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 35—Broken Fences, Faces, and People
I don’t think anyone particularly wanted to face the day on Sunday after the emotionally taxing day that was Saturday. Nonetheless, we all gather for breakfast to make sure that everyone is still alive and well. Chuck surprises us all by asking Jason to get in touch with his parents for him. As he and Joseph are officially no longer speaking and Chuck now knows that his parents are still alive, someone will have to be listed as his next of kin. He informs Jason to tell his parents what happened and what’s going on just like he told Joseph. Chuck can’t go through the whole thing again that he went through with Joseph. The disappointment and rejection were too much for him and he can’t take it anymore. He just wants them to know that they will be notified to dispose of Chuck’s remains if something happens to him. Jason solemnly accepts the task.
Jason and I later collaborate on blueprints for Butterfly so that she can decide where to place Gail’s office. Gail has ceded the task to Butterfly after having discussed that the most functional location would be somewhere near the kitchen, yet close to stairs and elevators so that she can get to the children quickly once her job duties change. I call Butterfly down to my office after she has indulged in a nice long nap and bring her into the collaboration.
We can’t seem to agree on what would be a suitable space for a home manager’s office. To me, anything less than 500 square feet would be stifling. According to Gail’s instructions, anything more than 250 square feet is extravagant. Two hundred and fifty square feet! What the fuck can you put in two hundred square feet?
“I was willing to work at the kitchen counter,” she had said. “The office was Ana’s idea.”
And there you have it. My wife thinks like me and feels that an office is necessary… Gail doesn’t. There has to be a compromise, so 200 square feet it is.
Luckily, we discover a large enough hollow between the pantry and the laundry room that would serve as an office for Gail. I’m concerned about the lack of ventilation and natural light, so I’ll get with Elliot and see what can be done about that. As the babies will be here in less than two months, we don’t want remodeling going on when they arrive. So this has to be done quickly.
Everyone pretty much goes to their corners for the rest of Sunday afternoon, except for Jason who collaborates with Welch to find Chuck’s parents. I have to say that I don’t envy him that task. If Chuck’s parents are anything like his brother, I don’t even want to meet these people.
“Mom told me you looked like you’d been in one of those brawls you used to get into when you were a teenager. Aren’t you a little old for that, Bro?” Elliot scolds when I call him on Monday morning to discuss the office.
“Not for this,” I tell him, still fighting a bit to hide my lisp. My lip isn’t swollen anymore thanks to Gail’s tea, but my face is still a fright with the bruising and my teeth are still a bit loose. I actually have an appointment with the dentist this afternoon to see if there’s any permanent damage. Thank God he didn’t hear me when I had the lisp or I would have never lived it down. I really don’t want to go through the whole thing again. I didn’t even explain to Mom why I look like this.
“You know you got to tell me what happened…”
“No, I don’t,” I interrupt him. “I don’t want to have this conversation. I was fighting for my wife and that’s all I’m going to tell you. Now about this office…”
“Did somebody say something about her ass?” he presses.
“Elliot!” I yell into the phone.
“Alright, alright. You don’t have to yell,” he finally concedes. “Where do you want this office?”
“Thank you,” I hiss. “Near the kitchen. We’ve found a space between the pantry and laundry room. Gail and Butterfly say it’s big enough, but it looks pretty small to me, so you would have to come and look at it.”
“Near the kitchen—any load-bearing walls?”
“Now how the hell would I know that?” I ask him.
“I know. My bad. I’ll come over and look at the blueprints. As a matter of fact…” I hear him shuffling around a bit, then more shuffling, then more shuffling and he’s back on the phone again. “Are you talking about that space that starts behind the wall in Q-17?” I scan the blueprints on my desk.
“No, it’s M-21,” I correct him.
“Shit, I know that, I was just testing you, Dude. You brought the blueprints to work?”
“I’m not at work.”
“You’re not at work.” It’s a statement, not a question. “On a Monday morning…”
“I look like hell, so I’m working from home. Don’t ask me anymore questions.” The skin around my eye is actually starting to look this yellow-greenish sort of black bruising color. I’d scare old ladies and children if they saw me. As it is, I don’t know how I’ll get to the dentist without making a scene.
“This office is for Gail?” he asks. I think he’s being an asshole because I said don’t ask any more questions.
“Yes,” I nearly hiss.
“What’s she going to be doing in it?”
“She’s going to be the home manager and the nanny.” Elliot whistles.
“How is she going to do both of those?” he asks.
“Less home manager, more nanny,” I say. “That’s why we have a staff.”
“As you should,” he says. “That’s a lotta house!”
“I know, Elliot. That’s why we have the staff.”
“And she’s going to manage them… and be your nanny.” When he puts it like that, it does seem like a lot. Gail hasn’t indicated that she couldn’t handle it, but we’ll just have to see.
“Is the office going to present a problem?” I ask.
“Not that I can see,” he says. “There are no load bearing walls, which is a miracle in that Greek temple you live in! Man, all those damn columns were a fucking nightmare during the remodel! There are no windows in that area, though. It’s going to be stuffy as fuck if we don’t pipe the ventilation system through there.”
“Yeah, we were concerned about that, too. Can you do it?”
“Yeah, I can do it,” he says.
“How long will it take?”
“About three weeks.” That’s cutting it kind of close.
“How soon can you start?” I ask. “The babies are due in exactly eight weeks and you know they’ll most likely come early. Even if you start this week, I know you won’t be doing anything next week because it’s Christmas, which most likely puts us right in danger of bumping into B-day,” I point out.
“I’ll send Felix and Irv over this afternoon to start taking some measurements and see if we can get the wall knocked out if that’s okay with you. Getting that wall knocked out and getting the spaced taped off is going to be the biggest part of it. Then we have to get the electricians in there to get it wired. Ana’s already got some of my guys coming in on Wednesday to look at one of your downstairs libraries to rewire for her PA.” Yeah, she mentioned something about that to me yesterday. “We’ll see how many birds we can kill with one stone. I’ll see if Ray can get in tomorrow to look at the ventilation system and see how big a job that’s going to be.”
