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 43—Eye to Eye
“Arrogant fucking son of a bitch!” I fuss at no one as the Audi SUW drives up the I-5 to Helping Hands. Fucking asshole shows up at my place of business demanding that I tell him where his damn wife is and she had to run away from him because her baby was hungry. How blind and selfish can you be that you would let a baby suffer that way, let alone your wife who just gave birth…
“You heartless fucking savage!” I could strangle this asshole with my bare hands. He comes rattling that 1919 Ford P.O.S pickup truck with the broken and bouncing hatch sporting more rust than paint up to the front door of GEH, fresh with a black and white escort! Thank God the paps weren’t out, although I can almost guarantee that somebody got a picture.
“Somebody ought to strip him naked, tie him up, and leave him in that house for a few days!” Then maybe he’ll understand how that helpless baby felt all this time—cold, hungry, helpless! “Fucking asshole.”
It takes far too long for us to get to Helping Hands for my taste and I’m opening the door before the car even stops.
“Boss!” Jason stops me. What the fuck do you want? “Maybe we should wait and let him talk to his wife.”
“The hell I will!” I say, stepping out of the car and slamming the door behind me. Snow crunches under my Cesare Paciottis and they’re probably ruined for life as I barrel down the walkway and brush past the asshole to get to the door before he does.
“Watch your step, Grey!” he threatens.
“Fuck you!” I throw back at him, my eyes burrowing through him and waiting for a response. Receiving none, I open the door and go in search of my wife. I spot Lawrence first standing at the guard’s station with two of the armed guards.
“Where’s Ana?” I ask in a menacing voice.
“She’s in her office with…” His voice trails off as he sees Radcliff coming in behind me. He’s never met the man before, I imagine, but his stance indicates that he knows what he’s dealing with. He makes square eye contact with Radcliff and folds his arms. “She asked me to stay here with the guards and make sure that no one becomes disruptive and needs to be removed.”
“Good man,” I respond. He’s adopted his no-nonsense tone of voice and I have no doubt that he’ll bounce this motherfucker out on his ass while the cops watch. It’s a good thing Chuck’s not here… Radcliff would probably be dead by now. “Would you please let her know that we’ve arrived?”
“Smitty?” He calls to one of the security guards behind him without taking his eyes off Radcliff. “Please call Dr. Grey and let her know that her husband is here.”
“Yes, sir,” the uniformed guard responds and goes off to retrieve my wife. There’s a bit of a stare-off between Lawrence and Radcliff for a moment, before Radcliff says, “Why are you staring at me?”
“Just making sure that you don’t need any of my special attention,” Lawrence replies.
“I don’t need anything from you,” Radcliff snaps.
“See that you don’t!” Lawrence retorts. His words are sharp and his eyes are sharper. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that they knew each other before this encounter and that meeting wasn’t good. Radcliff doesn’t retreat, but clearly yields and never says another word to Lawrence, nor does he make eye contact with him.
A few moments pass and I see my beautiful wife come around the corner. What a welcome sight. Beside her is a much healthier looking Thelma Radcliff than I saw yesterday—still frail, but she’s wearing clean clothes. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail and her cheeks have more color than they did before. Butterfly hovers protectively near her, and my mother is behind them both. Mrs. Radcliff doesn’t say anything. She just looks impassively at her husband.
“Get Jimmy. Let’s go!” he orders her. She frowns at him.
“No,” she says firmly.
“No?” he asks, bemused.
“No,” she repeats. “What are you even doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be at work? You know, that job that’s supposed to solve all of our problems?”
“Yeah,” he retorts, his hands flailing, “and thanks to this shit, I might have lost it now.” Mrs. Radcliff glares at him.
“This shit!” she nearly shrieks in disbelief. “This shit! You’re right! You’re absolutely right! Your wife and son living in a cold, dark house in the dead of winter, freezing and nearly starving to death is shit! Having to walk six miles in the snow in sneakers with my son wrapped in towels because I can’t even afford bus fare, that’s shit! Having a husband who will turn down good food, warm clothes and new furniture because he’s too damn proud to take a handout, that’s shit! This whole damn situation is shit—shit shit shit!” She is livid and losing control, but I get the feeling that she has needed to lose control for a long time.
“Watch your mouth,” he says in a menacing tone.
“Watch yours!” she shoots back, unmoved by his tone.
“Thelma…” Butterfly says. Mrs. Radcliff takes a few deep breaths to calm herself.
“That’s enough of this now, Thelma,” Radcliff says. “Let’s go.”
“Didn’t you hear me the first time, Jim?” she says, now calm and raising her head to her bully husband. “We’re not going anywhere, least of all, back to that cold, dark house with no food. My son is sleeping—in a crib. He drank a bottle today, the whole thing, and then he burped and went to sleep. He didn’t cry himself to sleep because my breast wouldn’t give him milk. I took a nap today on a real mattress, not a busted up piece of cotton and springs stuffed with whatever clothes we could find. No, Jim, we won’t be going back to that house with you.”
“So this is how you treat your husband?” he scolds. “You defy him and belittle him in front of other people. My opinion means noth—“
“Oh, save that submissive wife crap, James, it’s getting old!” she growls. Butterfly and I glance at each other for a moment, but realize that the whole submissive concept that she’s talking about is completely different than what we practice. “You still haven’t answered my question. What are you doing home in the middle of the day? You barely have two pennies to rub together to keep that bucket of bolts running back and forth to your job once a day, let alone twice, so what was so dire that you had to stop and come home?”
Yeah, come to think of it, what was so dire? Was he bringing food to his family? He’s not answering her question, so she folds her arms. “Well?” she says, expecting and he still doesn’t answer. Butterfly looks at me, questioning.
“He said he was coming home for lunch and he found them gone,” I say to my wife, but loud enough for his wife to hear me. “That’s when he showed up at my place of business with the police and basically accused me of kidnapping.” He narrows his eyes at me like I’ve said something wrong and he wants to beat the hell out of me. Go ahead, make a move, Sport!
“You came home for lunch?” Mrs. Radcliff says, bemused. “There’s nothing in the house to eat! Why were you…” A look of cold realization comes over her face. I know that look. I know it well. Her feelings are clearly reflected in her eyes—the same feelings I had when I discovered that the Pedophile had controlled me for 14 years. She’s had an epiphany—a horrible, soul-shaking, life-changing epiphany.
“You came back to make sure they didn’t return,” she says, her voice cold, “to make sure they didn’t bring me anything.” When he doesn’t respond, she looks down, shakes her head and sighs. “We would have died in that house,” she says, more to herself than to anyone else, but we all hear her. “We really would have died in that house. Unbelievable,” she adds with a tragic laugh. “UN-fucking-believable.” She turns to Officer Lockhart and squares her shoulders.
