
Grace is completely crestfallen. She looks like someone just slapped her. She places her fork in her plate and proceeds to take small sips of her orange juice, obviously smarting from Christian’s most recent statements. Great, just great. There’s nothing better than a family squabble at breakfast, right? Apparently, Christian thought that was a splendid idea with the next topic of discussion he introduced.
“Pops, Uncle Herman, Ana and I talked about quite a bit last night and one of the conclusions we came to is that we would love for you guys to stay on at Grey Crossing for a while after Thanksgiving—maybe for just a couple of days or a week. With everything that was going on in our lives, we haven’t had an opportunity to spend any real time with you guys.” Uncle Herman looks at Grace and Pops looks at Ana.
“You’re sure it wouldn’t be too much trouble?” Pops asks. “Why would you two youngsters want some old fart hanging around?”
“It would be no trouble at all and I would really like for you to hang around for a while,” I reinforce. “I haven’t really had a chance to sit and talk to either of you as much as I would like. Please, we would truly love to have you stay for a bit.” He smiles conspiratorially at me, causing me to giggle and my anger to subside a bit. “Herman, you’ll love it… just for a few days.”
“This is quite some place you’ve got here,” he says. “I could see settling in for a day or a few if Dad doesn’t mind.”
“Pops, ball’s in your court,” Christian says. Pops smiles widely.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Grace chimes in sharply. I turn a frowning face to her as does Christian, and she only makes eye contact with Pops. “Burt, you know we have everything set up for you at the manor. We’ve gotten into a good routine and you’re very comfortable with it. Besides, it may not be the best thing for you going from place to place and having to settle in again. And there are a lot of people here on a regular basis. Would you really get the peace and quiet that you’ve become accustomed to? No, I think it would be best if you returned to the manor tomorrow with us as originally planned.” Christian’s eyes fall to his plate. His elbows are on the table and he steeples his fingers over his lips. Carrick examines him silently, but doesn’t stop eating. Everyone else at the table has been quiet ever since the welcoming ceremony conversation started. I hope Grace knows her son as well as I know my husband, because he’s loading his guns, and the next words out of his mouth are going to burn.
“Gracie,” Pops begins, “while I do appreciate you and Rick allowing us to stay at the manor, I’m an old man, and I’m not accustomed to being told how and when I can come and go.” Grace is slightly taken aback.
“Burt, that wasn’t what I was doing at all!” she says, her voice sounding slightly aghast. “I was only saying that moving from place to place often affects your ability to sleep properly and with all the activity going on around here, you may not get the peace and quiet that you need to rest and heal. That’s all. I was by no means suggesting that you’re not allowed to come and go as you please.”
“No, that’s not what she was doing at all,” Christian pipes in, his voice cold and controlled. Elliot and Carrick stop eating and sit up straight, as does Mia. Lock and load…
“Pops has been here for three days during holiday festivities with several other people, many of whom aren’t here today and more of whom won’t be here after tomorrow. Not once has he mentioned discomfort, change in his sleeping patterns, or the inability to rest and relax. What’s more is that he had his dialysis treatment in the privacy and comfort of the guest suite last night. Did that cause you any issue, Pops, or is there something that I’m not aware of?”
“No, I didn’t have any issue,” Pops confirms. “I was very comfortable and able to rest when it was over.”
“That was my understanding as well. Tell me, Mom, what’s the difference between him coming here with you for four days and staying here with us for seven?”
Grace has been caught out and she is none too pleased about it. Before she has an opportunity to form a rebuttal, Christian has reloaded.
“Mia had a suggestion that you agreed with that we shot down because we decided that it was not what was best for our children. I didn’t wield my children as a weapon against you, Mother. Don’t try to do that with my grandfather.” Grace gasps, her face expressing true horror.
“Christian! How dare you speak to me that way! That wasn’t what I was doing and you know it!”
“No?” Christian retorts. “What was it, then, Mother? I have a home that’s bigger and more luxurious than most hotels. I have an enviable staff of security, cooks, and home maintenance. Hell, if he wanted a private nurse, I could have one here in an hour. You’re honestly going to try to tell me that this has nothing to with the fact that I refuse to exploit my children for the enjoyment of the adults? That this whole performance is solely based on the fact that even though you are fully aware of and personally witnessed my ability to wave my magic wand and make classic Bentleys appear out of thin air, that you will still question my grandfather’s comfort and recuperation in my home?”
He is not holding back. My husband is insulted and angry and although he has not disrespected his mother, he’s right on the brink.
“Christian, you are blowing this entire thing out of proportion,” Grace says, expressing the same eerie, angry calm as he.
“Am I?” he replies. “Would we be having this conversation if I had agreed to allow you to turn the birth of my children into a debutante ball?” It’s a real question and he’s expecting an answer. Grace only glares at him. Mia’s glare almost matches her mother’s, but not as harsh. Carrick and Elliot remain silent observers, appearing to take no one’s side.
“Christian, maybe we should just think about staying another time,” Pops says, attempting to keep the peace. One corner of Grace’s mouth rises in an ill-disguised smirk. However, she obviously celebrated her victory a moment too soon.
“Pops, if you have decided that you would rather not stay, I’ll respect that. But if you’re having second thoughts because my mother has somehow made this entire situation about her, then I urge you to please reconsider.” Christian’s words are curt and cut like a knife. Grace’s face becomes stony as she pushes her chair from the table and exits towards the kitchen. I look at Gail and just realize that poor Sophie has witnessed this entire breakdown. I look over at Jason and mouth, “Sorry.”
