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 8—Bruised, Broken, and Distressed
My husband has avoided my presence ever since Pops’ energy boost waned on Friday and the rest of the family is sulking around in maudlin silence. Early on Tuesday morning, the all-points-bulletin was released through the house.
“Come quickly,” Grace says softly to everyone at the breakfast table. “I’m fairly certain Burt is leaving us.”
And where’s my husband?
Those of us at the breakfast table make our way up to Pops’ room. I’m relieved to find Christian there with Carrick, Herman, and Stanley. Pops looks frail and he’s gasping for air. He doesn’t look like he’s suffering, just like he was holding out until we were all here. Val has Mikey in her arms and Minnie is in the body wrap on my chest.
Yes, Pops, we’re all here.
He opens his eyes and looks around, then he closes them and quietly releases a long breath. Almost instantly, Mikey and Minnie both begin to cry simultaneously, causing Christian to turn his head and glare at me. I almost can’t breathe. It’s like I felt his essence leave the room and I’m suddenly sick to my stomach. The hospice nurse quietly walks over to Pops and checks for breath sounds in his chest with her stethoscope. She then checks for a radial pulse in his wrist, then again for a carotid pulse. She takes a deep breath and looks up at Herman.
“You can make that call,” she says softly. “He’s gone. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Mia starts to weep as the nurse removes Pops’ oxygen mask. Carrick sits there staring at his father’s body as Grace stands near him, her hands on his shoulders. The twins are utterly inconsolable. Stanley is the first after the hospice nurse to touch his father’s body—now quite peaceful and no longer suffering. He leans down and kisses his father on the forehead, a single tear falling onto Pops’ cheek.
“Hang loose, Dad,” Stanley says softly. “Hang loose.”
“You were right,” a familiar voice growls. “Are you satisfied now?” he snarls. That’s my husband… and he’s looking at me. I’m so taken aback, I don’t even know how to react to this.
“What?” is the only thing I can muster.
“You said he was dying and now, he’s dead. You were right. Are you happy now?” He’s… angry with me. It’s like he thinks Pop’s died because I said it, not because his kidneys have been failing for years!
“What are you talking about?” I ask, horrified, tears of grief and confusion falling down my cheeks. “He didn’t die because I said he was dying. He’s been dying for months. You brought his son out to see him. You knew this was coming!”
“He was getting better!” Christian accuses. “He was strong and breathing clearly! He was sitting up talking! Planning Mia’s wedding! Then you said he was dying and he died!”
“Christian!” Grace chastises him. “Stop this! Burt was dying long before Ana said anything! No one is to blame for this…”
But the damage is already done. The disdain in his eyes tells me that I might as well have climbed on Pops’ chest and suffocated him with a pillow while everyone watched as far as Christian is concerned. I finally break. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take his hatred and his contempt anymore. I’ve taken it for several days… more than a week, and I can’t take it anymore. He’s not thinking rationally and I know this—the mental health professional in me knows that this is grief and denial talking, but the spurned wife can’t take it anymore.
I leave the room and lean on the wall next to the door. I can’t breathe and there are shooting pains in my chest. I’m grabbing my breast, trying to make the pain stop, but it won’t. I hear my babies crying. I see Val in my face and she’s saying something, but I can’t hear her. I see Mia in front of me, tears in her eyes and her hands on Minnie, still strapped to my body.
“Catch the baby,” I hear someone say. It’s Elliot. Strong arms catch me, but they’re not my husband’s… that’s the last thing I remember.
I awake in Mia’s bed. Val is the first face I see, then Mia. No Christian.
“Anxiety attack,” I squeak. Mia nods.
“Yep,” she says.
“Why am I in here?” I ask. Mia rolls her eyes.
“Because my brother’s being an asshole,” she says. I frown.
“In what way?” I question.
“He’s locked his bedroom door,” she says. He’s not even in there, but…”
“I can’t go in either,” I finish her sentence. “He’s locked me out of the bedroom.” Mia bites her lip, but doesn’t answer. I rub my forehead with one hand and my scar with the other. “I need to be alone for a while,” I say without raising my head.
“Okay,” I hear Val say. A few moments later, I hear them leave the room and I do the only thing I know to do.
I ask God for strength through this and to guide me in what I should be doing. I thought I was doing the right thing by telling him the truth, but it has all backfired on me. What if Grace had told him this before I did? Would he now be shunning her? I have no idea what direction my heart should go and I’m just too tired to figure it out.
I stay in Mia’s bed until well after nightfall, partially wishing that Christian would come to me. Of course, he doesn’t. I get out of bed and go past the bedroom we had been sharing before I opened my big mouth. It’s still locked. I descend the stairs and see that the house is deserted. By now, Pops has been removed and taken to the funeral home and everyone has continued with their day… and evening. I pass the dining room to see that Elliot, Val, and my husband are all there having dinner.
They don’t see me, thank God.
I quietly slip out the French doors to the backyard and walk across the lawn to the gazebo. I look up at the stars and daydream about a more peaceful time… like our anniversary a little over a week ago. God, he was so attentive and so sweet. I curl my knees up to my chest and think about him holding me and kissing me that night. He was playful on the dance floor and we had so much fun. Maybe I should call Chuck to come and get me? I could go back to the Crossing… that feels a lot like running away, though… and the twins are asleep. I can’t leave my babies. I just have to tough it out.
Every corner of that house feels like it’s full of his animosity. Hell, I don’t even know where I’m going to sleep because Stan took the last guest bedroom. I’ll find somewhere to sleep, but for right now, I just want to think about happier times and get lost in the memories and the cool night breeze…
The sun is burning through my eyelids. I open my eyes to discover that I’m still on the gazebo. Fuck, did I sleep out here? I try to stretch, but my body aches too much. I go back into the house and climb the stairs. I try the bedroom door on the off chance that it might be unlocked.
