If you do not receive an email from my new emailer, let me know. The list has been completely moved now.
Please save my email address to your contacts so that you can continue to get emails from the list.
If you are not getting the email, please check your spam folder and if you have Gmail, check in the “promotions” folder.
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 71—The Gatekeeper
Since I prepared to be in court for She-Thing all week, I won’t be going to Helping Hands, so I gave Marilyn the week off. Just after breakfast Thursday morning, I receive a call from the dreaded area code… 702.
“Who’s calling?” I ask cautiously.
“This is Herbert Larson from the Nevada Attorney General’s office.” Oh… still haven’t gotten that subpoena.
“Yes?” I say. He pauses, no doubt noting my cold tone.
“I… just wanted to call you and tell you that Michael Underwood’s trial was set for Monday…”
“Was?” I interrupt him.
“Yes, was. He saw the charges and the witnesses against him and he took a plea.” Another fucker gets to take a plea.
“Really? And what did he get?” I ask, stoically.
“He pled to second degree kidnapping, battery without a weapon, and involuntary manslaughter with a maximum of twenty five years on all counts. He got eighteen with a possibility of parole in fifteen.” Whoa!
“Oh.” I say, truly surprised. “Okay.” I couldn’t say much more.
“I’m calling because your subpoena was returned unserved,” he says. “We tried your last known address and your office. There was no contact at either location.”
“Why didn’t you try my attorney’s office?”
“He couldn’t be reached at his office either, Ma’am.”
“Geez, you have old addresses for everybody?” I lament.
“I’m afraid so,” he says. “We couldn’t legally serve anybody anywhere.” I nod.
“I’ll get you updated information today. I’m sorry about that, Mr. Larson,” I say.
“No apologies necessary. I just thought you might want to know that the first official sentence has been handed down in your case.” I sigh heavily, then frown.
“What about Carly Madison-Perry?” I ask. “I thought she had taken a plea, too.”
“Her plea is still pending,” he says. “It’s due to be finalized within the next week. Her keeping it is dependent on her testifying in court.”
“And what if everyone does what Underwood does and pleads to a lesser charge? Will she still get to walk even though she never had to testify in court?” There’s a pause.
“I can guarantee you that it’s not a ‘walk,’ Mrs. Grey,” he replies. “However, based on her willingness to testify, she would still get her plea bargain. Her pleading to a lesser sentence for the highest allowable charges means that it goes on the books that these crimes were actually committed and that anyone associated with the incident has to be associated with the commission of these crimes and not a lesser act, unless their specific action indicate a lesser act. This is why she got first degree kidnapping and Underwood got second.” I nod as if he can see me.
“So, with Carly’s testimony, I need you to help me understand why you won’t just take all of these people to trial. It’s an open and shut case.” I hear him sigh.
“Under normal circumstances, you would be correct, Mrs. Grey. However, these circumstances are far from normal. We haven’t notified you of every development in this case, but so far, there have been seventeen arrests made with people rolling over on their friends. Some suspects have fled the state or are in hiding waiting to be apprehended. To be honest with you, every jurisdiction has a finite amount of resources that can be expended for all cases being investigated. To that end, if we can save the taxpayers some money and preserve our resources by still getting double-digit mandatory sentences on these pleas, I would consider that a win. Wouldn’t you?”
The way he explains it makes perfect sense. I’ll just have to make sure that any of these monsters that do live long enough to see the outside of a prison don’t get to see their fortunes once they’re free. It’s the high living and the sense of entitlement that caused most of these bastards to participate in this shit in the first place. Others were just too busy following the leader.
“Am I allowed to know what Carly’s plea is?” I ask, certain that I won’t like the outcome. Larson pauses again.
“Mrs. Madison-Perry is being charged with conspiracy to kidnap in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree, battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, manslaughter for the fetal homicide of your unborn baby, and attempted murder…”
“So, they both got the kidnapping charges.” It’s a question that comes out as a statement.
“We’re hoping they’ll all get it,” he says.
“Well, Underwood got eighteen years. What kind of charges is she looking at?”
“Under normal circumstances, kidnapping carries a life sentence on its own. Like Underwood, she reviewed the odds against her and decided against taking her chances in court. If she delivers as promised, she’s looking at thirty years with no parole and a $35,000 fine.” Holy cow, Batman! I hiss into the line.
“She could have gotten life, huh?” I ask. There’s silence. “I think thirty years sounds fair. And she’ll never be able to come up with that $35,000.”
“Then she’ll most likely get more time for that,” he says.
“Even better. I’ll email you to correct addresses for myself and my attorney. Thank you for explaining this to me, Mr. Larson.
“My pleasure.” I end the call after pleasantries and almost call Christian to tell him the news when I see my father’s number in the call logs. I dial his number instead. It’s the middle of the morning, so his phone has to be on.
The caller you are trying to reach has chosen not to be disturbed at this time. Please try your call again later.
What. The. Fuck!
I look at the phone to make sure that I’ve dialed the right number. It says that’s Daddy’s phone. But it can’t be! That’s the blocked number message. I dial the number manually. Maybe there’s a technical reason for it.
That fucker’s voice is taunting me again.
I shake my head. Something is terribly wrong. I go in search of a landline in the house and dial my father’s number again.
The caller you are trying…
I hang up before the message completes. Panic stricken, I go in search of Gail. I find her in the kitchen going over the shopping list with Mrs. Solomon. I try to act calm.
“Gail, can I borrow your phone? Mine’s on the charger.”
“Sure, dear.” She puts her phone on the counter without hesitation and goes back off into the pantry.
I dial Daddy’s number hoping that I would get the same message from Gail’s phone that I received from my phone and the landline. I didn’t. It rings—three times, then he answers.
“Daddy?” I say, uncertain. His answer is swift.
“Can’t talk now. Busy.” And the line goes dead. I’m stunned. He’s shutting me out. My father is shutting me out. In my whole life, my father has never, ever shut me out… but he’s shutting me out. I stand there for a moment. I’m lost. I don’t know what to do next. First Valerie, now this? The world is ending… the world must be ending! What kind of cruel joke it this?