“She’s seen worse,” he says, only low enough for me to hear him. Christian’s head is down and he’s clearly battling with his words and his feelings about his mother’s behavior. Carrick rests his elbows on the table and rests his lips on his clasped hands.
“Daddy, aren’t you going to go talk to Mom?” Mia prompts.
“No,” he says, “Because they’re right. They’re both right. Grace just attempted to garner support by any means necessary and she was wrong. When she didn’t get her way, she decided to become the decision-maker for my father, saying that he couldn’t stay a week with his grandson. Who gave her that right and in what instance is that fair? In fact, yes, I am going to go and talk to your mother… and tell her how childish she’s acting right now.” He tosses his napkin down on his plate and stands.
“Carrick, no. Please, don’t,” I beseech him. He’s only going to throw gasoline on that fire. My words fall on deaf ears as Carrick is on his way to confront his wife on her behavior. “Ugh!” I groan in frustration. After such a lovely night, what a way to start the day.
“Christian, I’m not trying to cause any trouble between the family,” Pops says, now obviously feeling responsible for the discord. “I’d love to stay the week with you and Annie, but Gracie is clearly having a problem with it.”
“Gracie is not having a problem with you staying here, Pops,” Christian replies, his anger barely contained. “Gracie is having a problem with not getting her way, so she is voicing her displeasure by exercising authority that she clearly doesn’t have. I love my mother, I really do, but if she thinks she’s going to bully, cajole, or pout herself into getting her way in decisions that affect my household, she is sorely mistaken and it’s better that she know this now before the babies are born.” Elliot falls back in his seat.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” he says, sipping on the last of his coffee.
“Indeed,” Mia hisses. Ethan has been ghastly silent the entire time. Although she hasn’t said anything, I’m feeling extreme hostility coming from Mia’s direction. No matter, I’m more concerned about Grace right now. I push my chair back and stand.
“Where are you going?” Christian asks, because he already knows where I’m going.
“I don’t want this to be this way,” I tell him. “I’m going to make sure she’s okay.” He sighs heavily and waves his hand.
“Pops, I’ll respect whatever decision you make,” Christian says and bottoms out his coffee. He rests his lips on his hands like his father did moments ago and says nothing else. I go in search of Grace and Carrick.
I can hear them near the back of the house near the barbeque kitchen. They’re not outside, but they’re as far to the back of the house as they can be without going outside.
“I wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable!” I hear Grace say as I approach. “What grandmother wouldn’t want to celebrate the birth of her first grandchildren?”
“If it were that simple, this wouldn’t be an issue and you know it,” Carrick retorts. “He offered you a compromise and you didn’t even see it, wouldn’t recognize it or even discuss it because you had to have it your way.”
“What compromise?” she asks. “He just said ‘no,’ then proceeded to chastise me in front of a room full of people!”
“If that’s so, it’s because you belittled him in his own home!” Carrick clarifies. “What are you thinking, Grace? Not only did you try to pit a wife—a new wife—against her husband, but you tried to come between a father and his daughter. Then you saw no problem with bringing my father into this! What’s the matter with you? Are you ill?”
“Of course, I’m not ill!” She snaps. ”Why would you ask me such a ridiculous question?”
“Because my wife in her right mind would never do what you just did!” he says firmly. I decide that this conversation is way too heated for me to intervene. Carrick is very displeased with his wife’s behavior and Grace refuses to see the err of her ways. I guess I’ll have to let this thing work itself out. I make my way back to the dining room.
“What happened?” Elliot asks, as I take my seat. I shake my head.
“I heard them talking and thought it best not to disturb them.” I place my napkin back on my lap.
“Oh? And what did you hear?” Mia asks in a sharp, somewhat scolding, but very accusatory tone. I raise my eyes to meet hers and she’s glaring at me. Her ire is palpable, almost suffocating. Why the fuck is she mad at me? I didn’t just decimate her mother at the breakfast table for acting like a spoiled, undisciplined child! I’m just the broad carrying the babies they want to exploit! Fuck it, I don’t have to put up with this shit! I push my seat back from the table without breaking her stare. Wordlessly, I throw my napkin into my plate of half-eaten food and march indignantly away from the table.
“Ana!” Christian tries to stop me, but I need to get the hell away from this situation before I say something I truly regret. The nerve of these people! In my house! At my table!
“Butterfly!” Christian catches my arm just as I get to the end of the hallway near the entrance to the kitchen. “Don’t run.”
“Oh, no. This time, I’m running. Yes, I’m running!” I repeat. “I came to a realization during my discussion with Ace yesterday that some running is good, and the good running comes when you’re trying to get the hell out of a bad situation before you make it worse!” I bark. My words reverberate through the house and bounce off the walls. Activity that was previously in the kitchen stills and the house falls silent, waiting for Earthquake Ana. Good! Now hear this!
“I refuse to go through some act of congress, government approved, emergency broadcast system, rat’s maze approval process with your family every time we have a major event in our lives! There are going to be more children, more weddings, graduations, birthdays, school dances, first dates, broken arms, illnesses… We ask for advice when we need it. We gladly open our arms for help, but the final goddamn word belongs to you and me, and I don’t need permission or approval to do what I want to do with my children or my life!”