I knock on Mia’s bedroom door, and she opens it, examining me curiously.
“I hope I didn’t disturb you,” I say, groggily. “I’m still locked out of the bedroom. May I please borrow your shower and some clothes?” She frowns deeply.
“Come in here,” she says, pulling me into the room. “I’m going to strangle my fucking brother…”
I feel refreshed once I finish my shower, but I still feel my husband’s animosity floating through the air towards me. We’re connected that way, and I can feel his anger. I try to ignore it… try to be strong… try to be available in a professional capacity for the family if anyone needs to talk, but no one really needs me. Everyone has coupled up and are leaning on each other for support. Even Stanley’s wife flew out and arrived this morning to be with him. Everybody has support, but me… nobody needs me, not even my husband.
That night, I’m back on the gazebo again, but this time, I just go out to call my daddy. I’m lonely and I need someone to love me, so I talk to him and tell him everything that happened. He tells me that men don’t really know how to deal with grief and emotion and that my husband will come around soon. He doesn’t know my husband. Christian can hold a grudge like Atlas holds the sky… or the earth… or whatever he’s holding. It’s late when I finish my call with Daddy, and I feel a little better, but still quite lonely…
“Ana! Ana, wake up!”
“Huh?” I squeeze my eyes together and then open them, the sunlight burning my pupils. It’s cold and I fell asleep on the gazebo again. Grace wraps something around me and I awake a little more, snuggling into the warmth of what’s covering me.
“How long have you been out here?” she asks, handing me a cup of coffee. I deliberately don’t answer, but take a sip of the deliciously warm coffee. My silence doesn’t get by her.
“Please tell me you haven’t slept out here,” she says. I don’t respond. “Ana…!” She sounds like a mother would… a scolding mother…
“His hatred is all over the house,” I squeak, my throat dry from breathing the night air. “I can’t stand it. We’re connected, Grace. We’ve always been connected, almost since the first day that I met him. He hates me right now… and my soul feels that. It can’t take it.”
“He doesn’t hate you, Ana,” she says, softly, as I drink more of the delicious coffee. “He’s hurt and confused and mourning right now. He’s angry that Burt is gone, but he doesn’t hate you.” I shake my head.
“Our souls don’t know the difference,” I murmur. “He’s locked me out of the bedroom.” Grace raises her eyebrow.
“Since when?” she asks.
“Since Pops died.” Grace pauses.
“Ana, that was two days ago. Where have you been sleeping?” I’m silent again. “Have you been sleeping on the gazebo for two nights?” she asks horrified.
“It was an accident the first time,” I defend, “I was looking at the stars and I feel asleep.”
“And last night?”
“I was talking to Daddy,” I say. Her face becomes stern.
“I’ve had enough of this!” she declares. “I’m going to talk to my hard-headed son.” I panic immediately.
“Please don’t. Please don’t,” I beg her. “He’s going to take it that we’re ganging up on him that I tattled on him or something it’s going to make a bad matter worse please don’t say anything to him please don’t…” She grabs my arms.
“Okay! Okay!” she says to stop my rambling. “Get in the house right now and don’t you dare sleep out here again or all bets are off!” I nod.
I get a glimpse of him today. He looks fine, like everything is okay… until he sees me. Then all the disdain returns, and I can’t be in the same house with him again. That’s it. I’m packing up my twins, I’m calling Chuck, and I’ll tell him to take us back to the Crossing. I’ll have to wait until everyone is asleep because if I don’t, it’ll cause commotion around the entire house and somebody might try to stop me. At lunch, I tell Val my plan and ask her to help me. I swear her to secrecy and tell her that we’ll pack the twins’ things after everyone goes to sleep, the last thing we move being the twins. Hearing them stir in the night won’t disturb anyone because that’s expected.
So… just after dinner, I call Chuck and tell him that I’ll ring him when I’m ready to go and to be on standby. I give Val the same instructions. Then I go back to my peaceful spot on the gazebo and let the tears fall, waiting for everyone to fall asleep.
Three days post-Pops… It seems like I had just fallen asleep when loud banging and commotion awaken me from the hallway. I take a moment to focus and realize that the banging is at my door.
“Open the goddamn door, Christian!” Elliot’s angry voice rips through the fog that is my head. The pounding won’t stop and now I hear Mom’s complaining voice, but he’s still banging on my door. I’m going to rip his Adam’s Apple right out of his goddamn throat! I climb out of the bed and snatch the door open so hard that he nearly falls into the room.
“What. Do you want?” I hiss.
“Do you know where the fuck your wife is, man?” he growls right back at me, unfazed by my anger. I narrow my eyes at him, but don’t answer. “She’s on the goddamn gazebo. She’s been sleeping out there for the last three nights since you locked her out of your bedroom. My wife went looking for her when the babies started crying…”
“Oh, no, not again,” Mom laments.
What? Again? What?
I think the thickness of his anger shocks me out of mine more than anything. I’m horrified, though, when I replay his words…
She’s been sleeping out there for the last three nights since you locked her out of your bedroom…
Oh, no, not again…
I have immediate flashbacks of my wife sleeping at the Crossing when it was just a construction site. I can see her in my mind’s eye, coming from the house, grasping her belly with sawdust in her hair, then falling to the ground wailing and grabbing handfuls of gravel from the unfinished driveway.
My family is saying something, but I can’t hear them. I grab the pair of pants nearest to my hand and a T-shirt from the floor and take off down the stairs without any shoes. When I get to the first floor, I dash out the French doors to the backyard and run to the gazebo.
She’s not going to be there. She’s not going to be there. She’s not going to be there.
Sure enough, there she is—lying on the floor in the fetal position in the same clothes she was wearing yesterday. She has added a sweater to her ensemble, which is pulled tightly around her. Her hands are under her face acting as her pillow, and she’s shivering in her sleep on the cold, hard wood. It may be the middle of July, but the nights are fucking cold.