“I’m fine, officer,” she says. “My son and I weren’t kidnapped. I came here on my own free will. I asked Dr. Steele-Grey and Dr. Trevelyan-Grey to please take my baby if they couldn’t take me because he was starving and I could no longer produce milk. Dr. Trevelyan-Grey assured me that she could help us both, so we will be staying here until I can get on my feet and take care of myself.”
“The hell you will!” Radcliff barks. Lockhart looks at him, then back at Mrs. Radcliff.
“Ma’am, are you being abused?” Lockhart asks.
“Does she look like she’s being abused?” Radcliff barks.
“I said ma’am. Are those cuffs looking good to you again?” Lockhart glares at Radcliff. He frowns back at the officer, but quiets immediately. He turns back to Mrs. Radcliff.
“Ma’am,” he repeats, “are you being abused?”
“Physically, no,” she responds, “but my baby and I are being denied basic necessities like food and a warm, comfortable place to live in winter. My husband can’t provide these things right now and he turns away any help that I secure for us. It’s my understanding that if I can’t provide these basic necessities for my son that the state can take him away from me. So I’m meeting with a social worker today to secure food, proper medical care, housing, and financial assistance for me and my son.”
“You’re right, ma’am,” Lockhart says. “The state can remove the child if you fail to care for him.” Mrs. Radcliff nods.
“Another welfare mother,” Radcliff hisses. “Well, not my son. She can’t keep my son from me and he’s not staying here. She can stay if she wants, but she can’t have my son.” Lockhart looks to my wife and my mother.
“Is there any kind of custody order in place?” Lockhart asks.
“No,” Butterfly says, “Thelma will be speaking to a social worker in about twenty minutes, where she will be describing the squalor and famine that she escaped this morning to save her son’s life. Her statement along with Dr. Trevelyan-Grey’s statement concerning her examining Jimmy and his physical condition and my statement of my examination of and session with Thelma and her physical and mental condition will become part the record and testimony should this situation go to a court trial. Let it be known that we were matched to this family by the Greater Seattle Adopt-a-Family Coalition. As a doctor, I’m bound by law to report any cases of abuse or neglect of a child that I witness. When I saw the living conditions of that four-week-old child, I was calling Child Services this morning just when Thelma walked in the door begging for help.”
“So?” Radcliff retorts defiantly. “What does that mean?” He turns to the officer.
“It means that by law, we can’t force her to give you the child,” Lockhart says.
“And the short translation of the rest of what the good doctor said,” Santiago adds, “is that in twenty minutes, she’s starting a paper trail to show that she’s been living in squalor and trying to take care of her son and you’ve been hindering her so that if you attempt to petition the court for custody, it won’t look too good for you because this information will be a matter of record.”
“On the contrary, her paper trail started in October when she signed up for the Adopt-A-Family coalition,” Butterfly interjects.
“Oh, it goes back further than that,” Mrs. Radcliff laments. Just how long have they been living like this? What kind of monster is this guy?
“Oh… really? Well, then I think you get the idea,” Santiago says dismissively to Radcliff.
“So what happens if I just go through this place, find my son, and take him with me? Just like I don’t have a custody order, neither does she. That means you can’t stop me from taking my son.”
“Let’s say for the sake of argument that you did that,” my mother says, coming around from behind me and Butterfly and moving next to Mrs. Radcliff. My mother somehow stands taller as she steps in front of me. Peeptoe high-heel sandals make her legs look longer in a wine-colored pants suit with cigarette legs and a short jacket. She folds her arms and faces off with Mr. Radcliff.
“Let’s say that I, as the director of this center, am telling you that you are not allowed beyond this room without express permission from the proper personnel; that if you decide to go beyond this room tonight or any moment hereafter that you will be guilty of trespassing. Let’s say that you forego that information and choose to attempt to proceed beyond this room anyway, at which point, any one of the numerous security personnel that we have on staff here as well as any one of these well-trained personal bodyguards would most likely tackle you to the ground face first and hold you there until the police can arrest you and charge you with trespassing. Seeing that you have already brought the police with you,” Mom gestures to the officers, “we can assume that process won’t take long.
“However,” my mother continues, shifting her weight to her other foot and now moving her hands to her hips, “let’s just say that by some miracle, you still managed to get past all of the security personnel and trained bodyguards and you scooped little Jimmy up from his warm, comfortable bed and took him back to that hell that you call a home. You would no sooner get your foot past the threshold before the police and child services would be there to take him away from you. At that point you would be charged with child endangerment and willful neglect and would have to find some way to make bail. Then your beautiful baby boy would end up in foster care instead of with his loving mother who is doing her very best to take care of him because you so selfishly would not allow anyone to help you or her.
“So just for the sake of argument,” she now clasps her hands in front of her, “that’s what would happen if you just ‘went through this place and took your son,’ but make no mistake, Mr. Radcliff. I am not remiss to tell you in front of all of these witnesses that I will personally put this stiletto heel right through your throat before I would allow you to take that newborn baby back to a cold, dark house with no food and I will gladly spend time in a jail cell because if it!”
“Mom!” I exclaim before I can catch myself.
“Quiet, Christian!” she shoots without breaking her glance with Radcliff. “What’s it going to be, Mr. Radcliff? You can go toe-to-toe with any one or several of these men, but in the end, you’ll still have to get past me.”
He won’t even get to you, Mother, but I’ll let it go for right now.
Radcliff looks at my mother with an expression that I can’t quite read. It’s… curious, I think, like he doesn’t know what to make of her. The bully, it appears, has left the building. His power has been stripped from him and he’s like a fish out of water. He looks beyond all of us and his gaze settles on his wife.
“So this is really how you want to play this,” Radcliff says to her.
“No, James, this is how you want to play this,” she replies. “I never called the police—you did. I just went somewhere that would help my baby. You would really let us live like that? Your wife and newborn child? No food? No phone? No heat? In the dead of winter?” Everyone in the room is now either staring at Mrs. Radcliff with sympathy or glaring at Radcliff in disgust. Wait a minute… didn’t he say yesterday that they had heat?
“I tried to get help and every time I tried, you turned it away—why? Because you’re too proud to accept a handout. My baby was sleeping in a dresser drawer. I was sleeping in a bed with springs poking me in my back four weeks after delivery, yet you turn away a brand new bed and crib. I’m washing my baby’s clothes in the sink with cold water and face soap and you turn away a washer and dryer and laundry supplies. Luckily, they had this center to take that months’ worth of food you wouldn’t accept even though it appears that I’m starving and 20 pounds lighter than my pre-baby weight less than a month after delivery—or have you been too blinded by your pride to even notice?”
