I’ve said, “thank you” so many times that I don’t know what else to say. You guys have been amazing over my past weeks with your patience and your thoughtfulness, checking in on me however you could—texts and messages and Facebook and posts here on the board and emails—I’m unbelievably overwhelmed by your kindness and I know I may have had a few funny moments under the influence of the medication (Baby Bronzy had a great laugh at my expense), but it means more to me than you guy will ever, ever know. Though I never met many of you personally, your friendships are ones that I will treasure until the day I leave this earthly realm… and beyond.
“Golden” is on a brief hiatus due to the medical issue, but will return hopefully before month’s end.
Very long informational author’s note at the end about this chapter. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to… I won’t be offended. 😉
This is a work or creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.
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 30—Monsters Inside
I’ve just finished texting Marilyn about commandeering her weekend when I look over and see my husband frowning at his phone.
“What is it?” I ask him.
“Jason just sent me a cryptic message about a package being delivered and I have no idea what he’s talking about.” He’s scratching his head and trying to decipher the meaning of the message. I’m mentally crafting my twentieth and final letter to the licensing board and Gloria Felton that will probably have to wait until next week now that we have this interview on the docket in the next few days, when I see Jason walk past the conference room headed for Christian’s office with Alex close behind him.
“There he is,” I say, pointing to his head of personal security being followed by his head of corporate security. They look to be sharing a private joke between them. “He and Alex are going to your office.” Christian looks up at the doors just as Alex walks by.
“Andrea will redirect them to… Oooooh, that package!” he says. I furrow my brow.
“You recall?” I ask, bemused. Christian turns a slightly amused gaze towards me.
“Do you really want to know?” he says, his voice tinged with mirth. I sigh.
“Can I be arrested?” I ask. He chuckles.
“Probably not,” he responds mischievously. Probably, but not definitely. What has my husband done now? Jason and Alex step into the conference room, talking freely among themselves, but fall silent when they realize that Christian isn’t alone.
“Don’t get quiet now,” I scold like a chastising mother. “My husband has already insinuated that you all have been up to some kind of mayhem!” I add, gesturing to the three of them before putting my feet up on the conference table and crossing my legs at the ankles. “Let’s have it.”
Jason looks at Christian and Alex lowers his head and covers his mouth to stifle a laugh. Christian gestures to the men to proceed with the reason for their visit. Alex clears his throat.
“The dog has been returned safely, sir,” he says in an official voice. Dog? This is about a dog? Oh, I’ve got to hear the rest of this. I release a knowing laugh and when I raise my head, an expression that I can only describe as anticipatory terror mars the face of all three men. You see, when you’re aware that a woman has no idea what’s going on and yet she’s still laughing fiendishly—be afraid, be very afraid.
“Jason… Alex…” The two men look at each other, then back at me.
“Yes, ma’am?” Alex says.
“My husband runs a multibillion-dollar empire, but a few minutes ago, got a text that had him completely perplexed. He saw the two of you, and suddenly, the text made sense. When I asked him for details, the conversation went in the direction of could I be arrested. While I’m still somewhere in the gray area—no pun intended—on the complete legality of the situation, the three of you are laughing, and you come in here talking about a dog. You two—spill it. All of it. And don’t look at him.” I point to my husband. I want to know what the hell is going on and I won’t ask Christian’s permission this time. Amazingly, they’re both careful not to throw a glance at Christian, and Alex immediately starts talking.
“I don’t know if you were aware, but the GEH fleet was getting a lot of tickets and was in danger of being grounded,” he begins. “It turns out that Marvin Hammerstone was using Seattle PD to push his personal vendetta against Mr. Grey for refusing to lift the ban on his wife’s invite for Mr. Grey’s sister’s wedding. At his request, we had to send a message to Hammerstone without going too far outside of the law, so after a little research, we discovered that his wife was hassling him causing him to hassle Mr. Grey, so we had to put a little heat on her, for lack of a better term. The best way to do so was through her beloved Löwchen, so… we took her dog. Nothing else became more important than getting her dog back, not even the wedding. Once he called off the ticket brigade and the existing tickets expunged—including the one you got last week—we sent the dog back.” I sit there for a moment, frowning at him.
“You kidnapped the man’s dog?” I ask. Alex shakes his head.
“We kidnapped his wife’s dog,” Alex corrects me.
“Semantics!” I snap, shaking my head. “You people are insane. Who woulda thought to kidnap the man’s dog?”
“Know your opponent. You do what you have to do,” Alex says with a shrug.
“And what if there was no dog?” I ask.
“We would have thought of something else,” he said. “The dog was easy. Had we gotten caught, the worst we could have gotten was a misdemeanor, even if they threw the book at us. But that dog was like a child to his wife. We were looking at hitting him where it hurt—valuable stuff. We got lucky on the dog.”
“Indeed,” I say, tickled and disgusted at the same time. “Can anybody possibly find out what all we get up to?”
“Not in a million years,” Christian assures me and Alex shakes his head.
“Good,” I say, putting my feet on the floor, standing, and strolling towards the door, “because if they could, ‘Guntucky’ would be the least of our worries.”
I nearly jump for joy when I get home and find two men in my workout room installing a heavy bag. Part of me is overjoyed beyond belief and the other part of me wonders what took so fucking long. Nonetheless, I’m glad to see the damn thing being installed. I don’t use one that often except when I need it like right away, and I don’t know why we didn’t think to have one installed right after the honeymoon… and the whole Edward David reveal on Santorini… but that’s water under the bridge now.