I go over to her and sit next to her. The cold from the floor is brutal. I brush her hair out of her face and her skin is so damn cold that if I didn’t see the shivering, I would think that she was dead. And she slept out here. Why did she sleep out here?
Why did you lock her out of your bedroom, asshole? Out of your bed? Your fucking heart? This is probably the farthest she could get from your intolerable ass without leaving the grounds completely!
I reach down and embrace her, scooping her into my arms.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow…” is her only protest as she responds most likely to cold and aching bones before she falls right back to sleep in my arms. I simply turn off my thoughts and carry her back into the house under the watchful eyes of my family, then up the stairs to my childhood bedroom before closing and locking the door behind us. I lay her gently in the bed without removing her clothes and cover her with the comforter. She mindlessly snuggles under the blanket, pulling it up around her neck, but still shivering from the cold. She never opens her eyes, never fully awakens. Her every movement is instinct and reflex, even that shuddering breath that lets me know that she must have been crying not an hour ago.
I lay in the bed next to her, examining her face. I gently brush the hair away from her eyes and just watch her. I’ve looked at her more than once and saw my whole life in her eyes, but for some reasons—reasons that I can’t explain even now—for the last several days, I looked in her face and only saw my grandfather’s death. Every time I saw her, his death was completely her fault and I don’t know why. It seems so clear now that it was utterly ridiculous, but at the time, it’s what I saw and I don’t know why. I stare at her for long moments, I don’t even know how long. I just want to see her at peace after seeing her lying on the floor of the gazebo and knowing that she had done this for three days—shivering, uncomfortable, lonely, and unhappy.
She never moved. She’s sleeping so hard that the sun has changed position in the sky, and I still don’t know what time it is. Noon, maybe? I climb out of bed and sit at my childhood desk. I take out my blackberry and dial a number that I should have dialed well before now.
“This is Sherrill Baker.” I sigh.
“Dr. Baker, it’s Christian Grey.”
“Christian! It’s been a while… and you’re calling me, so this can’t be good.”
“No, it’s not good at all…” Dr. Baker and I have limited our sessions to as needed now since she feels that I’ve made the kind of progress that I’ve needed to make, so constant therapy isn’t necessary.
But right now, it’s desperately needed.
“Do you have a moment?” I ask.
“Only a moment,” she says. “I was about to go to lunch.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t want to disturb your lunch. We can talk another time.”
“No, we can’t because you don’t call me anymore. Now, what’s the problem?” I sigh.
“I have to cremate my grandfather tomorrow,” I say. I hear her sigh, then the sound of a door opening.
“Viv, order lunch in for me, please, and hold all calls and appointments until I give you the word,” she says away from the phone. The door closes and it sounds like her breath releases, like she’s sitting down. “I see. Please continue.”
“Pops passed away from end stage renal disease, which means this was a long time coming. Yet, when he finally made his transition, I blamed my wife.” The line is quiet for a split second.
“Why did you blame Ana?” she asks, clearly without an answer.
“I’m not sure,” I reply. “I knew that my grandfather was dying, but right before he passed, everything was okay for a little while. He was better than we had seen him since he moved to Seattle. We thought he was going to get up out of the bed and start dancing!”
“Oh,” Dr. Baker acknowledges, “the final energy boost.” I nod as if she can see me.
“That’s what Ana said,” I tell her. “She tried to tell me not to get my hopes up, but I wouldn’t listen. Pops was doing well and I wanted to hold on to that—but then, he wasn’t, and I felt like it was her fault for what she said. I’ve never had any experience with death, unless you count my biological mother and I was only four years old at the time. I knew that he was dying; we all knew that he was dying. We all moved back to my parents’ house for about a month in solidarity, so that we could all comfort each other when we lost Pops and there would be no need for those dreaded calls to loved ones. I even arranged for my Uncle Stanley to fly here from Detroit so that he could see his father before he died… yet, when he did, I blamed my wife. He was okay… he was well… and for a brief moment, I believed in miracles…”
My head is down and my eyes are closed. I only pay attention to this fact because I feel wetness on the hand in my lap. I open my eyes to see several drops of moisture on my clenched fist. I reach up and touch my face and realize that I’m crying. I’m broken-hearted. I’m afraid that this experience has caused me to lose faith in all good things—including my ever-supportive, beautiful wife.
“The logical part of me knows that my wife had nothing to do with my grandfather’s death, but my heart and mind wants to blame somebody for this! I don’t want to feel like fate and the universe played this cruel joke on me by giving my grandfather—healthy, whole, and completely lucid—for three days, only to snatch him away from me and let him die anyway!” I’m talking through my teeth and my tears, my chest burning and aching from anger and the sense of loss and… betrayal.
“I need you to listen to me, Christian,” Dr. Baker says, her voice soothing. “You’re at a dangerous point in your grief. You’re going to want to blame more than just Ana for what has happened and you need to be able to pull through this situation with your logical mind. You’re a powerful man and you can make things happen, and right now, you’re blaming the people closest to you because they’re easy targets, but you’re going to come to a point in your grief where you’re going to be blaming people who aren’t close to you, people that you really don’t care about. When that happens, you may be tempted to seek retribution for what you think could have been done to prevent your grandfather’s death, even though your logical mind knows that all avenues that could have been explored have been explored.
“You’re one of my most complex patients, Christian, and I know that I can’t mince words with you. When you find yourself at the point where you want to blame someone or you want to take action, I need you to come back to this place. I need you to understand that when nothing else makes sense, this thing really does. Your grandfather was sick, he couldn’t be saved, and when Death calls, there’s no negotiating. He’s not making any deals. He’s the final collection agency, and he’s taking what he came for. Do you clearly understand what I’m saying to you, Christian?”