My stomach burns. My chest aches like someone is beating me with a sledgehammer. Daddy is shutting me out. He blocked my phone numbers. He won’t accept my calls. Even Mandy won’t talk to me. I can’t get air. The walls feel like they’re closing in on me. My world is truly ending. How will I ever survive this? I’m going to die… I feel like I’m going to die… I can’t take it… I’m not strong enough…
This couldn’t be happening. This could not be happening! I look around for Gail, but she must have stepped into the pantry. I put her phone on the counter and head for the mudroom. I stand there lost for a moment, but see my keys on the hook next to the other keys for the other cars in the garage. I grab them and head out the door. I’m on autopilot. The windows are tinted, which is good, because when I drive to the gate, Ben just opens it and lets me out. I head towards the bridge. I don’t know where I’m going. I just… drive.
“Boss… we got a problem.”
Boss… shit, what’s wrong? I get a sinking feeling when Jason comes into my office just past noon. He only calls me Boss when it’s something person.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“I just got a text from my wife… Her Highness is MIA.” I frown.
“I don’t get it. You got a text from your wife that Butterfly is MIA?” he nods.
“Just now. I’ve got the boys looking into it, but she’s definitely gone. She came into the kitchen about three hours ago asking Gail to use her phone. Gail thought nothing of it and just let her use it. She saw her phone on the counter as she was doing something with Ms. Solomon and thought nothing of it. Her Highness said her phone was dead.” I knew that wasn’t true because her phone was on the charger right next to mine when I left this morning. “When the babies awoke, Her Highness wasn’t there. Two-way communications says she’s not in the house.”
“She could be out by the fire-pit or something. Has anybody tried to call her?” I say. Jason rolls his eyes.
“You know we did, sir. Her phone is still in the bedroom… along with her purse,” he says somberly. “And her car is gone.” I bolt out of my seat.
“How do you know her car is gone?” I ask.
“Ben let her out of the gate. He assumed Chuck was with her. Chuck is not.”
“Shit!” I hiss, thrusting my hands into my hair. She left her purse, her phone, the babies. Was she kidnapped again?
“Did you activate the tracker on her car?” I ask. Jason scratches his chin. “What?”
“Her… car hasn’t been equipped with a tracker,” he says, meekly.
“What?” I roar. “That car is going to have the babies the goddamn most and it hasn’t been fitted with a goddamn tracker?”
“I think they were so preoccupied with getting the spec right that somebody forgo…” He pulls his phone out and frowns.
“What?” I ask.
“Gail just thought to call the last number dialed on her phone. It was Ray. He was more than a bit gruff with her. Is something up with Ray?” I roll my eyes.
“Yes,” I say, pulling my phone out call Ray. “Give me a minute.” Jason nods and leave my office.
“Hello?” Ray answers.
“Ray. It’s Christian. Have you seen Ana?”
“You gotta lotta nerve calling me!” he hisses. I’m taken aback.
“What?” I say, clearly shocked.
“She told me about that crap you two do, like I’m supposed to be okay with it. What the hell have you gotten my daughter into?” He’s livid, and I’m caught off guard. I don’t even know how to handle this Ray.
“Ray, I… it’s not like that…” I stammer.
“The hell it’s not!” he snaps. “I wasn’t born yesterday! I’ve seen that shit! I’ve been around more than you and even Annie knows! I’ve been everywhere from Amsterdam to Pattaya to the seedy areas of the states. I’ve seen all the sick shit that goes on in those clubs and at those parties and in those dungeons and you can’t pull the wool over my eyes!”
Whoa! So, Ray knows what he’s talking about, but he still only seems to have seen the worst part of it.
“Ray, those places you’ve been, you’ve only seen the most horrible stuff. It’s not like that with us, I assure you…”
“Don’t give me that shit! There’s no soft way to abuse a woman! Beating and caning and ropes and shit! And to think—my daughter is involved in this garbage!”
Was this what Butterfly heard? Is this how he spoke to her before he disappeared?
“Whatever you may think about my and my wife’s lifestyle, I can’t find her and I just want to know the last time you’ve seen her.”
“Good! I hope she’s left your ass! I hope she’s left this whole sick situation!” He can’t hear beyond his own hatred and anger and now, I’m sure this is why I can’t find Anastasia.
“Raymond!” I snap, my wick short. “My wife is missing.” My voice is short and curt, my words clipped. “She doesn’t have her phone or her purse. She hasn’t left me because our children are still at home. She could be in danger. Have you seen her?” He’s silent for a moment.
“No. I haven’t,” he says in the same clipped, angry tone he’s been using for the entire call. No concern for her whereabouts; no reaction to the ominous details I just gave him; nothing that I would expect from a father… much less a Marine. My heart sinks. This is who she met before she disappeared. She idolizes Ray. In her whole life, throughout everything, he’s been her one constant, and now this. What’s worse is that in hindsight, she may not have even had to tell him about the lifestyle since that blonde bitch never said anything in court and nothing’s come from my testimony on Monday except a few blurbs about the abuse. Oh, God. If anything has happened to Butterfly, this is all my fault… the breakdown of her relationship with Ray, the possible public humiliation, all of it… all my fault.
“Do you hate your daughter, now, Ray?” I ask him.
“No, but I hate you for what you’ve done to her!” he snaps without hesitation. Another closed mind. I should have seen this coming.
“Fine. Hate me, but don’t make her pay for it,” I say flatly.
“You’re the last person that can say anything to me about my daughter right now,” he hisses. “You should be glad I don’t get some of the guys from one of my sites to just come down there and beat your ass!”
“Do that if it makes you feel better, but don’t punish Anastasia because of how you feel about me.”
“Don’t you try to take that high road with me, Grey!” he snaps, angrier than I’ve ever seen or heard before. “You’re a sick fuck and I’ll never forgive you for what you’ve turned my daughter into!” I sigh heavily.
And another one bites the dust.
“I thought you knew,” I say softly, defeated. “I thought you knew how much I love her… that I would gladly lay down my life for her. I thought I proved it when I beat the hell out of your best friend and ended up in the hospital.”
He’s fallen silent on the other end of the line.
