Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 23

As promised, a little bit of salve for this corona quarantine…

This is a work of 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…

Season 5 Episode 23

ANASTASIA

“If it’s not too much trouble, would you please meet me at the hospital?”

I’ve happily spent Saturday with me and Sophie happily introducing my babies to my love of aquariums, then taking pictures with the Wax figures at Madame Tussauds before coming home and having a junk food/romcom night with all the girls since Gail and Sophie will be leaving tomorrow. I thought about sending the twins back, too, but decided against it since I’d rather have my babies here with me.

I had decided to take a trip to the chocolate factory this morning, but I have Dr. Lee on the line smugly requesting my presence at Summerlin. You wanna go that route, Doc? Fine by me.

“Save the sarcasm, Dr. Lee,” I retort, “and you can shove that judgmental attitude right up your ass. I’ve taken all I’m going to take from you and that self-righteous gaggle of nurses you have up there.” He’s silent for a moment, then he clears his throat.

“I apologize,” he says stoically. Save it.

“What have you decided?” Get to the point. I’m not making a trip out to Summerlin for you to throw more bullshit at me. He pauses again.

“Will you please come to the hospital and sign the documents giving us permission for Mrs. Morton’s psychiatric evaluation?” he replies. It’s about fucking time.

“I’ll be there as soon as is convenient,” I reply. “And Dr. Lee?”

“Yes?” he replies, his voice sounding a bit petulant.

“Anastasia Rose Steele, date of birth 10/18/85. You have my permission to obtain my medical records from UMC from March 2001, and I know that you can. Take a good look at what happened to me. Share it with those sanctimonious, critical nurses that keep giving me the side-eye and disrespecting me when I show up on the ICU. And as you’re reading that stuff, calculate how old I was when this occurred. Consider the fact that I was a straight-A student who did nothing at all to deserve what happened to me except allow myself to get raped by the most popular boy in school. Maybe that’ll answer some of your questions, if it’s not too much trouble!” I disconnect the call.

When I raise my head, Christian is standing in front of me.

“Do you need me to go with you?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say. The hell if I’m going into the enemy camp alone. He nods.

“So, what’s the verdict?” he probes.

“He’s going to request the psychiatric evaluation,” I reply. “He needs me to sign some papers.”

“That’s what we wanted, right?” he asks.

“Yep, that’s what I wanted.”

It’s sometime in the afternoon when I get to the hospital. I don’t go to my mother’s room. Instead, I go to the nurses’ station on the main floor and have them page Dr. Lee. My hope is to have this meeting in his office and avoid as much confrontation as possible. However, he sends word back to have me meet him at the nurses’ station on the second floor. I give Christian a knowing look.

“It’s gonna be that type of day, I see,” he says. He places his hand in the small of my back and leads me to the elevator.

I’m still hoping that he’s going to escort me from the nurses’ station to the second floor. He does not. He doesn’t even suggest that we go to a private area in the hospital—the corner of a waiting room or even into my mother’s room, which I really didn’t want, but it would have been better than being out here in front of the whole world. No, he just starts rattling away right there at the nurses’ station. The only privacy that I’m afforded is that if someone even approaches who is not medical personnel, he stops talking.

“I talked to Mrs. Morton yesterday. She was extremely detached, which I would expect under the circumstances. When I tried to discuss the details of the accident with her, she was very evasive, to say the least. This could have been a result of her injuries and the brain’s protective measures to forget the trauma, but I don’t think that’s what this is.”

He stops speaking for a moment to allow someone to pass.

“It wasn’t like she didn’t remember. It was as if she was deliberately avoiding answering the question. When I mentioned speaking to someone, a therapist, perhaps while she’s in the hospital, she didn’t respond. I went further to tell her that we wanted to be sure that she wasn’t a danger to herself and she just shrugged and looked out of the window.”

Another pause.

“I’m still not completely convinced that she’s not a danger to herself. However, she didn’t protest enough when I alluded to the possibility of being committed. So, what we’re going to do is called a Legal 2000. Because she was first admitted to the hospital for medical treatment, we will have her evaluated and observed by a psychiatrist over the next 72 hours. If the psychiatrist finds that there is no underlying psychiatric condition, the…”

Another pause. This is ridiculous.

“… The mental health hold will be discontinued after that time and a safe discharge plan will be developed. It may turn out that Mrs. Morton was overwhelmed by sadness and depression at the time and just made a hasty but drastic decision. As a mental health professional, I’m sure you know that there are ways to deal with that as opposed to committing her long term for fear that she’s a constant threat to herself.”

“I do,” I acknowledge coolly.

“She won’t be able to have any visitors during that time. She will be on restrictive care. This means that your guard won’t be necessary…”

“My security is not leaving that door,” I interrupt him. “We live a life where our privacy is constantly invaded and violated and her relationship to me exposes her to the same inconvenience, not to mention that since she’s in a public hospital, she’s even more vulnerable than she would be if she were at home. She could be exploited for a headline simply by someone walking past her window and snapping a phone pic. My security detail has specific instructions that no one gets into that room without permission, so you should actually be glad that they’re posted there to be sure that no one breaches the perimeter.” He sighs heavily.

“Very well, Dr. Grey. She could have agreed to the treatment herself, but she was too impassive and didn’t consent, so we contacted you…”  which means he wouldn’t have called me had she consented to treatment on her own. He’s going to be a thorn in my side

He hands me the forms and I read them over quickly, noting all the wherefores and whatnots before I sign them.

“We’ll give you some time to talk to her before she’s on restrictive care. ‘No visitors for the next three days’ means you as well,” he says.

“Is there anything else?” I ask.

“Not at this time,” he says. I nod. Since you want a fucking audience, you got one, Doc.

“I won’t bother asking why we didn’t have this conversation behind closed doors, but I will say this. If I have to encounter that high-handed attitude of yours one more time because you don’t approve of my behavior because I’m not falling all over the floor in tears, I’m going to have my mother moved, and there’s nothing you can do about that without a court order proving that I’m abusive or negligent, and we both know that I’m neither.” I glare at him and await his response.

“Understood,” he replies.

“I can’t help but wonder if the hospitals treated her this way when I was in a coma and she clearly didn’t care,” I shoot. I watch his face blanch a bit. “I’m assuming you read my medical file.”

“I… did, yes,” he responds.

“Good,” I say, turning to the nurses. “Since you’re all so hell-bent on treating me like crap because I’m not falling out in dismay over my mother’s condition, I want all of you who have children to imagine that was your 15-year-old daughter lying in that bed in a coma mutilated that way. And if you don’t have children, do what you’ve been doing all this time and imagine that it’s your mother.” I turn back to Dr. Lee.

“My mother treated me like vermin for years—the worst when I was in that hospital bed. I’m giving her a whole hell of a lot more than she ever afforded me!”

Without another word, I turn around and walk back to my mother’s room with Christian behind me. Abe is standing outside her door when I get there.

“You’re committing her?” Abe accuses, his eyes like fire. “Are you punishing her for what she did to you as a child? Is that what this is?”

“Not at all,” I respond. “What my mother did to me when I was a child is over and done. We can’t go back and change it. And she’s not being committed; she’s being evaluated. And she’s not being evaluated because she sucked as a mother when I was 15. She’s being evaluated because she possibly drove her car off an overpass. When I talk to her, she still wants to die. She sees no reason for living, nobody that she’s useful to, and now, she can’t walk. She’s even more useless in her own eyes than she was before.

“She may have tried to kill herself, Abe. If she gets the chance again, she’s going to succeed. She needs to heal from her guilt; she needs to heal from loving a man that she’ll never have again; and she needs to come to grips with her new way of life. She’s worth nothing to you, herself, or anybody else in the condition she’s in now. She needs help. I have to make sure that she gets it.”

“Is it me?” he asks, desperation in his voice. “Is this a test for me? I love her, Ana. I truly do. I’m not going anywhere. I swear I’ll stay by her side until she’s over that man, until she’s over this. She has a beautiful heart and she doesn’t know it. I don’t know what’s happened to her in her life. I don’t know your terror besides what she’s told me and what came out in court. I just know that right now… right here, right now… she has a big beautiful heart, and I want it. I want to fill it with all the love it can hold. Please… if this is a test for me…”

“It’s not,” I interrupt his shaking voice. “Abe… Carla. Needs. Help. If you love her like you say you do, be there for her. She’s going to try to send you away. Don’t let her. She’s going to need someone once this is over, but this is not going to be a quick or easy process. If you have any other intentions besides the pure and unadulterated love of that woman, walk away now. Spare yourself and her any further frustration and heartache. If this is going to be too much for you, walk away. Carla is nearly 50 years old and we’re literally going to be trying to teach an old dog new tricks. This may not be what you want, and no one will hold it against you if…”

“I’m not. Going. Anywhere,” he says firmly. “I refuse to leave her. Do what you must, but I’ll be here.” His eyes pin me, implore me, but demand that I hear what he’s saying.

“How long… have you been seeing my mother?” I ask. He swallows.

“I’ve known her since before my daughter died, of course, but I’ve been seeing her intimately for about a year.” Intimately…

“Have you…?” How do you ask a grown man that you don’t know about your mother’s sex life?

“Only a handful of times,” he admits, without me having to ask the question. “She’s a very… private person. Our relationship, as it were, is not public knowledge.” I touch his arm.

“My life is not here,” I tell him. “My life is in Seattle. I’m going to need some eyes and ears here in Nevada, and some backup to help with her care and recovery. If you’re really serious…”

“I’m dead serious,” he interrupts.

“Let me finish,” I say. “If you’re really serious about wanting to be with my mother and wanting to help her through this, then I can really use you on my team. But understand this, Abe. I don’t hate that woman. I only want the best care for her, and I’m not trying to make or watch her suffer. She’s extremely vulnerable to the degree of being helpless. Know for a fact that I will not stand by and allow her to be mistreated or misused, especially right now when she really can’t fight for herself.” I pull out my business card and hand it to him.

“If you’re serious, you’re going to have dinner with me and my husband tonight. If you’re not, walk away. If you want to help with her recovery, we welcome your assistance. However, if your intention is to take advantage of her or abuse her in any way, there’s nowhere on earth you’ll be able to hide from me, and that is a promise.” He examines me carefully.

“You’re serious,” he says.

“I’m very serious,” I reply frankly without taking my eyes off him. He takes the business card.

“We’re staying at the Waldorf,” I add. “Six o’clock.”

He takes my hand with both of his and kisses it for a long moment, a tear falling on my skin.

“Thank you,” he says, his voice barely above a whisper. I nod once and he releases my hand and walks to the elevator. Christian has said nothing during this entire exchange. I look at the door to my mother’s room for a moment. Then I drop my head back, looking at the ceiling, and take a deep breath. I let it out, dropping my head and my shoulders dramatically, and closing my eyes. This is starting to become way too much, and I’m ready to wrap things up.

I raise my gaze and straighten my back. I look to my right at my husband standing next to me. I look to my left and do a double take when I see Dr. Lee still standing at the nurse’s station looking at me. His expression is unreadable, and I don’t know if he’s close enough to have heard my conversation with Abe, but so be it. I turn and go into my mother’s room.

*-*

Dinner has been delivered to our suite at the Waldorf. I thought we would meet in the restaurant downstairs, but Christian thought it would be better to meet in the suite where we could have privacy. Alex did a rush preliminary background check on Wendy and Abe for us in preparation for this meeting. I considered having Wendy present as well, but I think it best that we meet with them separately.

My husband has done most of the talking for us. I only interject if I have specific questions. Abe has been accommodating so far, declaring that his life is an open book and nothing spectacular. Christian has not let up on him, though, and Abe appears to be getting a bit defensive.

“I can’t imagine what you must think of me,” Abe says. “Yes, Carla is older than I am, but she’s very beautiful… a trait she has obviously passed down to her daughter.” He looks at me, but his gaze doesn’t linger. He immediately goes back to talking about my mother.

“There was concern that my affections for her were… displaced—transference or infatuation. I assure you, that’s not it. Yes, it’s very admirable how much of herself she chooses to give to others. She’s the reason I decided to become a caregiver myself.”

“Yes, I see that you decided to become a hospice caregiver shortly after your daughter died,” I say. “That must have been a very tough decision.”

“Losing my little girl was the hard part,” he says, “harder than you’ll ever imagine, but Carla was there to make her transition as smooth as possible. She was kind and caring and very attentive to my Amalia. She sat with her when I could not. She talked with her and put her heart at ease about death. She did not speak of heaven, but she spoke of peace and an end to her pain. I appreciated that more.

“She did not desert me when my Amalia died,” he continues. “She contacted me often to make sure that I was okay, that I would not slip into despair. One day, I asked her out for coffee. Then she allowed me to take her to dinner. I always thought that the responsibility was met once the patient healed… or died. Carla showed me that I was wrong.” He raises tear-filled eyes to me.

“I miss my Amalia,” he says, “every day. I miss my Amelda, too. She was my wife. Cancer took her from me just after Amalia was born… the same cancer that took my Amalia.”

He catches a tear that falls down his cheek.

“I know that Carla loves her Stephen,” he continues. “I know how that feels. It will never go away. I still love my Amelda, and I always will. This is why I am willing to wait. I know that the love will never leave, and I would never disgrace his memory that way… but I also thought I would never love anyone besides my Amelda and look what happened.