“Ray?” I ask, surprised. “Ray Ray? You mean my father-in-law Ray?” The line is quiet.
“Yes,” Elliot says in a sing-songy voice, like this is something I’m supposed to know. “Ray and I work on a lot of projects together, ever since he got that project with the city last year,” he informs me. “Quiet as it’s kept, I knew Ray before I knew Ana… not long before I knew Ana, but before I knew Ana.” Well, what do you know?
“How did I not know this?” I say, frowning.
“You didn’t ask,” Elliot answers. “We were actually bidding on some of the same contracts. When I beat him out of a few and he beat me out of a few, we discovered that we have complimenting skills. He only has the basic construction skills while I have the advanced—master builder. He, on the other hand, has the masonry and carpentry specialties and he’s certified in HVAC, which is why I’m going to have him come by tomorrow and see how hard it’s going to be to get some heat and air into that little cubbyhole.”
“Cubbyhole is right,” I concur. “Why didn’t you guys ever tell the family that you were working together? We never would have thought to ask. How long have you known you were working with Ana’s father?”
“Since last Thanksgiving,” he says, “we just didn’t think it was a big deal. It’s not, is it?”
“No,” I reply, “probably more of a novelty if anything. So listen, I have an appointment this afternoon, so I won’t be here from about two until maybe three thirty. If you’re not coming with the guys that are supposed to be knocking walls out, make sure security knows who they are. You’ve been here enough times to know the drill.”
“Yeah, I know what to do,” he confirms. “I’ll talk to you after the guys give me some numbers.”
“Will do.” I end the call with him just as I see Butterfly and Marilyn come into her office through the aquarium. I never get enough of watching her move. I gaze on her for a few moments before she disappears out of sight of the aquarium. I call Andrea on my desk phone.
“Who do I have on the books today, Andrea?”
“Nothing critical, sir,” she responds. “You have the department heads and the two status meetings. There is that Meet-And-Greet later in the week with the Fairlanes…” I could care less about the Fairlanes right now, but skipping out on a Meet-And-Greet is bad form.
“Have all non-essential meetings proceed without me this week and cc me on all meeting minutes within 24 hours. I look like I’ve been hit by a fucking bus,” I inform her.
“Reschedule all critical meetings for next week or ASAP thereafter, including that damn Meet-And-Greet. I’ll see if I can coerce my pregnant wife to come along for added effect.”
“That should work in your favor, sir,” she chirps. “It actually gives new companies a sense of security knowing that the new owner is a family man.”
“Sometimes,” I tell her, “other times, they see right through it… that I’m parading my hot, pregnant wife around like a trophy. That hothead Georgie Jr is sure to think that’s exactly what I’m doing.” She clears her throat.
“I’ll reschedule them for next week, sir.” I can see through that change of topic.
“What is it, Andrea?”
“Well, no offense, sir, but… isn’t that what you’re doing? I mean, sort of using Ana to gain an emotional advantage?”
“Well… yeah, maybe a little, but he works for me now, so he’s not allowed to say that, and if he does, I’ll put him out on his ear.”
“Sir, you can’t do that…” I’m silent for a moment.
“Have we met?” and now she’s silent for a moment.
“I stand corrected,” she says. “Ros has asked for an hour.”
“Tell her to call the house conference line as soon as she’s ready.”
“If anyone insists that they must meet with you today or this week and can’t reschedule? You know they’ll be at least one.”
“Let me know who they are and I’ll determine if that’s the case. Then we’ll do a conference call if necessary.”
“Will do. I think that’s all for now, sir. Conference phone or blackberry for emergencies?”
“Yes, sir. Called away, unavailable until next week?”
“Good enough. No additional information. Everyone who needs additional details already has them.”
“Very well, sir.” I end the call and look over the projections for Fairlane again. I make a special note of these frivolous employees that were hidden under maintenance expense and wonder to myself if any of them will have the nerve to show up at the Meet-And-Greet. I think I’ll have Andrea come along as well and shadow me with a list of the employees so that she can subtly alert me to the people who may be trying to secure a position that will most likely be eliminated after the new year.
I click on another file that I don’t think I’ve had to open in months—Project Free Butterfly. I don’t think I’ve actively been in this file since I left Green Valley, right before the kidnapping. The information flow and flow of events happened so quickly that I never had time to examine the file. I was always updated by word of mouth from Allen or that asshole AG or even the press. I set out to ruin the people that hurt my Butterfly, but these people have truly been their own worst enemy. Once Whitmore’s house of cards came tumbling down, a good measure of Green Valley’s elite and some surrounding areas came tumbling with it. He was really small-time in the big scheme of things, thank God. He very well could have had some attachments to organized crime. As it turns out, he was a celebrity only in his own mind. He was only puffed up to his own delusions—no bigger or more important than any other businessman in Green Valley. He just spent his money like he was super-important and presented himself as such. In terms of real influence, he was nobody.
Once the dominoes began to fall, he was nothing more than the hustler. He was the money mover—the one everybody came to. In the end, he was the one who brought everybody down. From my computer, I can watch as small fortunes and life savings of people who had dealings with Whitmore are frozen, dwindled away or investigated—people who may or may not have even had anything to do with what happened to Butterfly. I feel bad for those who got caught in the crossfire, but not if they were involved in illegal activity. This is what it gains you. Speaking of which…
“So, I got the information that you wanted on those foreign officials,” Ros says when she calls me on the conference line.
“What do you have?”
“Check your email. As you can see, you’re looking at some mid-level officials in these countries. These are not really the people that can make or break you in terms of power, but legally and publicity…”
“I get it,” I say as I open the file that she’s sent me. She’s right. If the information had gotten any higher than this in any of these governments, they wouldn’t be contacting me. They would already have legal proceedings initiated to prosecute me. These are most likely the crooked politicians who watch manifests and make passports disappear so that it’s easier to traffic more prime candidates as opposed to immigrants or refugees seeking political asylum. If you ever heard of Americans getting lost in foreign countries or being arrested then coming up missing in the system somewhere, these are usually the culprits that are responsible for them ending up as part of some crooked, amoral rich asshole’s harem in some obscure corner of the world… much like that movie Taken.