What should we be doing right now? Should we be picking out our wardrobe? Going over what we should and shouldn’t be saying for the interview? We’ve only got a few days and somewhere in there, we’ve got to deal with what’s going on with Grace. Carrick has been very quiet. Has there been any news? Seventy-two hours… would that be today or tomorrow? Did they decide to hold her longer? Shit, I haven’t checked in with Helping Hands all day, but I’m sure that Courtney or Marilyn would have called me had there been a problem. That reminds me though…
I go to my office and finish constructing my twentieth and final letter to the licensing board. I’ve worded it such that there are subtle hints that this will be my final communication with them on the matter—then I email it to Marilyn to get it going in today’s mail. We’re are just at the end of the business day and if she hurries, she can get it to the post office and it’ll be on someone’s desk on Thursday morning. Whether they open it or not is of little consequence to me, as long as I get that twentieth certified signed card back. Twenty certified letters to the licensing board and sixteen smarmy replies—that should get someone’s attention.
The school year has officially begun, and that bitch caused us to miss it again. I’ve had about all I’m going to roll over and take from that vindictive, self-serving cunt. If she wants to play dirty, I’m fucking ready to play dirty. I’ve had about enough of this shit…
Just as my mind is about to go on one of those Christian Grey nobody-does-this-shit-to-me-and-gets-away-with-it rants, my phone buzzes in my pocket and I have to stand to fish it out. I swipe the screen and see that it’s Carrick calling.
“Carrick?” I answer. “What’s up? What’s going on?”
“Ana, hi. Are… you alone?” Well, it would be moot at this point if I wasn’t, wouldn’t it?”
“I need you to come to the hospital.” I frown.
“Of course, I’ll come, but you have to tell me why we’re being so secretive,” I reply. He sighs.
“Gracie is asking for you,” he says. I gasp.
“For me?” He’s silent. “No one else?” He’s still silent. “There’s something else, Carrick. Tell me what it is.” He sighs again.
“You’re a doctor,” he says. “We’re going to need help explaining what’s going on.” My hands fly to my mouth.
“Is she…” I can barely form a sentence.
“She’s getting a treatment plan,” he says quickly. “She’s not dying or anything, but… can you please just come? I don’t have time to explain this to my kids can you please just come?” He says the last part all in one breath.
“You realize I have to find some kind of way to explain this to my husband!” I implore him.
“I know… if it’s too much…”
“Oh, of course I’ll come!” I say, my voice almost scolding.
About 45 minutes later, Chuck and I are at the front desk of Seattle General Hospital informing the guard and the desk nurse that Dr. Thomas Cruey is expecting us. We would have been here sooner, but trying to get pass the iron grip of one Christian Grey was worse than trying to break out of prison.
“She’s my mother and you’re telling me that you can see her and I can’t?” he demands.
“That’s not what I’m saying at all,” I correct him. “I’m saying that there’s something that her doctor needs to explain and she and Carrick want me present. He said it’s because I’m a doctor, too. Apparently, they’re going to need some help explaining it to the rest of the family.”
“Well, what it is?” he continues. “Is she dying?”
“No, she’s not dy…”
“Well, what the fuck is it, then?” he shouts.
“I’m sure as hell not going to find out with you standing here screaming at me!” I retort.
That went on for about fifteen minutes until I refused to argue anymore and walked out of the house. Before he could threaten anybody’s job, I announced that if someone didn’t come with me, I was scaling the fence and getting an Uber.
Now, I’m on the elevator on my way to the psyche ward to meet Carrick, Grace, and Grace’s shrink. I changed out of the red that I was wearing as red can be a trigger color in some cases for some psychiatric patients depending on why they’re on the ward. Instead, I swap out the red for calmer colors—tan skirt with black shirt and jacket, black snakeskin stilettos. Chuck has to remain in the waiting area of the ward while I’m escorted beyond the security doors and down the stark white hallways to an office at the end. Carrick stands to greet me. He looks very tired, like he hasn’t slept in days, and I imagine that he probably hasn’t—not since Grace has been in here. He hugs me like he hasn’t seen me in decades, like I’m the Messiah, and I know that he’s just happy that someone else is here to help him bear the burden.
“Why didn’t you call me sooner?” I ask as he lays on my shoulder.
“And say what?” he says.
“I don’t know… ‘I need help,’ ‘I’m tired,’ ‘I’m losing my mind,’ ‘I’m scared…’”
A voice from behind me startles the shit out of me and I had forgotten that we aren’t in the room alone.
“Dr. Cruey, this is my daughter-in-law, Anastasia Grey.” The kindly-looking older gentlemen stretches his hand out to me.
“I’ve heard a lot about you, Dr. Grey, from Grace and from Carrick,” he says. Hmm, I wonder that he should still be wanting to shake my hand, then. I accept his hand and shake.
“Dr. Cruey. It’s nice to meet you, sir.” He gestures to the seat.
“Please, have a seat. I’ll summon Grace.” I take a seat next to Carrick while the doctor makes a call.
“Why didn’t you call?” I whisper. “Come and stay with us or have one of us stay with you?”
“Because I was being watched,” he says softly. My eyes widen.
“By whom?” I ask. He shrugs.
“Paparazzi, I guess, I don’t know, but I was being watched and followed every day. Same guy.” The doctor is now observing us curiously. He really should have called us if he thought he was being watched. I cut the conversation for now. We’re going to need to get to the bottom of this.
“Grace will be here momentarily,” he says. “Is there something we should discuss?” He’s clearly concerned about our secrecy. I sit up straight and answer honestly.
“I was just continuing my questioning of my father-in-law of why he didn’t call one of us to come and stay with him or at least come and stay with us while Grace was here.” I turn back to Carrick. “I know that his brother is there at the Manor with him, but…” I trail off. “I don’t know. They just suffered the same loss—the loss of their father—and I just think that Herman may not be capable of offering the emotional support that Carrick needs right now.”
“There’s more,” Dr. Cruey correctly deduces. I look to Carrick and he nods. Cruey may be Grace’s doctor, but I’m Carrick’s.
“Well, yes,” I admit, still looking at Carrick. “He’s concerned about his privacy. He thinks the press may be watching. Christian and I are accustomed to that, but…” I gesture to Carrick as the explanation of the rest of the statement. I won’t give him any more. I’m concerned that we don’t know exactly who is following Carrick and we need to find out, but I won’t tell him that.