“She lost her husband… and her daughter, even though her circumstances are much different from mine, but same. We are two pilgrims on a journey to find purpose after losing everything. She has taken me on a journey for which I will always be eternally grateful—that of being able to care for others and give of myself, to provide the comfort to them that was given to me during one of the most difficult times in their lives, and mine. Now, her journey begins, to find love when you think there is none, to see that she is not useless even in the depths of her despair when she thinks she has nothing else to give.

“So, you see, Anastasia, I know that you and your husband are very powerful, but as long as I’m alive, I’m going to be here, and I’m not going away. You said that she would send me away. She’s done that many times before. She hasn’t been very successful. I don’t know or care what you can do to me, but know that you won’t be successful either if that’s your intention.”

“Our intention is to make sure that she’s taken care of and not advantage of,” Christian interjects firmly.

“Is that what you think I’m doing?” he asks.

“I don’t know you, Mr. Cicci, that’s why you’re here,” Christian retorts.

“That’s strange, I thought I was here in the best interest of Carla, not to be put under your microscope or to seek your approval,” Abe retorts fearlessly. Christian straightens in his chair.

“My biggest concern right now is this woman right here,” Christian warns. “Her concern at the moment is her mother, so by extension, she’s my concern as well.”

“Well, Mr. Grey, let me assure you that my biggest concern right now is not Anastasia. My biggest concern is Carla. My presence here tonight is only to assure her daughter that my intentions are pure and that I will not desert her in her time of need. I’m not here to interview for a position to be subjected to your scrutiny. I love that woman. I’m going to see her through this. I’m going to be there for that woman, and I’m not going to let anybody stop me.” He looks from Christian to me and back to Christian.

“And if you try to hide her from me, I’ll find her. That’s what you do when you love someone—you never give up. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.”

He pushes back from the table and strides out of the suite without another word.

“Christian, I really think you were picking a fight with the wrong person,” I say.

“Well, we’ll find out, won’t we?” he says. “The last thing you need to be worried about is someone coming in exploiting your mother’s weaknesses. No matter how much you distance yourself from the situation, that’s still not going to make things any easier for you.”

No, it won’t.

“While I appreciate his situation, game time is fucking over. If he’s in it for the long haul, great. Nothing I said tonight will make any difference whatsoever. But if he’s bullshitting around, the sooner he gets his ass off this boat, the better!”

I sigh heavily. He’s right. Abe doesn’t have to love or even like us, but he does have to be there unendingly for Carla even when we’re not. So, if he’s full of shit, it’s better that he gets pissed and walks away now. And if he’s the real deal, it’s better that he gets pissed and digs his heels in now.

My conversation the next day with Wendy was nothing like the conversation with Abe. She gave me a little more insight on the relationship, that she knows that my mother is very fond of Abe, but she clearly feels guilty for having feelings for someone else besides Stephen. Maybe this is something they can help her overcome during her therapy.

Wendy cried often during our talk. She has three children and she’s divorced, a little older than my mother. They met on the job and hit it off immediately. Wendy’s phone is full of pictures of her and my mother throughout their friendship. My mother appears to be genuinely happy in several of the pictures. It’s clear that over a short period of time, they have formed quite the bond.

She even has a picture that she took of her and Abe. The adoration in his eyes towards her can’t be faked.

Wendy and I exchange numbers, addresses, and emails, and we discuss a lot of what will be needed for my mother’s care. This is what Wendy does for a living, so it’s quite fortuitous that she happens to be my mother’s best friend. I let her know that we will set it up so that she receives compensation for helping to take care of my mother. Though she assures me that it’s not necessary, I tell her that it is, because we would be paying someone else if we weren’t paying her. This way, she can give the best care possible to her best friend without having to worry about her livelihood.

She cries again.

Both Wendy’s and Abe’s preliminary background checks are unremarkable. Alex assures me that when it comes up with the basic stuff—credit reports, traffic tickets, education—it’s usually a good sign and a safe bet that they won’t find anything else. For me, that’s one less thing to worry about.

The next few days fly by with no Sophie to talk to and not having to go back and forth to the hospital to check on my mother. I spend the days recuperating from everything Las Vegas by spending every possible waking moment with my children and giving Keri and Chuck some time to enjoy Las Vegas before we leave.

It’s Wednesday now. Two big things happening today. First, I finally hear the sentence for Vincent Sullivan, and I can put that one thing behind me. One down, 15 or so to go. Second, I get the results of my mother’s psych evaluation and I can finally make some decisions about her care.

And then I can go home!

For now, it’s time to head to the battleground. I’ve known from the moment I knew that I was coming back to this place what I would be wearing should this day arrive. I’ve won now. I don’t know what kind of sentence Vincent Sullivan is going to get for his role in what happened to me, but someone has officially said that what he did was wrong. Someone convicted him, and I’ve won!

I’m wearing a plain tan mock neck cut-out fitted dress that hugs all of my curves from my Anastasia Steele days and a pair of nude Louboutins from my Anastasia Grey collection. I’ve accessorized with earrings, a necklace, a ring, and a bracelet from my Australian opal and white gold collection. A tan wool office lady style cloak with Batwing sleeves and faux fox fur collar and cuffs protects me from the elements. My hair is set in beautiful curls flowing down my back and I look every bit the Seattle socialite.

When I step out of the car with Christian, I hold my posture like I’m walking the red carpet. Donning my Jackie O’s, I take the stairs slowly and deliberately.

Print this, you bastards.

I don’t feel so defeated when I step into the courtroom. I see Larson do a double take when he sees me. I don’t know why because with his shenanigans during this trial. He could have been one of them instead of one of us as far as I’m concerned. Some of the courtroom murmuring ceases when I step in, and I’m tempted to stop in the middle of the aisle and take a bow. I immediately lock eyes with the bitch who asked how I could “do this” to Vincent in the hallway that day. I don’t stare. I just make note of where she’s sitting, intent on adding a little salt to my statement. I take my seat, my gaze fixed coolly on the bench and nowhere else as I wait for the proceedings to begin.

A few minutes later, the court is called to order and the defendant is led into the courtroom in shackles and his DOC navy blue scrubs… at least that’s what they look like. He’s not polished and cleaned up like he was during his trial. No, he looks like he’s resigned to his fate. Today, he marches in and takes a seat at the defense table, no remorse or anguish in his face and no anger—just another day in the life, it seems. He rests his hands in his lap and does the same thing that I do, concentrate on the bench.

The judge says a few words and explains what’s going to happen during the proceedings. When he opens the opportunity to make a statement, Larson first rises to illuminate the reasons why Vincent Sullivan should receive the maximum sentence allowable on all counts.

Having lost his case almost completely, Blake stands to ask for leniency as the defendant has had several years to ponder his actions and has become a valuable and productive member of society.

How fortunate that he has become a productive member of the society to which he has yet to repay his debt!

But that’s not all…

In lieu of Vincent making his own statement to the court, the defense presents a video. A video! This is Blake’s last trump card to try to get his client off.

The video is heart-wrenching. It looks to be professionally done. There are pictures of Vincent when he was a kid; him with his ailing mother before she passed away; current pictures of him doing volunteer work in the community, all set to the narration of several members of the community asking for leniency for this outstanding citizen who made a “horrible mistake” when he was a kid. There are tears and expressions of complete disbelief that Vincent will be required to do any jail time. There are even some people begging that the judge has mercy on the actions of a misguided teenager who has since seen the err of his ways. There’s even sad, emotional music playing in some portions of the video.

In his portion of the video, Vincent denies any personal vendetta when he participated in the incident, painting himself as a frightened and misguided child at the time. He still refuses to take responsibility for any wrong that he did during the attack, stating repeatedly that he maintains that he was afraid for his life and safety.

I didn’t even know that they were allowed to present videos like this, but apparently, they are. It doesn’t sway me, though. Whether it sways the judge or not, we’ll have to see, but I’ve got my statement ready.

When the judge asks if I want to make a statement, I nod and move to the podium. I’ve made some notes so that I don’t go off on a tangent, but I know exactly what I want to say…

“Had I known I could’ve done this by video, I would have saved myself the airfare,” I begin. “However, I believe my point will be driven home more adequately by speaking to you face to face, your honor.

“I’ve waited for this day for nearly fifteen years. I never thought it would come. I never thought I would see anything that even resembled justice for what happened to me… a young life destroyed, an innocent life ended before it even began… and a group of self-important, pumped-up, lethally-entitled rich kids running around like nothing happened, certain—just like I was—that they would never pay for their crimes. And now, here I am finally able to address the situation openly.

“I’ve lived with the horror of what happened to me for over a decade. I’ve lived with the dismay that these monsters not only got away with what they did to me, but also that they are now raising children with the same sense of entitlement and disregard for human suffering in the same world where I’m now raising my twins. I’m living with the disillusionment that one crime can go unpunished forever while another goes unsolved for what feels like a lifetime… against a child… an honor student, a good kid who didn’t bother anybody, whose only crime was that she was a poor girl trying to survive in a rich world, put upon by one, lied on by another, and attacked by many.” I shake my head. “What am I supposed to tell my children about being good people when this is what happened to me?

“Most of all, I’m still horrified that such atrocities can come from children the same age that I was at the time. What kind of breeding must there have been for these kids to feel like this act was in any way justifiable? These were teenagers… teenagers who planned one of the worst hazing and assault rituals that I have ever seen in my personal and professional life, fact or fiction… and for a mental health MD to say something like that, believe me, it means a lot.

“I’ve had to study some of the most horrific things in my plight to understand the human mind and to this day, I still can’t fathom how teenagers could choose to utilize a method so unthinkable and inhumane that even though it was used as punishment for high crimes in the dark ages, it was banned in the early 19th Century as cruel and unusual.

“What must this child have been thinking?” I continue as I gesture to Vincent Sullivan. “He sits here before you now as an adult—they’re all adults now—parents and respected members of the community, mingling with you in your country clubs and PTA meetings, their children attending the same schools that yours attend, the same social functions, blending in just as cool as you please… monsters hiding in plain sight. What must they have been thinking all those years ago when they planned this whole thing—a simple hazing ritual that got out of hand, right? No—a premeditated assault on someone just because they were different. Premeditated… think about that. How premeditated must this act have been for someone to order custom brands and wait for delivery to spell out a word on another human being’s skin?”

There are audible gasps and murmurings in the courtroom when I bring this point of premeditation to the forefront. I’m hoping to give the prosecution a bit more firepower the next time they have to bring one of these monsters to trial.

“How much time did they have before their weapons of torture arrived in the mail—making UPS or FedEx an unwitting accessory to murder—to allow them to change their minds and rethink their plans? I mean, seriously think about that… did they wait for standard three-day shipping or did someone pay special express delivery so that the brands could get there sooner?”

I really want to drive home the extent of the atrocity that these people are getting away with. An entire community basically turned their heads on what happened to me, because I refuse to believe—even now—that someone else didn’t know what was going on. Melanie kept a recording for twelve years, revealing what happened during a death-bed confession. Sullivan knew the entire time that his brother was involved and no matter how well he hid the incident, there was forensic evidence, the location where I was found, the fact that the baby’s DNA could have been traced… There was too much stuff to hide; someone had to help him.

“Even now—today—there are people in this very room who accosted me in the hallway of this building and after seeing the vicious, brutal, stomach churning violence that he inflicted on me still accused me of ruining the defendant’s life.”

I turn around and look the woman in the eye who confronted me in the hallway the day that I fled the courtroom after the “Vincent’s So Great” parade. She shrinks a bit under my stare, but I don’t linger. Instead, I return to my statement.

“But I thank God that justice has prevailed and that this ungodly act will no longer go unacknowledged and unpunished. I thank God that someone looked at this behavior and said, ‘No, this is unacceptable, and something has to be done about it’ even though some people would have you think I deserved it. Nobody deserved what happened to me… nobody—not then, not now, not ever… not even the monsters who did it to me.

“These starry-eyed teenagers who should have been practicing for the big game, doing their homework, and planning for the Sadie Hawkins dance gathered somewhere and thought out this plan of torture—pondered it, waited for it, savored it, anticipated it, then put it into action. We’re going to cause irreparable physical and emotional damage on another person just as soon as our brands arrive. Those same someones accepted a plea for pointing out the other participants in their sadistic little ritual—rewarded with a lighter sentence for being tattletales when they were the ones who orchestrated the entire thing in the first place! And now he’s sitting here hoping that he’s not going to get the book thrown at him for executing two of the three horrific scars that I must live with for the rest of my life.” I sigh.

“Rest assured that I’ll be present at every trial for every one of these monsters who robbed me of my peace and innocence for several years. I’ll celebrate triumphs and I’ll lament defeats, and I’ll probably regurgitate every time I have to watch that damn video, but I won’t stop. I won’t rest until every person involved in my torture and the death of my unborn child is called to task for their actions.

“I’ll be honest and say that I’m glad that something will happen so that they won’t be walking the streets anymore, but I’ll also say that I hope the future is not so merciful on someone who premeditates a violent crime so thoroughly that they mail-order a murder weapon!”

When I’m finished with my dissertation, even the judge is taken aback by my explanation of the extent of the premeditation. I take my notes, turn from the lectern and return to my seat.