I realize that I’m standing in the hallway yelling at my husband who hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s staring at me, his gaze impassive. I take in my surroundings and realize that the kitchen staff, who attempt to pretend to focus on something else, clearly had a front row seat to my outburst as did Grace and Carrick, now standing in the doorway of the family room. The dining room is not twenty feet away at the end of a very acoustic hallway and you could hear a mouse pissing on cotton from that direction.
Ladies and gentleman, this concludes today’s broadcast.
I brush past Christian, the kitchen staff, and a stunned mother- and father-in-law, through the family room and to the elevator. Luckily, it’s already on this floor and I don’t have to wait for it. I escape inside, welcoming the sound of the inside door closing behind me. The elevator takes me to the ground floor and I go straight to my Atlantis.
Where is she? Where’s my fish?
There she is. There’s my Butterfly. I press my nose and hands against the wall of glass and concentrate on my Butterfly fish as she swims in and out of the Greek ruins—not a care in the world, but to float freely in the water. She’s beautiful and free, and for a moment, I focus squarely on her… on the water around her… on floating freely through Atlantis. I feel like I’m there with her, letting the water flow over my skin and comfort me. All of my troubles wash away for the moments that I’m floating free on the waves of the water with my Butterfly. Many wonderful moments come back to me…
That chocolate cake at the last birthday party before Carla and Daddy split up…
The look on Al’s face when I returned to Montesano…
Meeting Val and Gary…
Mine and Edward’s first kiss…
Hearing Christian tell me that he loves me for the first time…
Maxie and Phil’s reception…
Holding little Harry…
Connecting with Christian on our honeymoon…
His look of contentment on the kitchen floor while lying his head on my stomach and feeling his children kick for the first time…
His arms slide around my belly and bring me to the here and now, away from my watery freedom and away from the peace that was Memory Lane. I open my eyes and immediately remember where I am and why I’m here. It feels wonderful to be in his protective arms, him holding me so close to him that nothing can pass between us, but it breaks my heart to be ripped away from my Atlantis.
I close my eyes and weep.
“Wake up, dear.” I open my eyes and try to focus. Again, I thank God for the dark walls in my bedroom. I hear the crackling, feel the warmth, and see the glow of the familiar fire in my bedroom fireplace. I don’t even know how I got here. Most likely, Christian carried me after I broke down at Atlantis. I’m still very tired and my head is heavy. What time is it? I rub my eyes and focus on who’s talking to me. Grace is sitting on the edge of the bed, looking down on me with maternal eyes that glisten a bit from the light of the fire. Mia stands just behind her with her hands clasped in front of her.
“I can’t help it,” Grace begins. “I get carried away. I know that’s no excuse, but…” she trails off. “I’m sorry. I’ll work on it. I promise.”
“Me, too,” Mia says, behind her. “You know me, I get caught up and my mouth goes before my mind and… I’m really sorry, Ana. I’ll work on it, too. I really will.”
I look from Grace to Mia and back to Grace. While I appreciate their apologies, I’m sorry doesn’t mean anything if you keep repeating the bad behavior. However, they did say that they would work on it, and there’s no use in grinding the ax at this moment.
“That’s all I can ask,” I respond. Grace smiles and strokes my hair.
“The makeup crew is here to get us ready for the Affair,” she informs me. I nod and sit up, throwing my legs over the edge of the bed. She helps me stand and I go to the shower to wash away the day.
I stand there and let the water run over my body. It’s a little warmer than I normally have it—not too hot, but warmer. I was already weepier than I liked before I got pregnant. Now I feel like the wrong wind can bring me to tears. Today was different—stressful, I’ll admit that. Christian adores his sister, I know that, but I’m growing weary of her flakiness. She always seems to need to get her way, like a child, but her demands are usually so extravagant and over the top. Who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to order a marquee for an event highlighting victims of abuse? Sure, the theme was movie premiere and it worked out well, but this wasn’t a real movie premiere. These were real people opening up some very private issues in their lives in hopes of helping someone else—and she orders a damn movie light!
Now, she thought we would really agree to allow her to feature our children in some excessive, exaggerated, pretentious and flamboyant display that Grace herself labeled as a coming out party? Then, she had the nerve to take a tone with me at my dining table? I might be overreacting. She did apologize and promise to do better. I’m just so tired of dealing with this. Sometimes, she’s like a child with ADHD and she thinks of no one but herself. She’s only a few years younger than I am, but she acts like a damn teenager!
I don’t know why I washed my hair. It was just washed yesterday and conditioned into heavenly softness, but the water on my scalp felt so good that I just couldn’t resist it. I guess it’s time to come out of my cocoon and face the world. My dress doesn’t have to go over my head, so I’ll get my hair and makeup done before I get dressed. I dry and moisturize my skin and put on a red and white peddle-pusher short set and ankle socks.
What will later be the children’s playroom has been converted into a makeshift beauty salon and the staff from Miana’s has descended upon my home again. I think it might have been a better idea just to have the massages done today instead of yesterday, but who am I to complain about being pampered twice. Luckily, that wonderful aloe vera treatment is still available, so since my hair is already wet, I have them do it again.
Mandy, Mia, and Grace are quite chatty, talking about the Affair and their dresses and whatnot. I’m more introspective right now, considering what life will be like once the babies are born and how I’m going to negotiate the inevitable issues that will arise with my in-laws.
“You’re a million miles away, Ana,” Mandy says, bringing me out of my spiral. I smile tightly and shrug.
“Maybe just a thousand,” I jest, trying to make light of the situation. She smiles softly.