“I thought you knew that I could never, ever hurt her… that I would do anything for her. I thought I proved that when I turned the state upside down when she was kidnapped; when I flew to Green Valley and hunted down the fucker who raped her and the monsters who beat her and killed her baby; when I stood with you against her mother and that abomination that she married when they showed up at the hospital; when I sat by her side ready to fight you and anyone else who tried to take her away when she laid catatonic in my bed for three days.
“When I stood in that office ready to take that bullet if it meant that crazy bitch was not going to shoot my Butterfly; when I turned her into Cinderella and married her in a castle because she wanted to be a princess; when I signed her name to half of the company that I built on my back with my own blood, sweat and tears because I love and trust her that much… with my life!”
I don’t think he knew that last part.
“I thought I proved it when I stayed by her side and cried for twelve days when she was in a coma and refused to leave her until they kicked me out and banned me from the room even after she didn’t remember who I was. I really thought you knew that she is my whole life and I could never abuse her or mistreat her or misuse her. I thought you knew me better than some sick motherfucker that would just tie her up and torment her for my own enjoyment!” I bite out—angry, hurt tears now burning a trek down my face.
“Most of all, I thought you knew her better,” I choke. “I thought you knew that the Anastasia Steele that I met would never stand to be abused, hurt, or deliberately mistreated by anybody, much less someone who claimed to love her! After all that she’s already been through, I was certain that you knew she was much stronger, much wiser than that! I’m so disappointed to find out that after all this time, you don’t know.”
I swallow back my trepidation for the fact that I’m talking to Ana’s father and continue.
“You want to judge me for the lifestyle that I came from, fine. You do that. I won’t lie—it hurts. I thought you knew me better. I thought you knew what she meant to me, but clearly, I was mistaken.” I hear my voice shaking and I can hardly believe how affected I am that not only has Ray bought into the crap that he’s seen and heard about the lifestyle, but that he doesn’t know me well enough or trust me well enough to believe that I wouldn’t do that deviant shit to Anastasia.
“I misjudged you,” I say through angry tears. “I knew the rest of the world would judge us, would jump to conclusions, but I didn’t think you would. In the end, I always thought we… or at least she… would have you. I guess I was wrong.”
My heart breaks for Butterfly. He’s never going to come around. He thinks I’ve soiled her… changed her. He doesn’t want anything else to do with us. I wipe my eyes with the backs of my hands and swallow hard.
“I won’t bother you again,” I say to the silent line before ending the call. I thought Butterfly may have been exaggerating when she told me about her father’s reaction to the news, but she wasn’t. It was just as bad as she said it was—worse, even, and I hurt for her right now. I won’t even tell her about this conversation. It would only make matters worse. Right now, I just have to find her.
I straighten my face and clothes as much as I can and kick myself for not knowing that something more was going on when I left the house this morning. Before I call Jason to tell him about Ana’s last contact, I call Al.
“Allen Forsythe,” he answers.
“Al, Ana’s MIA. I’m sure it has to do with Ray. Where would she go?” I just get straight to the point.
“Wait a minute. What?” I sigh heavily.
“Please don’t make me go through this,” I say, scrubbing my eyes, already weary. “Ana’s missing. I believe it’s because she fought with Ray. Where would she go?” The line is quiet for a long time. I can’t stand it. I end the call and call Jason.
“It’s Ray,” I tell him. “It has to be. He was cold and cruel when I talked to him. If he was half as horrible when she spoke to him, I don’t know where she is.” Jason sighs.
“I really thought we put a tracker on her car,” Jason says.
“I thought we did, too. Whose job was that?” I ask. As I’m deciding whose head will roll for forgetting one of the fundamental things needed on every vehicle I have ever purchased, my second line is ringing. Al is calling me back.
“One second, Jason,” I say and I change lines to answer the call. “Yes?”
“Has anybody checked the aquarium?” he asks.
“She wouldn’t go to the aquarium,” I say, trying to remain calm.
“She went to the aquarium the day before your wedding day,” he retorts. “Has she ever fought with Ray while you’ve been together?” he asks. I’m silent. “Have you checked her condo?” I hadn’t thought of her condo.
“No, I hadn’t thought of that, either. Any other suggestions?”
“I’m assuming she’s not answering her phone and you’ve tried to track it?”
“She doesn’t have it… Or her purse. They’re both at the Crossing,” I say, trying to stamp down the same rising emotions I had when David kidnapped her. There’s a knock at my office door. “Come in.” The door opens and Al walks through ending his call with me.
“I’m going with you to find her.” I know it’s no use trying to stop him. My phone rings again and I’m hoping it’s Butterfly. It’s Jason.
“What?” I ask, a little impatiently.
“I’m still here,” he says, and I forgot he was on the backline. I sigh.
“Allen and I are going to her condo. Send someone to the Aquarium. Fire whoever was responsible for getting the tracker put in her car and I mean I really want somebody fired. We could have discovered this when something terrible has happened to her and if something has…” I trail off. “I want somebody fucking fired, today, Jason,” I repeat. “I want my pound of flesh and I fucking mean it.” I end the call and walk out of the office.
The ride to Butterfly’s condo on Elliot Bay is silent. I’m driving and Al is in the passenger seat of the Audi I’ve procured from the office—one with a goddamn tracker, no doubt. I try to drive the speed limit, but my rising anxiety along with the reminder of Ray’s ire when I spoke to him is making that task a little easier said than done. I don’t remember the key code when I get to the gate, so Al has to remind me. I can’t describe the flood of relief that I feel when I see Butterfly’s Audi parked in her spot in the garage. I’m immediately overcome with emotion and I feel so light-headed that I literally have to stop the car right where it is and lean my head on the steering wheel.
I feel the car change gears and hear the parking brake engage. Moments later, Al is opening the driver’s side door.
“Go to her, Chris,” he says sympathetically. “I’ll park the car.” I raise a heavy head and see sympathetic brown eyes looking down at me. I nod, then exit the car.
I’m almost afraid of what I’ll find when I get to the condo. Surprised that my key still works, I open the door to hear the last chords of a song playing over the sound system in her apartment, only to hear it start over again— “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone.”