Food, a bath, and a change of clothes have given Mrs. Radcliff the strength that she needs to stand up to her husband and tell him what she really thinks of him—how she feels for what he has put her and their baby through. He stands silent, listening to her rant about not eating for days and sneaking food from the neighbors so that she could produce milk to keep their baby alive. She prayed that the hospital would keep them for just one day so that she could get a decent meal. She stole food from the hospital trays and rationed it out—that’s how she survived for a few days until the food ran out. The whole story is really sad and pathetic.
“I was drawn to your strength once,” she tells him. “I felt that you would always hold me up. You would always have my back and never let me fall. I never knew that strength meant that if things got rough, you would let me die before you let me ask for help.” Radcliff’s face softens for the first time during his wife’s tirade, and I think she has finally hit a nerve. “Is this what you meant?” she asks, her voice cracking. “Is this what you meant when you told my mother on her deathbed that you would take care of me?” The tears fall freely from her face now and Radcliff suddenly looks broken.
“Thelma, no…” he says, his voice cracking as he reaches for her, but the damage is done. She raises her hands, avoiding his touch, weeping openly as she takes two steps back—away from her husband.
“I took care of Jimmy,” she says through her sobs. “Whatever happens to me, I took care of Jimmy. Dr. Grace says that h-he’s healthy and I d-did a good job. I a-asked them t-to t-take Jimmy and take c-care of J-Jimmy because m-my milk stopped a-a-and I c-couldn’t take c-care of Jimmy… anymore and th-they took us b-both.”
“Baby, please…” Radcliff tries to appeal to his wife, but she’s having none of it.
“No!” she squeaks through her tears. “Dr. … Dr. Ana says that… i-if I eat right and… e-exercise that I might gain my healthy weight back in a month or so and… I should be producing m-milk again in n-no time. They c-could have taken m-my baby away f-from me. Th-they could have s-said th-that I was an unfit m-mother, but they di-didn’t. They s-saw that I n-needed help and they h-helped me. So you ch-chose your p-pride over us… and I choose my baby over you!”
She spits the last part out before she turns around and buries her face in Grace’s chest and weeps bitterly. Grace holds her protectively, like a broken child, one hand on her hair and the other around her back. She’s glaring at Radcliff, not in a threatening way, but in a manner that warns him that it wouldn’t be a good idea for him to try anything unwise. He stands there silently gazing at his weeping wife. Lockhart puts a hand on his shoulder.
“Mr. Radcliff,” the officer says, gaining his attention. Radcliff turns sad eyes to him. “You should go now, sir.”
Radcliff looks back at his wife, then at the officer and nods.
“If I may,” Santiago adds. Radcliff raises his eyes to him. “My opinion may not mean anything to you, and that’s fine if it doesn’t; but if you want any hope of salvaging this situation and I’m not saying that there is any, you better learn the meaning of one very important word—humility.”
Radcliff stares for a moment, then he bows his head and leaves with no resistance. The officers talk briefly with my mother, Mrs. Radcliff, and Butterfly before they follow Mr. Radcliff. My mom nods to Ana and takes a still weeping Mrs. Radcliff away somewhere in the Center. I can’t help but gather my wife in my arms and hold her close to me. How could he be so selfish? So cruel? His wife and child were dying—how could he not see that? I could never… but I did. I did once… when Ana was falling apart right after the fundraiser fiasco. God forgive me… please don’t let me ever do that again.
“We men can be such assholes,” I murmur in her hair as I kiss her head repeatedly.
“Don’t beat yourself up,” she says, looking up at me. “It doesn’t last… usually.” I smile at her and kiss her nose.
“I love you so much.”
“I love you, too.” I hold her hand and walk her back to her office.
“Tell me what happened with Courtney,” I say when we get there.
“The same thing, minus the threats,” she says as she slowly sits in her seat. “I think she wanted to cooperate—to be my ‘slave,’ so to speak…” She makes those finger quotes to drive her point home. “… But that was never the purpose of the exercise. If she could have seen this woman, how she stood up to that man and got help for her child, she would have understood what I was trying to show her. He never touched her, never beat her, but he had her in a mental prison. She didn’t want to leave because in spite of everything, she loves him and wants to be a good wife. But he couldn’t be a good father and husband, so she chose being a good mother over being a good wife—and it broke her heart.”
“You’ll never have to make that choice, baby,” I tell her, still feeling the need to wring Radcliff’s neck.
“I know,” she says, sweetly, “but we both know that women, mothers, families are struggling every day. Most people aren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouths and quite frankly, I hope Courtney chokes on hers, although that might not be an issue soon.”
“Oh?” I ask, curious.
“The main reason that she showed up today is because her grandmother is not speaking to her. She hasn’t been since Saturday. Add to that her little tête-à-tête with you and she’s scared shitless. I’d wager that Addie is about to send her back to her parents.” That would be fantastic, although I would still keep that bitch under watch.
“Serves her right,” I say. “She doesn’t know how to behave around normal people, send her back to the riff-raff she’s accustomed to dealing with.”
“Where does she come from, Christian?” I shrug. I don’t really know where she comes from, but if she’s going back, I better find out so that I can have security keep an eye on her.
“I know she’s from some terrible place back east because the Wilsons always made it seem like they rescued her from a fate worse than death, but I never found out exactly where—somewhere in Kentucky, I think. I’ll have Welch find out for sure. Of course, you know, I still don’t trust the bitch.”
“I don’t care about her anymore,” she says. “She left here crying.” What?
“Crying? Those crocodile tears like when she accused my sister of stealing?”
“No, I think I really hurt her feelings. Take that back home with you, Melon Girl.” I nod.
“So now, I’m really going to find out where the hell she’s going.” Butterfly frowns, waiting for elaboration. “Baby, on top of possibly stripping her of her fortune, you stripped her of her pride.” She scoffs quietly.
“She stripped herself,” Butterfly retorts, “but I know what you mean—she won’t see it that way. She’ll blame me. Do what you must, husband, and I’ll be ready.”
“That’s why I love you.” She smiles. “Have you had lunch?”
“No, I haven’t. Would you like to take me somewhere?”
“Shouldn’t you wait to speak to Mrs. Radcliff’s social worker?” I ask. She frowns in recollection.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” she laments.
“We can have something delivered. Unlike some husbands, I would love to spend my lunch break feeding my wife and children.” She giggles sweetly and nods. Just then, my mother comes breezing into the office.
“She’s talking to the social worker now,” Mom says. “She’ll have us paged when it’s time to talk to us. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“On the contrary, Mother,” I say, standing from my chair, “What was that? Were you trying to get me arrested? If that gorilla had even flinched in your direction, I would be in cuffs right now. What’s the deal with egging him on?”