The silence is so thick that it sounds like white noise.

“Thank you all for your statements,” the judge says. “I must say that I have never seen anything so heinous before in my life as I have seen in this trial. To exercise objectivity throughout this case was a feat fit for Mr. Universe. And while I commend myself for being able to stick to my duty and maintain order throughout these proceedings, I must admit that I take great satisfaction in being able to now speak my mind freely as a human being, a father, a man, and a member of the judicial system.

“In my opinion, this is one of those times where the justice system worked exactly how it should have, even if nearly 15 years later. The bad guy was caught—one of them, anyway—and is now required to stand here and atone for his actions.

“However, this is a lose-lose situation as far as I’m concerned, because although Dr. Grey was able to pick up the remnants of her life, move on and become a successful doctor and businessperson, without doubt, her life was never the same after what happened to her. Her innocence was ripped from her; her peace was stolen. No one, and I mean no one came to her rescue. Simply as a member of the human race, that horrifies me. As a member of the judicial system, that befuddles me beyond belief. As a man and a father, that enrages me more than words can say.

“In addition to that, we have a young man here who has not yet reached the age of thirty and who is apparently a respected and productive member of society whose actions 15 years ago will forevermore shape what the rest of his life will look like. No just man can blindly swing a sword and not feel the cut of his blade on another man, and yet that’s what I must do today.

“Emotional evidence has a way of swaying a case, but not nearly as much as factual evidence and the facts speak for themselves. The sheer magnitude of the details of this case sends chills down my spine to consider that a group of adults could do something like this. It’s nearly unimaginable that a group of children did it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and I’m still having a problem absorbing the fact that a group of teenagers committed this crime.

“Dr. Grey, let me begin by offering you a long overdue and heartfelt apology. The system failed you—miserably. For that, I am deeply, deeply sorry. There are no words that can express how appalled and disappointed I am that it took this long for you to see any kind of justice. It happens that some cases may slip through the cracks, but that’s not what happened here. I may not be able to speak on other open cases, but the right against self-incrimination does not excuse any of us from obeying, and in some cases, enforcing the law. This was a blatant disregard for the law—it’s malfeasance and mishandling in almost its worst form, second only in my eyes to law enforcement unjustly shooting or harming an unarmed person. To that end, hopefully, today, I can bring you some small, miniscule measure of closure for the injustices done to you.”

“Thank you, Your Honor,” I say quietly.

“I’m of the firm belief that shaking my finger at or scolding attorneys usually comes to no avail, but I will say this. Mr. Drake, I hope you don’t have any daughters, because the sins of the father have a way of coming back to bite the children. What’s more is that one day, you may find yourself in a position where you have to explain to them how you villainized a young girl who had already been victimized beyond reproach in one of the worst ways humanly imaginable. For that, I do not envy you, sir.

“I’ve often heard it said that with great power comes great responsibility. To me, that means that it’s important that someone in my position does not get so caught up in their power that they forget their duty and responsibility. Bearing that in mind, I have the responsibility to pass sentence on a situation here that will have a great impact on future cases similar to this one. That’s a mighty burden to bear and a heavy load to carry, knowing that if I make the wrong decision today, that it could impact similar cases in the future. Having said that, I thought long and hard on the facts involved in the case and the circumstances surrounding it as I pondered my decision.

“I must be mindful that not only is this man at my mercy, that I hold someone’s life in my hand, but also that nearly 15 years ago, he held someone’s life in his. He was responsible for what happened to her, and now I’m responsible for what happens to him.

“Mr. Sullivan, I, like the jury, do not feel that you were afraid for your life at all. There are many other motives that can be attached to why you did what you did to that 15-year-old girl, but your team failed to prove mortal fear in any way, shape, or form. Even with the bad lighting, I could see malice and intent in your expression and I’m certain the jury saw it, too, in the four times that they viewed the video. In you, I saw one of the kids on the edge—on the very edge—of the popular crowd. Your brother was working to take care of the home, but you had just enough to fit in with the affluent kids. Is that why you tortured a young girl for sport? To fit in? Only you know the answer to that, Mr. Sullivan, but know that I have no problem sending a message loud and clear that that type of behavior will not be tolerated in this jurisdiction.

“In addition, I feel that you would have grounds for appeal based on that production that your attorney just presented to the court in your defense. I saw nothing in that video that would sway me to be lenient on you in any way. All I saw was a theatrical production for the purpose of taking the court’s time. There was nothing in that video that hasn’t already been said during the proceedings by many of the same people. The only thing that video was missing was a walk off into the sunset and closing credits. The case against you is so strong that as far as I’m concerned, Mr. Blake’s coup was actually a Coup de grâce, and you would have done better to make a statement on your own.

“As such, having been found guilty by a jury of your peers, your sentence stands as follows.

“On count one, assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, I hereby sentence you to serve the maximum term of 10 years with a possibility of parole after seven years served.

“On count two, battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm, I hereby sentence you to serve the maximum term of 15 years with no possibility of parole, and a fine of $10,000.

“On count three, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, I hereby sentence you to serve the maximum term of 5 years with a possibility of parole after 3 years served, and a fine of $10,000.

“On count six, manslaughter for fetal homicide, I hereby sentence you to serve the maximum term of 10 years with no possibility of parole, and a fine of $10,000.

“On count seven, attempted murder, I hereby sentence you to serve the term of 20 years with no possibility of parole. As indicated in the Nevada Revised Statutes, I am imposing an additional 10 years on this count for the use of a deadly weapon, also with no possibility of parole.

“These sentences are to be run consecutively and are to be executed forthwith.

“In case there’s any doubt about my judgments, let me make them clear. I’m sending a message to any defendant in this matter, any attorney who chooses to defend them, and any judge who sits on the bench. Take heed that when the justice system works the way that it should, no one group of people anywhere, anytime, or at any age is allowed to become judge, jury, and executioner. It doesn’t matter to me that we’re talking about a group of 15 and 16-year-old kids. What they did to this girl is reminiscent of the lynchings of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

“Anyone who can look at that video and see what happened to that girl and listen to her scream and somehow say that’s okay by any means or for any reason needs their head examined. And anyone who can participate in that kind of barbaric display deserves the highest sentence that can be imposed by law. So, Mr. Sullivan, be glad that you have been granted opportunities for parole on some of those sentences, because that means that you didn’t get the maximum. I doubt that you’ll ever see parole, however, considering that your sentences are to be served consecutively.

“At the end of sentencing, by rote I often say, ‘I wish you luck,’ or if it’s a death sentence, ‘May God have mercy on your soul.’ I do not wish you luck, Mr. Sullivan, not because I’m a bad person or because I wish any ill will upon you, but because I know that luck won’t help you. You have no hope of seeing daylight outside of prison walls for 65 years. Luck isn’t going to do a thing for you.

“I won’t say, ‘May God have mercy on your soul, because unless you acquire some horrible disease or some serious unfortunate event befalls you in prison, you’re very likely not to meet your maker for a very long time. I will, however, combine those two and wish you mercy.

“You’re going to a place where friendship has a cost, Mr. Sullivan, where if there is a smiling face, there’s a price behind it. You find opportunities for education and rehabilitation, but you’ll never find the friendships and freedoms that you’ve enjoyed on the outside. For that reason, I wish you the mercy that you did not grant Anastasia Steele. I hope it was worth it. This court is adjourned.”

I can only say that I’m glad that each time I’ve been in the courtroom that even though I felt that the trials were harrowing and the defense attorneys were rude, unfeeling, and utterly insane for thinking that they would be able to get their clients off, the court always came back with sentences that I felt these bastards deserved. Even though Vincent Sullivan wasn’t found guilty on all counts, they got him on most of them, and he’s going away for a long time.

His attorney is leaning over whispering something to him and he turns mournful eyes to me. We stare at each other for several moments as his attorney chatters away, and I’m waiting for whatever hateful gesture he’s going to hurl at me because of the situation that I put him in. His mouth forms the words…

“I’m sorry.”

His tearstained face is now full of remorse and regret—for his fate? For what he did to me? I don’t know which. I close my eyes briefly and take a deep breath. When I open them, he’s still looking at me. I nod once to acknowledge that I heard him, and moments later, he’s led away out a door on the side of the courtroom to serve his sentence.


CHRISTIAN

“Sir, I need to take a few days off.”

Shortly after we hear the sentencing for Vincent Sullivan, we’re in the car headed back to the hotel when I get a call from Alex.

“This is new,” I say.

“No, sir, it’s not,” he says. “You’ve just never known when I’ve done it before. I need to go to DC to secure a couple of my clearances.”

“When?” I ask.

“Immediately, sir.”

“Why so last minute?” I inquire.

“It’s not really last minute,” he replies. “I knew that the clearances had to be secured… again, but there are some details that I didn’t expect that I need to tend to personally and as soon as possible.”

“What type of details?” I ask.

“I think you already know that’s classified,” he replies. Of course, it is. What was I thinking?

“Do you need the jet?” I ask. He pauses.

“No, I’ll go commercial,” he replies. “It draws less attention.” He’s right about that, too.

“Will the fort be secure while you’re gone?” I ask.

“I’m never really gone, sir. I think you know that.”

“Jason knows?”

“Yes, he’s aware. I should have everything wrapped up by the weekend.” Why do I suddenly feel a wave of panic that my head of corporate security and one of the most important people on my team won’t be at the helm?

“Very well, safe journey,” I reply.

“Thank you, sir. Oh! And I’ve forwarded the background checks to you and Ana for Abramio Cicci and Wendy Scorcio. Easily traceable. Very much your average Joe and Jane,” he says.

“That’s good to know,” I reply. “I’m sure that Butterfly will be happy to hear that.” She raises her gaze to me from the seat next to me.

“I’ll let you know as soon as I return, sir,” and he ends the call.

“Glad to hear what?” Butterfly asks.

“That Alex has forwarded the background checks for Wendy and Carla’s beloved Abe to both our emails.” She examines me.

“You don’t like him,” she says.

“It’s not that I don’t like him, Butterfly. I just have a natural distrust of people that I’m not going to apologize for, and I don’t care who doesn’t like it. If he proves to be on the up and up, which Alex thinks they both will, then all is well. Like he said, he doesn’t have to satisfy me, but if he turned out to be a swindler, for your sanity, I would have made sure he didn’t get near Carla.”

My wife smiles and shakes her head. She looks at her phone and swipes the screen, opening windows and scrolling.

“He’s right,” she says, scrolling slowly through her screen. “Absolutely nothing remarkable—pretty boring except that he lost his wife and daughter. He got a payout from his wife’s life insurance policy, but he only paid for her final expenses from it. He’s pretty well off—not wealthy, but well off, enough to not have to work at that rehab center. So, that must be a total labor of love. He’s a Mason, but that’s about it.”

“Masons… wow, I haven’t heard of them in a while,” I observe.

“That’s because you don’t associate with any, honey,” my wife says, still scrolling through her phone. While she’s scrolling it vibrates. She swipes it again.

“Hello… This is she… Yes… oh… Okay, well, I’m just leaving the justice court, so I’ll be there as soon as I can… Thank you.” She ends the call.

“Dr. Lee?” I ask.

“No, a Dr. Hamlin,” she says. “He’s a psychiatrist. He examined my mother and oversaw her observation. He wants me to come to the hospital to meet with him.”

“Any indication on Carla’s diagnosis?” I ask.

“He wouldn’t tell me that over the phone, Christian. You know that.” She’s right. I forgot.

“Did you want to go now?” I ask.

“Food first,” she says. “I’m not going to deal with this on an empty stomach.”

*-*

“Dr. Grey?”

“Yes?” A gray-haired man is in Carla’s room when we get there. He proffers his hand to my wife when she enters.

“I’m Dr. Hamlin, ma’am. We spoke on the phone.” She shakes his hand.

“Dr. Hamlin, a pleasure to meet you, sir.” He turns to me.

“Mr. Grey?” he says, proffering his hand to me as well.

“Yes, doctor,” I reply, shaking his hand.

“Mrs. Morton, I’ll be discussing our meetings and my findings as I indicated to you. Who would you like to be present?” he asks.

“Just my daughter,” she says without raising her gaze. That’s my cue. I put my hand on my wife’s waist.

“I’ll be outside,” I say. She nods. I kiss her on the cheek and leave the room.

“Has she had any visitors?” I ask the detail at the door. “I know that no one can get in, but has anybody come?”

“A few have come from her job. They signed in, but of course, they couldn’t see her. Her two friends come every day and just sit in the waiting area over there for an hour or so.”

“Which two friends?” I ask.

“Wendy Scorcio and Abramio Cicci,” he says. I raise a brow.

“You know them by name without looking at the log?” I ask.

“They’re here every day,” he replies. “I think I should.” I nod. He’s right, he should. I take a seat in the waiting area and start going through my emails. After I’ve deleted more than a few, my phone rings.

“Hey, Elliot, what’s up?” I answer.

“Nothing much,” he answers matter-of-factly. “Did I call at a bad time?”

“No, we just got to the hospital and I got kicked out of the room so that Butterfly and the doctor and the mother could talk.”

“Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I called,” he says, “just checking up on Montana.”

“She’s doing as well as can be expected. This whole thing with her mother has been more of a trial than the trial, I think.”

“Well, that’s got to be pretty big, because that dude’s sentence has already made it to the Pacific Northwest.”