This is not good. I run through the apartment looking for her, afraid of what I’ll find. She’s in her bedroom, on the floor, sitting up with her back against the bed with boxes of various items strewn about—photo albums, pictures, mementos… There are pictures of her when she was younger with Carla and Ray; pictures of just her and Ray; pictures of Ray and Carla, her and Al; pictures of an old house with a swing; old cutouts of foreign lands; what looks like a box of toys and some swatches of material and some other nondescript items and knickknacks. There’s a half-finished bottle of wine on the nightstand and no glass, and Butterfly is weeping bitterly.
I come into view of her just so that she can see that I’m here, but she doesn’t raise her eyes. She cries and cries over some shirt she has in her hand—a very worn T-shirt and I can barely make out the letters on the front… USMC.
I want her to at least acknowledge my presence, but I realize now that she can’t. I push some of the items aside and make room for myself on the floor next to her. I don’t know how long she’s been crying, but I wish she would stop because she’s hoarse, now. She doesn’t react when I sit down. She just keeps crying. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her more broken except maybe the day she and Valerie broke up, for lack of a better word. My God… Valerie. All her constants are leaving her. Is it because of me? Is she losing everyone important to her because of me?
I gather her frail little frame onto my lap and hold her in my arms as she buries her face in what I can only assume is her father’s Marine Corps T-shirt and the tears starts anew. I vaguely hear Al come into the apartment and then hear him on the phone asking Ray what’s going on.
Don’t call him. He doesn’t care. All he cares about is that his little pristine image of his daughter has been shattered, and if she’s broken and falling apart, it doesn’t matter to him. She’s my responsibility now.
She cries and cries and cries and cries for I don’t know how long. I hold her and rock her, wrapped in a blanket after she starts shivering. My heart is broken for her and hearing her cry tears me into a million pieces. I can’t stop my own tears while hearing the anguish in her voice, so after a while, I just allow them to fall in her hair. She’s broken because of him and I’m broken because of her… so we just sit here, broken.
“Chris…” I hear his voice, but I don’t move. Butterfly still hasn’t stopped crying and I don’t know how to make her stop. “You guys need to eat.”
I think I smelled food earlier, but I can’t eat, not if she doesn’t—not right now, and she won’t stop crying. I don’t move. I just keep rocking her, hoping she’ll stop crying soon.
My own eyes hurt now and my throat is dry. My face is tight from tears falling and drying and falling again. My heart hurts for my beloved, for not being able to take away her pain… a pain so deep that I can’t imagine what it feels like. I cling to her again and kiss her forehead, trying to infuse her with the love I feel to give her strength and stop her tears. My phone has been buzzing incessantly in my pocket, but the world could explode and fall into the sea right now for all I care. My Butterfly is in pain, and I can’t stop it. I can’t do anything to stop it.
The sun has long since gone down and I just want her to go to sleep, now. I just want her to stop crying for a moment and sleep, but she won’t stop. I know that she’s exhausted—still clinging to that shirt—she can’t sleep… or won’t sleep. I’ve tried everything… rubbing her back, singing to her, nothing works. She’s been weeping for hours and I’ve cried with her for some of those—my eyes red and swollen, I know. The pain is a dead giveaway. I can only imagine how she feels.
Fucking hell, he called my mother.
“Christian, you have to eat,” she says softly. Sorry, Mom, not now. I wrap my arms tighter around my wife, who now cries soundlessly since her voice is completely gone. I can tell that her tears have started anew and it rips me to shreds. I start to weep again.
“I can’t make her stop, Mom,” I say through my tears, without looking up at her. “I’ve tried for hours, but she won’t stop.”
“I can give her a sedative,” Mom says. I shake my head.
“I don’t want to do that without her permission. She’ll just wake up crying anyway.” My voice is so weak that I barely recognize it.
“She’s exhausted, Christian.”
“I know,” I say, helplessly, “but she won’t go to sleep… and she won’t stop crying.” I sob. “I hate it when she hurts! I hate it! I can’t stand this!” My shoulders shake as I bury my face in her hair, weeping for her as she weeps for her loss. I pull her as close to me as I can, wishing that I could absorb some of her pain, but realizing that I may be transferring some of mine to her. I don’t know what to do. I hear the heavy footfall of male feet and know that Jason or Carrick is now coming to try to convince us to eat or go home. Convince her to stop crying, then maybe we can do something.
Both our heads shoot up at the sound of Ray’s voice. We’re both stunned, both tearstained, both exhausted as we gaze into his face. Confused green eyes look down at both of us before he squats down to us and stares for a long time in utter silence. This is the first time in hours that Butterfly has stopped crying. I can’t be concerned that it wasn’t me that couldn’t make her stop—I’m just glad that she has, though I think it’s because she’s stunned. Nonetheless, she’s not crying.
Ray stares from Butterfly to me and back to Butterfly several times in what seems like several minutes, I don’t know, but after close examination, his gaze softens when he looks at his daughter. Her lip trembles. Oh, God… Please, no more crying, Butterfly.
“I’m sorry, Sunflower,” he says, his voice cracking.
“Daddy…” her lips move, but nothing comes out. She bolts into his arms and sobs silently, her voice gone from crying all day. She clings to her father like life itself and he buries his head in her shoulder. I drop my head from my own exhaustion, taking in deep breaths and trying to clear my thoughts, and craning my neck from side to side, hearing and feeling the audible popping from the stiffness. I grimace from the pain. I feel a hand on my shoulder and wearily raise my painful eyes to see that it’s Ray. He says nothing, just looking at me with sad eyes. I nod and drop my head again and he gives my shoulder a tight squeeze. We don’t need any more words right now.
I manage to get some soup into my wife before carrying her exhausted body to the rainwater shower to try to relax her. She gratefully and silently allows me to clean her from head to toe, putting her hair in the Pocahontas braids again. I find a warm sleep shirt for her to sleep in and I strip down to my T-shirt and boxers. I don’t bother looking at the time; we’re both wiped out. We sleep at her condo that night, curled up in her bed in waterlogged exhaustion.
I’m the first to wake in the morning. We haven’t moved from the position we started in all night. I don’t want to move right now, but nature calls. I roll out of bed and relieve myself quickly. I need coffee.