“May I ask why you felt the need to get Mr. Grey’s permission to share that information?” the doctor asks with a slight frown. “It seemed pretty harmless, and I was only asking because I’m treating his wife and I’m concerned about secrets.” I look to Carrick again for permission to reveal our relationship. He nods his assent once more.
“Because I’m not only Carrick’s daughter-in-law, but he has also confided in me on a professional level. So, he has the right to assume that anything that he tells me is protected unless we discuss it openly.” His brow furrows.
“Carrick, why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” the doctor asks.
“It never came up,” Carrick responds.
“Does Grace know?” Dr. Cruey asks.
“Kind of,” I respond. “I think, I mean, I told her that Carrick and I had talked when I tried to have a discussion with her once, but I don’t know if she knows the full extent…”
My explanation is interrupted by a knock at the door. The doctor beckons them to come in and Grace enters the office. She looks good. She looks rested, more rested than Carrick. She smiles widely when she sees me, and I can sense a total change in her demeanor. This is the Grace I know. I want to stand up and hug her, but I don’t know the protocol yet.
“Grace, good. Come in, please,” Dr. Cruey says. He comes around the desk and escorts Grace into the office. When she clears the door, Carrick stands and gives her a warm embrace. I sigh heavily. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to normal in a long time with them. He kisses her gently on the cheek.
“How are you, Gracie?” he says, softly.
“Much better than you, it appears,” she says with a sad smile, gently touching his cheek. “I’ll be fine now, Cary. You need to get some rest.”
“I’ll get some rest when you’re back home,” he confesses. Grace “tsk’s” and shakes her head. She looks past him at me and reaches out her hand. I grasp it firmly, the same hand I held in the ambulance on the way here.
“Thank you… for everything, and thank you for coming,” she says, her voice cracking.
“Of course,” is all I can say, unable to hide the emotion in my own voice, the events of our arrival flooding back to me.
“Everyone take a seat,” Dr. Cruey says, rounding us up before we get too emotional. Grace takes the other seat next to her husband and we all turn our attention to Dr. Cruey.
“Dr. Grey, Grace asked that you be here because she wanted another doctor present to help explain things to her family. What she’s going through shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s one of the most severe cases that I’ve ever seen and as you can imagine, I’ve seen more than a few.
“I knew after the first few minutes of talking to your wife that she wasn’t suicidal,” Dr. Cruey says, turning his attention to Carrick. “I could tell that she was very confused, and her behavior was a bit psychotic, but in a medical sense. She was disoriented and frustrated one minute, then she was forlorn and apologetic the next. Moments thereafter, she was angry and combative, suffering from an intense persecution complex. The width and range of her mood swings were a pendulum; the speed was a metronome.”
I look over at Grace, her gaze focused on her clasped hands. I can’t see her face, just that her head is down and she’s as still as a statue. Carrick reaches over and covers her hands with his, but she doesn’t move.
“I must tell you that it’s hard for her to hear this,” Dr. Cruey continues. “She didn’t and doesn’t see her behavior as badly as everyone else did or does. She couldn’t. She’s in the middle of it. Everything that she’s seeing and thinking and feeling is very real to her, and none of you understand. Carrick, you had the typical response to her actions and behavior—psychiatric ward…”
“I felt like I didn’t have a choice,” Carrick defends.
“I didn’t say that you were wrong. I said it was a typical response,” the doctor interrupts. “Her behavior was erratic, unexplainable, and highly out of character and the icing on the cake was the kitchen accident that no one could be sure was an accident.”
We all turn to Grace and the doctor stops talking. Grace raises her gaze to him when she notices the silence and then to Carrick and me.
“I didn’t try to kill myself,” she says firmly. “That woman was in my house and I wanted to know how in the hell she got in my house!”
“What woman?” Carrick asks.
“Kate,” Grace and I both say at the same time.
“Kate was in our house?” Carrick says, surprised. How does he not know this?
“That’s another story for another time,” I tell him directing his attention back to his wife. I want him to get to the point.
“Mia had dismissed me from anything that had to do with the wedding,” Grace adds mournfully. “She was so angry with me when she found out some of the things I had planned without her knowledge. I don’t know, they just didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. Even now… I don’t know…”
The fact that she’s indecisive about her actions instead of dug-in in her victim role indicates a huge change from just a week ago.
“I really did want things to be so spectacular. I still do, but…” She shakes her head. “The more I try to explain things… the more I look at things and… everything just seems so surreal!”
“So, what’s causing all of this?” I ask finally. I can’t take the build-up anymore. Can we just get to the point?
“Dr. Grey… Ana, it’s very important that you help the family understand the seriousness of this. If they brush this off, it’s going to get worse, but they can’t feed into either. It’s going to be like raising a child.”
“I need to know what we’re dealing with here,” I say, quickly losing my patience. He sighs.
“Grace is suffering from one of the most severe cases of perimenopause I’ve ever seen,” he announces finally.
All that build-up for menopause.
I want to slap this man.
“And that look,” he says, pointing at me, “that reaction, is exactly what we need to avoid from her family.” You son-of-a…
“No, here’s the problem,” I say, leaning forward in my seat and pointing at him the same way that he’s pointing at me. “For you to be a mental health professional, you handled that all wrong! For starters, you don’t pull somebody’s family in and drag something out like that when they’re waiting to hear about a diagnosis! You have no idea what her family has been through waiting to find out if she’s okay. They’ve been pulled apart at the seams over this! I got into a fight with my husband this afternoon to keep him from coming here with me and now, I’m so glad that I did, because had he won that fight and you put him through what you just put me through…”
“Us…” Carrick growls through his teeth next to me. I turn my gaze to my father-in-law and his fists are clenched. He’s looking at the floor and his jaw is tight, like he’s fighting to maintain his composure. He didn’t know. He was waiting for the announcement just like I was. Fucking hell.