“It has?” I ask.

“Yeppers. Sixty-five years, Jesus! I bet he regrets the day he ever laid eyes—or brand—on Montana.”

“No shit,” I confirm. “He looked sick as fuck being led out of the courtroom, and he wasn’t even found guilty on all charges. The two that pled to all of the charges got less time than he did.”

“Speaking of which,” Elliot says, “the predictions on the court and news channels is that a lot of the people in custody are going to start taking pleas. The word is that they’re reviewing the evidence to see what they can be charged with and possibly convicted of, then they’re going to start taking pleas so that they don’t end up doing 65 like your boy.”

“I don’t know how Butterfly’s going to feel about that,” I say, looking at the door to Carla’s room.

“Honestly, if I were you, I would tell her so that she’s not blindsided. They’re expecting some pleas to be accepted by Friday.”

“Shit, that soon?” I lament. “Jesus, I don’t even know what they’re going to tell her about her mother! This shit never fucking ends.”

“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Bro,” he apologizes.

“It’s not your fault,” I tell him. “Inconvenience is never timely. That’s why it’s called inconvenience.”

“Well, let’s talk about something not so serious. You’re not going to believe this,” he says.

“Believe what?” I ask.

“I got a dog,” he says.

“No shit,” I say.

“Yep. Our therapist suggested it. She said that a pet will help us heal from losing the little nugget. Dogs are used like this all the time. It won’t replace a baby, of course, but it’s helping already. Angel loves him.”

“And you?” I ask.

“I like him, too,” he says. “He’s a rescue… a mutt, but he’s so damn lovable. I take him running with me on his leash in the mornings, and then he spends his days with Angel.”

“Wait a minute—how did you get a dog and you’re still living at my house?” Elliot laughs loudly.

“We went home, Christian,” he says. “Why would I bring a dog into your house with all the columns and marble?” My turn to laugh.

“It sounds like a good idea for you guys, and speaking of which, you’re not going to believe this.” There’s silence on the line.

“You got a dog, too?” he asks, and I think he’s being facetious. I shake my head as if he can see me.

“No, but we’re getting one,” I say, “with all the columns and marble.”

“A rescue?” he asks. I shake my head again.

“Butterfly has requested a pit bull puppy.” Silence again.

“A pit?” he says. “Those are dangerous dogs, Bro. Are you sure about that?”

“I felt the same way you do. I didn’t want any vicious dogs around my babies, but she assured me that they’re family dogs and only dangerous if they’re bred and raised that way. So, I agreed, but I did my research and she’s right. Pits have really gotten a bad rap. There are some really pretty ones in fact, and if you train them properly, they really are excellent family dogs. That’s why we’re getting a pup—thorough-bred—and we’re all going to be trained.”

“You’re all going to be trained?” he repeats.

“Yeah. I want to make sure that we know the right commands and that he respects us and the family, because if he steps wrong and attacks one of my kids or my wife, I’ll have to shoot him.”

“Thorough-bred? So, you’re buying one? Aren’t you concerned about getting flack for buying a dog instead of adopting one from the shelter?” he asks.

“Not at all,” I reply. “I’m not trying to be politically correct when it comes to a pit bull that’s going to be around my family. My wife says she wants a pit, so we’re getting one. But in all honesty, you’re right about the fact that pits can be vicious dogs—if they’re not raised properly. A rescue pit? Around my kids? I don’t know what that dog has been through, how he’s been raised, or who its parents are. And if it mauls one of my children, well then, I’m going to have to put it down. Nope, not taking that chance.”

“That’s a chance you’re taking with any dog, Bro,” he says.

“Well, then, maybe you should keep an eye on your dog,” I say. Silence.

“Point taken.”

A/N:  Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. Be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

There has been yet another development where if you feel the need to talk to fellow readers about personal issues, you need a sounding board, or you want to vent about something in your life, please feel free to visit the link on the left in the menu entitled “Do You Need To Talk.” No subject is taboo. I just ask that you approach the link with respect for those who have concerns as well as those who respond. You can also get to the link by clicking HERE

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 19

This is a work of 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…

Season 5 Episode 19

ANASTASIA

It’s kind of hard to maneuver a field trip when one of the occupants of your party is all about gourmet food while another is barely eating.

Sophie is excited to go to the gourmet restaurants and food sites and even just to taste whatever local fares that Vegas has to offer, while Marilyn only sits at various tables picking at the smallest servings of the simplest foods, if she ventures to eat anything at all. She doesn’t look as sickly as she did when the trip began. Her coloring isn’t so pale, but her hair still looks very brittle and she hasn’t gained a pound. She hasn’t lost anymore that I can tell, thank God, but she’s downright skinny now, and she’s never been that way.

I don’t want to send her back to Seattle because the last thing I want is for her to be alone and that far away. However, whenever we go on some kind of food excursion, she escapes to her room anyway. I wonder what she does in there all alone for hours. I know that she’s been meditating and doing some yoga, but that doesn’t take up an entire day. Does she just sit around and mope about Gary day in and day out?

“Have you checked on Gary at all?” I discreetly ask Al at brunch on Sunday. He shakes his head.

“I’ve been a bit distracted, Jewel,” he admits.

“I’m sorry,” I reply, “it’s just that since he responded to you faster than he spoke to anyone else, I thought…” I trail off. “If he’s doing half as badly as Marilyn, I’d be concerned.” Al looks across the room at Marilyn typing away on her phone.

“She’s still not eating?” he asks. I shake my head.

“Her shakes and supplements are packed full of nutrients,” I tell him. “She’s worked herself up to maybe a course per day, but it’s nowhere near enough. She supposed to be slowly introducing food back into her system, but I think she’s going too slowly.” Al shakes his head.

“I think you’re right. You might want to have one of your Jewel talks with her,” he says.

“I have been,” I say. “I’ve been keeping an eye on her as much as I can, but I know as well as anybody that when you’re in love with someone, it can take years to get over them.”

“She’s not going to survive for years at the rate that she’s going,” he says, pointing discretely at Marilyn.

“I know,” I lament. “I’ll call Philip and see if he can check in on Gary. I’d hate to know that he’s suffering a similar fate.”

“He looked fine when I saw him at Christmas, Jewel,” Al says, “just heartbroken.” I shrug.

“Heartbreak hits different people in different ways, I suppose,” I reply.

*-*

Dinner this evening is at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant, Hell’s Kitchen, in Caesar’s Palace, where you’re greeted with Satan’s flaming pitchforks at the door… I mean literally in flames! Burning! Unfortunately, Gordon’s not here, but there’s a video of him right at the door chastising someone for posting a picture of some unpalatable dish online. Further inside the restaurant, there is Gordon Ramsey and Hell’s Kitchen merchandise—cookbooks, mugs, T-shirts, etc.—and then there’s the restaurant consisting of a large bar and a huge dining room.

The chefs all cook in an open kitchen behind a large bar that’s marked red on one side and blue on the other. I don’t watch the cooking show itself, but Sophie tells me that this looks just like the set where the teams compete, and she is absolutely mesmerized. There are several screens around the restaurant displaying active flames. It’s different, but kind of exotic. The sun has gone down and the view out of the window is spectacular. We’re looking at the three lighted fountains in the courtyard and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Needless to say, my husband has ordered everything on the menu, and with the size of our party—minus Mare, unfortunately—there won’t be a problem with the volume of food. Knowing that Sophie is our little aspiring chef, he wants to make sure she gets to taste everything that the restaurant has to offer and give her critique.

Sophie shies away from the raw seafood dishes and leaves them for the adults—mainly the adult men as Christian and Jason decimated the oysters on a half-shell while Daddy, Al, James, and Chuck all tear into the Hell’s Kitchen grand shellfish tower, shrimp cocktail, and caviar. I manage to snag some of the tuna tartare before they destroyed it.

Sophie is more attuned to the hot appetizers when they arrive and even more enthralled with the entrees. I scold the gentlemen, reminding them that this is Sophie’s experience as they can have it at any time, and they need to stop being barbarians and allow her to taste the food first. True, she didn’t want the raw fish, but of course, she’s going to want the other dishes. Christian raises his brow at me, and I raise my brow right back, while Jason puts his fork down and Daddy, James, and Al all snicker at the other end of the joined tables.

I take each dish and present it to Sophie. She smiles and takes a small serving of each, tasting each one like a seasoned professional food critic. She identifies the various flavors in each dish, mostly by watching the shows on the various food channels and paying attention to each texture as she allows the food to tantalize her tongue. The way that she describes the food, she has a table full of adults hanging on her every word the way that she did at the wedding…

“I didn’t expect for that combination of flavors to work so well together. The scallops aren’t seared too hard—just enough of a crust to compliment the puree and the apples…”

“I didn’t expect to like pumpkin soup, but the texture is so creamy, and the flavor coats your tongue…”

“I have to admit that I expected more from the Wagyu meatballs, but the polenta is delicious…”

Gail watches proudly as the adults wait for Sophie’s critique, then taste each dish, searching for the flavors and textures that she highlighted. Jason beams, showing all 32 of his pearly whites, his chest sticking out like a prized stallion, boasting that his Baby Boo is one day going to be a 5-star chef.

I have no idea why, but I can never say “no” to a Quinoa salad. However, it can be a bit filling, so I only eat a small bit of it and share with anyone at the table who wants some. When it came to the table, I almost didn’t share it. It’s red quinoa mixed with honeycrisp apples, dried apricots, goat cheese, toasted hazelnuts, and a honey vinaigrette dressing. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a quinoa salad this delicious, and Sophie concurs.

We had to order four of Gordon Ramsay’s famous Beef Wellingtons. The adults, again, allow Sophie to taste the signature dish first, and upon reading the food orgasm on her face before she praises the tenderness of the beef filet and the flakiness of the pastry, they tear into the dish leaving nearly clean plates behind in the melee.

The desserts are utterly divine. The salted caramel apple sponge cake and ice cream creation is delicious—smooth and creamy and indulgent. I’m not a fan of the peanut butter cheesecake, but Keri loves it! James and Daddy think it’s the bee’s knees, too. However, Sophie’s favorite—and mine—is the pineapple carpaccio… shaved pineapple, citrus foam, coconut sorbet, coriander, and passion fruit. It’s served in a large, clear-glass bowl with a plate-like rim and the server comes to your table and pours liquid nitrogen into the bowl in the center. If you’ve ever seen liquid nitrogen, it causes this smokiness to rise from the bowl and swirl in between the little pineapple and sorbet mountains and across the table. It makes the dessert not only delicious, but also visually aesthetically pleasing… and fun!

It’s still early when we leave Hell’s Kitchen and begin to head back to the Waldorf, but once we get to the valet at the hotel, Jason pulls me aside from the rest of the group.

“I thought you should know that Carol just left me a message,” he says. Carol… that’s Marilyn’s security detail. “She’s at the fountains at the Bellagio with Marilyn. She decided to take a walk and now she’s just sitting there by the water. She figured you might want to know.”

“She figured correctly,” I say, looking over at Christian. “I’m going to the Bellagio. Marilyn is there at the fountains. I just want to go check on her.” Christian’s brow furrows.

“You don’t think…” He trails off.

“I don’t think,” I say firmly, “but I don’t want her to be alone either.” I look at Chuck. “We’re going for a walk.”

“You’re walking?” Christian says, aghast.

“Yes, Christian, we’re walking,” I tell him. “Trust me, I’ll be more camouflaged in the crowd on the strip than I was with the entourage surrounding me on the courthouse steps.” He shakes his head.

“Chuck, take the car,” he says. Chuck gets into the driver’s seat of the car and waits for me.

“Christian, can you see the mall right there?” I ask, pointing to the Shops at Crystals. “The Bellagio is literally on the other side.”

“That’s great, and this is Vegas. There’s a whole fucking lot of people on the street and a whole lot of shit can happen. There’s the car. Take it or leave it. I mean it, Anastasia!”

I want to be mad, but Christian never really orders me to do anything. I’ll get a chiding, a gentle warning, his Dom voice… or something, but he never outright orders me to do anything. If he’s doing it now, he’s extremely concerned… and he’ll have Metro block the street off in five minutes.

I glare at him for a moment, kiss him on the cheek, and dutifully get in the car.

Chuck has to track Marilyn’s phone for us to find her by the fountain. She’s just standing there by the balustrade staring out at the water. Carol is nearby, but not too close—an attempt to give her some privacy, no doubt. I walk behind her and announce my presence so as not to startle her.

“Hey,” I say softly.

“Hey,” she responds without turning around. “Don’t worry, Bosslady, I’m not going to jump.”

“I didn’t think you would,” I say. She looks over at me.

“You didn’t?” she says with a mirthless smile. I shake my head.

“No,” I say. “I know you’re smarter than that. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” She turns back to the water.

“No,” she says with a heavy sigh, “I’m definitely not okay.” Her voice cracks with sadness and the hint of unshed tears. “I can’t see or feel anything but darkness and sadness and gloom and despair, and while I don’t want to die, I definitely want this to end.” And now she begins to cry.

“I miss him, Ana,” she says, looking out at the water, a steady stream of tears running down her cheeks. “I miss him so much that I can’t even breathe sometimes. It’s the worst at night. I still haven’t learned how to sleep without him. I’m lucky if I get an hour or two of sleep at a time and even when I do, I just dream about him. Then, I wake up alone and cry because he’s not there or because I’ve dreamed about him leaving me again.