“Did Welch help you with this?” I ask.
“Somewhat. He didn’t know why I was asking.”
“Why didn’t you tell him?”
“I didn’t know if you wanted me to,” she responds. “You told me to find out who the squeaky wheels were. You didn’t tell me to ask Alex.” I guess I did, didn’t I?
“You do know that Alex knows everything there is to know about me and my company, don’t you?” I confess. “He even knows some things that you don’t.”
“Ouch,” she says, and I don’t know if she’s really bruised or just kidding.
“That’s his job, Ros. It’s the nature of the beast,” I tell her. “You know that you’re irreplaceable in your own way, but so is he.”
“Yeah, yeah, tell me anything,” Ros says, now mocking injury. “So now what?”
“Well, this is where it gets tricky,” I tell her. “This is where the boys are separated from the men…”
“… And the girls from the women.” She’s always been a bit of a feminist.
“Do you see any women on this list, Ros?” Silence. “There’s a specific reason for that. Women often have a hard time exploiting and objectifying people…” A vision of the Pedophile immediately comes to mind. “Well, at least to this kind of extreme,” I correct myself. “The brothels, massage parlors, sweat houses—you may have found some women in those kinds of things. The hard core trafficking—sexual slavery, hard labor—you’re not going to find many women, if any.”
“Well, Sir, I know you’re about to go on your fact-finding mission. Don’t be surprised if you find a few vaginas when you turn over those rocks,” she says matter-of-factly. I think she’s a bit slighted.
“Ros, surely you’re not taking this personally,” I say a bit bemused.
“No, should I be?” she responds flatly, and that’s my cue to end this topic. The last thing I have time for right now is to stroke her ego about whether a woman can be as ruthless as a man when I already know the answer. There’s a crazy blonde bitch in jail right now that’s proof positive that a woman can be more dangerous than a man any day, but in this instance, I doubt I’ll find too many women.
“Well, I’d love to continue this lovely conversation, but you’ve given me another project that needs my attention.”
“And now, I’m being dismissed.” And a bit catty.
“Yes, Ros, you are. Thank you for the information. Have a good day.” I end the call. I appreciate that she’s one of the people that won’t take my shit. However, she does need to remember which of us is the boss. I email the list over to Welch and call him.
“How much information can you get me on foreign officials?” I ask him.
“Depends on what you need,” he says.
“I need weak spots, good weak spots, and I need them fast—preferably before my children are born,” I say. “I have a few low level and a couple of mid to possibly high level government officials in countries where those mysterious subsidiaries were carrying on questionable practices. Apparently, in some areas, they get a cut of the traffic. In other areas, you have to grease their palms to keep their mouths shut. Either way, when the traffic stops, you have to grease it some more to keep them from blowing the whistle on you.”
“Oh, that,” he says with little concern.
“Oh, that?” I say, appalled. “You knew about this all along?”
“I hate to tell you this, sir, but this kind of thing happens all the time. I just didn’t know GEH was involved in any of it.”
“Yeah, neither did I!” I exclaim.
“There’s a very easy way to take care of this, sir, but it may cost you…”
“I’m not paying these people anything!” I declare. “They’re the worst kinds of criminals and if I could turn them all in without destroying my company, I’d do it in a minute!”
“No, you’re not going to be paying them anything, but you’re going to be paying somebody to help clean this up,” he informs me.
“Oh. Well, that I can pay,” I concede.
“And I can guarantee you that whatever you know, it goes deeper. So, give me what you know and I’ll get back to you…”
“I’ve already emailed you a list. What do you mean you’ll get back to me?” I ask.
“You don’t get your hands in this, sir. You let other people take care of this. This is why you hired me. Now, you have to let me do my job. Do you trust me?”
“Of course, I do.” I trust him with my life, much like I trust Jason. I just don’t like being left out of the loop.
“Then, you have to let me handle this. Know that it’s going to cost you, but it’ll go away soon enough.”
“You may need to talk to Ros,” I say.
“I didn’t know how to handle this, so I put her on finding out who we needed to speak to. Like you said, I didn’t know how deep this goes.” I hear him sigh. “Is she in danger, Welch?”
“I don’t think so, but she is your second in command, so we’ll just have to play it by ear and see whose cage she’s rattled getting her information. I’ll let you know what I find out. I was wondering why she was asking me questions about Bosnian government. Now I know.”
“Apparently, someone approached her in some way and she brought it to me. So technically, she was involved before I was.”
“So whoever it was already knows that she’s your second in command. I’ll talk to her.”
“You… might want to wait until after lunch.” There’s a pause.
“Because I pissed her off. Her panties are all in a wad because I said that we most likely won’t find too many women at the head of these rings.” He sighs again.
“Why would you purposely antagonize a liberal femme? Are you deliberately trying to make this hard for me? You’re right, of course. You’re not going to find any women at the head of the ring, but not for the reasons that you most likely told her. You won’t find them at the head because of the glass ceiling—because the men won’t let them in. The women in most of these countries have bigger hairier ones than some of these men, so you better watch your mouth, Mr. CEO.”
“Not you, too,” I lament. “Can we please just get down to business. My teeth are starting to hurt.”
“Your teeth are hurting?” he says, surprised.
“Yeah, I’ve got to see the dentist today about these loose teeth.”
“Oh, that.” Yes, that. If I ever see Cholometes again, I swear to God, I’m going to hit him in the mouth with a fucking hammer. “Well, you’re going to be a bear, so I’m going to let you go.”
“Good idea. Keep me posted.”
“Sure thing.” I end the call and run my hands through my hair. I don’t often get the feeling like I just want to go back to bed, but right now. I could just snuggle up with my Butterfly and stay in bed all day. I go over to the aquarium and look through to see what she’s up to. There’s a woman in the office with her. She’s not one of our staff. At first, they’re just talking. Then, she applies a blood pressure cuff and I realize that this is the home nurse that has come to check on my wife. It’s everything that I can do to keep from rushing in there and asking her how Butterfly is doing, but I stay put.