“If you had put my husband through what you just put us through, they would be surgically removing his fingers from your throat right now,” I finish my thought calmly. “I don’t know if you were made aware of this, but earlier this year, my best friend and Grace’s other daughter-in-law, was also displaying erratic, unexplainable behavior and we discovered that she had a brain tumor! So, while you’re doing this whole delayed, dramatic announcement thing, her family—myself and her husband included—are sitting in the wake of a cancer scare expecting the worst! This man just lost his father, for Christ’s sake! What kind of shrink are you?”
I think I’ve shocked the good doctor, because he’s sitting there staring at me a bit dumbfounded. Just as he’s about to retort, Carrick speaks.
“You didn’t even have to summon my daughter-in-law for this,” he says.
“I summoned Ana,” Grace interjects. We both look at her. “I didn’t think the family would take it seriously. I’m not really taking it seriously. The only reason I’m taking it seriously is because I’m living it!”
“Gracie, I’ve been prepared for this since the day I married you,” Carrick says. “I knew that we would be going through all of the ‘growing old’ syndromes together, so I knew I would deal with menopause. I’ve heard horror stories. I never knew how true they were, but I was still prepared. I just didn’t know that it would strike and you wouldn’t know that it was striking. You’re a doctor.”
“Well, if you had asked me before it happened if I expected menopause to be this bad, I would have said ‘no,’ so…” Grace trails off and throws her hands up in surrender. I look back at the psychiatrist, certain that he’s not the person that should be handling this now that we know that nothing is wrong with Grace’s head. She should be talking to her gynecologist about hormone replacement therapy or something. He’s nervous now, because he knows his approach to this situation was all wrong.
“I apologize for the method I used to inform you of Grace’s condition,” he begins. “I just wanted you to be informed before I told you what it was. Like Grace said, so many people don’t take it seriously.” I take a few deep breaths and realize that I need to remain professional because Grace hasn’t been released from this quack’s care, yet. He might be a perfectly fine psychiatrist, but he’s not what this situation calls for, although I do understand that he is a means to an end under the circumstances.
“Well, just so you know, when I speak to the family, I’m going to lead with the menopause part,” I say. He sighs.
“I highly recommend some kind of preliminary explanation, Dr. Grey…” he protests.
“Don’t worry, doctor,” I reply, firmly and professionally, “I can be very persuasive. Grace’s family will have a complete and clear understanding how dire this situation really is by the time I’m done. My question for you is what are we doing to get her as back to normal as possible? She’s a doctor. She doesn’t belong on this ward. She needs to be able to function and heal children and help people because that’s what she does. So, what do we need to do to get that Grace back?”
“I agree that she needs that normalcy back as soon as possible. Once I was able to pinpoint that Grace’s problem was perimenopausal, we put in a call to her GYN who was able to see her the same day since she’s on staff here at the hospital. She started Grace on a hormone replacement regimen. However, you will need to discuss with her family the stressors that may have helped to bring her to this point…”
I listen to the doctor, the entire time wanting to just leap across his desk and choke his ass. I’m trying to filter the useful information from his flowery gobbledygook, because he has just gotten on my last fucking nerve. I’m grateful to him for being able to help Grace and to pinpoint what was wrong with her, but for the life of me, I don’t know how somebody hasn’t killed him by now.
Grace really doesn’t need the final night of her 72-hour hold, but she has agreed to stay nonetheless to give us time to talk to the family. She will get some rest and face everyone with a clear head after they’ve had a chance to marinate over the news overnight. Carrick and I hug and kiss her goodnight and go out to the waiting room with Chuck. Carrick looks exhausted and I suddenly remember the little problem that we were discussing earlier.
“Chuck, I need you to get Jason on the phone. Someone’s been following Carrick and he doesn’t know who it is.” Chuck looks up at Carrick, then rises from his seat.
“How long,” Chuck asks.
“I don’t know,” Carrick replies. “Maybe a couple of days, since I left the hospital.”
“What can you tell me about him? Is it one guy or have you seen different people? Does he try to be discreet?” Carrick thinks for a moment.
“I think it’s just one guy. I haven’t seen anybody else. For the most part, he tries to blend in with the scenery, but when you see the same person in different places, you know you’re being followed.”
“What does he look like?” Chuck asks.
“Early to mid-thirties, maybe… blonde hair, average height—maybe six feet, a little stocky… well built…” Chuck’s brow furrows.
“You don’t need Jason. You need Alex.” He pulls out his cell and dials a number. He walks away from us and talks quietly into the phone. Carrick leans down to me.
“Who’s Alex?” he asks.
“Alex is the head of GEH Security,” I say, trying to strain and hear what Chuck is saying with absolutely no luck.
“I thought Taylor was the head of security,” he says, bemused.
“No, he’s the head of Grey’s personal security. Alex is corporate.” Carrick ponders that statement.
“Should I be concerned?” he asks. The truth is I’m asking that same question.
“Did he follow you here?” Chuck asks, interrupting my thoughts.
“I don’t know,” Carrick replies. “I don’t look over my shoulder. I just see him places. I figured he was one of the press looking for a story.”
“He doesn’t know,” Chuck says into the phone, then pauses for a moment. “How is he dressed when you see him?” Carrick’s brow furrows.
“Um…” He has to think hard to remember what the guy was wearing. “Button-down shirt and trousers, outer jacket and loafers… pretty casual.”
“Did you hear?… Yeah, it could be either one… You got it.” He ends the call. “Where are we going from here?” Chuck asks.
“Well, we’ve got to go back to the Crossing and report on Grace’s condition,” I inform him. He nods.
“Can you wait about fifteen minutes?” he asks. I look at Carrick and he shrugs.
“I guess so. Let’s go get coffee.”
Down in the cafeteria, Carrick is quiet as he stares into his untouched cup of macchiato.
“Menopause,” he laments. “I left my wife because of menopause. I swore I wouldn’t do it and I did it.”