I open the door to Ana’s bedroom and I smell food and hear a woman’s soft laughter. Not knowing which woman it is, I make to close the door to find something more suitable than a T-shirt and boxers. I look down and see a carryall and a garment bag on the floor at the door. I pick them up and bring them into the room. Butterfly has clothes here, though I don’t know if she can wear any of them, so most of these are most likely for me.
Inside the carryall are casual things—jeans, sweats, underwear, a robe. A suit and accessories are in the garment bag. I look at the alarm clock on the nightstand next to Butterfly’s bed. It’s after ten in the morning. I hope nothing important is happening today. I don’t remember any appointments on the books. I look at my phone and there are texts and missed calls from Jason, my mom and dad, Ray—all from yesterday and last night. That was the buzzing in my pocket. I put on my sweat pants and the robe over my T-shirt and boxers and go to the kitchen to find sustenance.
I find Amanda and Ray in the kitchen cooing over little Harry in his highchair. They pause when I come into the room and at first, I don’t know how to react. I feel like hell, like I’ve slept for three days and I could sleep for three more. I probably look just as bad.
“Good morning, Christian,” Ray says. Olive branch, I think.
“Good morning,” I say, my throat scratchy, looking for coffee.
“Jason brought some groceries. I made breakfast,” Mandy says. “Would you like some? Eggs and sausage and some toast.” I pause at the coffee pot.
“Yes, please… thank you.” I fed Butterfly soup last night and foolishly didn’t eat myself. My stomach lining is eating itself. I take a swallow of the hot black coffee trying not to scorch my tongue and savor the flavor of it going down my throat. Amanda piles a plate full of scrambled eggs and sausage links and puts a couple of pieces of toast on it before placing it on the breakfast bar. I tear into it like a bear. I’m famished. She and Ray continue their conversation as if I’m not in the room and I’m fine with that. Just let me eat. It’s not like I know what to say anyway.
Before I know it, the plate is empty and a laughing Amanda is placing another full plate of breakfast in front of me. I raise my eyes to her, somewhat embarrassed that I’m eating in front of her like a caveman.
“I’m… sorry,” I mutter. “I haven’t eaten anything since… breakfast yesterday.” I actually had to think about it to remember when I last ate.
“Don’t worry about it,” she says with a kind smile. “There’s plenty.” She turns back to the stove and cracks more eggs into a frying pan. I look over at Harry, making a mess of his scrambled eggs on his portable highchair. Your mom’s pretty cool, kid, I think to myself. I turn back to my plate and tear in again. I don’t raise my eyes to Ray. My last words to him were biting and I meant every one of them, but the air between us now is tentative.
“How did you sleep?” he asks, his voice cutting through the silence like a bullhorn. I swallow the eggs in my mouth.
“Like the dead,” I say honestly. I can’t remember the last time I cried myself to exhaustion. Even when Butterfly was in a coma, I cried and cried and cried until there was no water left in my body, but couldn’t sleep. I think it had to be when she left me and went to Montana.
“And Annie?” he asks, his voice soft.
“The same, I think,” I say. “Neither of us moved the entire night.” I take a drink of my coffee before shoving a sausage link into my mouth. He takes a sip of his coffee before speaking again.
“She always sleeps hard when she’s upset,” he murmurs. I stop chewing and put my fork on my plate.
“Yes, she does,” I say, staring at my uneaten food. “It’s one of her defense mechanisms; her way of running… without actually running.” I sit there in silence for a moment.
“You can say it,” he says. I raise my eyes to him, asking the question without asking it. “I’m an asshole.”
I stare for a moment, but say nothing. I turn my attention back to my plate, filling my mouth with food to avoid telling him just that. I had said everything I wanted to say to him about his behavior yesterday. I had no desire to revisit the topic.
“Yeah, I know,” he says. “You’re a better man for not berating me any further.” He drinks his coffee and I keep eating. I’m reprieved when I hear the door to Butterfly’s bedroom open, but horrified when she bends the corner into the kitchen. She’s grasping her head in obvious discomfort, head down and not looking where she’s going… and she’s headed face first into the wall. My body moves faster than my mind and I’m in front of her seconds before she goes “splat” into the wall. She whimpers slightly at the jolt.
“Wall,” I say quietly. “Your head hurts?”
“Um-hmm,” she mutters, so quietly that you can barely hear her. She’s holding her scar and I know that the blood pumping through that localized spot must be murder right now. I guide her to the seat between me and Ray—a bit of a buffer I think—and help her lay her head on the cold countertop. She protests a bit, but buries her head in her arms. I go to her bathroom and quickly retrieve two Advil and two clean washcloths. Returning to the kitchen, I lament that there is no cranberry juice, but pour a large glass of orange juice instead. I place two pieces of toast on a small plate and bring everything to the breakfast bar.
“Butterfly,” I say softly, leaning down to her ear. She acknowledges with a groan. “Advil.”
She lifts her head like an anchor and I put the pills in her mouth. I put the straw between her lips and she takes a sip.
“More,” I coax, and she sips some more. “Butterfly…” I chide gently. She takes several drags from the straw and I’m duly satisfied. I push the toast in front of her.
“Eat.” She has already buried her head back in her arms and groans in protest. “Just toast… please?” She clumsily reaches for the toast and takes a bite. I sigh with relief and move behind her. I begin to massage her neck, my fingers applying slight pressure along either side of her spine up the nape of her neck to the bottom of her skull. She moans appreciatively and takes another bite of the toast. Good girl. I reward her with more massage and after a few moments, her body starts to come to life.
“I’m sorry…” she says, her voice still hoarse and scratchy. I try not to stop massaging.
“For what?” I ask.
“For running off like that,” she says. “I wasn’t myself. I didn’t know what I was doing…”
“Ssshh,” I silence her self-chastisement, “I know.” I continue my massage.
“I should have listened to you, Annie.” His voice actually causes us both to jump. If I’m honest, I forgot they were there. I was laser focused on my wife and her pain, and she hadn’t opened her eyes yet. She tries to raise her head quickly, but the pain slows her ascent.
“Daddy?” she asks.
“How long have you been here?”