“I wasn’t egging him on, Christian, I was challenging him,” she corrects me. “Most bullies aren’t accustomed to people standing up to them, so when it’s time to put up or shut up, they usually shut up. He’s a classic bully. He uses words and bravado to push his way into situations, and most people back down from him. With Thelma, his weapon was her love and loyalty. However, when it comes to Jimmy, her love and loyalty is stronger. And for the record, young Mr. Grey,” she folds her arms and takes that stance again, “you all may not know it, but I hold a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.”
What. The. Fuck. Who is this woman and what has she done with my mother?
“What?” I exclaim. “Since when!?”
“Since I was sixteen,” she says, flippantly. “Why do you think I insisted on an instrument, a language, and a martial art—just to keep you flexible?”
“When do you practice?” I ask.
“Every weekend,” she says. “You just assumed that since I’m your mother, all I do is fix children and bake, but no… I confront and take down bullies, too. Trust me, he wouldn’t have gotten past that doorway, but I’ve seen his kind before. He wouldn’t have even tried.”
“So why did you let Mia off the hook?” I say with my hands on my hips. She frowns.
“Let her off the hook?” she asks, bemused. “I was under the impression that you enjoyed kickboxing, Christian.”
“Well, I do, but you still said that we all had to take up a martial art, and she didn’t have to…” I protest, like it’s going to do any good now.
“I couldn’t twist her arm,” Mom retorts. “If she wasn’t going to fight, what was I going to do—force her? Besides, she eventually came around.”
“Since when?” I ask incredulously, my voice several octaves higher than its normal tone.
“Since she saw me take my trainer down in the backyard once summer and decided that she wanted to be bad ass like her mom,” Mom says with a smirk. Son of a bitch—little, playful Mia. No wonder she effortlessly beat the hell out of the Pedophile last year. She was probably practicing.
“How proficient is she?” I ask.
“She’s a brown belt now,” Mom says. How did I not know this? “You underestimate the women in your life,” Mom adds, as if she were answering my question. Butterfly clears her throat, but doesn’t raise her head.
“Lunch, Mrs. Grey,” I order.
“I didn’t say anything,” she defends.
I go into the community room of the center in search of Jason. I run into Lawrence first.
“Where’s Jason?” I ask him.
“He’s over there.” He points to a small area off in the corner that looks to be another guard’s station—or it used to be a guard’s station. “He’s having a heated conversation with the vessel that delivered his child.” I frown.
“That’s a colorful and not very flattering way to refer to her,” I say with little sincerity.
“I’m being as respectful as I can only because she’s Sophie’s mother. Jason is supposed to get holidays with Sophie and apparently after ‘Thanksgiving with the Greys’ was foiled, Shalane is throwing a monkey wrench into Christmas.”
“She’s using us as a reason to keep him away from Sophie?” I ask, appalled. He shakes his head.
“No,” he says, “she’s been doing this for years.” God, that’s got to be torture! I can’t imagine having children and not being able to spend the holidays with them because my ex-wife is a spiteful, vengeful…
“Mrs. Grey would like a chicken Caesar salad. Any ideas where she can get one around here?” I ask.
“I’ll take care of it. Anything for you, sir?”
“If you can find it, a stacked club sandwich and some fries… and bring us some cola, lemonade, and some ginger tea if you can find it.”
“Will do.” He turns to leave.
“Do you mind if I ask you something, Lawrence?” He stops and turns his attention back to me, a little shocked by my question.
“Why were you so cold to Radcliff when you first saw him? Not that he didn’t deserve it, but you hadn’t even seen the guy before that moment.”
“I didn’t need to see him,” he replies. “I saw her.”
“That baby, man,” he says, familiar… like we’re old friends. He’s shaking his head in disgust. “That baby would not stop crying. He was in pain. He was cold and hungry and suffering. Of course, your first instinct is to put a bottle in his mouth, but I thought he was going to chew the nipple off with no teeth.” He shakes his head again. “His little fingers were white… almost blue. All she wanted to do was get a bottle in his mouth. She was almost dead herself. What kind of…” He trails off. “No human being should be forced to live like that! Nobody! But a newborn baby? A mother just after giving birth? I didn’t need to see him. I saw them!” And that’s all he needed to say.
“I completely agree,” I say, patting him on the arm.
The meeting with the social worker was brutal. Poor Thelma has to basically cut all ties with her husband and draw a battle line in the sand in order to get the assistance that she needs from the state. He has effectively become the enemy and they have to treat him like a “deadbeat dad.” No better for him, allowing his wife and son to live that way!
The issue is that the requirements of the state dictate that either you’re for me or you’re against me—there’s no in between. I’ve often taken issue with “the system’s” tendency to villainize an absentee father, but in this case, they are spot on. Radcliff’s actions in turning away assistance at every turn to the detriment of his wife and child were clearly not in the best interest of his family. So, as it stands right now, Mr. Radcliff is looking at a future of visitation and child support.
This does not mean that the family is irredeemable, of course. There’s always therapy, marriage counseling, and reunification meetings if the couple decides that’s what they want to do. Ultimately, the goal is the mother and father being together and raising the child successfully as a unit, but the operative word here is successfully—the other is unit. The conditions that she was living in were deplorable, and I mean to ask her how she found herself in that situation. She mentioned something about being a submissive wife, but surely, she couldn’t have been talking about the kind of lifestyle that Christian and I practice. Her situation shouldn’t be imposed upon a dog, let alone a faithful submissive that bore your child!
In the early afternoon, Christian and I enjoy lunch at the Center while he gives me a delicious massage of my ankles and feet. They are in torment today and I don’t think I’m going to able to endure this swelling much longer. I nearly fall asleep until he reminds me that we have a session with Dr. Baker before we go to Lamaze this evening. I have to admit, I’m not looking forward to this session, but I think it’s necessary. I can’t remember the last time I spoke to Dr. Baker just now. I just remember that we usually see her on matters about our marriage. He had another therapist before… I went to him for help once and something bad happened…
I remember breaking dishes and a cold park.
He didn’t like me and he made it known the first time he met me. No matter—we don’t see him anymore anyway.
The session with Dr. Baker was a bit harrowing… like swallowing nasty cough syrup that refused to go down and just kept coming up in the back of your throat. I had to rehash my feelings about the spanking and explain why I put the coats at every door. Apparently, she didn’t know that part. She agreed with Christian—and Ace—that this was behavior of someone that was traumatized and she was glad to hear that I removed the coats on my own. I admitted to her—as I did Ace—that I’m still remiss to go outside without a coat, because even though the coats are no longer at every door, there’s still that mental barrier that reminds me of what happened the last time I did it. It’s not like I break into cold sweats or anything. I’m just reminded not to go outside without a coat in inclement weather. Christian didn’t like hearing that and Dr. Baker is of two minds about it. I maintain that I went outside in the cold without a coat and endangered my health and indirectly, that of my children; this is simply a reminder not to do it again. Dr. Baker agrees that, in strict construction, this is true, especially in the context of our relationship.