I watch their movements intently, attempting to garner what information I can about the visit from their body language. I know that Butterfly will tell me if there are any problems, but I’m still impatient to know that everything is okay. I realize that my cover is blown when the nurse removes the cuff from Ana’s arm and turns her head sharply in my direction, meeting my gray gaze head on. I’m under no misconception that my beautiful wife alerted her to my presence and she had to turn and see for herself. A man glaring through an aquarium? That’s preposterous! Except that it’s not. Butterfly gestures to me to come into the office, and I gladly oblige.
“Why didn’t you just come in?” She teases when I enter the door that adjoins our offices.
“I didn’t want to interrupt,” I say, honestly. “I didn’t want you to think I was hovering…”
“So you just gaze longingly through the aquarium.” It’s a statement, not a question. I twist my lips.
Yep, pretty much…
She just shakes her head and starts talking to the nurse again.
“Brandy, will you please tell my husband that I’m fine?” she says to the nurse. The young black nurse looks up at me then back down at her watch.
“He’s very distracting, I’ll tell you that,” she says after obviously taking Butterfly’s pulse and entering something into her iPad, most likely my wife’s vital statistics. “You’re surrounded by pretty men. You know that, right?” Brandy says to my wife.
“They never let me forget,” my wife says with mirth.
“Hey!” I protest. “I don’t know about these other pretty men, but I don’t walk around boasting my good looks.”
“You don’t have to boast them, Christian. They boast themselves.”
Mm-hmm,” Brandy says, without looking away from her iPad. At Butterfly’s silence, she responds, “Don’t look at me. You said it.” She raises her eyes defiantly to meet Butterfly’s glare. “How’s Winkin’ and Blinkin’?” she continues, not allowing the glare and uncomfortable silence to phase her.
“Active,” Butterfly tells her, “It’s like a wrestling match in there. I think the soccer players are changing sports.”
“That’s normal,” she says, still tapping on her iPad before raising her eyes to Butterfly again. “It’s cramped quarters in there and getting tighter by the day. You might feel less precise kicking and more ‘rumble jumble’ the closer you get to delivery.”
“Does that mean everything is okay?” I ask as she still hasn’t confirmed what Butterfly said when I walked into the room.
“Yes, everything’s fine,” she says with a deliberately over-exaggerated flutter of her eyelashes. I just roll my eyes.
“You know, I don’t know how you see any pretty under all this black, yellow, purple, and green that is my face.”
“That’s just bruising. It doesn’t hide the pretty,” she says, matter-of-factly. Frank little thing, isn’t she? “Looks like you got the bad end of a fight, though.”
“You could say that,” I reply, observing Butterfly’s hardening expression.
“Let me listen to your heart and lungs and we’ll be all done. Do you mind raising your shirt? It’s easier if I do this on your back.”
“Sure,” Butterfly says, never moving her gaze from mine and lifting her shirt. Brandy puts her stethoscope back in her ears and moves behind Butterfly.
“Wow!” she exclaims. Butterfly and I are both alarmed. What the hell? “I’m sorry,” she says, “I was just… I didn’t… that’s beautiful!” Butterfly frowns and looks over her shoulder at the nurse.
“What?” she asks, puzzled.
“Your art! It’s gorgeous. Did you get it all done at once or in stages?” Brandy asks. Butterfly looks at me bemused.
“The garden,” I say softly. She thinks for a moment before realization dawns.
“Oh!” she says, finally. “All at once… more or less…” I know she’s thinking about the first three letters of the gothic word on her back, and I so want to ask Brandy to just drop it. However, I can tell by her closely examining the work that she finally sees what Butterfly means by “more or less.”
“I see,” she says, softly. “Well, it’s very beautiful,” she reinforces, then changes the subject quickly. “Deep breaths for me, please…”
And just like that we’re out of the danger zone.
“So, everything looks fine so far,” Brandy says after her examination is over. “Your blood pressure is slightly elevated, but no higher than your average eight-month-pregnant woman, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. Just avoid anything too stressful.” She’s tapping away at her iPad again. “You’ve got an appointment with Dr. Culley on Thursday, right?”
“Yes,” Butterfly responds.
“So I won’t come on Wednesday. It seems a bit redundant. Has she already talked to you about expressing colostrum?”
“Briefly. She was going to go into detail on my next visit.”
“Good. She’ll let you know when it’s the ideal time to start.” She’s quiet again for a moment, tapping at her iPad. “I think that’s about it for us today, Ana—pretty routine, as you can see.” Butterfly nods and straightens her clothes. “Any questions for me?”
“Nope. As you said, it’s pretty routine. Thanks, Brandy,” she says, extending her hand. Brandy shakes gently.
“No problem. Now I get to check out the scenery while I leave.” She winks conspiratorially at Butterfly, eliciting a small giggle from her. “Take it easy, Ana.”
“You too, now, and thanks again.” Brandy nods and follows Windsor out of Butterfly’s office. Butterfly sighs and immediately turns her attention to some papers on her desk. I walk to the front of her desk and wait in vain for her to raise her eyes to me.
“You forgot about the garden, didn’t you?” I ask gently when she doesn’t look at me.
“Briefly, yes,” she admits. “That’s just how it is sometimes.” She shrugs puts a few items in her briefcase. Lately, she looks so much more businesslike when she leaves the house. I take notice of her attire, including the high-heeled shoes.
“Isn’t it about time to retire the sexy stilettos, baby?” I protest. “It’s not that I don’t love to see your mile-long legs in them; it’s just that the further along you get, I’m worried about possible spills and swelling and such.”
“Christian,” she says, “I was basically born in stilettos. Don’t worry about me. Besides, I always carry a pair of flats just in case my feet suddenly become the size of bowling balls—not to mention, it’s winter in Seattle. I always have a pair of boots to handle the snow. Is that okay with Sir?” she asks, sarcastically fluttering her eyebrows.
“Don’t test me, woman,” I warn. “The doctor said no strenuous activity, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get creative.” She twists her lips at me, then gives me a gentle peck.
“Goodbye, Christian. I’ll be home for dinner,” she says with a wave. Now, that’s a change. She’s going off to work and I’m staying home… figures.