“You didn’t leave her, Carrick,” I correct him. “You took a break because you were suffering, too. Had you had all your wits about you while she was going through this and had not been dealing with Pops’ death, you would have knocked some sense into Grace about her behavior… well, not literally, but you know what I mean. People don’t give themselves enough credit for their own suffering in times like these. You’re not going to be any good to Grace if you don’t see this for what it is. Beating yourself up is not going to help at all.” He nods, but I get the feeling that he’s still knocking himself around a bit.
While we’re talking, my phone vibrates and it’s Christian. He’s going to have to wait for a minute, because I’m trying to put a fire out here.
“I just wish I could have been stronger. I didn’t expect it to be this bad for her, but I guess I have to realize what the doctor said—there was so much going on at once. There was no way that any of us could focus on any one thing…” I’m trying to focus on him, but my phone is vibrating again. I swipe the screen to ignore the call once more with a text that I will call back later. I’ll be home soon anyway and I really don’t feel like picking up our fight where we left off. This time he answers with a text. I sigh heavily and ask Carrick to excuse me for a moment. I swipe the screen and read the text.
**Answer your goddamn phone. **
He’s determined to fight with me. My phone vibrates again and I realize that if I don’t answer it, he’s just going to keep calling and if I turn off my phone, the fight is just going to be bigger when I get home. I feel like I’m facing the firing squad when I swipe the screen.
“Yes?” My voice is a bit more irritated than I want to relay, but I don’t think it matters at this point.
“We have a security situation going on and you didn’t think to call me?” he seethes into the phone. Several thoughts go into the three-second funnel at this moment…
We just got out of a meeting with a shrink who thought it was a good idea to drag out the revelation of a diagnosis.
Somebody’s following Carrick and we don’t know who it is.
Chuck is very likely setting up a sting right now and we’re in a holding position with no details.
Carrick is now blaming himself for not being prepared for a situation he promised he would be prepared for and I’m trying to talk him back from the cliff.
I have to go home and explain to the family that Grace is going through MegaMenopause and that we not only have to handle her with kid gloves, but we also have to know when to be firm with her.
My husband, who I fought with before I left the house to come to the hospital, is now on the phone speaking to me in his simmering voice because I didn’t notify him of a security situation. I turned it over to Chuck instead.
Once all those ingredients go into the three-second funnel and swirl around a bit, I press my fingers to my now throbbing scar and calmly deliver the three words that come out of the funnel.
“No, I didn’t.”
And off he goes. I don’t even know what he’s saying. I only know that my head hurts, and I suddenly want to find my neurologist in this joint and have him give me a sedative. Somewhere during my husband’s rant, the hand holding my phone just falls to the table, prompting Carrick to take it from my hand. I don’t even bother trying to stop him. He looks at the screen before putting the phone to his ear.
“Christian, what are you saying to this woman? She’s sitting here rubbing her head like she’s trying to start a fire… Well, I would, but I’m pretty certain that she didn’t hear the last ten seconds of whatever you were barking about because she’s gone into a stupor…”
Longer than that.
“Well, it’s not like there’s much that we can do. Charles told us to wait for a few minutes. As soon as he tells us that we can leave, we’ll be on our way… We’ll tell you all when we get there… I most certainly will not! We will tell you when we tell everyone else!… I most certainly will not, because I won’t allow you to badger her either. I realize that you’re a grown man and this is your wife and I respect that, but right now, I’m barely holding it together, son, and she’s helping me. I need you to respect that!”
There’s a long pause after that and I almost hate to see or hear what’s happening on the other end of the phone.
“Thank you. We’ll be there as soon as we can. Charles said fifteen minutes a while ago, so it shouldn’t be long now.” There’s another pause and he ends the call. My scar is thumping worse than ever now. I take a moment to rest my head on my arms on the table. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this night.
“Sir, Her Highness and your father are coming into the gate now.”
It’s about goddamn time. We’ve been waiting here forever to hear what’s going on with my mother, ever since my wife ceremoniously forbade me to go to the hospital with her to find out for myself. How in the hell I let her out of this house without insisting on going with her, I’ll never know, but I’ll deal with her insolence later.
“What about the mystery man?” I ask.
“No longer a mystery,” Jason says. “Westin and Manchester headed him off at the bridge. My guess is that he was going to follow Mr. Grey all the way here or home if he could. He’s a private investigator. His name is Dustin Carver, or at least that’s who we think he is. Of course, no info on who he’s working for. Alex is getting everything he can from facial recognition, the car… we were even able to lift fingerprints from his phone.”
“Do I even want to know how they managed to do that?” I ask. Jason shrugs.
“Nothing sketchy,” he assures me. “We’ll have everything on who he really is. We just won’t know who hired him. There’s only so much of a shakedown you can do under the circumstances.” I sigh. This is just what we need right now—private eye following my dad. Why in the world would a PI be following Dad?
I stand from my desk and take the stairs up to the main floor. The family has begun to convene in the dining room. Mia and Ethan have been summoned to the Crossing for the “Big Reveal,” for lack of a better term, and they’re sitting at the table with Valerie and Elliot. Jason and I are coming around the column from the rear staircase just as Dad, Chuck, and my errant wife enter from the hallway leading from the front of the house.
… At least I think that’s my wife. She looks like banshees have been playing in her hair, but only one side. She’s been worrying her scar.
“Jesus, Steele, what the hell?” Valerie says. Butterfly looks at her, bemused.
“What?” Valerie points at her hair causing Butterfly to touch her head.
“Oh,” she says, trying to smooth it, but doing no good whatsoever.
“Just… just stop, stop,” Valerie says, going over to her friend and gently combing her fingers through Butterfly’s wild mane. “Damn, Steele, have monkeys been running through your head?”
“No,” Butterfly says, flinching as Valerie tries to detangle her tresses.
“Dad, why didn’t you tell her that her hair looked like that?” I ask quietly. The look my father gives me is murderous.