“I got one of those weighted blankets to help with sleeping and when I wake up under the blanket, it’s painful—emotionally and physically. I think it’s too heavy for my body, because the part of my body that it’s laying on hurts like I’ve been working out all night… but even more so, it feels like he’s holding me. So, I turn around to hold him back and it’s this damn blanket, so it hurts even more.

“I can’t eat oatmeal,” she continues. “I can’t even see oatmeal. He ate it every day without fail except Sunday. We ate anything else for breakfast on Sunday—eggs benedict was his breakfast of choice on that day, but we ate whatever… but every other day, it was oatmeal. I would put butter and sugar and cinnamon in mine; he would put syrup in his.

“I can’t eat Chinese,” she says, “orange chicken to be exact. My Gary is a creature of habit. Every Wednesday, it was orange chicken…” She pauses. “Is… was… is… I don’t know anymore.

“That’s why it’s hard for me to eat, Ana,” she confesses. “Food makes me sick. Particular foods make me think of him, and then they turn my stomach, and no matter how hard I try to keep them down, I can’t. I want to vomit now just talking about food. You, of all people, should know that the mind is a powerful thing, and right now, mind over matter is working in his favor.” I frown.

“Why would you say this is in his favor?” I ask. “Do you think he would really want to see you this way?” She scoffs weakly.

“Ana, do you even think he cares?” she asks with disdain. “I know he doesn’t wish me dead—he’s not a horrible person, but I’d bet everything I have that he wouldn’t care that I’m going through this. He’d probably wish I’d suffer more for killing his baby.”

That statement makes her weep. She briefly cries into her hands a soulful, mournful sob, and then she stops just as quickly as she started. A few people stop to look at her and her horribly tear-stained face, but she just blankly stares in front of her and they eventually just move on.

“I wake up every morning filled with dread,” she says. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just putter along during the day—second by second. I don’t see any relief. Yoga and meditation fill some of the many seconds of the day, and then somewhat help me get to the next second, but I can’t see beyond the next second.

“I can’t see my future. I don’t know where I’m going. Everything I saw had him in it. Even though I didn’t see kids immediately, I still saw him. I’ve never loved anybody in my life the way that I love him. I know women—and men—have often said that they’ll never love again, but I can truly say that I can’t see ever loving anybody else in my life the way that I love him. I can’t fathom how I’ll ever love anybody ever again. And I can truly say that had I known I would end up like this, I would have kept the baby.” I look over at her.

“That is so unhealthy, Mare,” I tell her. “Whatever you do, never have a child just to save your relationship. It’ll never work…”

“Tell it to my heart, Ana,” she says, turning her gaze to me, “I can’t hear you.” She turns back to the water. “Having a baby and loving and caring for Gary’s child would be worlds better than what I’m feeling right now, even if I had to care for it alone. I would have a purpose, a reason for living, for waking up every morning. Hindsight is 20/20 and I would have loved that baby with my whole soul had I known that this was the abyss I would be plunged into by giving it up.

“I know what I look like, I’m not blind or stupid—and I know what people think, but I don’t care. If they can’t help me get to the next second, I don’t care what they think. It doesn’t even bother me; it doesn’t hurt. Nothing hurts more than what I’m feeling right now.”

I want to say something so badly to make her feel better, to tell her that this pain won’t last forever, to convince her not to regret her decision because it cost her relationship, but I know that I can’t. I know that losing Edward made me want to curl up in a ball and die many nights; had me shying away from men and relationships for a long time; had me sobbing in the parking lot of my condo years after we were history because the rest of my friends had significant others and I didn’t—I was too afraid to step out and give someone else a chance because losing Edward hurt too much.

I link my arm in hers in a show of solidarity, just so that she knows that she’s not alone. We stand there for several minutes, leaning against the balustrade and saying nothing. After a while, we hear music, and the water comes alive. I had forgotten about the water shows at the Bellagio fountains. It’s some medley of some upbeat rock or pop song, and we watch the water and lights respond to the music and the beat, Marilyn silently wishing for “her Gary,” and me silently wishing I could somehow stop her pain.

*-*

I’m back at the hospital on Monday morning, being subjected to the cold, but professional demeanors of the nurses. My aloofness towards my possibly dying mother is now known among all of the nursing staff and they treat me with enough professionalism to grant all of my requests and make sure that my mother’s needs are tended to, but they don’t show me any warmth or concern that you would normally show to the family member of a patient.

I put on my armor and try not to let it bother me, but it does. It does bother me. I could do what she did and just not show up, just not come at all. I could hire someone to come in here and make sure that she’s okay, not even come back in here until the thirtieth day of her fucking directive to pull the plug, or just wait until she kicks the damn bucket to claim the body.

But no, I come in here nearly every day, asking about her condition and if there’s been any change, having the dying flowers cleared from her room and making sure that the fresh ones stay, even talking to some of her visitors and hearing from them about how much she loves me and how she regrets what she did to me as a teenager and what a wonderful person she is now.

Today, when I get here, she’s in a cozy tartan nightgown. Someone has washed and combed her hair and she actually looks a bit more content. I know the staff is waiting for me to storm out of the room, demanding to know who changed my mother’s clothes, but I’m not. Someone—maybe Wendy—brought her something that they felt she would be more comfortable in. I can’t deny her that.

I sit silently next to her bed and text Laura about how I’m feeling; about how unfair I think it is that she’s being looked upon as the poor little victim and I’m basically being pegged as the bad guy because I’m not all broken up about her condition. Laura gives it to me straight.

She tells me that as long as I’m on my mother’s turf, that’s how it’s going to be, and I just have to deal with it. She’s made a life for herself where she is and those who know her love her because of what they know about her. Those who don’t know can only go by what they see, and what they see is a stand-offish daughter who only does what’s necessary to keep her mother alive.

“They don’t care about your story,” she tells me in a chat. “Your details are not what’s important to them—hers are. Her well-being and waking up, her friends and those who love her, that’s what’s important. You need to get her squared away, whatever that means—physical therapy, the best home care, burying her, whatever it is—and then you need to go home! You’re not going to find any peace until you get out of that place. Some of our monsters, we don’t need to face. We just need to leave them buried. Get the sentencing, get your mom squared away, and get the hell out of Vegas. That’s it and that’s all.”

She’s right and I know she is. It’s just that getting to that point is hell. Most people here treat me like vermin, and I have to stay here until I get everything squared away. How do deal with that? How does anybody deal with that?

I’ve taken a little time to look at Sophie’s Facebook page. It’s highly monitored, so she’s very careful about what she posts, but she did post the meals that we ate at Hell’s Kitchen and that she’s having fun in Vegas. I know for certain that the Adventure Dome is Saturday, but Jason and Gail took her to the Shark’s Reef at the Mandalay Bay today and lunch at Border’s Grill. Her friends have commented on and liked her photos of the Beef Wellington and pineapple carpaccio, and I smile remembering how much we enjoyed the dessert.

I’ve lost track of time quietly surfing through Facebook videos and feeds and I hear someone enter the room.

“Oh! I’m sorry,” Wendy says. “I didn’t know you were visiting. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

I look at my watch. It’s much later than I intended to stay. I might as well let someone keep watch that wants to be here.

“No,” I say, rising from the seat.  “I really need to get going. I need to check on my children.” She raises a brow but says nothing.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Wendy says, removing some things from her bag and placing them around my mother’s room. “I brought some of her things from her home. I’m hoping the familiar might help to bring her out of this. I… was the one who brought her the gown.”

“I thought it might have been you,” I reply. “I’m sure that if she could speak right now, she would say ‘thank you.’ Those hospital gowns are awful.” I speak from experience.

“I’m sure she would,” Wendy replies, her voice cracking. She turns away from me and goes to the restroom. I think she’s going to compose herself, but she returns quickly with a small cup of water. She pours the water into a diffuser and adds a little oil to it—eucalyptus, I think. It’s not overbearing, so I think it should be fine. She looks adoringly, but sadly, at her best friend.

“I’m going to go and let you visit,” I tell her. “Thank you again for the gown.” She smiles softly at me.

“It was my pleasure,” Wendy says and turns back to my mother. “Hey there, old girl,” she says, taking the seat that I vacated next to my mother. “Shall we continue book three of Gideon Cross?” She pulls a book out of her purse and begins to read to my mother. I quietly leave the room and close the door behind me.

There’s no way to get to the elevators without passing the nurses’ station. I nod at Chuck, don my Jackie O’s, and walk past the judgmental cows at the station without looking left or right, headed for the elevator.

*-*

I spend the rest of the evening with my young friend Sophie and my babies. Christian is happily left to tend to all matters GEH while I tend to my mother, then he later joins us in the Romper Room/Disney suite where I completely escape from reality and play childish games and watch cartoons and Disney movies and eat finger foods with my babies… until I have to get up in the morning and adult again.

But not today.

It’s Tuesday, and the boys are on baby duty while Gail, Keri, and I take Sophie on the food tour. I couldn’t convince Marilyn to go, so she’s staying behind to help the guys with the twins. I beg Al to try to get in touch with Gary again. Marilyn has her good days and her bad days, and I can only imagine what Gary’s going through.

We decide to do a small group tour with just the four of us since the tour is mainly for Sophie and we want her to be the center of attention and not have to worry about what others are thinking about her as she proceeds through the various restaurants and sites.

We start at Mercato Della Pescheria, an Italian restaurant located in the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian and Palazzo hotels in a portion of the combined locations called St. Mark’s Square. The tour includes a chef’s choice tasting of House-made Italian specialties. It’s set up like an outdoor Italian restaurant with the wrought iron tables and red and white tablecloths, and the ceiling of the Grand Canal Shoppes is painted to look like the sky while the hallways look like the streets of Italy complete with building-façade storefronts.

“This is good practice,” I say. “We’ll be going to Italy this summer for a few weeks.”

“You will?” Sophie asks. “You guys go a lot of places.” I nod.

“Christian bought me a house there,” I tell her. “I have to decorate it before we get there. Maybe you can help me.” Her brows rise.

“Really?” she asks, her excitement palpable. “I have no idea what to choose.”

“Really,” I reply with a laugh. “We’ll be learning together, because I have no idea what to choose, either.”

“I’d like to go to Italy one day,” she says. “I want to learn to make authentic Italian cuisine.”

“Well, I don’t know what the plan is for the summer, but maybe with your Dad and Gail’s permission, we may be able to work something out.” Her eyes widen further, but then drop.

“Now, you’re teasing,” she says.

“No, I’m not,” I reply. “You know I can’t make any promises because there’s a lot involved in being able to travel overseas, but it’s not impossible and I can at least see if it’s something that we can do. So, keep realistic expectations and since we can’t do spring break, we’ll see what we can do for summer vacation. Deal?” She makes the pondering face and nods.

“Sounds reasonable,” she says. “The idea that you’d like for me to go is really cool… even if it doesn’t get to happen.”

I keep forgetting that Sophie is so young sometimes with the things that come out of her mouth. She’s had quite the life to just barely be a teenager—she’s seen way too much in her young little life.

Let’s not forget the things you saw in your young little life.
This is nothing like that and we’re not going to compare them. So, if you don’t have anything constructive to say, shut the hell up!

The last person I need to hear from right now in this place in my fragile state of mind is the Bitch. She can only do more harm than good at this point.

Our tasting at Mercato Della Pescheria includes a Burrata board with aged balsamic, grilled bread and marinated vegetables, along with gnocchi pomodoro with fresh mozzarella and cacio e pepe alla ruota. I usually have a very scrutinizing tongue, but Sophie had me beat this time. All I tasted was spaghetti with Parmesan cheese, but not our little aspiring chef.

Let’s start with the fact that she had to explain to us how it was going to be served. They roll this huge wheel of cheese over to you on a cart where they’ve cut a bowl into the center of it. Then they place the hot pasta right from the pan into the “bowl.” They scrape the cheese from the inside of the bowl and mix it into the pasta, which Sophie informs me has already been tossed with olive oil and fresh cracked pepper. When they plate it for us, Sophie has a bit more pepper ground over her serving.

She tastes the pasta with every bit of the attitude of a food critic. She takes a small serving of the dish and puts it in her mouth. She chews purposefully, like she’s weighing the textures and flavors in her mouth. You can see her rolling the mixture around on her tongue and everyone at the table—including the server—is silent.

“Is the Bucatini domestic or imported?” she asks the server. He’s rightfully a bit taken aback.

“Imported, miss,” he says. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t,” she says. “I just want to be able to tell the difference.” Gail and I look at each other, obviously impressed. Our guide, Justine, not so much. She actually looks like she’s tasting something bad.

“Do you know the cheese, miss?” the server asks.

“Hmm,” she says, taking another forkful. “It’s either Parmesan or pecorino. I’ve never tasted pecorino before, but I know it’s close to Parmesan and this is close to Parmesan, not quite Parmesan.” He smiles.

“Very good, miss,” he says, almost proudly. “It’s pecorino.” Sophie smiles and claps her fingers together quickly, also proud that she identified the cheese. I had already said Parmesan.

“What’s Bucatini?” I ask anyone who’s listening. Sophie begins to answer.