“Yes,” I say, weeping. Pops is dead. It’s nobody’s fault. Short of buying a black-market kidney, he had no hope and he didn’t want that. He made his choice. He left on his own terms. Dr. Baker and I talk for several more minutes before I end the call. Then I sit and cry for a little while longer. I had him for a year. I should be grateful for that, but I’ll have to be grateful some other time. Right now, I’m crushed. I’m so hurt that I can’t see or think straight and I just need to sit here and cry.
After several minutes, I turn my attention to Butterfly’s back. I can tell by her breathing that she’s awake now. I pull myself up and go to the en suite, closing the door behind me. I begin to draw a warm bath, pouring some of her familiar citrus bubble bath into the water. I thoroughly wash my face with cold water before going back into the bedroom.
Without a word, I uncoil her from the covers. She doesn’t fight me as I slowly remove her clothes from yesterday. When she’s naked, I scoop her up in my arms and carry her to the en suite. I dip her toes in the water and let her test the temperature. When she approves, I sit her gingerly in the water. We’re both silent as I clean her from head to toe, starting with washing and conditioning her hair, and finishing by making sure every bit of the cold from the gazebo has been washed from her skin. I finally break the silence, telling her to soak for a few more moments to release the ultimate cold from her bones as I go back to the room to find her something to wear. Instead, I find myself back at my childhood desk, weeping… again.
The water feels so good. I sit here and soak in the warmth and luxuriousness, contemplating how I got here.
I’m watching the stars for a third night in a row, vowing not to fall asleep on the gazebo. I get lost in stars much like I get lost in the water, only Atlantis isn’t here to take away my troubles. It and my beloved butterfly fish, Marty, are back at the Crossing. So, I’m forced to find comfort in another endless visual body—the celestial body of stars. It helps me forget that my husband is not in control of his emotions right now, but that I nonetheless am unable to stand idly by and observe the hatred in his eyes when he sees me.
I’m hiding, I know it, but anything is better than being ignored by the man that I love. I haven’t neglected our children—I still take care of them, except for the two nights I spent out here on the gazebo. This is what prompted Grace to come looking for me in the first place. When she found me out here on the floor at just about dawn on the second night, I promised her that I didn’t do it on purpose and I wouldn’t do it again.
Now, I’ve done it again.
Even though, I don’t remember how I got into bed, the ache in my muscles, the last shard of cold in my bones, and the absence of malice and anger in my husband’s eyes are enough to tell me that he found me on the gazebo, most likely in the night air, but I can’t remember anything. Being out there in the cold for a long time causes my body to slip into a mild case of hypothermia. When that happens, I sleep a dreamless sleep, unable to remember anything and often unable to be awakened until I’m warmed again to normal body temperature. This can be pretty dangerous if the temperature drops too low, but anything was preferable to being deplored or ignored by my husband and subsequently locked out of his bedroom and denied our marital bed. I didn’t even try the door last night. I knew what I would get.
My intention was to have Chuck come and get me and take me back to the Crossing, but that would mean waking the babies as I had no intention of leaving them behind. I didn’t want to disrupt their little lives that way, nor did I want the entire house in an uproar while I packed up the twins to make an escape. So, I opted to tolerate my suffering which seems so small compared to the loss and confusion that my husband is feeling right now. It’s just that “a few more minutes” on the gazebo turned into “I just can’t risk running into him yet” and subsequently turned into “let me just close my eyes for a minute and enjoy the fresh air.”
The first night, that led to waking when the sun warmed my body enough to release the hypothermia.
The second night, Grace found me out here when she went on a search for the twins’ food manufacturing plant.
The third night, I decided to call Chuck, but I had to wait until everyone was asleep and… well, here I am in a bubble bath after my husband has washed my hair and lovingly scrubbed every inch of my body… but the bath has gone cold, and I’ve spent quite enough time in the cold. I let the water out of the tub and quietly climb out of it, wrapping my hair in a bath towel and my body in a second. I breach the door of the bedroom to find my husband back at his childhood desk, sobbing again. I sigh heavily. I heard most of his conversation with Dr. Baker even though I shouldn’t have. I didn’t want to disturb him and cause him to cut his session short, so I took the lesser of two evils and lay quietly, listening to him pour his feelings out to his therapist and thinking of ways that I could possibly help him through this difficult time, if he’ll allow me. I had already decided to forgive him of his treatment of me, due to grief-driven insanity. Now, I’ll have to find a way to help make him whole again.
I walk over to where he’s sitting, his body shaking with sobs, and simply put my hands on his shoulder. He cries harder for whatever reason, and I almost think that he’s going to burst a blood vessel. Tears begin to stream down my cheeks at his pain and one of my hands instinctively go to his hair in an effort to comfort him. He quickly turns in the desk chair and wraps his arms around me, burying his face in my towel-clad stomach and weeping bitterly. At first, I’m caught off guard, but only for an instant. I cradle my husband’s head in my arms and fold myself over him, wishing I could take his pain away. I dry my tears and focus on him and his hurt as he sobs against my bosom.
After quite some time, his crying finally subsides and he burrows his face into my towel in an effort to dry his tears while I continue to stroke his hair. When he raises his head to me, he looks lost and broken.
“I need you,” he says softly. “I need to be inside of you. I need the pain to go away if only for a moment.”
I look into his eyes and nod, prompting him to stand from the chair and grab me in his hands. Lifting me off the floor, he carries me to his bed and lays me down. He’s hovering over me, looking down at me with sad, bloodshot, gray eyes, begging me to take his pain away. I gently caress his hair and nod, telling him without words that I’ll be whatever he needs me to be right now.
He rises from my body and removes his T-shirt and pants, returning to the bed to undo the towels that cover my hair and body, leaving them both open on the bed. He gazes only momentarily down at my naked body before bringing his eyes back to mine. He places a gentle, chaste kiss on my lips, which was absolutely no indication of what he had planned for me.