“I’m afraid I was a bit too distracted with my wife’s condition and the unknown gentleman following me to pay much attention to fashion, son,” he bites out. His tone is so brutal that I literally draw back. I almost want to slither away like a vampire from sunlight.
“So, um, not that I’m being insensitive or anything, but can we please worry about Montana’s hair dilemma later? I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’re all about to burst wondering what’s going on with Mom.” Butterfly nods and waves Valerie away from her hair.
“For those who may be wondering, she didn’t try to commit suicide,” Butterfly begins with no prelim.
“Oh, thank God,” Mia sighs heavily and almost collapses into Ethan’s arms. I had no idea she was carrying the situation so heavily. Then again, she did ban Mom from wedding duty and I have no idea what the rules were for the shower. She’s probably been carrying a lot of guilt while waiting to hear what’s happening.
“There’s no fatal disease—no tumor, no cancer.” And here comes Elliot’s big sigh. His concern was that he was going to have to go through a repeat of what he went through with Valerie.
“She’s not crazy; there’s no Alzheimer’s; and she’s not being deliberately obtuse, mean, or selfish.”
And now, it’s my turn to sigh. I was so sure that my angel was just leaving me—that I was totally losing her—but now I know that’s not what it is… but what is it?
I see now that my wife has systematically put all our fears to rest, but she still hasn’t told us what is wrong with my mother.
“Grace is staying in the hospital for one more night to get some rest and so that we can talk about what’s going on with her and help her through it,” Butterfly continues.
“Well, we know what’s not going on with her…” Valerie begins.
“She’s going through perimenopause, and it’s pretty much tearing her apart,” Butterfly announces.
“Wait a minute,” Elliot says, “all of this is from menopause?” Butterfly nods.
“It can come in like a lion or lamb. It just depends on the woman. It can be as simple as crying spells, mood swings, and hot flashes or as complex as hallucinations, vicious behavior and psychosis and anywhere in between,” she informs.
“Mom’s a doctor. Why didn’t she see this coming?” Elliot continues to protest.
“Most often, when something’s going on with your mind, you don’t see it coming, El,” Valerie interjects. “Grace may be a doctor, but being able to diagnose yourself or anybody else most likely requires logic and reason. How much logic and reason do you think she’s been exercising throughout this?” Elliot shakes his head.
“I’m sorry. I just don’t see how this could make my mother go totally off the rails this way,” he protests.
“Think of it this way, babe,” Valerie says, turning to face him. “You know those six days right before my period when I turn into Medusa?”
I see my brother literally shiver.
“Yeah, you do. Now, you see how you bend to my every whim, but you still avoid me like the plague because you’re afraid that I’m going to bite off your head and shit down your throat?” All the men in the room clear their throats uncomfortably.
“Yeah,” Elliot says, squirming a bit in his seat.
“And you see how you wait until my period starts and then you mark the days off for me like a prisoner ticking off the days until his release?”
Elliot looks uncomfortably around the room at the rest of us. I haven’t had the joy of periods in months because Butterfly has been pregnant, and then she started breastfeeding. I can remember a bad PMS or two before that, but not many, so I just listen since I know absolutely nada about menopause. Ethan and Dad and even Jason all look a little uncomfortable with this topic of conversation, so I assume they can empathize a little more with my brother’s plight.
“Yes, dear, I get it, but we’re not talking about PMS…”
“Oh, but we are, Elliot,” Valerie corrects him, “because take those crashing, violent, merciless hormones that rip my body apart for a few days every month and turn me into an unrecognizable, unapproachable, snarling beast then multiply them exponentially, add in a few hot flashes—assuming she’s having those—some possible hallucinations, a bit of paranoia, several stressful situations piling up one after the other, and no relief in sight. There’s no period coming to relieve her. She could be going through this for a month, six months, or ten years. So, you imagine having to deal with crazy PMS Valerie on steroids for ten years, because I’m sure as hell not looking forward to being that person. So, when you see symptoms like what we’re seeing now, get my ass to they G-Y-N, because I’m going to need hormone therapy pronto.”
Valerie’s speech leaves the room silent and several people turn to look at Butterfly.
“Is that what’s going on with Mom?” Elliot asks. Butterfly sighs and nods.
“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” she replies.
“Shit, I should’ve known,” Mia says, hitting herself in the head. “Erin’s mother is going through the exact same thing right now. She’s like a damn alien! They had to send her on a sabbatical. God, it’s all so clear now. Why didn’t I see it sooner?”
“The wedding,” Dad intercepts. “You were distracted. It’s understandable. So was I…”
“… And I’m going to tell you, Mia, just like I told Carrick,” Butterfly inserts. “Beating yourself up is not going to help Grace. You both had other things on your mind just like Grace did. A lot of her behavior was masked by all the shit that she was doing. We only saw what was going on when we needed her. But think about something. We’ve all had some really massive thing happen to each one of us in the last 18 months. While each of those things happened to each one of us, they all happened to Grace.
“She had my accident, the birth of her grandchildren, Elena’s trial, both sons getting married, Val getting cancer, Pops’ death and currently Mia’s wedding, the eternally delayed Helping Hands accreditation, her still-grieving husband, and a stressful job at the hospital. On top of that, she’s perimenopausal. This is going to be like raising a child. She’s going to need our support, but we’re going to have to know when to have a firm hand with her, too, or we may find ourselves being manipulated.”
“I was afraid you were going to say something like that,” I lament.
“This was the situation you were facing with Hammerstone, Christian,” Dad says. “She couldn’t reel that in. She didn’t know how. She’s going to have a better handle on things now since she knows what’s going on and she’ll be taking meds and such, but she’s going to need some guidance… and she’s going to have to know what she can and can’t get away with… Mia.”
“I know, I know,” Mia replies, a bit crestfallen. “She’s still banned from wedding duty. She has to be. I don’t want her going back trying to redo a lot of the stuff that I’ve undone. There’s nothing more that she can do anyway. The wedding’s two weeks away. I’ll apologize in advance for whatever happens at my wedding that I am not aware of or that I wasn’t able to cancel.”