“It’s…”

“It’s a heavy pasta like thick spaghetti, but it has a hole in the center,” Justine interrupts. I assume that she didn’t hear Sophie begin to explain the pasta to us. Sophie doesn’t pay her any attention. She just shrugs and finishes her pasta. I nod at Justine and wait for her to get distracted.

“What does she mean by ‘holes?’” I lean over and ask Sophie. “It just looks like spaghetti. I don’t see any ‘holes.’”

“Regular spaghetti is a solid noodle,” Sophie says conspiratorially, “Bucatini’s a long tube. Think ziti noodle, but long and skinny.” I open my mouth in realization, then look closer at the noodle and see exactly what she’s talking about.

“I don’t know why I was expecting to see holes straight down the noodle.” I shake my head at my ignorance and take a forkful of the pasta. Sophie giggles and continues with her tasting.

Our next stop is Royce Chocolates for truffles. As it turns out, Sophie’s no stranger to Royce’s Chocolates even though Justine tries to make it appear that these are the most exclusive chocolates in the world. The store looks a bit like a confectioner’s booth that just popped up and snagged the last little corner spot in the Canal Shoppes. No offense to Royce’s; the truffles are divine, but our tour guide is just droning on and on and on about the chocolates, and while the adults in the group are trying not to take the wind out of the poor girl’s sails, Sophie’s young truth filter is in full effect.

“They’re delicious,” she says, enjoying a chocolate and creamed caramel truffle, “I just expected them to be different, I guess.”

“Different than what?” Justine inquires.

“Than the ones at the store in Seattle,” she says. “It’s the same manufacturer, so I guess they would be the same.”

“There’s a store in Seattle?” Justine asks, and Sophie’s brow furrows.

“Bellevue,” the clerk says, nodding as we turn to look at her. Feeling a bit sheepish about her lack of knowledge, our tour guide quickly gestures us out of the chocolatier. I don’t mind that she likes her job; I just think she needs to be a bit more informed about the stops on the tour, or at the very least, curb her enthusiasm a bit.

We wander through St. Mark’s Square a little more, and we stop to watch as another server in another area makes a tiramisu tableside. Sophie watches in awe as the espresso-soaked ladyfingers are layered into the pan. I don’t know if the people at the table can actually eat the confection when it’s complete as the cream portion usually needs to chill overnight.

“She can’t have any of that on this tour,” Justine says haughtily. “The espresso mixture contains alcohol.” I just glare at her.

“And if the mascarpone cream mixture is done correctly, it has rum in it,” Sophie interjects like it’s obvious. “I know that!”

Sophie is clearly becoming irritated with Justine’s behavior, but she’s refined enough not to respond in kind. Although upon leaving the impromptu tiramisu presentation, she did ask, “What’s wrong with that lady?”

Our next stop is Cañonita, a location that prides itself on Mexico City soul food. Sophie is a bit reserved as the tour continues and I don’t like that. The foodie tour is for her enjoyment and I’m rather enjoying the benefit of her knowledge of the different ingredients even though I was well aware of the inclusion of Grand Marnier in the espresso mixture and rum in the mascarpone cream.

“Sophie, are you okay?” Gail asks, noticing her reservation.

“Am I allowed to say anything?” she asks matter-of-factly. I frown.

“Of course, you are,” I reply. “You can say whatever you like.” She rolls her eyes and sighs.

“Well, I was born on Cinco de Mayo,” she begins, “so every year that I can remember since I’ve been alive, I’ve had a Mexican meal on my birthday. Since we’re on this tour, I was wondering are we just going to eat the standard Mexican foods, or can I taste something different?”

“You can have what you like,” Gail says. “If you want something different, we’ll pay for it.” Sophie twists her lips.

“I’d really like to try the Pátzcuaro Duck Relleno,” she says. “I’ve never had it and I think it would be good.”

“We don’t have time for that,” Justine interjects.

“Wee’ll. Mek. Tyme!” Keri says slowly and deliberately, waiting for Justine to respond. I think her irritation is rubbing off on Keri. When Justine says nothing, Keri turns to Sophie.

“Come, Miss Sopheh,” she says, putting her arm around Sophie’s shoulder, “tell uhs aboht de duck.”

The corners of Sophie’s mouth rise in a small smile and she begins to tell us about Pátzcuaro Duck Relleno while it’s being prepared in the back. Justine sits at a separate table close by with her arms folded and her legs crossed. I have no idea what her problem is.

“The menu says that the Pátzcuaro Duck Relleno begins with duck confit, which is a French dish,” Sophie continues. “So, I wanted to see how a French dish could become a Mexican dish. I know the manchamantel sauce is clearly Mexican. I think the combined flavors would be very interesting.”

Sophie always amazes me talking about food, because the 13-year-old girl disappears, and we have this connoisseur in front of us.

“Hah do yah knoh so much abot fuud, Sopheh?” Keri asks. Sophie shrugs.

“I just really like learning about food,” she says, “where different dishes come from, what they mean, what spices they use, how it’s supposed to taste. I’m going to be a chef one day. I don’t know what my specialty will be, but I want to know about foods from all over the world.”

“Well, you’re off to a very good start,” I tell her. “Did she tell you that Ms. Solomon showed her how to make that delightful ham and pineapple sandwich and she got it right on the first try?” Gail turns to Sophie in honest surprise.

“No, she didn’t!” Gail says, with pride. “You should have told me. I’m proud of you.”

“It’s just a sandwich,” Justine says under her breath. No one else heard her, but I did. I’m trying not to feed into it. It’s beyond me why she feels threatened by this 13-year-old girl.

“Okay, what’s next?” I ask once we finished the delightful duck dish while Justine deliberately and slowly ate the crab cakes, enchiladas, and ceviche that was intended for the tour. She took more time to eat her food than we took to eat ours, but she said that we didn’t have time for the duck. Then she haughtily tells us…

“Well, we’ve only got an hour left and there are four more stops on the food tour, so we won’t make them all.” I try not to let loose on this woman, because I’m always letting loose on someone, and it could just be me being sensitive. Instead, I just ask, “What are the four remaining stops?”

“Well, first, there’s the Honolulu Cookie Company, where they have the exotic Hawaiian goodie bag that most likely has the best shortbread cookies you’ve ever tasted in your life. Then, there’s the William Carr Photo Gallery—he’s a well-known artist acclaimed for his ability to capture the beauty and perfection of creation…”

She sounds like she’s reading from a pamphlet. I look over at Sophie.

“I had truffles,” she says. “I don’t really have a taste for cookies.”

“These aren’t just any cookies,” Justine retorts. “These are Hawaiian shortbread…”

“No, thank you,” Sophie says calmly. “You said there’s an art gallery. Are there pictures of food or something?” Justine’s brow furrows.

“Why would you ask that?” she says.

“I’m just wondering what an art gallery has to do with a foodie tour,” Sophie replies. “I can understand if it was a museum tour, but…” Sophie shrugs.

“I was thinking that myself,” I say, my voice low.

“Well, generally, the more mature patrons appreciate the art, but if you don’t want to go…” Her tone is condescending.

“Well, you clearly said that we don’t have time for the other four stops, so what are the last two?” I shoot, trying not to bite this bitch’s head off. Noting my irritation, she quickly tells us that the last two stops are a bookstore and a Peruvian restaurant called Once, pronounced On-seh. We opt to skip to Once and see what Peru has to offer.

I’m so frustrated when we get to Once that I ask for a table for five. Justine proceeds to tell the host that we’re with the foodie tour. I quickly correct her.

She’s the foodie tour,” I tell the host. “We want a table for five.” I gesture at Gail, Sophie, Keri, Chuck, and myself. When the host nods, I turn to Justine. “You said we have an hour—we’re going to order.”

Justine’s eyes narrow at me, but I don’t watch her long enough to formulate a response. When we are seated, I ask Sophie which appetizers she thinks we should try and if she’s familiar with the cuisine.

“Some of it,” she says. “Ceviche is universal, but if you are going to get it, I would get it here since the dish is originally Peruvian. I think the braised fennel would be good, and I’d definitely like to try the Chicharron Karaage and the scallop and shrimp dumplings.” I nod.

“I’m going to eat whatever she’s eating,” Gail laughs, and I concur. Keri orders the oxtail Bibimbap and Chuck orders the prime New York Steak Anticucho. Justine is seething that no one is talking to her or paying any attention to her as we enjoy the last meal on the tour—not a tasting, a meal. She keeps looking at her watch and sighing impatiently.

When we finish our meal, I charge it separately to my Amex and we leave the restaurant. Justine is trying to wrap up the tour. I don’t know what she’s expecting—it was a bad experience for me. Sophie seems unmoved. She finally announces that the tour is at its end and turns to Sophie.

“How old are you, may I ask?” Justine asks Sophie.

“Thirteen,” she replies. “I’ll be 14 in June.”

“Mm,” Justine remarks unimpressed before turning to me. “You may want to introduce the concept of humility into her life a little more,” Justine says, then turns to walk away. I gasp, at a complete loss for words. Sophie is looking aghast, and Gail is furious.

“You hold it right there!” Gail announces in a voice that makes us all freeze. “How old are you?” Justine folds her arms again.

“I’m 26,” she says, matter-of-factly.

“Well, you have a lot of growing up to do!” Gail retorts. “That young lady is the picture of decorum. She was never rude to you once and you’re just upset that she knows more about your tour than you do! I saw your face when she told us about the tableside service at Mercato, and it’s not her fault that she knows that Royce has several locations and you didn’t.

“You announced that she couldn’t have the tiramisu when all she was doing was watching. I thought you were going to have a stroke over the duck. Then you tell us that we don’t have enough time to finish the tour, but you have a coronary when we ask to skip to the end! Is this your first day? Because you’re utterly terrible at this!”

Justine gasps, but doesn’t have a comeback for Gail’s chastisement.

“You remember that name, young lady—Sophia Taylor—because if you stay in the food industry at all and even if you don’t, I guarantee you’ll hear it again. Now, you get your act together or I’ll have your neck and your job, and that’s a guarantee!” Gail shoots.

Justine’s hand shoots to her chest in that clutches pearls way. She’s shocked that after no one really checked her on her attitude, she thought that she could take liberties with us and Gail let her have it.

“I… I’m sorry!” Justine says, aghast.

“Don’t apologize to me!” Gail says. “Apologize to her! You nearly ruined her day!” Justine turns to Sophie, but Sophie turns to Gail.

“She didn’t ruin my day, Momma Gail,” Sophie says succinctly. “The guy at Mercato was nice to me; I got to eat French duck made Mexican, and really good chicken, scallops, and shrimp. And we still have Sur La Table tomorrow. I’m fine, she doesn’t have to apologize. Can we please go now?”

Chuck stands a few feet away like he has all day, smiling widely as Sophie delivers her speech.

“Are you sure, Pumpkin?” Gail says. “She owes you an apology.”

“I’m sure, Momma Gail,” she says. “Let’s just go and find some gelato. I’d like that.” Gail smiles.

“I’d like that, too,” she says, turning to Justine. “You could learn a thing or two from that little girl, but I’m sure that you won’t.” She turns back to Sophie. “I love gelato,” she says. “Let’s go find some.”

I didn’t have to lift a finger.

I fall in step with Gail and Sophie. We walk all the way back to the other end of the Grand Canal Shoppes to a gelato stand called Cocolino. We each order our flavor, then take a seat and enjoy our treat. While we’re eating the gelato, I must ask the question that’s burning in my head.

“Sophie,” I ask, “she did owe you an apology. It’s not okay for anybody to treat someone that way, especially when she was being paid. Why didn’t you want her apology?”

“Because she didn’t want to apologize,” she says, matter-of-factly. “Do you remember when Marlow snitched on me at Christmas?” I glance over at Gail quickly. She raises her gaze to me, but turns back to her ice cream.

“Yes,” I say.

“If I had apologized to them, it would have been because they made me do it, not because I wanted to or because I was sorry, because I wasn’t… and that’s why I didn’t do it. This was kinda the same thing. She wasn’t sorry, and to be honest, what she was doing didn’t hurt me. She just looked kinda dumb. And Momma Gail was right. She was just mad ‘cuz I knew more than she did. They don’t pay me to know this stuff; I just like food channels. That makes her look real bad.”

I just had a 13-year-old girl explain a very adult philosophy in the most simplified terms I’ve ever seen.

If your apology is not sincere, I don’t want it—that’s one of my biggest mantras.
If my apology is not sincere, I’m not going to give it—see the first mantra.
I’m not going to let the fact that you don’t know what you’re saying or doing ruin my good time—in other words, “Sucks to be you… I’m bigger than this.”

I can’t remember the last time I was prouder to be Aunt Ana.

CHRISTIAN

“Dude, she left that woman’s face cracked and on the ground.”

Chuck is telling us about the ladies’ day out on the foodie tour. I was sure that it would be something harmless and fun, but it appears that the tour guide had a bug up her butt.

“Are you telling me that the person in charge of the tour got into it with Sophie?” I ask.

“No, Prince Gallant with your flaming sword, that’s not what I’m saying,” Chuck says. “Sophie knows a lot about food, more than I even think we know she knows…”

“That’s because Food Network and the Cooking Channel were her companions while her mother was binging,” Jason says. “She still watches them now. If we stocked her kitchen, she could make her own meals.”