Moving his lips from mine, he travels down my body with the same soft kisses, only they’re not as chaste. They’re open-mouthed, like he’s tasting my freshly-bathed skin. It’s not immediately arousing, and I noticed when he kissed me that he wasn’t erect yet—not flaccid, but not erect like I know that my husband can be. He gently courses over my breast, the mound and the nipple, but he doesn’t linger there. He follows my abdomen down, down, down to my pelvis and then to my Mons.
His mouth reaches my core and he begins the ritual of tasting me, slowly at first. His tongue softly explores my crevices, but not in a way to bring me stimulation or satisfaction. He tastes me—the different textures of my skin, the tender meat of my clit versus the pliant meat of my lips and the spongy, moist texture of my opening. I allow him to explore and even enjoy his exploration, still caressing his hair, until his slow and deliberate comfort tasting begins to stimulate me—slow and deep, causing a small stir inside.
I close my eyes and internalize the feeling, something easily done as his skillful tongue softly and slowly causes me to rise. I feel the upsurge in my chest and in my loins as my breath quickens and my hands continue to thrust into his hair—no pulling, just gently combing through his soft curls as he licks and explores me with no rhythm or reason, just random tasting and licking. His hands roam gently over my body—my torso, occasionally my breasts, my hips, my thighs—never staying in one place for long and never holding me down. He grips the sheets as the feeling begins to rise in my hips and I try not to grind his face or pull his hair. The intensity of this gentle, rhythmless massage is so deep, so heavy until…
“Christian…!” I squeak as the orgasm burst through my pelvis, then burns hot and crippling through my core and my chest, causing me to tremble in my torso and all my extremities, unable to make a sound though my mouth is open in the attempt. He continues his gentle tasting until the orgasm finally wanes and I’m able to breathe again. Then he makes his way slowly back up my body, kissing me along the way until he gets to my face. He has nestled himself between my thighs, the head of his erection right at my opening, my legs having crawled up the bed with him and wrapped around his hips, my fingers still tangled in his hair. His eyes meet mine, and they’re not so sad as before. They’re lustful… and desperate.
“I need you,” he breathes, gazing into my eyes. I nod, still breathless from my orgasm and now, his closeness. He slides his arms under my shoulders and cups my head with his large hands. Without breaking eye contact, he slides effortlessly inside of me. I bite my lip and gasp as he enters me. I’m so wet, but he fills me completely. God, I just came, but he feels so good! My breathing is erratic again and I try to control it as he slides in and out of me, over and over, building the burn once again, and never taking his eyes off mine.
“I need you,” he says, again, his voice strained with his arousal and desperation. You have me, I think to myself. I’m yours. I can hardly breathe now as each stroke seems to take away what little breath I pull into my lungs. His strokes are slow and intense, deep and oh, so pleasurable. He’s pushing me higher and higher again with each slow stroke and the intense look in his eye. Oh, God, the feel of his cock against the walls of my core. He feels divine and magnificent, and I want him to kiss me… but he won’t. He just keeps gazing at me, begging me, loving me, his eyes blazing through me like fire.
“I… I… need you…” he breathes, his orgasm now evident in his voice. “I… need you.”
Take me… God, take me, Christian…
His stroke becomes more intense, but his pace remains the same. His pupils dilate and the black almost eclipses his steely gray eyes as they turn almost white around the rims, signifying his nearly unbearable pleasure, even if he hadn’t been stuttering the same three words over and over again…
“I… need you… I ne… need you…”
I feel his knee bend under my hip and his stroke becomes even more intense as he gets the traction he needs, as if that were possible. He reaches behind his head and grabs both of my hands, entwining our fingers and pinning them to the bed as he continues to stroke deep into me.
Oh. Dear. God! Aidez moi…
After several minutes of this exquisite rhythm and torture, I begin to whimper with each stroke right before I explode around him, not daring to move my gaze from his. I’m still rising in this heart-and-pussy-thumping orgasm when he buries his face in my neck and groans deeply as he clenches my hands hard. Each breath is another muffled, agonized groan as he comes hard and long inside of me. I press my head hard back into the pillow and my body firm against his, holding him inside of me with my legs wrapped firmly around his waist, riding through my own intense pleasure and penetrating aftershocks until the jerking of his violent ejaculation finally wanes and calms to a muted throb. He’s panting profusely as his lips repeatedly meet the skin of my neck and shoulder in soft kisses and hot, brushing caresses.
“I need you,” he says, between kisses. “I need you, I need you…”
I know… I’m here… whatever you need, I’m here…
I lay in my childhood bed, holding my wife for hours. I love her… I truly do, and I don’t know what made me shut her out and blame her for Pops’ death. Even now, I can’t even go back in my mind and rationalize why I did that. I still hurt very much over it, but I can’t for the life of me explain why I blamed my wife. She’s been nothing but loving and supportive this whole time and I need her now more than ever, but I shut her out… and I don’t know why.
I felt like hell when Elliot told me that she had been sleeping on the gazebo, and Mom knew. Why didn’t Mom tell me that my wife had been sleeping on the damn gazebo? I can’t blame anyone but myself. I locked her out of my room like a goddamn toddler; out of our bed, out of my heart. I wouldn’t even speak to her. She could have gotten really sick; any number of things could have happened to her out there. Hell, I was so bitter, anything at all could have happened to her and I wouldn’t have even known.
Once again, I can tell by her breathing that she’s not asleep. I’m spooning her, my arms on top of hers around her waist. I caress her hand gently, just because I want to feel her skin under mine.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, and the words sound like shit, not nearly enough…
“I know,” she replies, her voice a whisper, too. I brush my lips against the back of her neck.