Marilyn and I meet at the Apple store so that I can pick up my new iPad and she can choose her MacBook and docking station. I’m partial to a regular Windows laptop, but Mare prefers all things Apple, so MacBook it is. We arrange to have them delivered and installed at Grey Crossing. The staff is already moving the existing furniture out of the library as there won’t be much change except for a desk and some storage and seating and some additional wiring requirements.
We get to Helping Hands with plenty of time to spare and Addie and Courtney arrive promptly at 1:00pm as planned. Addie gives her rebellious little granddaughter instructions to do whatever I instruct her to do and she promptly begins to protest.
“Grandmother, this is so unnecessary. I don’t see the purpose of this exercise. I’m an adult. I really don’t need this.”
“Yes,” Addie says, “you are an adult with no direction and no purpose but to wait around and collect your trust fund. One day, that money is going to run out, and then what? What will you do—pray that someone else will take care of you? No, you need more than that out of life. You need to understand that life is more than just a dollar sign and I think this is just the experience for you.” Courtney drops her head and clasps her hands in front of her.
“Yes, Grandmother,” she says, with fake contrition. I shake my head infinitesimally because I already know what kind of day this is going to be, but I’m already armed and ready. So, bring me your best, little Ms. Debutante.
“Ana, dear,” she leans in and kisses me on the cheek, “I’ll see you later.”
“Addie,” I give her a cordial hug, “drive carefully.” She walks out of my office and the mood shifts immediately. Even though I advised sensible clothing, Ms. Courtney shows up in a pair of 7 For All Mankind contour crackle leather-like skinny jeans, a white angora sweater, and a pair of gray Jimmy Choo pebble Mendez high-heeled ankle boots.
“I see you didn’t take my advice about dressing sensibly,” I say, examining Courtney’s choice of attire. The little trick actually scoffs at me.
“I don’t know about you, Mrs. Grey, but where I come from, this is sensible,” she sneers. I fold my arms. So you’re going to be rebellious. You have no idea who you’re dealing with, little girl.
“Very well,” I say with a smirk. “Follow me.” I stand up and walk pass her towards the kitchen. She just stands there. “Are you waiting for a taxi?” She folds her arms defiantly. “Should I just call your grandmother back and tell her to come and get you?” At the threat of calling her grandmother, she rolls her eyes and falls in line behind me. Lunchtime is just wrapping up and it’s time to clean down the kitchen and start preparing for dinner. Perfect timing for an extra set of hands.
“Jessie, I’ve brought you some help,” I call to the kitchen supervisor. She’s a hard worker and a no-nonsense kind of woman, just the person I need to help keep an eye on this little pampered brat. She looks over at Courtney and raises an eyebrow at her as if to say, “What do you expect me to do with that?”
“Oh, you must be kidding?” Courtney scoffs.
“No, I’m not,” I say, impassively.
“I won’t cook in this outfit,” she protests.
“You were the one who said it was sensible,” I retort, shoving an apron in her chest, “and don’t worry. You won’t be cooking.”
“I don’t do manual labor either.”
“Everybody here does manual labor, including me. Get used to it.” I turn my attention back to Jessie. “Use her in whatever capacity you need her. She’s all yours until I come back to get her.” I look at Courtney. “You do exactly what she tells you to do. She reports directly to me and I report to Addie. Any questions?”
“Are you usually such a bitch?” she snarls.
“No, most of the time, I’m worse, aren’t I, Jessie?”
“Hideous,” Jessie pipes in without missing a beat.
“Well, I’d hate to meet her, because you’re a real fucking pill right now,” she retorts.
“Keep it up and you will, Sunshine,” I hiss. “Would you like to see just how miserable I can make your life?” I glare into her eyes and wait for her rebuttal. She thinks better of retaliation and takes a few steps away from me. “Give her hell,” I say in a low voice to Jessie. “I want that outfit completely unwearable by the end of the day. I’ll throw in a day at Dreamclinic for the whole kitchen staff if one of those shoes loses a heel.”
“Consider it done,” Jessie says.
Unfortunately, Jessie and I both realize that it’s not as easy as we thought it would be to break in Little Ms. Debutante as she successfully manages to avoid any work for the first thirty minutes of the afternoon. She’s lazy and refuses to do anything that she’s told. Only immediate threats of calling her grandmother seem to work, but the moment she’s out of your sight and comfortable, she’s just as uncooperative and rebellious as ever. According to Jessie, she is doing less than nothing and when she is doing something, she’s breaking dishes on purpose, she’s smart-mouthed, sitting around looking at the other workers, more in the way than anything. I’m not going to fight with this girl, nor will I play cat-and-mouse with her. I meant what I said at the country club. She disgusts me, and I will not allow her to waste my time.
“It begins,” I tell Addie after I dial her number.
“That was fast. What’s happening?”
“Absolutely nothing. She’s mouthing off at the staff. She’s more in the way than anything. I’ve got her in the kitchen—she’s probably rinsing glasses and chopping potatoes and she can’t even do that. I made sure that the staff knows that this is her first time doing anything, so I know that they’re not making her do anything strenuous, especially since she’s in there dressed like Lady Diana!” I hear Addie sigh.
“I knew this would happen. Okay, give me a few minutes.” She ends the call and I go back to work. A few minutes later, Courtney storms into my office.
“You called my grandmother?” she spits. “’Ana’s telling me you’re not doing what you’re told. Don’t make me have to come up there,’” she reads her grandmother’s text to me. “What am I, twelve?”
“I don’t know, are you?” I spit back at her. “Adults know how to act in public. Adults know how to take direction and do what they’re told. The staff is telling me that you’re belligerent and you’re having a problem with simple directions. So you tell me, are you twelve? Do I need to call your Dwanmaw because you’re going to have a hissy-fit every time someone tells you to do something? Do I need to sit a potty chair next to you, too? Trust me, I can treat you like a toddler if that’s what you want!”
“I don’t want to be here anyway!” she hisses. “This was your idea to get close to my grandmother—take me on like I’m some fucking charity case.”
“Fine, then call your grandmother and tell her to come and get you. I’ve already told you that I think you’re a lost cause and you’re not worth my damn time.”
“Do I present too much of a challenge for you, Mrs. Grey?” she sneers. “Afraid I might rub off on your little battered mommies?” And now I’m pissed.