“However,” she adds cautiously, “if going near an external door immediately makes you think of the consequences of a spanking, I’m sorry to tell you, but that’s PTSD, Ana.”
“PTSD?” I nearly shriek. “Okay, no offense, Dr. Baker, but you’re being a bit dramatic.”
“You said it, Ana, not me,” she defends. “You’re a doctor, too. How would you define it?” I’m so glad you asked.
“Exactly like I did,” I retort. “I’m not standing at the door, trembling, shaking, unable to move, and having flashbacks of being abused. I’m reminded that when it’s cold outside, I need a coat. Yes, that memory came with a spanking, but like you said—that’s the context of our relationship. If what you say were the case, every memory-recall incident that I have is PTSD, and I have a lot of them. In case you forgot, I recently lost my memory.” I glare at her.
“You’re too close to the situation, Ana. It’s hard for you to see it.” Now, she’s placating me.
“That’s exactly why I can see it,” I reply, “because I’m in here, and you’re out there. I’m not frozen with fear and indecision when I come to an outer door, Dr. Baker. If I look outside and it’s sunny and 80 degrees, I’m not going to say, ‘oops, coat.’ That’s PTSD. The fact that it’s cold outside and I say, ‘hmm, I need a coat,’ that’s not PTSD. That’s common sense. Yes, I failed to do it once; and yes, my husband spanked me, but it’s still common sense.”
“Why are you so defensive about this?” she says in that shrink tone that I’ve sworn that I would never take with a patient. It’s that “I’m right, and we’re going to talk about this until you realize that I’m right” tone. So I’m going to stab that tone right in the throat.
“Because I’m a doctor and you just misdiagnosed me!” I say, frankly, throwing her smarmy tactic right back in her face. She sighs, knowing that she’s caught and that tone won’t work with me, but she’s still not willing to admit defeat so easily.
“And this is why doctors make the worst patients,” she laments.
“You’re right,” I concur, “doctors do make the worst patients, but you were wrong, Dr. Baker. When a doctor gives me a diagnosis that I don’t like, I may frown and get angry, but I won’t contradict them if the diagnosis is correct. I will begrudgingly accept ‘traumatized,’ because had we been talking about someone else, I would have said the same thing, but right now, you’re wrong.”
“Ana, you’re the patient. How can you be so sure?” she says, emphatically. She’s so positive that she’s right, and suddenly, his name comes to my head.
Flynn! His name was Flynn!
Well, she’s no Flynn, I’ll give her that. She’s just incorrect right now. We all make mistakes and I’m about to drive hers home. I reach for my purse and open it to the middle compartment. Christian calls my name, but he’s too late. I’m already holding my purse open so that the good doctor can see my Beretta.
“I know PTSD,” I say slowly and in a low voice while she observes my gun, then makes eye contact with me, maintaining an impassive gaze. “I have PTSD, but not with this.”
The room is silent for a moment as I close my purse and sit it next to me. I take a deep breath and look at her again.
“I was raped, brutally beaten, and left for dead at 15 years old. I was in a coma for three weeks, my guardians at the time couldn’t have cared less if I lived or died, and many days, I wished I had. I’ve lived with that and dealt with that for nearly 15 years. The situations have infiltrated every facet of my life, but I’ve managed to maintain a full, healthy life nonetheless and help others in the process. However, I don’t have that inbred sense of ‘everything’s gonna be alright’ that everyone else does. Anytime anything really scares me, I mean really spooks me, I reach for my guns. I’m trained by a Marine and a 6th Dan martial arts specialist the kill or maim a man in several ways and I can disable an assailant in six seconds no matter what his size, even while eight months pregnant. Just after we first met, Christian watched me nearly kill a man for attacking me from behind.”
She looks over at Christian and although I don’t look at him, I know he’s nodding or something in the affirmative.
“I know PTSD, Dr. Baker. Unfortunately, we’re old bedmates, and this. Is not. PTSD.”
One thing I remember about Dr. Baker is that she’s not easily intimidated, not that I was trying to intimate her. She’s also not easily impressed or swayed. So this conversation that I just had with her had no effect whatsoever.
“While I understand that horrible experience you had left you suffering from a clear and obviously severe case of PTSD, this much less traumatizing situation has left you with a few symptoms of the disorder as well. While it may not be as severe a case as what you already encounter, it is still a slight form of PTSD.”
I shake my head and smile. She’s not letting down and neither am I. She’s all or nothing. She reminds me of a doctor who wants to prescribe morphine for a splinter.
“I disagree,” I tell her, “and I’m going to leave it at that, because we are two mental health professionals that have differing opinions on this issue. The difference is that I have personal experience with this condition. Do you?” I wait for her answer. She gives none. “I didn’t think so.”
“I didn’t say ‘no,’” she says impassively.
“You didn’t say ‘yes,’” I retort, just as impassively. “I expounded on my personal experience with PTSD. As a patient and as a professional, I told you why I feel it doesn’t apply to this situation. Your turn.” I clasp my hands and give her the floor. She examines me for a moment, then speaks.
“You’re right, Dr. Grey, I don’t have any personal experience with PTSD, but that doesn’t make my diagnosis any less accurate.” I shrug.
“Well, again, I disagree with your diagnosis, both as a patient and as a professional, but I’m not going to argue with you further.”
“Understood,” she says, and just like that the conversation is over.
And when I say over, I mean over.
She and Christian continue to talk about how the punishments have affected the marriage and our communication and lack thereof. While I show no hostility, I offer absolutely no participation. After about ten minutes, she acknowledges this fact.
“Nothing to say, Mrs. Grey?”
“No,” I say, matter-of-factly. Christian looks at me.
“Baby?” he says, examining my eyes. I give him a clear, guileless expression and he doesn’t know what to make of it, so he turns to Dr. Baker.
“Mrs. Grey has shut down,” she announces, kind of like it’s a shortcoming on my part, but I don’t even feel any animosity about it. He looks at me again, his brow furrowed.
“She’s right,” I say flatly and Christian gasps a bit. “You see, what we should be talking about right now is that I punished you based on one set of facts that you gave me. You left out some crucial details that would have affected the punishment that I imposed, most likely making it less severe. I’m having a bit of a problem with that because we agreed on ‘no punishment for punishment.’ Yet, it appears to me that you withheld facts from me knowing that it would most likely result in a more severe punishment as a means of alleviating your guilt for punishing me. Now, with me saying that—which you already knew—there’s no way for us to productively move forward with this conversation with her operating under the premise that I’m suffering from PTSD from your original punishment. To the observer, that totally skews my intentions for punishing you… to the left or to the right, depending on how you look at it. Did I hold back because I was afraid of retaliation once my time on the submissive seat came again? Or did I go completely gung-ho because of what you did to me when I was the submissive?”