“I need you,” I whisper into her skin as I pull her closer against me. “I love you so much. How can you ever forgive me?”
“Because I love you, too, and I know that you’re hurting,” she replies without turning around.
“That’s no excuse,” I retort. “I can’t keep doing this to you. I’m afraid I’ll lose you.” She sighs heavily.
“You’re right,” she says, her voice cracking. “You can’t keep doing this to me… but I love you, and you won’t lose me. I’d never leave you, especially at a time when you need me the most.” She squeaks out the last words and I feel her pain. I don’t have to look at her face to know that she’s crying.
“Please, forgive me, Butterfly.” She burrows backward into my body.
“I do,” she says softly through her tears. “I do forgive you, Christian.”
I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve her, but I thank God that she’s mine. Even when I’m an unmitigated asshole, she still loves me. We lay there for several more minutes, Butterfly weeping softly in my arms and me gently kissing the skin of her shoulder, neck, and back. She calms after a while, but I know my Butterfly. The tears are still falling. I keep repeating phrases to try to ease the ache that I’ve caused:
“I’m a fool…”
“I love you so much…”
“I need you so much…”
“Please forgive me for treating you that way…”
“You’re everything to me…”
Sometime during my confessions, there’s a knock at my bedroom door. We don’t answer. Butterfly doesn’t stir, so I won’t either. We’re naked under the covers and the door is locked. When we don’t answer, the knock repeats, more urgent this time.
“Christian?” My mother’s voice insists. “Open the door. I need to see that you two are alright.”
I have no intention of getting out of this bed, no intention of leaving the warmth of my Butterfly so that Mom can see that we’re alright. I tighten my arm around my wife. If I answer, she’ll just insist that I open the door.
“I have keys to every room in this house, Christian,” she warns. “I’m not afraid to use them.”
Butterfly doesn’t move and neither do I. We need each other right now and we don’t intend to open the door for my mother. She does have keys to every room in the house, though. So, I pull the comforter up over Butterfly’s breasts since we’re facing the door and that would be the first thing my mother sees the moment she walks in.
“Okay, I’m coming in,” she warns, and I hear her key in the lock. I pull my wife closer against me so that I nestle my chin in her neck and lay gently on her head so that we will both be looking at my mother when she enters.
You want to see it, you got it.
I watch the lock turn and Mom opens the door. She freezes, gazing at us both as we gaze back at her.
‘Well, I’m glad you’ve sorted things out,” she says impassively, gesturing to someone beside her. None other than Liona comes wheeling a mobile service into the room. Her eyes scan the room and upon seeing me nestled in my wife’s neck, in bed and obviously naked, her eyes dart to the mobile service she’s pushing into the room. She stops a few feet from the bed, but never raises her head.
“That’s fine, Liona. Thank you,” Mom says. She nods and quickly leaves the room. Mom enters and stands by the service.
“I’m under no misconception what my married children do behind closed doors, but I think that revelation was a bit much for Liona,” she says, shaking her head. “Burt’s service will be at 11:00 tomorrow. I know you like to make your own arrangements for security, but the limos will be here at 10:30 to take the family to the church. It’s late. Eat before it gets cold. Let me know if you need anything.” She throws a knowing look at me before leaving the room and closing the door behind her, using her key to lock it. I kiss Butterfly on her cheek.
“Are you hungry?” I ask softly. She nods.
“I could eat,” she replies. I begrudgingly leave the warmth of our bed and go over to the mobile service, lifting the lids off the plates. Dinner is Caprese chicken and Alfredo and pesto bowtie pasta with snap green beans. I bring a plate over to my wife and she sits up against the headboard. I feed her and myself out of the plate until it’s clean, then start on the second plate. We intermittently sip white wine while we clean the second plate and start on desert—key lime pie. Neither of us says anything until all the plates are both clean, and I put the dishes back on the service.
“Do you need anything from home?” I ask. “Something to wear to the service?” She shakes her head.
“I have a black dress and shoes here,” she says. Of course, she would. We were all preparing for this day.
“Do you want to bring the twins to the service?” I ask. She shakes her head.
“Not unless you do,” she says. “They’re so young…” I nod.
“I agree. They really don’t need to be there.” I pick up my phone and call Jason.
“Yes, sir?” he answers on the first ring.
“We’ve decided not to take the twins to the service tomorrow. The house will basically be empty except for my parents’ staff. Can you arrange for your wife and Keri to be here during that time?” Jason is silent for a moment.
“Sir, my wife and Keri are already here. They’ve been here all day.” I frown.
“Who called them?”
“I did, sir,” he says. “The family is in no condition to take care of the twins and neither were you or Ana. I didn’t misstep, did I?” I sigh.
“Absolutely not,” I respond. “Thank you, Jason. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Another pause.
“You’re welcome, boss,” he says and we end the call.
“Jason is a step ahead of us,” I say to my wife’s inquiring eyes. “Gail and Keri have been here all day.” She nods.
“Worth his weight in gold,” she says. “How did he know?” I shrug.
“Not much gets past Jason,” I say, joining my wife in bed again. “Would you like to watch television or something?” She shakes her head. “What would you like to do?”
“Just lay here in your arms for a while,” she replies. I nod and pull her against my body again.
God, I need her so much.
The mood is solemn as we assemble in the foyer for the limousines to take us to Pops’ service. Herman and Stan made calls to Detroit over the course of the week to extend an invitation to anyone who wanted to pay last respects before he’s cremated. My understanding is that some of Dad’s family will be at the service, but I don’t know who. Only Stan’s wife, Lana, came immediately and stayed with us, so I don’t know how much more of the family will be in attendance.