Great. It’s still going to be a three-ring circus. I just know it.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Dad says. “Right now, we need to make sure that we’re all on the same page when it comes down to handling your mother…”
We talk in detail concerning what’s going to be done about Mom and how she’s going to be “handled” while she’s going through menopause, but Elliot and I are still more than a little stumped as to how menopause can cause such a drastic change in a woman… not just any woman, our mother. Valerie explained it very well, but quite frankly, I never completely understood the dynamics of PMS either. Some of my submissives suffered from it while others didn’t—or at least I never saw it. It usually depended on what form of birth control they used or if PMS hit them throughout the week when I didn’t meet with them.
I’ve only had PMS interfere with a scene once in the many years that I’ve been a Dominant. One of my submissives was in so much pain from cramping that I found her in a ball in the shower in tears. I had to call Gail to come and help me find out what was wrong with her. As far as the bleeding goes, sex during a menstrual cycle never bothered me. A couple of my subs had a problem with it, but they soon got over it. However, you can’t very well fuck and flog a woman who’s doubled over in pain… unless you’re one completely insensitive asshole.
So, Mom’s going to be released sometime tomorrow after lunch and she has agreed to a meeting at the Manor once she’s home and settled. I’m somewhat shocked that my mother agreed to stay on the psyche ward one more night to get some rest so that she would be able to face us tomorrow. It really makes you think about how serious her situation must be when she could have rested just as easily in her own bed and still agreed to meet with us tomorrow. We would have left her in peace.
My wife steals away to tend to our children while I talk to my family a while longer. I try to convince Dad to stay the night with us, especially with Inspector Gadget following him around, but he declines. He finally leaves with Mia and Ethan shortly behind him, bidding us, “Goodnight” until tomorrow’s meeting.
And now… my wife.
It was like she openly kicked against everything she should have done today… and these are my parents! It’s menopause. Why the fuck couldn’t I go to the hospital? And that whole climbing the fence thing, that was just childish! That was nothing more than an overblown temper tantrum. And then they discover that Dad was being followed and she didn’t think to call me? I think it’s time Mrs. Grey is taught a little lesson.
I check in on my children and see that they are fast asleep, so I go to our bedroom to find my wife snuggling down in bed.
“That’s pretty presumptuous of you,” I say, invoking my voice. My wife slowly turns and looks over her shoulder at me like I’m an alien being. Not the reaction I was going for.
“Anastasia…” I begin. She leans up on one elbow, staring at me and says the last thing I expect to hear.
I’m a bit taken aback. Did she just say, “No” to me?
“Excuse me?” I ask, trying to keep the Dom monster at bay.
“No,” she repeats. “You can fuck me. You can even angry fuck me if you want, but you will. Not. Punish me.”
Um, dear, that’s not the way this works! The errant submissive doesn’t choose when she gets punished.
“What makes you think…” She’s interrupting me before I can finish.
“And I’m not going to argue with you about it, either,” she continues. “I’ve done nothing that warrants correction and I’ll safeword if that’s what you need, but you will not punish me for anything that happened today.”
Just like that, the Dom is deflated. It’s like I’ve been hit head on in the stomach with a wrecking ball.
“I’ve lost every little bit of control over everything I possibly could have once we got back home, and you’re denying me the one way that I can regain control over any of this?” I seethe. She can’t be serious!
“You do whatever you need to do to regain control, Christian, but you’re not going to do it by punishing me—not tonight, and not for this.” She throws the covers off her body and sits up. “You’ll be setting a precedent. You’ll be telling me that I can never help any of your family ever again; that I have to choose between you and them; that your feelings are so all-important, and your word is so final that I can’t do anything that might disrupt your precious control even if it’s something that could be detrimental to the Grey collective.”
She’s pissed. She’s not just saying, “No;” she’s saying, “Hell, no!” I have never in my life had a woman shut down the Dom without verbally safewording, and she just did.
“You’ve defied me all day,” I protest.
“No, I haven’t,” she retorts. “We were the perfect team at Grey House, talking to the journalists and making our decisions about what we were going to do for the interview. Even when you all told me about that damn dog, I didn’t step on anybody’s toes. It wasn’t until we got home, and your father said that he wanted me at the hospital and not you that you felt defied. And it wasn’t me that was defying you even then; it was your father. So… what? You’re going to punish me because Daddy didn’t want you at the hospital?”
Goddammit! She fought with me before she left, not my father!
“My father didn’t keep me from going to the hospital…”
“So, you’re telling me that the fact that your father said that he wanted me at the hospital and me alone had nothing to do with the fact that you didn’t go.” She calls me right out on my shit, so I change tact.
“You didn’t inform me when there was an obvious breach in security,” I accuse. “I had to find out from Jason.”
“Which is who you should have found out from,” she interjects. “In matters of immediate security, lean to the judgment of security and wait for instruction—or did you forget that you fucked that into my head a couple of weeks ago?”
Fucking hell, she sounds bitter. She’s ready for a fight on this one. I rather enjoyed myself in the playroom and I thought she did, too. We talked about what happened and I thought we settled it. I guess I was wrong.
“It appears that conversation didn’t bury your trepidation from that day after all,” I observe, a little lost for words.
“It’s not my trepidation that’s the concern here, Christian. It’s your intentions,” she corrects me firmly. “I’m done rolling over and being the punching bag for family members going crazy, ex-submissives with an axe to grind, crazy DJ’s trying to prove a point, licensing boards who feel like they have my life in their hands, and yes, even your dick, whips, and toys. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve had to fight for control? How many times I’ve just wanted to run through the streets screaming? Do I come at you with a chastity cage every time that shit happens to me? No, because there’s a time and a place for it. There are times when I understand that’s what you need and it’s my job to give you what you need, but this is not one of those times. I had my heavy bag installed so that I don’t take my shortfalls or failures out on you, whatever they may be, and quite frankly, I’m fucking tired of people taking them out on me. So, if you think you’re just going to come in here and demand that I fall into submission because I was put in an impossible position and I did exactly what I was supposed to do, and you want to punish me for it, well then you can stick your dick, your whips, and your toys where the sun don’t shine, Sir!”