“We… stayed the night in the guest room,” he says.
“I’m here, too, Ana,” Amanda announces. Ana gestures towards the sound of her voice.
“Hi, Mandy,” she murmurs.
“Your brother is with us, too,” Amanda adds.
“Hey, Harry,” Butterfly says in a sweet, scratchy voice. Harry responds to the sound of his name with some indistinguishable cooing. Butterfly suddenly gasps.
“My babies!” she says. I put my hand on her back.
“Gail hasn’t called with any kind of emergency, so they’re fine, but I’ll call and check on them, okay?” I tell her. She nods.
“I’m a terrible mother,” she murmurs.
“That’s nonsense and I don’t want to hear you say that again,” I say softly. “You’re a wonderful mother. You can barely stand to be away from them. There’s been a lot going on lately.
“Yeah,” Ray laments, “and I didn’t make matters any better.” Neither of us deny what he says because it’s true… he didn’t. Butterfly is able to finally sit up
, and taste a few more bites of her toast.
“Would you like some eggs, Ana?” Amanda asks, and she shakes her head.
“Just a little?” I press. “Please?” She looks up at me and acquiesces, nodding to Amanda.
“Where were you when she was a kid?” Ray asks. Apparently, young Ana gave her parents a bit of trouble at mealtime. I take the washcloths to the sink and wet them with cold water.
“Why, Daddy?” Butterfly squeaks, and all activity in the kitchen stops for a moment. We all know what she’s asking, and it has nothing to do with his prior question. I continue with my task, wringing the excess water out of the cloths and bringing them back to Butterfly.
“Cold,” I say as I place one on the back of her neck. She jumps at the initial contact, then settles. I fold the other in fours and place it over her scar.
“Daddy… why?” Ray sighs and hesitates.
“You’re my little girl,” he says. “I couldn’t see you doing the things I saw those men and women doing in those clubs and on those sites. It disgusted me. It made me sick. My Annie. My beautiful little Sunflower—involved in this… debauchery! This abominable act!” He grimaces and sighs, shaking his head. “I couldn’t see anything else.”
“I tried to tell you that we didn’t do those things,” she squeaked. “There’s some really sick shit that goes on in the lifestyle. Hell, that’s why we’re in court now, because of a crazy, sick pedophile who brought children into it—children!” she says horrified. “I tried to tell you we are not into that crazy, sick stuff, Daddy!”
“I know, I know,” he says, chastised. “I couldn’t hear you. You’re my baby girl. Don’t you get it?” She shakes her head.
“No, I don’t,” she says. “I need you to trust me. I need you to trust that I know what I’m doing with my life—that I’m not weak and stupid, that I may need help, but I’m not stupid!”
“Listen to her, Raymond,” Amanda says, gently, but firmly. Ray settles immediately, the sentiment on his lips dying as quickly as it was born.
“Has my behavior ever been self-destructive, Daddy? Ever?” she demands, finding her voice. “Have I ever done anything to deliberately hurt myself? To deliberately jeopardize my well-being? Granted, there may have been some situations that some of you may not have liked, but just to be careless and self-loathing and deprecating—has that ever been me? Even when I was living in the depths of hell with my loser mother and her loser husband, was that ever me?” She finally pauses to give him a chance to answer.
“No, Annie,” he says softly. “No… that’s never been you.”
“Then why?” she wails, almost close to tears again. I want to hold her—to run to her and beg her not to cry anymore, I can’t take anymore, but I know she has to get this out… and she needs answers. “Why would you think so little of me, and then to make matters worse, you shut me out! Why?”
“Because I couldn’t understand!” he sobs. “I only saw horrible things! Heard horrible things! Knew horrible things! On leave in different areas as a young Marine, we watched those shows. We saw those shows. More than once, I wondered how these women could allow these men to do that to them. How they could subject themselves to the horrors that I saw! Things that you wouldn’t do to animals!” He wails as tears stream unrestrained down his face. “In some places, I found out that the women were forced to do this stuff because it was part of human trafficking! And here I find out that my daughter is doing it! What was I supposed to think?”
“You were supposed to listen to me!” Butterfly shrieks. “You were supposed to put aside your closed-minded, preconceived notions about what you heard and saw from others and listen to me! I’m a shrink, for God’s sake!” She’s losing control. I slide out of my seat and go to her. “You shut me out! After everybody who has deserted me in my life, you shut me out! How could you do that to me? How could you?”
I touch her shoulder and she spins around, thrusting herself into my arms and weeping bitterly. I envelop her immediately, wanting to shield her from the world and the pain. Little Harry is crying now, disturbed by all the screaming and commotion and Amanda has freed him from his high chair, attempting to soothe him. Ray sits in his chair, running his fingers through his hair and trying to find his words while he dries his eyes.
“I was hurt and confused, Annie,” he says, his voice still cracking. “We do dumb things when we’re hurt and confused; please understand. I don’t expect you to forgive me right away… you may never forgive me, but please… please, understand.”
Butterfly only cries harder and her knees start to buckle under her. I lift her into my arms and carry her to the sofa. The weeping has begun again. I just sit her on my lap and let her cry, ready to settle in for a long day. At least she got some toast, but she’ll never get rid of that headache.
My heart feels like it’s going to burst. I was so relieved to see my father last night—I thought I had lost him. It felt like somebody had died. If I could have driven back to my room in Montesano and sat on the swing or cried in my bed, I would have. I was losing my grip on my foundation; it was crumbling from under me. I was reaching for anything that could hold me together… pictures of Mom, him and Mom, me and him, me and Al, the old house, my many mental travels… Harry has Fuzzlewuzzers, so I couldn’t reach for that, but when I saw the Marine Corps T-Shirt that he gave me that I wore to sleep every night the first year we moved to Las Vegas and had to squirrel it away when Mom went rummaging through my things in an attempt to rid me of all things Ray, I lost it. I couldn’t hold it together anymore. My heart broke in a million pieces and bled through every pore of my skin—my eyes the most—and wouldn’t stop bleeding—until I saw him last night.