“You’re not a challenge to me at all, little girl. I could give a fuck less if you gain anything from this very valuable experience that could change your life, but one thing is for damn sure. You will respect me and you will respect everyone in this place while you’re here. So you watch your tongue, you mindless, foul-mouthed little wretch, because if you think I can’t make your life a living fucking hell, you go ahead and try me!”
I have closed the space between us and before I know it, my animal instincts have kicked in and I’m ready to pounce on this uncouth little rogue—ironically calling her foul-mouthed while I cursing at her like a sailor. I suddenly remember that there are three of me and I can’t become vigilante all over this entitled, ignorant reprobate, so I return to my seat with a final warning.
“I’m not going to sit here and try to make you do what you need to do. This is going to be a learning experience for you whether you cooperate or not and you. Will. Learn!” I hiss.
“What exactly is your problem with me?” she asks, examining me through narrowed eyes. “I would have thought that you would have been flattered an attractive young woman found you desirable, but you act like I committed some kind of crime. I know I’m not the first person who has ever come on to you. Is it because I’m gay?” She can’t be serious.
“Oh, no, I have no problem at all with you being gay. What I do have a problem with is you not understanding what boundaries are. What I have a problem with is you expecting me to be so stupid that I would believe that you drank so much champagne at a red carpet charity event that it actually affected your judgment. I don’t know what you may know about me, but what you should know is that I’ve had a hard and fucked up life. What life didn’t teach me, school did. I’m a shrink—not much gets past me, especially about human nature. You are too old to be acting so flippantly in public—especially in the circles in which your grandparents circulate. You don’t understand how lucky you are, so this little exercise is to try to help you understand that.
“You’re no better than any of these people around you. The only difference is that you were born into money, and you have grandparents that take care of you. You’re not that much younger than I am, yet look at you and look at me. I had my degree and was a year into my internship by the time I was your age. Nobody gave me anything; I worked for it. You’ve got a big, fat trust fund waiting for you. So as far as you’re concerned, you don’t have to do anything. You can just sit and wait until it matures and then collect the money and live happily ever after, right? My guess is with the way that you’re acting now, you won’t see a penny of that money.” I turn away from her and I can just feel her scowling at me.
“So until you inherit your millions, or however much it may be, you will be a student at the Seattle School of Mrs. Grey.” Her eyes grow wide. “Hopefully, during your tenure, you’ll learn how to behave in a manner that will not embarrass your grandparents once you inherit your trust fund. You stand to inherit in about a year and a half?” She glares at me. “That’s not a rhetorical question!” I hiss. She nods, her gaze defiant. “One word from me and that year and a half can become two… or four… or never!” Her eyes grow large again.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” she exclaims.
“Don’t you wish,” I reply calmly. “That total amount can lose a couple of zeroes. I’ve already suggested that the lump sum becomes a monthly stipend.”
“A monthly stipend?” she asks horrified.
“Yes, a monthly stipend. You see, when your livelihood is in the hands of someone else, then your demeanor should reflect that. You shouldn’t be rewarded for bad behavior. So each month, you should have to earn your trust fund. You should be grateful for what you’re being given, instead of acting like a spoiled, entitled, little brat who can behave in any inappropriate manner she wishes.”
“Says the pampered billionaire’s wife!” she hisses. I just smile.
“I had my own before I met Christian and if he leaves, I’ll still have my own. You want to be able to say that, too—not because Grandma and Grandpa are lining your pockets, but because you made something of yourself. So, you can be mad at me all you want, but I’m not the one whose future is in the palm of someone else’s hands. Now, shall we begin again, or do you want to make another smarmy comment so that I can call Adelaide and tell her to add another six months to your due date?” Her face falls and she purses her lips. “I bet you wish you had never come on to me now, don’t you?” She narrows her eyes.
“I thought you would be nice. I guess looks can be deceiving,” she says sardonically.
“No, you thought I would be easy, and you’re right. Looks can be very deceiving. At first glance, you look like a very cultured young lady, so I guess we were both fooled.” I stand and walk pass her to the door. “You’ve wasted enough of my time and dinner needs to be served. Now bring your ass or get the fuck out. The choice is yours.”
“You really don’t…”
“I didn’t say speak!” I snap loudly, causing Ben to stick his head around the corner and survey the situation. “I said ‘bring your ass or get the fuck out…’ now!” I’m counting and if I get to ten, the twins and I are dragging this irritating little bitch out by her hair. I glare at her motionless through to seven before she finally finds the will to put one foot in front of the other. To the door or to the kitchen—it doesn’t matter to me, but I’m done playing with this little poodle.
“Pick up the damn apron,” I nearly growl through my teeth when we get to the kitchen.
“You don’t have to talk to me that way,” she says a bit subdued.
“You’re speaking again,” I warn. She glares at me and the room falls silent. “You can leave at any time,” I reinforce, “but I’m done playing these power games because I don’t have shit to prove to you.” I give her the same narrowed-eye look she gave me earlier and wait for her to retrieve her apron. All eyes are on us now, waiting to see if she will follow directions. She slowly takes the apron and slides it over her head. I wait while she ties it around her waist.
“Now, get over there and do what Jessie tells you to do and don’t let me have to come down here again.” She walks indignantly over to where Jessie is standing. I nod at Jessie and she nods back.
“You can’t work with your arms folded,” I hear Jessie say. I look over my shoulder and see Little Miss Melon drop her arms and await instruction before I walk out of the kitchen. Ben looks at me waiting for the sign that everything is okay. I nod, and he returns to whatever post he has chosen for the afternoon.
I’m back in my office reading my emails when I stumble across one from my loving husband labeled “Quality Items.”
What has he done?
I pull out my iPhone and open my email program.
To: Anastasia Grey
Re: Quality Items
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:21
From: Christian Grey
My Beloved Wife,
I couldn’t get you and those sexy shoes off my mind when you left, so I thought I would occupy it with more thoughts of something pleasing. Tell me what you think.