Well! I’m totally at a loss for how to deal with this. What am I supposed to do with this information? I’m a Dominant, and I’ve been waiting all evening and most of the night to exercise my dominance on my submissive and now, she’s saying, “No?” What do I do with this?
This is very new. I’m standing here in my bedroom with my arms folded with my wife glaring at me like she’s daring me to make a move. In fact, that’s exactly what she’s doing. She hasn’t safeworded, but she said that she would, and she has—in no uncertain terms—forbade me to exercise any dominance on her. She has given me permission to angry fuck her, as she put it, but right now I don’t even know what that means. She threw up a wall on one of my basest coping mechanisms and although she didn’t safeword, it’s as if she has.
“Very well, then,” I say with a nod and leave our suite. I take the winding stairs down to the first level and walk through the now quiet house to the service stairs in the back and end up in the exercise room. I’m not angry. That much I can decipher. I’m confused… and totally out of control. I have pent-up energy and frustration and total mayhem boiling up inside of me and my muscles are all in knots. I have never had a woman or a submissive tell me no before—and mean it—ever, and I don’t know how to handle it.
I strip down to my boxer briefs and my bare feet and take to the treadmill. I pound away at that thing, setting the workout higher and higher every few minutes as it seems I’m not feeling the burn that I need. I close my eyes and imagine myself running down a mountain trail in the snow, the frigid air blasting in my face and punishing my lungs as I’m gasping for air.
My wife said she would safeword on me. My wife told me not to punish her or she would safeword on me. She would safeword on me. The way she looked at me, like I was a stranger, like she would scream if I came near her.
“… You can stick your dick, your whips, and your toys where the sun don’t shine, Sir!”
Yes, that would have been very nice, Anastasia, but unfortunately, you pretty much told me that I couldn’t shove my dick up your ass and it’s physically impossible and not quite desirable to shove it up my own.
I pound and pound and pound on that treadmill for I have no idea how long until my body is completely drenched with sweat, which is now dripping into my eyes. I step off the treadmill and dry my face, still feeling the knots in my muscles and the frustration tightening and burning in my chest. Once the stinging in my eyes has ceased, I focus on the newest addition to the workout room.
The heavy bag.
I slide my hands into the gloves and let loose on that thing until I see the sun rising over the lake.
She didn’t safeword on me, but she might as well have.
A/N: Inspector Gadget–old cartoon and later a movie about a bumbling detective who could only solve crimes with the help of his clever niece and her dog with the human IQ.
This is a pretty lengthy author’s note and if you don’t want to read it, that’s fine.
There was a nice handful of you who hit this nail right on the head as you were going along and I was really impressed, so bravo to you (the Goddess bows). My battle with menopause started at about 38 and it’s still in progress and not yet in full blast. My doctor refuses to diagnose it, but I know that’s what it is because (a) my body is going batshit berserk and (b) nothing in the WORLD compares to a hot flash! It doesn’t last long (unless you’re having one), but it is BRUTAL and can’t be compared to anything else in God’s creation! So, she can kiss my ass with that “it’s all in your head” shit.
Anyway, I’ve only seen three sitcoms or running television shows address menopause in my whole life. If I think hard, I’m sure I can come up with some movies, like Fried Green Tomatoes, but sitcoms and running shows are a continuing part of our lives. I always thought they should address things like that. I don’t watch television anymore, so someone would have to tell me if they address things like this or do they still address the obvious, like infidelity and teen pregnancy and Reality TV Hip Hop of the Ghetto bullshit like it was when I stopped watching?
Anyway, I digress…
The three shows that I saw address the issue were The Cosby Show, Little House on the Prairie, and The Golden Girls.
In the Cosby Show, Claire woke up one morning and just knew she had hit menopause. So, she floated through it in her usual Claire way. Her children thought she should be falling apart and when she didn’t, they all clustered around waiting for the other shoe to drop. So, she and Cliff staged a breakdown and the children all came to comfort her, telling her that everything would be alright, at which point she promptly came out of her breakdown and announced that she knew that she would be okay and asked why they were all acting like this was the Apocalypse? End of episode.
In Little House on the Prairie, Caroline Ingalls missed her period and announced to Charles that she was pregnant, but when she went to Dr. Baker, he told her that she wasn’t. The obvious conclusion was menopause. Afraid that Charles wouldn’t find her attractive anymore, she faked a miscarriage. Charles runs into the doctor and mentions Caroline losing the baby and the doctor tells him the truth. Caroline falls into a deep depression, so Charles takes her on a vacation to help bring her out of it and to renew their wedding vows and remind her that he still loves her. End of Episode
The most poignant one to me was The Golden Girls. Dorothy was having a terrible time of it and went to her doctor, who swiftly told her that nothing was wrong with her. She insisted that something was indeed wrong with her and asked him to run some tests. He did and returned with the same diagnosis. She went to another doctor who listened and correctly diagnosed her and came up with a treatment plan. Soon after, she was out to dinner with the girls and saw the first doctor at a nearby table having dinner with his wife. She walked over to his table and proceeded to let him have it for dismissing her concerns and telling her that nothing was wrong with her. He announced that he didn’t have to stay and listen to her and tried to get up and leave and his wife told him to sit down, shut up, and listen. Dorothy continued to give him the very real dressing down that he had coming for ignoring her very real illness before going back to her table and finishing her dinner. End of episode.
Personally, on more than one occasion, I have fallen very quickly into depression or wanted to kill Daddy for not taking a hot flash as seriously as I do. Those things are natural torment and I when I experience them, I need him to know that I’m going through my own personal HELL!
So now, after my crazy rambling, you all can go on with your day and feel free to comment about any of your personal experiences with menopause or the experiences of those you know.
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