“Very perceptive, Dr. Grey,” she admits. I turn to her.
“Don’t praise me just yet, Dr. Baker,” I say unmoved, “because I feel that this exercise is the equivalent of cutting open a patient and looking for cancer when he really has an appendicitis. You’ll never get to the bottom of what’s really wrong because you’re looking in the wrong place and worst of all, you’re not listening to the patient. If the patient tells the doctor, ‘hey doc, my foot is hurting,’ the doctor’s not going to go looking for a dislocated shoulder.”
“Oh, now, you’re being dramatic, Dr. Grey!” she retorts, and it’s the first bit of emotion I’ve seen from her all afternoon.
“Okay, let’s put it in a better perspective then. Earlier this year, I vomited all over a defense attorney in a courtroom full of people then passed out on the stand. I went home and took a pregnancy test that came up positive. I went to my doctor and I told her, ‘Doc, I vomited, I passed out, I took at test, it came up positive—pregnancy is a real possibility.’ What do you think she did, told me I had a hernia?” Dr. Baker sighs heavily, exacerbated.
“See, your reaction says a lot,” I tell her, now more animated, “because the difference between pregnancy and this thing…” I point feverishly and repeatedly at my temple, “… is that we’re talking about the mind. You can’t see this. You can’t point to a problem and identify it. The mind is complex and beautiful and terrifying and none of us knows what’s going on inside of it at all times—none of us—which is why. You have. To listen. To. Your patient!”
And suddenly, I’m Stoley. He didn’t know what was wrong with him, but slowly discovered what wasn’t wrong with him and was ready to end his life because he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. Everybody slapped a label on him, whatever conveniently fit, and they were all wrong. It was something so simple, and they were all treating the wrong thing—just because nobody wanted to listen.
I listened, and that’s all he needed… and it saved his life.
So, excuse me, Dr. Baker, but no—while you may be able to help my husband, you can’t help us.
“Well,” she says, folding her hands in her lap. “I guess we’re done for the day, then.” She looks at me, awaiting a response. She’s expecting surrender. I have nothing to say, lady. I’ve said it already. “Mrs. Grey?”
“Dr. Baker?” What?
“Do you have anything to say?”
“I’ve said it,” I reply. “Did you not hear me?” She shakes her head and chuckles, then proffers her hand to Christian.
“Good luck, Christian,” she says. Good luck? Smarmy bitch. Christian takes her hand and shakes, her shot not getting past him.
“Dr. Baker,” is all he says, looking at me in his peripheral. He stands and helps me to my feet. She clasps her hands in front of her, certain not to proffer her hand to me. No worries, there’s always a place for my hands. I rest them on my baby bump.
“Dr. Grey, it’s been…” she trails off.
“Enlightening,” I complete her sentence.
“I certainly hope so,” she says, still trying to jab at me.
“I know so,” I reply, but not for the reasons you’re poking at, doctor.
“Baby…” Christian cups my elbow. He’s had enough of the standoff. Quite frankly, so have I.
Knowing that we would most likely talk about what happened in the session on our way to Lamaze, Christian drives one of the Audi sedans while Jason and Ben follow in one of the SUV’s.
“That could have gone a bit better,” he says cautiously after an eternity of silence.
“A bit,” I say icily. Then I sigh, realizing that he’s not the bad guy here. “Christian, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the goal here. That session was a bit disastrous at best, but ultimately, it’s most important that we understand why we needed the session in the first place.” He sighs.
“I felt like I abused you,” he says softly, “like I needed to be punished for what I did to you.”
“Then you should have talked to me,” I tell him, “because I now feel like the true reasons for my punishment were now all lost in translation…”
“I know, and I’m sorry,” he interrupts me. “I can assure you that they were not. I promise you that your messages came through loud and clear. I didn’t think of spanking you during my punishment. I thought of all the ways that my behavior with Cholometes cost my family; I wasn’t thinking of the pain that I had caused in your punishment until the end, when it was all over. I think I may have subconsciously left out those details, I don’t know. I was hoping that Dr. Baker could help me work through that, but…”
“But what?” I ask.
“Well, you two just had the stand-off at the O.K. Corral,” he states.
“So?” I say. “I just don’t appreciate her misdiagnosing me. By her logic, every action that has ever bought about a reaction or a consequence has resulted in some form of PTSD, because let’s face it—we only learn that bad decisions are bad decisions because of their consequences. So the hundreds of billions of people who have lived and died and walked this earth and continue to do so and have had learning experiences from their mistakes, big and small, are simply walking, talking, breathing, functioning cases of PTSD. Her strict construction doesn’t allow for anything else. Do you see why that bothers me?”
“Yeah, but…” he trails off again.
“But, what?” He’s starting to irritate me.
“I can’t keep firing shrinks, baby,” he laments. Where did that come from? I look over at him.
“Christian, if I told you to start seeing Dr. Culley, would you do it?” he frowns.
“No!” he says in an obvious tone.
“Why not? She’s a doctor.”
“She’s a… lady doctor… I mean… a female… I mean, a gynecologist!” he’s stumbling over his words.
“Meaning she doesn’t really specialize in what you need,” I help him.
“Ya think?” he says, a bit horrified.
“Not every doctor fits every patient, Christian,” I tell him. “Dr. Culley’s my doctor, but she’s not a very good fit for you. I didn’t tell you to fire Dr. Baker. She does fine for you, but she’s no good for me. If you’re ever in a situation where I feel like you need to speak to someone and she’s not helping you, trust me, I’ll tell you if I see it, but I don’t see that yet.” He looks at me for a moment, blinking several times.
“Did you have to go through the whole gynecologist thing to make that point?” he says, obviously uncomfortable. I can’t help but laugh.
“Sorry,” I say insincerely.
After Lamaze, we have the Davenports over for dinner again and Chuck couldn’t be happier. It’s like he has a new lease on life. He’s moving around more without the wheelchair, still keeping it nearby since he doesn’t want to overwork his ribs. He’s really doing great, though. I can’t wait until he’s back on his feet again.
Tuesday is Christmas Eve and who’s left of the Davenports are pouring into Seattle. I have no idea how Nelson and Christian have managed to keep this away from Chuck, but they have. I’m only spending half the day at Helping Hands to make sure that everyone is settled in and ready for the holiday, then I’m going home. I really hate the fact that I can’t do my cookie bake this year, but my ankles say that it’s a definite no-go and it’s just too much work. Still, I miss my traditional Christmas Eve, for so many reasons. I don’t have long to lament my situation when Grace comes into my office with a strange look on her face.
“What?” I say. I know this is going to be bad, weird, or both.