Your devoted husband,
Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
I click on the attachment he has sent. He has sent three ideas for quietly trickling water effects—fountains and water walls for the Connection Room. Each one would be perfect for the space. I smile while thinking about connecting with him again in our finished room, not that much more needs to go into the space. I think of something else that I would like to see in that space and in the adjoining room.
To: Christian Grey
Re: Quality Items Indeed
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:30
From: Anastasia Grey
My Darling Husband,
What a wonderful break from my day. The idea of the water is quite comforting and would make an excellent addition to our space. I look forward to the moments we will share in that room. In fact, I have an idea of my own that I would like to share with you. Your opinion is highly appreciated.
Anxiously anticipating your response,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, Assistant Director, Helping Hands
I attach a picture of a fire element that I found online a few days ago and await his response.
To: Anastasia Grey
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:42
From: Christian Grey
While I love the idea of a fireplace in our space, don’t you think that may be unwise? There’s no natural ventilation in the room, which means a possible fire hazard with no oxygen control or ability to air out a smoky area.
Concerned for his lovely wife’s well-being (and his own),
Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
I have to chuckle to myself a bit. I can’t believe that he didn’t think I already knew that. I also can’t believe that I knew about some new technology before he did. It tickles me a bit.
To: Christian Grey
Re: I Thought You Knew Me Better
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:54
From: Anastasia Grey
I was certain that you knew that surely I wouldn’t put either of our lives in jeopardy! This is the newest technology in electric fireplaces, my love—LED lighting, in fact, that produces lifelike fire effects over logs or even crystals. It must have been better than I thought to have fooled the great Christian Grey. That model has the amber and yellow cast flames. I was thinking of something more appropriate for our other intimate area. I’d like your opinion on these items, please.
Again, awaiting your response and hoping you have a more open mind,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, Assistant Director, Helping Hands
I send him a YouTube video of the description of the electric fireplace—this one has a base of crystals and I chose it specifically because the crystals and the “flames” can turn completely blue… like the new walls in the playroom. I’ve also attached a picture of deeper blue crystals showcased in an electric fireplace in an attempt to capture the blue of the walls. More importantly, I attached a picture of a bondage frame that could be attached to the ceiling and pulled down at will by a handle to mimic the carabiners in the old room. The frame even has a leather cross embedded in it to double as our St. Andrews Cross, but much less bulky and imposing.
I wait for several minutes for his response once I send the email to him. He’s had plenty of time to watch the video. It was only four minutes long and at least fifteen have passed. Just as I’m about to type another email, Grace knocks on my open door, startling me to death and causing me to scramble and close my email program. I don’t know why. I really don’t have anything to hide. Besides, I’m talking to my husband… or was.
“I’m sorry, Dear. I didn’t mean to startle you,” she apologizes.
“Oh, it’s no big deal,” I tell her. “I’m a bundle of baby nerves these days.”
“I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything.”
“Nope. Just bouncing some ideas off Christian,” I tell her.
“How is my pugnacious son?” she asks, a bit of an edge in her voice.
“Apparently busy. He hasn’t responded to me yet,” I lament refreshing the screen and hoping for a new email. Nothing.
“Is it something I could help you with?” she asks. Oh, Grace, you’d probably faint dead out if you knew what we were discussing… or not discussing, now.
“No,” I answer. “This little thing requires my husband’s expertise, and apparently, something else has his attention at this moment.” I minimize my email program.
“Well, I didn’t really want anything. I was just coming to ask you—is that Courtney Wilson in the kitchen?” Oh, shit, I had forgotten all about Courtney. I look at my watch. It’s after 4:30. Yes, they’re setting up for dinner soon.
“Yes, it is,” I reply. “Addie and I had lunch last week, and we both feel that Courtney would benefit from being here at the Center and working around people who don’t have it as easy as she does. She’s basically had everything handed to her thus far and she doesn’t really understand just how lucky she is. She has this horrible sense of entitlement, and it’s going to be her demise if it’s not reigned in very soon.” Grace grimaces.
“Well, good luck with that, because she’s been that way for at least as long as I can remember knowing her,” she says. I frown.
“What is she, like, 24? That couldn’t have been very long, could it?”
“She’s something like that and it’s been at least 10 years,” she replies. “She’s been a bad seed ever since she was a child. That’s why her parents sent her here in the first place. They thought she was misbehaving because she was around a bad element. It turns out that she was the bad element.”
“Well, I can see how that would be so, but how did you find out?” Grace comes in and takes a seat.
“Mia is the embodiment of a social butterfly—the good time girl, but in a fun way. There’s never a dull moment around her. Everybody knows her, and everybody knows what to expect from her. So imagine my surprise when I got a call from Nordstrom’s that Mia had been shoplifting.”
I frown. Mia? Shoplifting? I can’t imagine that Mia I couldn’t have anything her heart desired, so why would she be shoplifting?
“I was asking the same questions your eyes are asking right now. Rather than jump to conclusions, Carrick and I just went down to the department store to hear what was going on and to retrieve our daughter. We were regulars there—on a first name basis with security. When we got there, we found Addie and Fred and a crying Courtney vehemently trying to convince her grandparents that this gaudy silver shirt, retrieved from Mia’s backpack, was something that Mia had squirreled away and not something that Courtney had slightly slipped into her backpack. Mia was standing there, basically silent and observing the entire display. Now I know my daughter. Her father is an attorney and she wasn’t going to say a word until he got there. When we arrived, she proceeded to tell us how this shirt was something that Courtney wanted, not something that she wanted and she was not going to admit to taking the shirt because she had no idea that it was in her backpack.”
“How old was she when this happened?” Grace ponders the incident for a while.
“Fifteen, maybe,” she says. “Courtney had just gotten here; hadn’t been here a week.”
“What happened next?”
“Carrick spoke to Mia very officially. He told her that shoplifting was a very serious crime and that she could be arrested, but that she does have the right not to incriminate herself. I’ll never forget my daughter’s response. She said, ‘I know, Daddy, but I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m not going to confess to a crime that I didn’t commit.’ Courtney is in the corner wailing, trying to get her grandparents to take her home because she claimed that she had nothing to do with this. Fred almost insisted that they leave until the guard informed us that he had requested the security tapes from the afternoon.” I raise my eyebrows.