“As my due date came closer, I was terrified,” she begins. “I started to have doubts…”
“About being a mom?” I ask, surprised.
“Not being a mom so much as being able to be a good mom,” she clarifies. “I had my first baby at 36. Did I have the maternal instinct? Would I know what to do?” She raises her eyes to me. “Will this cause any problems with his sister?”
“You were really worried about that?” I ask. “I loved Harry before we even met. He’s part of one of the greatest men alive—how could I not love him?”
“I know, and you never gave me any cause for doubt, and yet…” she trails off.
“The ‘what if’ monster rears his ugly head,” I say, dropping my eyes to my twiddling fingers.
“Exactly,” she concurs. “Murphy plays with your psyche and suddenly, every bad thing that could happen to your baby takes up residence in your head. The wind blows and your baby might get pneumonia. There’s a bombing in Pakistan and suddenly, terrorists are after your son. There’s an earthquake in southern California and you’re waiting for the light fixture to fall and take out your kid.” Good God, she’s reading my mind. I wish she could give me advice on how to deal with your sometimes overbearing in-laws, but she doesn’t have any… there’s only me, not to mention the fact that my overbearing in-laws are in the same room with us. “You try to keep him safe inside you, protect him from anything that could harm him, then you slip in the kitchen, and…” I raise my eyes to her as she trails off again.
“Murphy,” I say. She nods quickly.
“Murphy,” she whispers, her eyes closed and her voice thick with tears. That was a very scary day and I can only imagine what she must have been feeling, even more so now that I’m carrying my own children. She takes a deep breath and composes herself. “But luckily for me, fate had other plans. That horrid sister that I was worried about came to my rescue and saved my life and my baby’s life. She became one of my closest friends… And with everything she’s done for me and how she welcomed me into her family, it helped me realize that even though Murphy’s Law will always be lurking around the corner, I’ll always have someone there to help me out—besides my hot husband, of course.” We chuckle together at her comment about my Daddy. I sigh.
“When does this feeling go away?” I ask. The impending doom is agonizing sometimes.
“Never,” Grace chimes in gently and sadly. “It subsides a bit, you get used to it. You don’t feel like the sky is falling every day, but you are always watching for the big, bad wolf. I wish I could tell you that it goes away, but…” She reaches over and takes Mia’s hand. They entwine their fingers as Mia smiles adoringly at her mother. “… It doesn’t.”
I have a feeling that I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The limousines have arrived to take us to the Adopt-A-Family Affair. Just like last year, the ladies have decided to make an entrance down the marble stairs in our ball gowns. To prevent Christian from having a heart attack watching his pregnant wife walk down the stairs in stilettos, Al has graciously agreed to present himself to James as well by escorting me down the stairs.
I was pleased on Black Friday to find that they made maternity strapless bras as I thought I would have to make one of my regular strapless bras work for this occasion. This one offers more support for my heavy breasts—smooth without the underwire that might dig into my baby bump. I was a little worried about wearing a strapless dress, but this little puppy put my fears to rest. Pretty lace boy-shorts and nude thigh-high stockings complete my undergarment. My ball gown is royal blue—a draped silk chiffon bustier dress with a smoothed sweetheart neckline—and I pair it with matching blue Louboutin pump stilettos.
My hair is stunning, if I do say so myself—big barrel curls embellished with what appear to be four precariously placed bracelets peeking out in various bundles of hair and swooping demurely over my shoulder to hide the dreaded “short spot.” Not to have the jewelry outshine the dress, I wear parts of the 1932 collection…a simple string of 18k gold and diamonds with a bow and a single teardrop solitaire laying on my chest; the 1932 Franges bracelet—not the original, of course; and the chandelier diamond earrings. My makeup is soft and natural—a light coating of foundation to even my skin tone, the softest pale blushing to add just a hint of color to my cheeks, a light dusting of a shimmery eyeshadow on my lid, and a nude lip gloss tucked away in my purse to keep my lips moist.
We decide that the best order for us to enter would be by age, with Grace leading the line and Mia at the end. I watch my feet carefully as I take the stairs, careful to hold the balustrade, my clutch under my arm and my hand firmly wrapped in Al’s elbow. I can feel Christian’s gaze on me, but I concentrate on my feet. If I look at him, I’m likely to turn into a dribbling mound of goo, miss a step, and take out the entire procession.
I watch as Elliot takes his mother’s hand, kisses her on the cheek, and hands her over to Carrick, who has stars in his eyes as he gazes at his wife. Daddy greets Mandy at the bottom of the stairs, also with a kiss, and leads her off to the side so that Al and I can descend. He gives me a kiss and a “You look beautiful, Jewel,” before handing me off to a spellbound Christian.
My God, he looks magnificent. This black tuxedo from I don’t even know who fits him like a glove, every facet of his chiseled body accentuated by awesome custom tailoring. His hair is a beautiful coif of highly copper waves and curls. It almost looks like he highlighted it, but I know it’s just his hair capturing the light. His captivating gray eyes are sparkling dramatically as he gazes at me. My throat is dry and all of the breath feels like it has left my body. He takes my hand in his, brushing the back of across his cheek, then kissing it gently.
“Every time I think you can’t possibly be more beautiful, you surprise me,” he says wistfully. “You’re enchanting.”
“Thank you,” I whisper, barely able to get my words out. I gently touch his cheek with my free hand and he turns his face to kiss my palm. “You’re breathtaking,” I whisper. He smiles that full, 32-teeth beaming smile that makes me weak in my damn knees.