“I know this is going to sound very strange coming from me, but I think you should give Courtney another chance.” My brow furrows. Who is this woman in my office pretending to be Grace Grey?
“Excuse me?” To say that my tone is incredulous is an understatement.
“Believe me, I’m the very last person to be a proponent for her and I can hardly believe I’m doing this myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that girl contrite in my life. I don’t know where she came from or what’s so bad about it, but I believe that she would rather shovel manure than go back there.” I shake my head and shrug.
“I can’t fix her,” I tell Grace. “She’s irreparable. She doesn’t want to be fixed. She wants to walk around in this little Courtney bubble doing whatever the hell she wants and treating people however she wants with her skewed view of reality. She’s waiting for her grandparents to die so that she can collect their fortune. That’s probably why they’re sending her back to East Hell or Midwest Purgatory or wherever the hell she came from. Maybe that’s what she needs. Maybe that’ll teach her to appreciate her life and the opportunity that she’s been given. She’s so callous, whatever situation her parents are in, I bet she doesn’t even speak to them. Addie sure doesn’t talk about them. Is this her son’s child or her daughter’s child? I don’t even know.” I shake my head again. “Let that situation fix her because I sure as hell can’t.” Grace pulls a chair up to my desk.
“Ana, there’s something else. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something else.”
“I don’t care what else, Grace. It’s not my problem anymore…” Just as I’m finishing my sentence, Courtney comes around the door frame. She looks like hell! Well, I shouldn’t say that she looks like hell, but she doesn’t look like the bratty little bitch that I know. She’s wearing a pair of plain jeans and a plain gray sweatshirt. She looks like she’s been crying for days.
I would normally look at someone in this condition and feel some kind of sympathy, but right now, I feel absolutely nothing. I don’t think I’ve felt this kind of stoic nonchalance of someone’s obvious pain since… since…
… since my mother came to Seattle.
“I don’t know why you’re here,” I tell her. “There’s nothing I can do for you.” I look back down at the documents on my computer. I see movement and then I hear Grace’s voice.
“Just talk to her, Ana… please.” Grace has surrendered her seat to Courtney. How can she expect me to talk to this woman? I want nothing to do with her. Seriously! There’s no vendettas, I don’t want revenge. I don’t want to see her suffer. I don’t care if Karma kicks her in the ass or not—I simply want nothing to do with her.
Oh, hell. As if Courtney’s day wasn’t bad enough, I hear Mia calling for Grace. I so badly want to call out “She’s in here, Mia,” but like I said, I really don’t want revenge. I just want this girl gone. Much to Courtney’s dismay, Mia soon locates her mother.
“There you are, Mom. I tried to call you, but you wouldn’t pick up and I have a bit of a crisis that needs…” Her words trail off as she turns to her left and sees Courtney sitting in the chair in front of my desk. It’s clear that she truly can’t believe her eyes. She’s stunned silent for a moment—something I’ve never seen before.
“Hi, Mia,” Courtney says in a soft, mousy voice. Mia’s eyes sharpen and wider.
“It spoke!” she exclaims, pointing at Courtney. “Oh, my God! Did it speak? To me?”
Mia…” Grace chides gently in that way that often brings Mia to heel, but not this time. Mia turns her glare to her mother.
“Mom! Really?” Her only two words and Grace is sent into knowing silence.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Grey,” Courtney says. “She has a right to her feelings.” What exactly did her grandparents say to her?
“My feelings!” Mia scoffs. “You mean the feelings half of the general populace, right? Most of which, you’ve fucked.”
“Mia!” Grace is no longer gentle.
“What? Are we now pretending like you’re not a flaming, evil, wretched bitch?” Mia continues, ignoring her mother’s warning tone.
“That’s enough, Mia!” Grace snaps. Mia glares—and I mean glares—at her mother.
“I’m sorry, Mom, but when have my feelings for her ever changed?” Mia shoots, angrily. “When have I ever not made it clear that I can’t stand the air that she breathes?”
“That does not give you the right to be crude and classless!” Grace scolds.
“I’m crude and classless!” Mia repeats in disbelief. “Well, I guess that’s better than being a whorish, nasty, easy, thirsty, thieving sure thing that will sleep with anything with a pulse!” she snaps at a dismayed Courtney before turning back to her mother.
“Don’t worry, Mom. I’m done being crude and classless!” she seethes before turning on her heels and marching out of my office and down the hall. We never even got to the reason why she came looking for her mother in the first place.
“Boy, you really don’t have a fan club, do you?” I hiss at Courtney, who just looks at her hands and remains mute. I look back at Grace. “I don’t know what you expect me to do because I tried to help her and it didn’t work. I don’t have any more time or energy for this. I’m ready to enjoy Christmas with my family. I don’t want to deal with her.”
“Courtney has made it clear that she has learned her lesson and she really wants to be a better person. Against my better judgment considering my experience with her and my daughter, I believe her.”
“I realize that she made things uncomfortable for Mia, but she threatened me! Security is on full alert and I’m carrying again because we didn’t know what to expect from her!”
“I know,” Grace admits and I just glare at her. Who told her? Oh hell, who cares? She and Addie are friends, Christian’s her son…
“And you expect me to help her?” I squeak incredulously. “To even want to be in the same room with her? Mia gave her daggers. I have much worse in my repertoire and the ammunition to back it up!”
“Please don’t make me go back there,” Courtney finally speaks, her voice breaking. I’m staring at her like an alien being. “Please! I’ll do anything you say. I’ll sort garbage; I’ll clean; I’ll shovel snow. Just please, don’t make me go back.”
My eyes narrow. What the fuck is this?
“I don’t have time for your Academy-Award-winning performances, Courtney!” I hiss, remembering the wailing act Grace described from Nordstrom’s. She drops her face in her hands and begins to weep.
“Please…” Her cries are pained. “I’ll do anything! Please, I swear! I swear, I’ll do anything! Just don’t make me go back!” Her voice portrays agony and her tears are sincere. She’d walk through fire rather than go back to wherever the hell she came from…
And I still don’t feel a goddamn thing.
“So all this time,” I say, folding my arms and sitting back in my chair, “all this headache, this haughty attitude, this ‘I’m the Queen of the World’ bullshit…” Grace makes to say something and I hold my hand up to silence her. For one, I’m not Mia; and two, I’ve got the floor. I’m talking to this chick and she’s going to listen. “All this time I’ve been threatening your trust fund and all it took was the real possibility that you would go back to where you came from?”
She drops her hands in her lap, still sniffling and crying… and nodding.
“You threatened me and my safety,” I nearly growl. “You put my entire staff on full alert for your ass. My husband was ready to crack you in two with his bare hands!”
“I… know,” she confesses in stuttering breaths.
“Oh, you have no idea, young lady!” I snap.