Yes, the bleeding stopped temporarily, and every cell in my body succumbed to utter exhaustion. I don’t remember much of anything after I launched myself into Daddy’s arms except waking up this morning in my old bed with Pocahontas braids and the headache from hell and knowing, once again, that my husband had taken care of me. Once he had gotten some food and some medicine into me and tenderly began to massage the throbbing from my head, the fog began to lift… and I wanted to know why…
Why, after all I had been through, would my father think that I would deliberately allow someone to arbitrarily abuse me? Why he didn’t just listen to me or ask me questions instead of jumping to conclusions based on his preconceived notions and biases? Why, when we already had to deal with the stigma of what others would think of us, he had to become one of those judgmental, narrow-minded, bigoted assholes that we would have to battle if and when this information ever became public? But most of all, why did he shut me down… turn his back on me and refuse to talk to me with no explanation, especially when he knew how I felt about being let down?
Mom? Edward? Nearly every authority figure from my childhood? Valerie? In some cases, the justice system? And now you?
And what’s his answer? That same narrow-minded bullshit. I’m supposed to understand that when I came to him and was honest with him so that he wouldn’t discover this shit in the media, he turned his back on me! Physically blocked my number from his phone so that I couldn’t speak to him. When I finally did get through to him, he didn’t say, “You have to give me some time; I can’t process this right now.” He didn’t even have the decency to yell and scream at me and ask me why and tell me that he didn’t want to talk about this; he would have to talk about it some other time. He just gave me that lame ass shit, “Can’t talk now, busy,” and hung up in my ear.
And I’m supposed to understand that my hero—my Daddy—shut me down because of this same petty, small-minded, Puritanical, uninformed, “it’s on the internet, so it must be true” thinking that I’ve already had to battle in so many aspects of my life. Yeah… okay… sure thing.
Christian holds me close to him, saying nothing, but rubbing soothing circles in my back. I want to stop crying. I’m tired of crying, but my heart is bleeding again and I don’t know how.
“Please, Annie,” I hear Daddy’s voice across from me, beseeching. “Please stop crying. I can’t take it anymore… please…”
“You made me feel like nothing!” I sob. “Less than nothing! Like nobody! I wouldn’t do that to you. Even now, I wouldn’t do that to you. Even now, as angry as I am, I would not do that to you! I would never do that to you!”
“I know, Annie, and I feel horrible for that. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I couldn’t see or think straight and I’m sorry. Please, Sunflower… please…”
His voice is so broken that I can’t imagine causing him the type of pain that he’s causing me. I do my best to pull myself together even though my heart is still breaking. Christian smooths my hair off my face and uses his robe to wipe my tears, kissing my eyelids as my weeping subsides. He’s so good to me, so tender and sweet. He makes all the bad feel better. I don’t know what I would do without him here.
“So, what happened?” I say with shuddering breaths, turning on my husband’s lap to look at my father. “What great breakthrough occurred that you suddenly understand that my husband doesn’t use me as some random piece of meat for his sadistic entertainment when the doors are closed?” I couldn’t stop the venom that seeps into the words as I speak them. Daddy sighs.
“I… talked to some people, and some people talked to me.” He throws a glance at Christian, then drops his head. Mandy is sitting on the ottoman next to him, comforting Harry, who was also crying moments ago. Daddy puts his arm around her waist. “They helped me understand how much of a narrow-minded asshole I was being.”
“But you couldn’t listen to me…” I conclude.
“I couldn’t hear it from you, Annie,” he says, “any more than I could hear it from the girls that I saw years ago, in those clubs—even more so from you, because you’re my little girl. I know you don’t understand that right now. I know you can’t. All I can say is that in the future, if your daughter comes to you with some really hard news for you to stomach, remember this conversation.”
I hope to God that I never make Minnie feel like this.
“No offense, Dad, but I can’t see ever making my daughter feel like this,” I shoot. Christian gives me a squeeze. I know this is his way of telling me to give my father a break. I don’t know if I can. I know I have to, because if I don’t, I’ll be treating him the same way that he treated me. That’s no good.
“That’s because she’s a baby,” he says. “Wait until she grows up and the big bad world starts doing horrible things to her… things that you can save her from no matter how hard you try.” His voice cracks and his head falls. “You’d put yourself in harm’s way before you let anything happen to her, but things keep happening and happening… horrible things! Things you wouldn’t wish on your worse enemy! And you’re powerless… you’re powerless to stop them…”
He’s not talking about Minnie. He’s talking about me. Of course, he’s talking about me.
“One monster is killed and another monster is right behind it!” he bites through clenched teeth, his fists so tight that his knuckles are white. “They just keep coming and coming and she keeps slaying them—and just when you think she’s found her solace…”
He trails off mid-sentence and weeps so bitterly than the pain in my heart is replaced with sorrow and sympathy for him. I crawl out of Christian’s lap and onto the floor in front of my Daddy. I wrap my arms around his neck and will him to stop crying.
“I just… can’t keep… the Boogeyman away,” he sobs. “I promised… to keep him away… and I can’t!” His body shakes in my arms as he weeps from his soul, and I let him. He won’t be able to hear me until he gets this out… gets over this initial wave, so I just let him cry.
It takes several minutes. Christian has time to get us all some water. Mandy has put Little Harry down to sleep, and I comfort my father, stroking his hair like I do my husband when he’s inconsolable—how I’ll most likely do my children when they cry. When he’s finally had his cry out, my nightshirt soaked with his tears, I attempt to garner his attention.
“You did keep the Boogeyman away, Daddy,” I say softly. “You’re the only thing that did. That’s why it hurt so badly when you shut me out. My ultimate protector, my hero, shut me out… and I was lost.” He raises his head and tired, red, tear-filled green eyes meet my sympathetic blues. “The things that happen to me are not the Boogeyman, Daddy. They’re horrible, horrible facts of life that happen to people every day—maybe not all the same people, but they do. The Boogeyman is what happens here.” I point to my head.
“I help chase the Boogeyman away from other people. Although I have other people in my life that help chase the Boogeyman away for me, you’re the Gatekeeper. You always have been. Even when you weren’t physically there, you were still the Gatekeeper because even though I was taken away from you, I knew you would never leave me. This is the first time you have ever walked away from your post.” I hold his face in my hands and look him in the eyes, refusing to allow him to turn his gaze from me. “Don’t. Do it. Again.”