“Coming from you, that’s very high praise indeed, Mrs. Grey,” he says, sincerely. He opens my black wool swing coat and helps me into it. Once I’ve closed it over me, he folds my hand delicately into his elbow. “Your carriage awaits, my love.” This promises to be a lovely evening.
The Adopt-A-Family Affair is held at the same location as last year, and the press is out en masse as always. We have to stop and give a short interview so as not to appear rude or untouchable. I’m usually the one that engages the press, but I let Christian do most of the talking this time, speaking only when something is directed at me. I love when Christian answers the “When are the babies due” question with “Sometime soon.”
There are several eyes on us as we make our way through the dining area after we check our coats. I’m sure that we’re no more smartly dressed than any other couple in attendance, so it must be the fact that many people are surprised to see me still alive, pregnant, and on my husband’s arm. We locate our seats and he pulls my chair out and helps me to sit down. He has all of my wine glasses removed and inquires what type of soft drinks were available. I opt for ice water and a tropical fruit drink that tastes a lot like a virgin Piña Colada.
Many people make their way to our table to offer well wishes and tell me how beautiful I look. I recognize many of them from our wedding, but wouldn’t be able to tell you their names to save my life. I answer them politely, thanking them for their concern. More than one person attempts to pull Christian away to talk shop or network, but Christian gingerly declines, informing them that tonight is off limits and that he plans on spending the entire evening with his wife. Most respected that answer and accepted a promise to get in touch sometime during the month. One guy, however, was very persistent, not to mention quite rude.
“C’mon, Grey,” Mr. Unknown Hopeful says, “real businessmen don’t let the little woman dictate when they can make deals.” He ends his statement with a hearty and distasteful laugh, so sure of himself that he completely ignores my horrified glare—something that doesn’t get past my husband.
“Just for my own information,” Christian begins, “was it your intention to sabotage any hope of ever doing business with GEH? Because let me assure you, you’re doing a very good job of it.” Mr. Unknown decides to take another shot at Christian’s manhood, making some comment about who wears the pants in his family and who actually runs GEH. Before he gets a chance to continue his rant, he is first asked to leave, then ceremoniously removed from our table by Jason and Ben. I don’t know who the guy is, but I can wager that he probably won’t do business in Washington State again. There’s always one.
Several more people make their way to our table, again, mostly to small talk about the babies and to tell me how happy they are with my recovery. It’s almost like an Ana welcoming party right up until dinner is served. As if we haven’t already been eating enough to choke a horse these past days, this evening’s menu consists of deep fried Brie, French onion soup, smoked chicken and red onion salad, beef bouchée, poached sea bass, bacon-wrapped baked chicken with mushroom stuffing, and goat cheese tarts. As soon as the beef hit my noise, I realize why Christian forbade me to have that burger I wanted. I fight, determined not to let the smell of beef ruin my night. Luckily, I was able to overcome the initial attack of nausea and enjoy my dinner.
Al and I are having a great time people watching as some of the ladies are wearing some really ridiculous fashions. One woman was wearing this horrendous seafoam chiffon creation with way too much tulle underneath. Another one boasted this multicolored asymmetrical fashion “don’t” that just should have stayed on the rack. I have to say that the pièce de résistance would be the raven-haired tart in the red and melon mermaid gown where it appears that someone forgot half of the material on one side of the dress. I couldn’t help but notice her because she walked past our table three times during dinner. It wasn’t until the fourth time that I realized that she was most likely doing a runway show for Christian.
I so don’t care tonight…
I shouldn’t be surprised that my husband doesn’t notice her once, most of the time keeping his eyes on me or the hand that he’s fondling tenderly, playing with my wedding and engagement rings when he’s not paying attention to the drawing of the names. Christian keeps running his fingers gently up and down my arms, causing torturous shivers to travel back and forth up and down my back. I’m trying to keep my wits about me when his lips brush tenderly over my bare shoulder.
“Mr. Grey, we’re supposed to be paying attention,” I whisper.
“Oh, believe me, I am. I’m paying close attention,” he says quietly as he moves his chair closer to mine.
“Mr. And Mrs. Christian Grey!” the master of ceremonies announces our name. Oh, thank God, now behave yourself! We were number 75 this year, almost near the end. We got a family named Radcliff this year—a husband and wife and their new baby, new to Seattle and just getting started. We’ll meet them soon enough to ascertain their needs, but the moment the attention is off of us, Christian is gently kissing my neck.
“Christian, please,” I chide quietly. I can’t take much more of this. A knowing smile creeps over his lips and he entwines his fingers and mine and kisses the back of my hand.
“Yes, Mrs. Grey,” he says, “I’ll try to behave… for now.” He put his free arm around the back of my chair just as Melon Lady saunters in front of our table again.
“Are you lost?” Allen says, inconspicuously. It was enough to get her attention. She turns to our table and Al is glaring at her. I’m sitting under my man and he’s still kissing my hand, not paying her one bit of attention. She turns her gaze to us. Christian still hasn’t made eye-contact with her.
“Well?” Al says, loud enough for her to hear, but quiet enough to not draw attention. She glares back at him. “If you’re looking at that one, you might as well stop because you’re not going to separate those two with a hammer and chisel.”