While we’re waiting to load into the limousines, the Helping Hands transport van arrives and parks behind the limousines in my parents’ circular driveway. A young girl in neat jeans and a T-shirt with her hair in a simple ponytail exits the driver’s side. You’ve got to be kidding me! They can’t be coming with Center business on today of all days! The girl runs up to the door and enters without knocking. I’m ready to blow a fuse until I see my mother greet her with a warm embrace. Mia, on the other hand, is scowling at the girl, but clings to Ethan’s arm and says nothing.
“Courtney, thank you. It’s good of you to come on such short notice,” Mom says.
“No problem, Ms. Grace,” she replies. “I think the Center can do without me for a day. Where are the girls?”
“Courtney! Will you be staying with us today?” Keri’s accent causes me to turn around. I see her holding Minnie as she approaches Courtney.
Courtney. Courtney. It can’t be!
“Hi, Keri.” She gives Keri a full hug while Keri gives her a one-arm hug. “Yes, I’ll be sitting with Celida and Mariah while Luma goes to the service. Hi, Minnie Mouse,” she says in the sweetest voice as she tickles my giggling baby girl. What the hell? Just last year she came on to my wife and then threatened her, and today, she’s everybody’s best friend? Everybody except Mia, that is.
“Courtney, hi,” I hear my wife’s voice greet her. “I hope you’re not here on Center business. It’s a bad day.” She hands Mikey to Gail and reaches to hug Courtney.
“I know, the worst,” Courtney says, returning Butterfly’s hug. They hug now? Where have I been? “I’m really sorry for the loss. I’m going to stay with the girls so Luma doesn’t have to worry about them.”
“Oh, that’s so kind of you. You’re sure you don’t mind giving up your Saturday for this?” Butterfly says. Courtney shrugs.
“I was at the Center anyway. They’ll be fine without me. Jesse has Myrna and Shel to help out today, so they’re not short-staffed or anything…”
“Court!” I hear a little girl’s voice and Mariah and Celida come running through the house at Courtney.
“Hi, Riah! Lele!” Both girls run to her arms and nearly knock her down. She giggles as they hug her. I gently pull my wife’s elbow over to me.
“Courtney Wilson?” I whisper. She nods. This girl is driving the Helping Hands van and everyone knows who she is. This is not the same brat that came on to my wife at the Adopt-A-Family Affair last winter.
“What the hell happened?” I ask. I knew she was no longer a threat, but I didn’t know she had made this much of a transformation.
“New outlook,” she says. I’m going to have to get the scoop on this new outlook.
“The limos are ready, sir,” Jason says from just inside the front door. Mom hears him and announces that we need to get going, so we all file out of the house. Mom and Dad are in the car with Herman, Luma, Stan, and Lana. Butterfly and I ride with Elliot, Val, Mia, and Ethan. I decide to pick Butterfly’s brain about…
“Courtney?” I ask. She shrugs.
“She lost everything,” Butterfly says. “She decided that she didn’t want to be like her mother, so she’s been quite dedicated at the Center.”
“She’s still a bitch,” Mia says, crossing her legs. I look at Butterfly.
“Why do you think so, Mia?” Butterfly asks.
“She’s got you all fooled,” Mia says. “I see right through that act. ‘Hi Minnie Mouse. Hi Lele.’” She imitates Courtney’s sweet voice. “Once her grandmother gets wind that she’s ‘reformed,’ Helping Hands won’t see her again. She wants everybody to believe that GrandMahMah pulled her trust fund and now she’s suddenly seen the light? None of her snooty friends will deal with her anymore. That’s why she’s slumming with the homeless.”
I feel Butterfly stiffen next to me and I know it’s because of the “slumming with the homeless” statement.
“It might interest you to know,” Butterfly begins firmly, “that I’ve asked her several times to allow me to tell Addy about her progress and she has declined. In fact, she has begged me not to tell her. Not that I’m her champion or anything, but everyone has a reason for the decisions they make, good or bad. And you’ll forgive me for taking issue with your accusation of her ‘slumming with the homeless’ since I found her living in a homeless shelter during the first two weeks that she was working for Helping Hands.”
Oh, hell. Butterfly’s mad.
“Having been homeless myself, I can speak on their behalf when I say that it’s certainly not a choice they make unless the circumstances are dire. And considering the fact that your mother and I spend nearly every day ‘slumming with the homeless’ as you so eloquently put it, you might want to reconsider your terminology when describing our work!”
She folds her arms across her chest like a petulant child and turns her head to look out the window. I turn my gaze to Mia, who looks like she’s been hit in the stomach.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Ana,” Mia begins. “I didn’t mean it that way. It was a terrible thing to say and I didn’t mean it like that, but I know this girl, and yes, she brings out the worst in me. She almost had me arrested for something that she did and I’ll never trust her again. I was only trying to be her friend and she screwed me. Then she grew up being bitchy to everyone around her including her grandmother, and I think she got her just desserts! I’m sorry if I insulted you. I really didn’t mean to, but when it comes to Courtney, once a bitch, always a bitch.”
“Duly noted,” my petulant child wife says without turning her gaze from the window. “I won’t broach the topic with you again.” Mia sighs heavily.
“Ana, I’m sorry,” she says, a small bit of exasperation in her voice.
“And I accept your apology,” Butterfly says firmly. “Now, we’ve got an extremely difficult and emotional day ahead of us. Can we please not talk about this anymore?”
Just like that, the Courtney topic of conversation ends. Mia shrinks down into Ethan’s arms while I attempt to loosen my wife up a little.
“I didn’t think it would cause this commotion. I’m sorry,” I say softly in her ear. Her head snaps back at me and her glare says everything her mouth didn’t…
Didn’t I ask that we not talk about this anymore?
I put my hands up in surrender.
“Okay, okay, I won’t say another word about it,” I say softly. She turns back to the scene out the window. I look over at Mia, who looks completely deflated. I’m almost anxious to get to the funeral and out of this car. A few minutes later, we round the corner to the cathedral and the worst possible sight greets me when we’re pulling up in front of the church.