“That might be a good idea, so that she can get some practice… but I digress,” Chuck says, getting himself back on track. “She knew what kind of cheese they were putting in the pasta. She knew the origin of a Mexican dish that really came from France. She knows the alcoholic content of tiramisu. She could have done a better job as a tour guide than the tour guide. Little Miss Raven Hair didn’t like that very much.”

“Did she insult my daughter?” Jason asks. Chuck twists his lips. “What did she say?” Chuck clears his throat.

“At first, she was just making little cracks about the food,” Chuck says, “talking over Sophie when she was trying to talk. In the end, the tour ended at Once, and the women all ignored her completely. That pissed her off. I think she thought Ana was Sophie’s mother, so she tells Ana that she needs to teach Sophie some humility. I could see the hairs rise on Gail’s neck from across the room.”

Jason immediately scoffs a laugh. I can imagine that he’s seen the hairs rise on Gail’s neck from across the room, too.

“Have you seen the Karate Kid?” he asks, doing the pose that Daniel does before his finishing move.

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“I have,” Jason says, still laughing.

“The minute her mouth opened, I could see Gail doing it in my mind’s eye. I thought that would be the end for that girl, but the finishing move came from Sophie. Gail demanded that the lady apologize to Sophie, but Sophie told Gail that she didn’t want the lady’s apology, that the lady didn’t ruin her day, and asked to go get gelato. Imagine having a 13-year-old girl tell you that your apology is beneath her.”

I hiss at the implication. That had to be painful. I’m convinced that Sophia Taylor is not of this world. Second only to my wife, she’s one of the most rounded people I’ve met for what her mother has put her through.

“Classic,” Jason says, “fucking classic. When you guys go to Sur La Table tomorrow, make sure she gets everything she wants.” Chuck laughs.

“Make sure you tell her that,” he says.

“No matter where we go, there’s always one,” I hear Butterfly say as she enters the Romper Room suite.

“Hello, dear,” I call out to her. She stops in her tracks and examines me for a moment.

“He already told you,” she says, coming further into the room.

“He did,” I say. She shakes her head.

“Well, for once I wasn’t the object of ire… but a child? Seriously?” she says, taking a seat among all the playthings.

“There’s just no accounting for taste, I guess,” I comment.

“Indeed!” Gail says, nearly storming into the suite. “The nerve of that child! Twenty-six indeed! She behaved like a toddler. Teach her some humility… teach yourself, you wretched little heathen! How dare she insult my stepdaughter that way! She doesn’t even know her. She’s guiding the tour and didn’t even know there was a Royce Chocolates in Seattle! She’s guiding the tour! Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?”

“We heard,” I reply. Why did I do that? Right at that moment, Sophie enters the room with an expression I can’t quite read.

“You okay, Baby Boo?” Jason asks.

“Mm-hmm,” she says in a manner that indicates that she’s not saying another word.

“I’m calling her boss!” Gail continues to rant. “We paid for that tour! We paid for Sophie to be treated that way. A grown woman—angry with a child on her tour. The very nerve! I’m going to go and call that place right now!” and out of the room she goes, off to make some tour guide’s life a little more difficult. Keri looks cautiously around the room before speaking.

“Wheh ah da tweens?” she says.

“They’re napping,” I reply. “They should probably wake soon.”

“Ah’ll goh chek on dem.” She kisses Chuck on the cheek and heads off towards the bedroom. We all look at Sophie, who purses her lips, then finally speaks.

“Momma Gail is mad!” she says, her eyes a little large and her face full of ill-suppressed mirth. “I thought she was going to rip that lady’s throat out!”

“What did she say?” Jason inquires.

“She didn’t say anything bad, it’s just how she said it,” Sophie says. “It was like… she wasn’t Momma Gail—she was somebody else.”

“Daniel-san,” Chuck says under his breath, and Butterfly looks at him bemused.

“She told the lady that she was terrible at her job and not to forget my name because she was going to hear it again someday. We were in the middle of the mall! People were staring at her; the lady was really embarrassed… it was awesome!”

Normally, I would advise a youngster that it’s not necessarily a good thing to take joy in someone else’s calamity, but I think the young lady had this one coming.

“Here’s the best part,” Butterfly says, turning to Sophie. “Why didn’t you want her to apologize to you?”

“Because she didn’t mean it,” Sophie replies. “She wasn’t sorry for what she said to me. She was sorry because Momma Gail got in her butt about it. If we had just huffed and puffed and left, she would have been fine. She reminds me of my mom… mad because Daddy did something for me or gave me something.” She scoffs in that irritated teenage way, rolls her eyes, and waves the situation off. “I just wanted to go have ice cream.”

Jason is quiet for a moment, but Butterfly correctly thinks to fill the dead air.

“Well, they had better not behave that way at Sur La Table tomorrow or that franchise is going to be Sophie La Table by the time we leave,” she says. Sophie giggles.

“That reminds me,” Jason says. “You have your own kitchen, and I think you’re old enough and responsible enough to start practicing your own dishes. So, when you go to Sur La Table tomorrow, you can get anything you want to outfit your kitchen.” Sophie’s eyes widen.

“Really?” she says in a high whisper. “Dad, are you serious?”

“I’m completely serious,” he says. “You can have whatever you want, and if it needs to be shipped, just have them ship it… and we’ll get a couple of extra fire extinguishers, too.”

“Daa-aa-aad,” Sophie whines, “I used to cook when I lived with Mom, just not gourmet stuff.” Jason’s face hardens.

“You did?” he asks. Sophie shrugs.

“Yeah,” she says. “If I didn’t, I’d starve… or I’d have to eat Pop-Tarts for life.”

“How long have you been cooking?” Jason asks. Sophie ponders her answers as Gail and Keri re-enter the room with the twins.

“About…” she ponders a moment more, “three or four years.”

That would fucking make her nine years old.

“What do you know how to cook, Sophie?” Butterfly asks, trying to get information and diffuse the situation at the same time.

“A lot of stuff,” she says. “I haven’t cooked all the stuff, but watching the TV shows and things on YouTube, I can probably follow any recipe you give me.”

“What have you already cooked?” Butterfly probes.

“I can cook breakfast,” she says. “I can make hamburgers and fried chicken. I tried to bake a chicken once, but it came out kinda dry. Then I learned I needed to take the innards out and turn the temperature down… and baste, so…” She ponders a little more. “I can do lots of Asian food—stir fry, pepper steak, shrimp fried rice… I know how to make sweet and sour sauce, too.”

“What’s the first thing you remember cooking by yourself?” Jason asks.

“Oh, that’s easy. Grilled cheese… I burned my hand,” she replies matter-of-factly.

“You burned your hand?” Butterfly interjects. “Badly?”

“Real bad,” she says. “I still got the scar. See?” She turns her hand over and shows us a straight scar from the bottom of her palm across the top of her wrist. It almost looks like the scar tissue from a knife slash. Jason frowns deeply.

“Shalane told me you fell off your bike and cut yourself on a piece of glass,” Jason counters. Sophie shakes her head.

“Nope. Grilled cheese,” she says, looking at her hand again and shrugging like it’s no big deal. I can see the steam rising from Jason’s head. “Don’t worry, Dad, I know how to make a great sandwich now. Ms. Solomon taught me.” Jason smiles tightly.

“She did?” he asks, trying to control his voice.

“Yeah, it’s ham and cheese and pineapple and it’s really good,” she boasts.

“Will you make one for me when we get home?” he asks. Sophie beams.

“Sure, Dad,” she says, proudly. “I’ll make you anything you want.”

“Pumpkin?” Gail says. “Will you please take Mikey for me and help Keri get them ready for snack time? I want to talk to your dad for a minute.”

“Sure, Momma Gail. C’mon Mikey, let’s go get treats.” Gail puts Mikey on the floor and he immediately takes Sophie’s hand and allows her to lead him to parts unknown.

“Jason, are you okay?” Gail asks once Sophie has left the room.

“Anything she wants,” he says to his wife. “I mean it. Anything that will allow her to create anything she wants…” He trails off.

“You’ll get no argument from me,” Gail says. “If anybody’s worth it, she is. And I really think we’ll be cultivating her dream, so why not get her started as soon as possible with the best utensils money can buy?”

“I don’t mean to get giddy over what is apparently a serious and very solemn moment, but this is going to be so much fun!!!” Butterfly declares gleefully while shaking her fists, adding the needed levity to the situation and causing Gail and Jason to snicker.

And just like that, crisis averted.

*-*

“Does Sophie have a passport?” Butterfly asks as we’re getting ready for bed.

“I don’t know,” I reply, nonplussed. “I don’t think there was ever a reason for her to have one before now, but I would have to ask Jason. Why do you ask?”

“I think it would be great if our trip to Italy was a family vacation,” she suggests, climbing into bed. “Not the entire trip, but maybe the last leg or so of it. I’d like for my babies to be there for a bit, and that would mean Keri and Gail, which would also mean Sophie. What do you think?” He shrugs.

“I don’t see why not,” he says. “It would definitely be a really good experience for her, and I’m certain that having the twins there for part of the trip would help you to relax. I’ll talk to Jason and see how he feels. This wouldn’t have anything to do with the whole Bad Taste Italian experience, would it?”

“It has everything to do with it,” she says shamelessly. “While we were at one of the restaurants, Sophie mentioned that she would like to go to Italy one day and taste authentic Italian cuisine. I told her that we would be going this summer and said that I would run it past you, Gail, and Jason to see how you all felt about it. I didn’t make any promises, though, because I don’t know if there’s any bureaucracy involved with her being able to leave the country or even if Jason would want that.” I chuckle.

“At this point, Jason would gift her the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and if there’s any bureaucracy involved with her being able to leave the country, he’ll get past that, too,” I say climbing into bed next to her. I turn the light off as she snuggles under the cover. I wrap my arm around her waist and pull her against me, pressing two kisses on her shoulder.

“You’re a really good Aunt Ana,” I say, as she snuggles into me and falls off to sleep.

A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. Be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

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~~love and handcuffs

 

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 18

@Sweet Peach75, I have no idea why, but I happened to go to my website spam folder and there were like three posts in there from you! I’ve put them back on the site, but you guys, if you post a comment and you don’t see it after a day or so, hit me on that “contact me” link so I can check my spam. I’m going to check it more often just in case. I’m so sorry about that, Peach!!!

Thanks to all of you who like and retweet my links. Twitter and I just don’t seem to agree with one another. I get on there as often as I can and I try to follow it. If it weren’t for the sites (this one included) that automatically tweet my shit, I wouldn’t be there. So, again, I thank you! 

This is a work of 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…

Season 5 Episode 18

CHRISTIAN

“I haven’t eaten anything yet, and I’m starving. Can you please order something from room service?”

“Of course, baby. How far away are you?” I hear her ask Chuck.

“About twenty minutes,” she says, her voice defeated.

“Will you need a drink?” I ask. She sighs.

“Just wine… and a cranberry spritzer.”

“I’m on it,” I tell her. “Come on back to the hotel and everything will be right as rain.”

“Yeah, sure,” she remarks. “Love you.”

“Love you, too,” I reply, and end the call. I dial Keri’s number.

“Yes, Chtistian?”

“Are the twins still asleep?” I ask.

“Noh, dey jess weke up,” she replies.

“Good. Butterfly is on her way. She’ll be here in twenty minutes. I’m having room service delivered down there for her.”

“Okeh, wee’ll be wehtin,” she says, and ends the call.

I order room service to the “baby suite,” then sit impatiently, waiting for my wife to return. I’m concerned about how she’ll feel about the babies being in Las Vegas. Will she be happy they’re here, like Allen said, or will she be pissed that I brought her children to this forbidden place—and without asking her first? Maybe she’ll be both—happy at first and then pissed, or vice-versa.

Well, I wanted to see them, too, and we probably won’t be going back to Seattle until her mother wakes or kicks the bucket—whichever comes first. So, there.

I get that nervous sinking feeling in my stomach when I hear her enter the suite. It turns to concern when I see her face.

“I thought Chuck was with you,” I say.

“He nearly bolted from the elevator saying he had to pee and took off in the other direction,” she says. No, he’s trying to get a few moments with his girl before we descend.

“You look like it’s been a rough day,” I say. She tosses her coat onto the big chair and sighs.

“Not so much,” she says. “I just… I don’t know how you can see someone in such a vulnerable position and not be concerned. I look at her and right, now, she’s completely at my mercy. I want to make sure that she’s taken care of, that she gets everything that she needs, but any time I think of feeling any emotion for her, it’s nothing but anger. I think about me being in that bed—no one caring about me—and her room is full of flowers. I think about no one coming into that room to see me, not even her, but her best friend came today and just sat with her for a long time. She even knew who I was.

“It seems so petty to compare her situation now with mine back then. It seems childish to say, ‘Well, you didn’t care about me, so I shouldn’t care about you.’ It seems so ridiculous to be jealous of her flowers and envious of her visitors and hateful that so many people appear to care for her, but I couldn’t get that! Not even from her!”

She puts one hand on her forehead and one on her hip, turning away from me and taking several deep breaths. I move in closer to her and gently grasp her arms.