Christian is still blissfully oblivious to the display. If not, he’s putting on a good show. He pushes the hair away from my ear with just the tip of his finger and plants a sensual kiss on the shell that causes my breath to catch in my throat. There is a table full of people here, none of whom seem to be paying attention to Melon Lady or to me and Christian.
“Your dress is beautiful, Mrs. Grey,” Melon Lady purrs, a blatant attempt to draw attention to herself. Yet, she still only has mine and Al’s.
“Thank you,” I say wistfully, still choking on the breath caught in my throat as Christian outlines my ear with his finger. God help me, I’m getting wet, and these thin lace panties aren’t going to hold anything in.
In a brazen move, Melon Lady puts her index finger in her mouth and bites gently. What the fuck? Christian still hasn’t looked at her, but I’m a captive audience. How dare her! In a public place! While I’m sitting right here!
Her tongue moves over her finger before her finger moves slowly from her mouth and down into her plunging neckline where she fondles the inside of her breasts. Okay, now I’m getting pissed. My brow furrows as I bring my eyes to hers and I’m greeted with the surprise of my life. She’s not looking at Christian…
She’s looking at me!
I gasp audibly as I make the realization. Holy cow… she’s coming on to me! My husband is one kiss short of fucking me right here at the dinner table and she’s coming on to me! With a final bite and lick of her lips, she winks and smiles at me, licking her teeth as she walks away. I turn to Al who is just as speechless as I am, then try to tell Christian.
“Christian! Did you…?”
“Um-hmm,” he says, planting an open-mouthed kiss just below my earlobe. “Even women find my gorgeous wife hot.” I don’t know how to take that. Part of me is very flattered while the other part is appalled that she would do that while my husband is obviously groping me. “I’m glad she didn’t touch you, though. We may have had a problem.”
“You wouldn’t have hit her or anything, would you?” He chuckles in my ear.
“You mean, like I would a man who would have touched you? No, I wouldn’t do that… at least not in public.” I gasp and look at him. “You. Belong. To me. I make it no secret that I’m very possessive of you, so if anybody comes on to you—male or female—then they are asking for whatever they get. Let her come sashaying by here again in that ridiculous dress.” He plants a gentle kiss on my lips. “I needed that little reality check, because I was fighting one of the biggest erections under this table that I think I’ve ever had.” I can’t help but laugh when he says that.
“You’re terrible, Mr. Grey,” I say playfully.
Dinner and the drawings are over before I know it. I barely recall hearing or seeing too much of anything except the name of the family that Christian and I would be adopting this year. My husband was so busy distracting me with his nibbling and fondling that I didn’t even know the dance music had started. Elliot looks a little forlorn as he settles back in his seat, knowing that being dateless meant no dancing for him tonight. Noting his solemn expression, his mother has other plans.
“I’d like a dance with my oldest son, please,” she says, flashing a genuine motherly smile as she holds her hands out to Elliot. His emotion is almost palpable as he takes his mother’s hands. Rising from his chair, he spins her around once, causing her to giggle like a schoolgirl as he whisks her off to the dance floor. Christian rises from his chair, never releasing my hand.
“I’d like a dance with my enchanting wife,” he says, his voice smooth and promising. He helps me from my seat and I feel incredibly graceful even though I probably weigh a ton. Vickie’s dress flows around me and makes me look like a delicate fairy when I move. He looks at me like I’m the only woman in the room. Ensnared by his gaze, I follow him to the dance floor.
Christian takes me in his arms and just starts to sway with me to some classic song that I’m not familiar with. Once the floor started to fill, the band broke into the big band numbers just like last year. They start playing “Night and Day” and my husband leads me effortlessly around the dance floor. Even though I am quite heavy laden with child, I feel like I’m as light as a feather. He makes me feel good, and right now when I’m feeling a bit unattractive, he makes me feel pretty.
“You dance divinely, Mrs. Grey,” he says, treating me to a dazzling, white take-no-prisoners smile.
“One does not dance like an angel alone, Mr. Grey,” I reply, matching his smile. He contemplates the statement for a moment.
“I’ve heard that somewhere,” he says, trying to place where the statement may have come from.
“Mansfield Park,” I tell him, letting him off the hook. He ponders it for a moment before smiling again.
“And so it is,” he says. “I have Mrs. Grey quoting the classics! We must dance more often!” He dramatically holds my hand up in proper ballroom stance and holding on to me tightly, whirls me around the floor until I’m lost in fits of giggles. When he finally stops and gives me a moment to catch my breath, I see a shimmer in his eye, hiding behind the smile. It’s the same shimmer I saw when he gave his speech on Thanksgiving. My breath catches in my throat and he pulls me close to him. We’re still moving, but nearly standing still.
“Night and day under the hide of me, there’s an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me…”
His voice is like honey and I’m lost in his gaze… trapped—afraid that I may float away into hopeless oblivion if he releases me.
“And this torment won’t be through till you let me spend my life making love to you… Day and night, night and day.”
He cups my face in his hands and gives me a tender, soul-filled kiss right there on the dance floor. His eyes are always so descriptive. At this moment, they are saying so much. I’m frozen in his gaze and in everything that he’s saying to me with no words. The world around us falls away and there’s no one here but me and my love.
I love you, too, Christian.
I’ll never leave you.
You make me whole.
You’re my everything.
I can faintly hear the music fade in around us. He slides his hands down my arms until they reach my hands. Never taking his eyes off mine, he brings my hands to his lips and kisses them both. Our wordless exchange of love continues as I’m wrapped in the soothing sound of the music.