“Yes, I do!” she says, raising serious—though red and puffy—eyes to me. She does. He sent her one hell of a message. Ha! Go, Baby, go!
“Yeah, you do,” I acknowledge, and just like that, this threat is neutralized. “I don’t need a damn slave, Courtney. You weren’t doing me any favors being here. I was trying to teach you something, to show you how the other half lives so that you could understand the magnitude of the lifestyle that you live and be grateful for the opportunities being afforded to you, but you already know, don’t you?” My voice is harsh and unforgiving. She chokes and covers her mouth, nodding as she cries into her hand. I roll my eyes.
“You can go now, Grace,” I say. I’m not playing with this chick and I mean it. I don’t have time or energy for these fucking games. Grace quietly leaves the room.
“What do you want?” I nearly growl at her. I don’t trust her and I don’t want her around me. She raises wary, watery eyes at me.
That doe-eyed shit doesn’t mean a damn thing. I reach into my purse and pull out my Beretta. I lay in on the desk, pointed away from either of us, the magazine in my other hand out of her sight. Her eyes grow wide.
“I don’t bluff, little girl,” I tell her, “and I don’t make empty threats. If that’s what you were doing, I advise you to stop right now, because this is what yours caused.” She swallows hard and stares at my gun. “Not a Magnum, I know. After the meeting with my husband and our security team, we decided that six bullets just may not be enough.” She raises her eyes to me again. “What. Do you. Want?”
“I…” She reaches for my desk and I snatch my gun. In three seconds, the magazine is in and a round is in the chamber. I never take my eyes off of her in the process. She starts to shake.
“T… tissue!” she says, a shaky hand pointing to the tissue box on my desk. I shake my head infinitesimally and twist my lips. Totally empty threat—amateur. I pick up the tissue box and throw it at her.
“A bit of advice,” I begin as I release the magazine from my Beretta. “Don’t make any sudden moves in the direction of someone’s firearm…” I slide the chamber and release the final round. “… Especially after you’ve threatened them. I could cost your life if you’re dealing with someone with less control.” I load the single round back into the magazine and place the gun and the ammo back in my purse. “How ridiculous does that look?” I say. “I’m a pregnant woman—a very pregnant woman—carrying twins and about to blow any second, and I’m walking around with a goddamn Beretta. Isn’t that fucking ludicrous?” I stare at her and wait for her to tell me what the fuck she wants from me. She dries her eyes and her face and holds her head down.
“I’m sorry, Ana,” she says in a small voice. And? So? Yes, you are, very sorry. Extremely sorry. Now what? She’s quiet for a moment, but I’ve said everything I have to say to her. It’s her turn now. Noting my silence, she raises her eyes to me.
“My parents live in squalor. They always have. I didn’t know how bad it was until my grandmother showed up and took me away from it. They always told me that she was rich, but that she didn’t want us. I never believed them. Why would she not want us? So I convinced myself that it was a lie, that she didn’t exist… until she showed up and took me away.
“When we first got to Washington, I was still thinking like I was in Chuktapaw.” Chuckawhat? She smirks sadly at my expression. “Don’t even strain. It’s a little broke town in Kentucky. You won’t even find it on a map. When I put that shirt in Mia’s bag, I was going to tell her about it later. I had spent all my money and I really wanted it. I didn’t expect for us to get caught. When we did, I panicked. That’s why she hates me.”
“I know,” I say, stoically. Get to the point, Melon Girl. I don’t have all day.
“I can’t go back there, Ana,” she says. “Drugs and filth and crime and… I can’t go back to living that way.”
“You’re an adult,” I reply flatly. “You’re 24 years old. You can live wherever the fuck you want.”
“No, I can’t,” she retorts. “It’s like you said, I have nothing—no skills, no experience… I never held a job. I haven’t gone to school. I have nothing, ‘no human value whatsoever except parts.’” She drops her head again. That last part was recited, I can tell.
“Where did you get that tidbit of knowledge?” I ask sarcastically.
“My grandmother,” she chokes, just above a whisper, holding her head down.
“Wise woman,” I spit before I can catch myself, but then the meaning of the words floats back to me. Her grandmother told her that she has no human value whatsoever except parts. Parts. That means that she would have to die and her body parts be divvied up—then, and only then, would she be of any value whatsoever. That’s pretty damn harsh.
Yet, I’m still finding it hard to locate that sympathy button.
“I already know what you’re trying to teach me,” she admits. “I know about the misfortunes of the people on the other side of the tracks. I used to be one of them. I need to learn something else.”
“What?” I snap. “What do you need to learn?” Her eyes are glassy again.
“I don’t know,” she squeaks, “but I need something else… anything else, but I need something else! Please!” And it’s the first sincere thing I feel she’s said all day.
Fucking fucking hell fucking shit hell fucking bitches fucking hell!
“You owe me,” I say through clenched teeth. “You stole my peace and you fucking owe me. Why should I help you now?”
“You shouldn’t,” she says, somberly. “Hell, I wouldn’t, but I hope you will anyway.”
I am literally grinding my teeth.
“C’est vraiment des conneries!” I exclaim. This fucking brat bitch! Way to ruin my goddamn holiday! “Merde! Merde! Merde! Putain! J’en ai ras-le-bol! …”
I have no idea how long I ranted in my native tongue—from a prior life, I think… or something like that—but it must have been a while. When I look up, Marilyn and Ben are both cautiously peeking inside the door and Courtney is looking at me like she has just seen Jesus.
“Go find somebody to help in this joint for the next two days,” I say to Courtney through my teeth. “I don’t care who! I don’t what you do! Just find a fucking purpose! I don’t even want to think about you until after Christmas!” She nods and stands. She turns to thank me, but thinks better of it when I narrow my eyes at her.
“Courtney!” I bark her name as she gets to the door and she turns around to face me.
“If you cross me again, just one more time, you’re gonna get a three-man beatdown, because I swear to God that me and my babies are going to beat your motherfucking ass! Are we clear?”
“Yes, ma’am,” she says without missing a beat and leaves the office. I’m nearly taken aback by the show of respect, but too pissed off to care.
Christian is not going to like this.
A/N: I know that everyone was expecting a showdown between Radcliff and Ana. However, there couldn’t be a showdown between Radcliff and Ana. It had to be between Radcliff and his wife, because he wasn’t listening to anybody else. He wasn’t even listening to his wife in the beginning. His only power over her was in the fact that she stayed and listened to him. He never beat her, but she stayed and obeyed. The only way that she could get him to hear her was to leave.
Not only that, but as big and bad as Radcliff pretended to be, Christian had him sweating and shaking before they left Grey House. He didn’t dare cross Ana too hard.
Don’t bother trying to translate Ana’s ranting. She’s just cursing a lot.