His lips tremble and the tears begin to fall once more.
“I won’t, Annie,” he says with a shaky voice. “I swear to God I won’t.”
I hug him again and allow him to cry a little longer on my shoulder. Superman wasn’t so super right now and just needed to be vulnerable for a while. I may not ever understand or fully get over him deserting me at one of the moments where I needed him the most, but I do have to understand that he’s only human and we’re all flawed in some way. Even if I want him to be perfect, even Superman has his Kryptonite.
I’m in my bedroom with my pillow shoved into my mouth, trying not to scream as Christian brings me to my second orgasm. He has licked, sucked, kissed, and fingered my pussy hard, deep, and fast, causing me to quickly explode—once nearly moments after he touched me and again twenty minutes later. I’m panting on my bed, shivering from my releases and trying to catch my breath. He crawls up the bed and lies next to me, still in his T-shirt and sweats, kissing me on my cheek and neck.
“What…. brought that… on?” I ask between breaths. He kisses me a few more times, then hovers over my face.
“You’ve touched three products since you’ve been in this room,” he says softly while counting on his fingers. “Lotion, moisturizer, deodorant—you’ve dropped all three of them. You needed to relax.”
And relax I did!
“What about you?” I say, closing my eyes while his lips wander back over the skin of my neck.
“I’m fine, Mrs. Grey,” he says. “When I take you, I don’t want your father and your stepmother in the next room… because the pillow won’t do you any good.” He kisses me gently on the lips, but sensually on the lips. I sink into the delicious kiss, knowing that we both have to get up from here soon. That point was driven home when there’s a soft knock at the door. Christian groans into my mouth and after breaking the kiss and giving my bottom lip a little nip, pushes himself off of me to answer the door. I finally get a good grip on my moisturizer and pour some in my hand, spreading it evenly over my face. My hair has been in these braids all night, so I can either leave it there or take it down and let it flow into soft waves down my back. Did I have anything planned for today. As soon as I’m finished brushing my teeth, Christian comes into the en suite, his expression unreadable.
“What is it?” I ask.
“That was Amanda,” he begins, “Al called Ray because both our phones are dead.” Oh… yeah, I didn’t bring a charger with me. I assume he doesn’t have one either. Maybe I have one around her somewhere.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“The verdict is in.”
I had less than an hour to get myself presentable so that we could get to the courthouse. Al had driven Christian over yesterday, so we would take my car and rendezvous with Jason and the rest of the security staff near the courthouse. Daddy wanted to be there with me, but we insisted that this was no place for Little Harry. Mandy was pacified to take Harry home and start dinner to allow Daddy to come to court with me on the condition that no matter what the verdict, we come to the house in Kent afterwards for dinner. I was sure that I would miss my appointment with Ace anyway, so I called to let him know what was going on and to tell him that there was a lot that we needed to talk about. He doesn’t usually make house calls, but agreed to come and see me tomorrow at the Crossing since doing so would be easier than opening his office. I agreed to his terms. Seems I was making deals all over the place today.
I also had to make a deal with my wardrobe.
Size four waistline, size I-don’t-even-know boobs and ass… in a size four closet. Hmmmm….
I did find an outfit that would make due, but it clung to every one of my curves, much like that dreaded dress I wore to the fundraising fiasco last year. A charcoal gray high-waisted pencil skirt with side ruching that, had it been made of any other material, would not give me much purchase to move and a black mock turtleneck. I did decide to take my hair down, of course, and wore big, chunky silver jewelry. Someone had brought my purse and phone when they brought Christian’s things—they must have thought I had more at the condo that I could fit. That wasn’t completely untrue, but only a few things that might have been presentable for court, and not many that I could find in the time allotted.
I was forced—not so begrudgingly, I might add—to wear one of my pairs of insanely high-heeled shoes. I chose a pair of Giuseppe Zanotti black leather back-zip stiletto sandals with toe band, S-shaped vamp strap, and ankle strap embellished with silver-tone curb chain to match my jewelry. With nearly a five-inch heel, I was towering over most of the people at the courthouse. My Gareth Pugh bolero insert woven coat had a shawl collar and an asymmetrical hem that draped all over, giving it a suit coat look rather than an overcoat. The same charcoal gray as my skirt with a belted waist, I decided to wear it as just that.
We were almost late getting to the courthouse as Christian freezes when he had comes back into the room, unable to take his eyes—or his hands—off my ass wrapped tight that pencil skirt. When I get a glimpse of him in the mirror, I’m fucking panting. Black on black Hugo Boss suit and the signature black Italian leather shoes… even his shirt and silk tie were black. He’s mouth-wateringly beautiful, and when I turn around to wrap him in my arms and kiss him deeply while he shamelessly gropes my ass, we almost forget that we have somewhere to be.
But alas, we did. So here we sit, in a courtroom packed to the walls with people, only a few seats remaining in the very back. Al had managed to have the front row cleared for us, and no one would dare argue with Chuck and Ben as they stood guard, saving the seats until we got there. I am flanked by my father and my husband, each holding one of my hands, when they bring the Pedo-bitch back into the courtroom. She looks matronly today in a color I never thought I’d ever see her wear.
Well, it’s more of a cream… a sheath dress, very neat and professional. She still looks like a stank-ass, slutty, nasty, filthy, slimy, Pedo-Bitch She-Thing demon from hell to me.
“That can’t be the same woman,” Daddy says. “Is that the same woman?”
“Yeah, Daddy, that’s what she looks like without all the Botox, lypo, and chemical peels,” I say. Jason chokes back a laugh.
“She needed ‘em,” Daddy says. “She’s not very attractive.”
“She was once,” Christian admits, without looking in her direction, “but after you continuously do that shit, eventually it wreaks havoc on your body.” He has no malice when he says it; he’s just speaking the truth. Just like she’s done for the entire trial, she steals glances over her shoulder at Christian, this time, not bothering to scowl at me. That’s right, Bitch. Get a good look at him. Soon, you won’t be seeing him again for a long time, no matter what this verdict is.
A/N: 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