Do you know how much I need you?
About as much as I need you…
Good… As long as you know.
He raises my hand and spins me around until my back is to his front. He pulls me gently against him and puts his arms around me, resting his hands gently on our babies. They stir a bit, then settle immediately. I put my hands over his and we sway, just side to side on the dance floor. He sighs deeply and nestles his face in the crease of my neck and shoulder.
I feel so loved right now… so cherished and special.
I lean my head back on his shoulder and sink into him. Bringing my hand up to his head, I thread my fingers into his soft tresses. He groans softly and kisses me one time on my neck, pulling me closer to him as we float further into the music and each other as the leader sings about someone who is his everything.
I close my eyes.
I let him guide me.
I trust him completely.
He’s my life and my future.
I’ve never felt so safe and secure in my life.
I’m the luckiest girl in the world…
It’s no surprise to me that some little skank at the Affair is attracted to my wife. What did surprise me is the fact that they let her in here dressed like that. It turns out that I’m indirectly acquainted with her. She’s the granddaughter of one of the sponsors—an old friend of our family. I’m surprised that I never met her personally, or at least I don’t think I have. She looks like a lady of the night, to put it nicely. She’s completely out of place. I’m sure Butterfly doesn’t think I’m paying attention, but I see every move the little slut is making on my wife. She better be glad I’m more concerned with distracting Butterfly than with her weak attempts to sway my wife to the other side. However, I don’t intend to let her malfeasance go unpunished, especially since it’s quite clear that she knows who we are.
I could hardly wait for the music to begin. I have to say that I was happy that Mom was able to pull Elliot out of his funk. It’s taking everything in me not to find Valerie wherever in the world she is and tell her what an A-1 bitch she’s being to my brother and my wife, not to mention the rest of my family. How dare that cow think she could keep Elliot away from his family! I don’t know what new drug she must be smoking or what bug of insanity has climbed up her pussy, but she’s got a hell of a lot to learn about the Greys if she ever thinks she has that kind of power.
I personally think she’s jealous of Butterfly. I think she’s angry because she’s no longer the center of Butterfly’s world. I can imagine that for those years that Butterfly was recovering from her relationship with David that Valerie was always there to pick up the pieces. She was the shoulder that Butterfly cried on—patted Butterfly on the head before she went off to taste her latest flavor of the month. Now, Butterfly doesn’t need that pat anymore. In fact, Butterfly really doesn’t need Valerie anymore. She’s independently wealthy—the key word here being “independent,” and Valerie can’t stand that.
Be that as it may, I can tell that my wife and my brother are miserable when her name comes up. Butterfly misses the friend that she once had, the one that stuck by her through thick and thin. My brother is caught between a rock and a hard place and doesn’t quite know what to do. What’s the common thread here? The common thorn in everyone’s side?
Quite frankly, I’ve got a good mind to just walk up to her and belt her one… but that would only make matters worse.
I didn’t keep my beautiful wife on her feet for too long. Though those stilettos are sexy as hell on her feet, screaming to be up around my neck, I know that she shouldn’t be standing too long in them. Her ankles will start to swell soon, not to mention that the height alone is tempting a twist of the ankle. So after the band sings “One Hundred Ways,” I take my lovely Butterfly and our precious cargo back to the table, where we continue to sway to the music in our seats—in each other’s arms, as if we were on the dance floor.
Just like last year, we are thoroughly exhausted when the night draws to a close and everyone—including Elliot—has an air of contentment around them. It’s so late when we get home that Elliot agrees to crash on the sofa in the family since every guest bed is taken. Gail meets us in the kitchen to send Amanda and Ray off to bed. They had intended to collect Harry before turning in, but as it turns out, Luma dropped by with the girls and the ladies tuckered poor Harry out. Pops and Uncle Herman stayed in, too, and while Gail kept an eye on Sophie, Mariah, and Celida, Luma visited with the gentleman. She and the girls only just left about an hour before we arrived.
Everyone turns in after dancing the night away and I take a moment to undress my lovely wife—sexy boy shorts and silk thigh-high stockings. She looks downright delectable as I massage her feet and ankles, but we made love Thanksgiving morning and again on Friday night, so I think I’ll just let her rest. I can tell that she’s grateful even though she says nothing. She never protests and she never denies me. Even if she’s tired, I can get her in the mood. Tonight, I want her to sleep.
Her hair is cascading in beautiful curls over her pillow. She hugs a body pillow that she bought to replace the two pillows under her stomach and between her knees. She’s simply gorgeous. There’s no better sight than seeing her sleeping peacefully with what looks like a smile on her face, her gorgeous mahogany hair strewn out on the pillow behind her, and her body swollen with my babies. Fuck if I’m not the luckiest fucker alive.
“You guys have made the news yet again,” Mia announces, laying out the society page of the Seattle Times at brunch the next day, “And a reputable paper at that.”
“Oh, what now?” Butterfly laments, looking at the paper to see what little tidbit was taken now. I remember the press being at the party last night, but nothing really memorable happened.
…Or so I thought.
“Oh-ho my God,” she giggles as we look at the society page. There are two full-color pictures of her in that gorgeous blue gown standing with me. In the first one, I’m standing behind her, attached like a vine and duly marking my territory. Someone has captured the moment when we were dancing to “Everything I Love.” Her eyes are closed and her hand is thrust into my hair. We are clearly lost in our own world. The second picture was the moment at the end of “Night and Day” when I kissed her.