“Paparazzi?? Seriously? At my grandfather’s fucking funeral?”
I’m yelling so loudly that everyone in the limo falls silent. I pull out my cell phone.
“I see, sir,” Jason says.
“Get my parents and my uncles into the church. Shield them as much as you can and tell them not to engage. I want everybody with a cell phone on the front line right now taking videos—every angle! I want pictures of every motherfucker standing out there!”
“On it, boss,” he says and ends the call. The Audi behind us speeds up and pulls ahead of the limos. Several of my security staff exits each door with large black umbrellas. I see my parents get out along with Uncle Herman, Uncle Stan, Luma, and Lana and they all scramble to the door under the cover of the umbrellas. I turn to Elliot.
“Get my wife to her seat,” I tell him. He nods.
“Sure thing, Bro.”
“Christian?” Butterfly protests.
“I won’t be long, but I need to handle this,” I say firmly. She looks at me with questioning eyes, then exits the car with Elliot and Val. He puts his arm around both women and hastily walk into the church, Mia and Ethan right behind them, all of them under the cover of the large black umbrellas as well.
My grandfather’s fucking funeral.
I step out of the limo in pure CEO mode, my insides burning because I’m so angry.
“Wow, seriously?” I say as I make my way to the front of the line of vultures now shying back from the camera phones of my security staff. The assholes have the nerve to fire off questions at me while I’m standing here in front of them in a somber black suit in front of a church after having my family hurried inside to avoid the flashes of the cameras. After a few moments of my security team recording the group of photographers and Paparazzi, I clasp my hands in front of me and assume the position.
“This is a private ceremony,” I begin, “a funeral, for God’s sake! The gathering of a mourning family and the final memorial of a man who wasn’t noteworthy enough to even have his obituary printed in the local paper. As if my family hasn’t already suffered enough with his passing, you vultures want what… a picture of the coffin? A candid shot of one of my family members in complete distress? What? What are you looking for?”
Although a few cameras flash, an eerie silence falls over the crowd of reporters and photographers.
“To answer your questions, that’s my grandfather, the patriarch of this family. He’s fought a long, hard battle with his health and deserves to be laid to rest in peace. We, his family, have been through an extremely difficult time over the past months and would appreciate privacy as we mourn his passing. That’s all you get. Now, as you can see, for the past several minutes, before and while you were recording me, my staff has been recording you.”
Several of the photographers and reporters turn their attention to the imposing men in black beside and around me, all taking videos with their cell phones.
“I’m sure that you know I can find out who each one of you is and where you work by the end of the week. You all need to cease and desist and disperse, now. That will be my only request. Let my family grieve in peace. If you disrespect my wishes and continue this cruel and heartless invasion of our privacy during this delicate and terrible time, I promise that I will personally make your lives a living hell… and you can put that in print.”
There’s a momentary pause and the same eerie silence. I stand there facing them, waiting for a decision. I need to be with my family, not dealing with this shit right now. It takes a minute or two, a few of them still throwing questions at me while I remain silent, but they finally begin to disperse. Once the throng is down to a few stragglers hoping to get more out of me, I turn around and walk into the church.
As I enter the cathedral, I notice that there’s quite a few more people here than I thought. I see a few of my business colleagues, but I see many people that I don’t know. I make my way over to Butterfly, sitting in the second row behind my mother and father. Dad sits staring at the open casket in front of us, classic mahogany and lined with satin. His eyes swollen and red-rimmed from crying, like his brothers’. Mia sits on the other side of me, trembling with sobs in her fiancé’s arms. Nothing makes death more real than seeing the one you love laying out in a casket.
Pops’ looks good, so peaceful… no more pain and struggling to breathe, only able to speak two words at a time, if any, having to make excuses for his asshole son and wishing he could get them all together one more time before he died. I don’t know why that thought came to mind. I just think the worst thing you can do to the dying is make them stress in their last days about the living.
A picture of Pops at my wedding in his Sunday best serves as his memorial photo. Various people go to the front of the church to view him one last time. A modest number of flowers grace the church and there’s a slideshow playing on the screen behind the pulpit of Pops in various stages of life.
His high school graduation.
The birth of each of his sons.
Him at various graduations and holding various grandchildren.
Dancing with his wife, Christmases, weddings, holidays, fishing with his boys and their boys…
In the rocking chair on the deck at Butterfly’s birthday party.
Sitting in a recliner with Mia on the floor next to him, her head lying in his lap while they watch television.
My wife sitting in a chair across from him, leaning in to hear what he’s saying.
A candid conversation that he and I were having at some point in my parent’s house.
Pops holding Minnie…
That’s when I realize that I’m crying. My chest feels like someone has reached inside and is holding my heart in a very painful vise and I almost can’t breathe. I lean a bit in my seat to get some air, but it’s not helping.
I put my elbows on my knees and continue to cry, but I still can’t get any air in. I’m feeling lightheaded when I feel a hand on my back and hear my wife’s sweet voice.
“Hands at your feet, baby,” she says softly. “Put your head between your legs.”
I follow her instructions and even though I can’t stop the tears, my breath comes easier. I feel one hand on my back and the other gently caresses my hair. Although my spirit calms a bit, I’m still overcome with grief.
My grandfather is dead. He’s gone and he’s not coming back.
Ever since the crack whore died, I’ve closed myself off from any strong emotions as the pain was too much for me to bear, forcing me into silence for several years. Once Butterfly broke down my walls, I let them back in. I don’t regret that—opening myself to the love of my family and my wife—but this is one time that I wish I could turn them back off again.
A/N: I have abandoned writing Keri’s accent phonetically. It’s hard to write and sometimes hard to read, so you will only see phonetic writing of her accent when and if she speaks in Patois or when the scene calls for it.
Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/
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