“Really?” I say.
“Yes, really. One of the clerks vaguely remembered Courtney admiring the shirt. However, the shirt was found in Mia’s backpack. This puts both girls in question. If they were required to review the tapes, it would have become a police investigation and both girls would have been required to be held in custody until the tapes had been viewed. Courtney turned white.” I lean back in my seat and fold my arms.
“Cary asked if Courtney had something that she wanted to tell us and she just fell quiet. He looked back at Mia who said, ‘If I have to go to jail, then I have to go to jail, but I didn’t do this, and I won’t confess to something that I didn’t do.’ She never looked at Courtney once. She knew Courtney had put the shirt in her backpack and she wasn’t going to say it. I had had enough of it. I wasn’t going to stand by and allow this little delinquent to expose my daughter to an experience that she clearly did not need. I let Addie, Fred, and Courtney know in no uncertain terms that if my daughter spent one moment inside of a jail cell for something that she didn’t do that the moment Ms. Courtney got out of kiddie jail, they would do best to send her back to whatever hick town she came from.
“It was almost the end of our friendship, because they were intent on protecting Courtney and I was intent on protecting Mia. The difference is that they were trying to give Courtney the benefit of the doubt, but they didn’t really know her. I had raised Mia from a baby. I knew her quite well, and if she wanted that horrid looking piece of material, she would have bought it. Cary further drove that point home by asking Mia where her Amex was. She reached into her backpack—the same backpack carrying the horrid shirt, I might add—and pulled out her Amex. When Courtney was asked to produce her money, she didn’t have any. She had spent it all.
“Cary told Fred that he was going to have some big problems on his hands if our teenage daughter had to go to holding cell because his granddaughter tried to frame her for shoplifting. Fred turned to Courtney and told her that he was only asking her one time if she did this and she fessed up.”
“That’s all it took?” I ask. Grace snickers.
“Don’t be fooled, Ana, she’s very smart. She’s manipulative and conniving. I don’t know if she plays ignorant because I don’t spend any time around her, but there’s nothing stupid about that girl—arrogant, but not stupid. She knows exactly what she’s doing at every moment, and the walls were closing in on her. She didn’t have any other choice. Mia had her Amex; Courtney had no money; there was a clerk that saw her admiring the shirt. The security tapes were on the way; we were threatening her grandparents; and they were both likely headed to a holding cell. Her objective was to get out of that building, but that was out of the question now. If she got out, she was scot free, and that’s why she was wailing like she was in physical pain. We were a lot of people in a very small room, and she was hoping that the sound of her cries would have irritated us so much that we would have just let her go. Had we been dealing with anybody but my daughter, she might have won that battle, but this was my Mia we were talking about. She could have screamed until her voice was gone and my ears were bleeding. She wasn’t leaving that room until we got to the bottom of things.” She sighs heavily.
“So that was the end of that?” I ask.
“Pretty much,” she says. “We didn’t speak to them for a while, but we pretty much buried the hatchet on that one. We just took Mia home—I don’t even know what happened to that girl, but Mia had one last message for Ms. Courtney. Mia had to pass her as we were walking out of the room. Well, Mia’s was wearing this cute little bracelet. It was gold-toned with pink and burgundy beads and three charms on it. Mia grabs the thing and snatches it off her wrist. Beads go flying everywhere. She has a handful of beads along with the charms and she launches them dramatically at Courtney!”
“No!” I gasp, wondering if any of the trinkets hit Addie or Fred or if they all struck their intended target.
“Yes! Oh, she was all dramatic about her crying, like the things had hit her in the eye or something. I don’t know if they really did. It turns out that it was some sort of friendship bracelet. Mia just stood there scowling at her for a moment before we left them there.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Her first impression on the Greys and she almost gets their youngest child thrown in jail. This is classic, truly classic.
“So… would you like to go with me to check on her?” I ask. She smiles conspiratorially.
“Sure,” she says rising from her seat. We walk down the long hallway and around to the kitchen. The transformation to dinner service is well underway and I can’t find Courtney for the life of me. I see Mare on a stool in the corner, comfortably sitting with her legs crossed and tapping into her iPad. She raises he her head when she sees me and smiles and waves at me. I shrug in an attempt to ask where the hell Courtney is. She points to a figure that I wouldn’t have pegged for Courtney if you paid me. Although she’s still sporting her apron, she looks like she’s wearing a wife-beater, and her hair on top of her head in some kind of messy bun. Grace and I walk over to where Marilyn is sitting to get the debriefing on this particular situation.
“What’s going on?” I say, unable to hide my mirth.
“Well,” Mare begins, keeping her voice low, “apparently fuzzy angora and dish water don’t mix very well. I’m not certain where the sweater is now.”
“Is she wearing Crocs?” Grace asks. I look down at her feet.
“Yes, she is,” Mare says. She points to the Jimmy Choos on the floor next to her stool. “They left the plates that she broke earlier for her to clean up. Jessie’s a real piece of work. She actually hid some of the pieces—under the sinks, behind the stoves—it was a not so fun game of Where’s Waldo. I’m not 100% sure what happened to the shoes. I just know that she was on her knees at some point and when she got back to her feet, a few seconds later she was on her butt. Jimmy Choos went flying into the air, shoes went this way, heels went that way, and that’s all she wrote. Enter Crocs, and there you have it. Those pants are no good either.”
“Really?” I say, with a little too much enthusiasm. Mare looks over at me.
“Cheer down, Bosslady,” she teases, and I realize that I am taking a bit too much joy in this your woman’s calamity. “Apparently that sateen, crackle, pleather, skinny-shit changes color in water, so it looks really bad right now.” I chuckle to myself. I have to say that I’m pleased. Even Grace has that she who laughs last look on her face.
“Oh, and don’t worry. I heard you earlier. I’ve already ordered those complimentary massages at Dreamclinic.” She smiles at me.
And that’s why I keep her around.
A/N: She (he) who laughs last laughs best.
The bondage cross that I described earlier is the one from the FSOG movie. I couldn’t find a good picture of the cross by itself, so you just have to picture it in your head.
Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/
You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.
Love and handcuffs!