“Don’t these people have anything better to do?” I say. I can’t hide my smile as I look at the pictures. “I guess they didn’t… you look stunning, baby,” I tell her, putting my arm around her waist and kissing her on her cheek.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” she says, coyly.
“I’m just the window dressing,” I protest. “You’re the Macy’s display.”
“Alright, alright, we get it. You’re both beautiful,” Al balks. “What does the article say?” Butterfly laughs at his impatience while Mia takes the paper back and begins to read:
“AnaChris was spotted last night shamelessly canoodling on the dance floor at the Greater Seattle Adopt-A-Family Affair. Ana is breathtaking in what we later learned is a Victoria Stewart original blue silk chiffon gown. Christian’s not looking too shabby in black cashmere bespoke Caraceni (don’t ask how we know). As always, Christian displays that he is absolutely smitten with his beautiful wife, who survived a very serious car accident and was released from the hospital just a week ago. With not a scratch or bruise in sight, Mrs. Grey illustrates that ‘pregnant’ does not mean frumpy, clumsy, or helpless. Moments before this picture was taken, the stunning couple was observed floating across the dance floor like professionals, lost in each other’s gaze and grasp. Sources say that Christian couldn’t keep his eyes—or hands—off of his enchanting wife, and that she is just as smitten with the her handsome, billionaire husband. Judging from these pictures, it’s no wonder Mrs. Grey is expecting twins in the spring. Way to go, AnaChris!”
“Oh, one day, they’ll be fascinated with something else and leave us alone,” Butterfly says.
“Don’t count on it,” I respond, kissing her again.
“Damn, Chris, do you ever let the woman breathe?” James teases.
“She’s breathing. See?” I lean in and nibble her neck and she giggles profusely. “Could she do that if she wasn’t breathing?”
“Christian, stop!” she says, playfully hitting my arm. “Not in front of company.”
“Don’t stop on our account,” Dad says, cozying up to Mom and nibbling her neck, causing her to break into fits of girlish giggles.
“See? My dad says I can continue.” I go for Butterfly’s neck again and she playfully pushes me away again.
“Eat your food,” she scolds. I kiss her on the cheek and turn back to my plate.
“Christian,” Uncle Herman begins, “If the invitation is still open, Dad and I would like to stay for the week.” I look at Pops, then at Mom. She sighs.
“I was acting like a spoiled child. I’m sorry,” she says all in one breath, but sincerely. “I have absolutely no problem with Burt and Herman staying here and I really hope you’ll forgive my behavior… as long as you don’t try to take them away from me!” She adds the last part in rushed playfulness, breaking the tension at the table and causing a chuckle from various diners.
“I can’t make any promises, Mom,” I tease. “I mean, if they fall in love with the Crossing…”
“Christian,” my mother warns in that tone that only a mother can.
“Yes, Mom, I won’t take them away,” I respond, sounding like an impetuous teenager. “But I got ‘em for a week!” I smile widely at Pops who returns my smile.
“Good, I’m glad that’s settled,” Pops says.
We finish our brunch in random chatter, talking briefly about what the week holds for each of us. Butterfly is doing as much as she can from home to get prepared for the Christmas season at Helping Hands. This is usually the time when they have the most traffic and do the most work. Butterfly’s impromptu interview before her accident caused an onslaught of donations—big and small—to pour into the charity. Once the word got out that she was fighting for her life, the donations increased, allowing Helping Hands to expand their services to assist general hardship cases and not just at-risk women and children. She is anxious to get back to the center, but won’t take on the task until she gets the “all clear” from her neurologist. We have an appointment with him tomorrow.
I have some loose ends to tie up before the holidays set in—mergers that need to be signed, some acquisitions to complete. I hate putting people out of work at Christmastime, so whatever redundancies are created will wait until after the new year. Even then, GEH is known for its placement assistance and severance packages. I still have a few messes to clean up with the miscellaneous subsidiaries, too. There are some possible legal issues that GEH has to face as well as some fines that will have to be paid.
I plan on throwing my prior legal team under the bus with this one, especially since most of my woes can be traced back to them. The only problem is that when something shady happens within a company, the head man in charge is always held responsible because it is assumed that he knows about everything. To that end, I have to clean up these messes as quickly as I can on my own, pay whatever fines and restitutions that I can to settle problems before they get to court—and then sue the fuck out of those assholes.
Elliot is happily taking on some new projects that are in the works before the holiday, but will kick into full gear after the holiday. He’s been talking to Ray about his particular area of expertise and I see that there will most likely be some serious collaborations in the future.
Everyone has some little thing here or there that they’re working on, but I would have to say that besides the twins due in early February, the most exciting news would have to be Allen and James’ engagement. They’re planning a spring ceremony and I have to say that I can’t even begin to fathom how to plan a gay wedding. I would imagine that it’s no different than a straight wedding, except that there’s two grooms. Butterfly is nearly bursting, ready to plan this ceremony. So there’s nothing to do now but set a date.
We all appear to be headed into the holiday season with bells on. Now, it’s just time to see how those bells are ringing.
A/N: Happy Birthday this weekend to Melissa, Pam. Danesh, Isabel, Margaret, SusieCC, and Maureen. I forgot anyone, charge it to my head and not my heart… and happy birthday. 🙂
Music from the Adopt-A-Family Affair
Night and Day—Billie Holiday
Glenn Miller—Everything I Love
James Ingram—One Hundred Ways
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 🙂