“This hate is heavy,” she says, her voice thick and low. “I can’t keep carrying it, but I don’t know what else to feel. I feel like she doesn’t deserve the kindness that she’s getting, but that’s crazy.” She shakes her head. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“You’re human, Butterfly,” I tell her. “She hurt you. She left you all alone. You were just a kid. You can no sooner get over those feelings of helplessness and desertion than I can get over these burns on my chest and where they came from.”

She stiffens, but it’s true. We were both traumatized in our childhood, and the scars are a lot deeper than the ones left on our skin.

“My mother is dead,” I tell her. “I don’t have to worry about forgiving her or wondering why she did what she did, because she’s gone. Your mother is alive—she’s still able to account for her sins against you and deep down, that’s what you want. You want her to feel the loneliness and the seclusion that you felt at your weakest moment, but whether she wakes up or not, she’s not going to feel that. She has accumulated a support system here, and they’re concerned about her, and you have the right to feel the way that you feel, because you didn’t have that support system when you needed it the most. We’ve both healed the best we can from those scars, but they still run deep.”  She shakes her head.

“I have to deal with this somehow,” she says. “I can’t shed any more tears over this. I can’t let it take over my life. In a couple of weeks, one way or the other, this ordeal is going to be over for me. I’ll have some therapy with Ace or Laura in the meantime and deal with it however I must.”

“Laura?” I ask. “You’ve been having therapy with Laura?”

“The few conversations I’ve had with Laura have been more fruitful than the two years I’ve spent with Ace. Her conversations are not really therapy, they’re more organic. They’re geared more to helping you get well and deal with your issues than to keep you coming back for more sessions. I think I like her methods better. I’m going to have a talk with her about studying her methods and incorporating them into my practice with the families at Helping Hands.” I twist my lips and nod.

“That’s probably a good idea, Butterfly,” I say, “especially if you see the good in what they’re doing for you. I just don’t want you to discount the good that Ace did, too. His methods really helped you out in some of your hardest times.”

“Yes, he was very helpful in a lot of ways,” she says. “I think I’m just put off by the fact that he couldn’t seem to actively help me with the Boogeyman, and that seemed pretty important to me.” I nod. I understand where she’s coming from. However…

“Well, for now, I want you to put all of this stuff in a little box and come with me. I have a surprise for you.” I take her hand and lead her to the door.

“Christian, I really don’t feel like being around people right now,” she protests, “and where’s my food?”

“Humor me,” I say, retrieving the key from the sofa table as we head out the door.

 “Where are we going?” she asks as we pass the elevator.

“A few more steps, my love,” I tell her, and she sighs impatiently. When I knock on the door of the suite, Chuck opens it with a smile.

“I smell food,” she says. “The food is in here…?”

When Chuck clears the doorway, it looks like we’ve walked right into Romper Room. The entire suite has been transformed into a toddler-friendly play area, complete with wall decals, oversized blocks, playhouses, floor tiles with letters and numbers, the whole nine yards. Percy really went over the top making a home away from home for my children.

“What in the world?” Butterfly says as we step into the suite. “What is this? You want to play with toys?”

“No, but I figure you might want to play with those,” I say, pointing to the living room area. There Keri sits with a fidgety Minnie and Mikey standing next to her. Butterfly’s hands fly to her mouth and she gasps loudly, tears immediately springing to her eyes.

Keri says something to the twins, no doubt along the lines of “Go to Mommy” or something like that. Having gotten his land legs sooner than his sister, Mikey darts to his mother and she drops to her knees in just enough time to scoop him into her arms. A few moments later, Minnie joins the hugfest, and my wife is on her knees, holding her babies and sobbing. It’s a sight that would bring the toughest of us to tears.

Allen, Ray, and Marilyn have come to the suite while my wife is blubbering in the middle of the floor to her babies. When she pulls them back to say something to them that I can’t decipher through her tears, Minnie replies with something equally indecipherable while patting both hands on Butterfly’s cheeks and Mikey makes a vain attempt to wipe her tears from her eyes.

A protector even at one year old.

I kneel down next to her and rub her back, trying to calm her crying a bit. She releases the children and they immediately head to the colorful little table and the toys it carries.

“How could you bring my babies to this horrible place?” she sobs, turning to me while still on the floor.

Uh oh.

I turn to Allen, whose eyes have widened, his mouth falling open. She rises up on her knees and catches me in a fierce embrace.

“Thank you,” she sobs in my neck. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you…”

I slowly wrap my arms around her, still stunned by her earlier chastisement, but happy that we’ve averted a crisis. While we’re wrapped in our embrace, I catch my daughter out the corner of my eye standing next to her mother. When I look down, I see her patting Butterfly on the leg.

“Methinks the Lady Mackenzie wants your attention,” I say. She releases my neck and tries to compose herself. I hand her my handkerchief, and she wipes away what tears she can manage before turning her attention to Minnie.

“Yes, Minnie Mouse?” she says, her voice still shaking. Minnie points to something on the other side of the room and uses her usual indecipherable speech, to which my wife answers, “Show me.”

Minnie takes her hand and Butterfly doesn’t rise from her knees. She crawls behind Minnie in white slacks and Louboutin red-bottoms to whatever thing has captured my daughter’s attention. I sigh heavily and look over at Allen, who stretches his lips in that way that confirms, “Yes, we dodged a bullet!”

Butterfly spends the rest of the afternoon playing games with her children and completely forgetting about the late lunch I had ordered. After a couple of hours, we order dinner to the twins’ suite and everyone comes down again to have a family meal, which consists of cold smoked ahi tuna poke, lamb chops, beef tenderloin, rotisserie chicken, cedar plank salmon, day boat scallops, whipped mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, steamed broccoli, and foraged mushrooms with red velvet cake, vanilla bean crème brûlée, and lemon mousse cheesecake for dessert. Unfortunately, tiramisu is not on the menu, so my beloved wife settles for red velvet cake.

Our children enjoy chicken fingers and French fries with finger fruit for dessert. My picky daughter bypasses the finger fruit and opts for the broccoli instead… strange kid.

The children have had a very big day with their first trip in an airplane, walking into a toddler wonderland, and the excitement of seeing their parents again. The adrenaline of the day crashes down on them very quickly after they’ve had dinner and they both fall into a food-induced slumber, Minnie in her mother’s arms and Mikey in the highchair next to me. Allen and Ray have gone back to their rooms for the night and Marilyn is sitting next to Butterfly. They’re chatting about… whatever. Marilyn is sipping on her smoothie as usual, but I didn’t see her eat anything today at dinner.

I look at her carefully, and her hair is dull and stringy. She keeps it in a small bun most of the time, but right now, it’s in a ponytail. There’s no bounce to it. It looks like hair when it’s oily and limp, but it’s dry and visibly brittle. Her skin looks pale and her face is unhealthily narrow. Her clothes are hanging from her frame and even her eyes look dull. I remember clearly when her face was fuller and her skin had a glow, when she looked healthy and athletic instead of frail and sickly. It’s not that I watched her, but I saw her nearly every day. I wish I could say that she’s looking better, but she’s not.

“Did you invite Marilyn to the spa with you yesterday?” I ask discreetly.

“Yes, but she didn’t want to go,” Butterfly replies. Maybe a massage and a treatment will help Marilyn begin to feel like herself again.

“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” I ask, loud enough for the room to hear me.

“Well, I’m not going to see my mother tomorrow because I’ll be spending the entire day with my babies.” She kisses a sleeping Minnie on the forehead. “When I was carrying them in my belly, they gave me strength when I felt like I couldn’t make it. Now, I barely know how to function when I’m away from them. Isn’t that a sad state of affairs?”

“What about you, Marilyn?” I say. “Why don’t you and Keri kick back and take advantage of the free spa packages that come with these rooms?”

“Thank you, Christian,” Marilyn says. “Maybe I will some other time, but Keri, you and Gail can go, and I’ll stay here with Bosslady.” I nod and drop it, allowing Keri and Gail to coo over going to the spa. I really wish Marilyn would go. This situation actually appears to be aging her.

“Ana, I don’t mean to talk business with you, but I haven’t gotten a chance to see you alone all day. Carl sent the figures for the proceeds from Tina’s jewelry auction. It was quite the haul.”

“Really?” Butterfly asks with interest. “Did you see how much?”

“After auctioneer’s fees, 1.7 million,” she replies.

“Whoa! Really?” Butterfly exclaims. “Have you told Grace?”

“Not yet. I just saw the email before dinner,” Marilyn says.

“Do me a favor and forward it to Grace. She’s going to be thrilled. She was just telling me about the grant proposals that she and Courtney are working on.”

“Oh, yeah, speaking of Courtney,” Marilyn says, sitting back in her seat, “I talked to her today, too. Things seem to be going well overall. Her and Vick are doing great. She got her grades and she’s ecstatic…” She trails off.

“There’s a but in there, I hear it,” Butterfly says. I hear it, too. Marilyn sighs.

“She’s a bit depressed… and pissed,” Marilyn continues. “It appears that even though her relationship with Addie is flourishing, her grandfather committed a major faux pas. Just after we came to Nevada for the trial, he offered her $1 million in cash. He wasn’t convinced that she had turned her life around and he wanted her out of Addie’s life to spare Addie the heartbreak of discovering that her granddaughter was still the conniving little brat that she had previously proven to be.

“Courtney. Was. Livid. She told him that if her grandmother did give her something at this point, she would give it to Helping Hands because you guys were the only ones who gave her a chance and believed in her when she really was worthless. She told him that she completely understands how he feels and why he feels that way, but that she’s not going to allow him to torment her anymore, that she didn’t want his money, and that she never wants to see him again.”

Whoa! That’s severe.

“She really shouldn’t cut her grandfather off,” I interject. “He has a lot of contacts—in the business world, in society… He could really be helpful to her in the future.”

“He’s already cut her off, Christian,” Butterfly says. “Courtney’s right. I totally get why Fred feels the way that he does. Courtney was insufferable and incorrigible, but she didn’t come to them asking for forgiveness, to be accepted into the family, or for any money or support from them. In fact, she shunned it. She avoided all contact with them. Addie came to her. Even then, she had the condition that if they felt the same way that they felt when they sent her back to Hukatucky or whatever the name of that place was that she didn’t want to be bothered—she was fine without them.

“I don’t know what Fred is expecting from her, but if he feels that she’s still irredeemable, then he needs to separate himself from her. Stop being around her and stop antagonizing the girl.”

“He’s only doing the same thing I did with Carla, Butterfly,” I say. “I tried to hand her money to get out of your life and leave you alone if she was coming back into your life to cause you grief and she turned it down, too.”

“It’s completely different, Christian,” Butterfly says. “Courtney was a self-centered, irresponsible little brat and that hurt Addie and Fred a lot. My mother watched me be tormented—physically and emotionally—and then she contributed to that torment. Addie and Fred discovered over the course of a few months that Courtney was a seemingly unsalvageable bad apple. I suffered for years at the hands of my mother.

“Courtney turned her life around on her own terms and decided that what she did, she would do it while no one was looking. My mother gave a moving performance about how horrible she and Green Valley were to me, about how she wishes she could take it all back and that the money I gave her is in a trust fund for the children, but she had an audience—a very large one at that. She cut her own deal to give her testimony, and even if she was totally sincere about her change of heart, I am nearly 30 fucking years old. The pain that she put me through is completely immeasurable and its effects spanned decades. One courtroom testimony—though quite stirring—won’t make up for what she put me through.

“Courtney did nothing like that to Addie and Fred, nor has she tried to come back and get in their good graces. They came to her.”

I can’t argue with her. She’s right about all of it. I just can’t help but feel like…

“I wish there was some way that everybody could come out of this not so hurt,” I admit. “We all know that Courtney was a real piece of work, but she appears to have turned her life around. And Adelaide and Fred are old and dear friends of our family. I just wish it could be easier for everybody.”

“You’re sweet,” my wife says softly, “but sometimes, this is just the way it is, baby.”

“Yeah, I know. I just don’t like it.”

*-*

My wife is happily spending the entire day in Romper Room watching various Disney movies and playing with toys like she’s a toddler herself. She awoke this morning, took the fastest shower known to man, donned a pair of yoga pants and a sweatshirt, scoffed down her breakfast way too quickly to digest, and announced that she will be spending the day in the babies suite if I wanted to find her. With her permission, I take a few hours to catch up on all things GEH.

I’ve discovered that with the new system of employee reviews, we’ve had a few resignations—some of the workers in the trenches and a couple of people in middle management, nothing to be concerned about. When asked why they were resigning, many of them gave some form of the same answer—they felt like they shouldn’t have to justify why they deserved their raises.

My company is scraping its ass on the ground like an ailing dog, being dragged down by incompetent assholes, some of whom don’t have the leadership skills of a gerbil, and I’ve got people who feel they shouldn’t have to tell me that they deserve their raises simply because they’ve done everything they were told to do… no initiative, no latent leadership skills, no problem-solving, no nothing, not even speaking up to say, “I had an idea, but my opinion wasn’t respected.”

Well, if that’s how you feel, then goodbye—and good luck on your next STAR behavioral-based interview where you’ll have to explain why you quit your last job with a very lucrative company with endless opportunities for advancement and when and if you proved at any point that you could be a valuable member of the team.

My status report has come in on the Pedophile as well. I look over the pictures that were forwarded to Alex. They’re glorious! She’s sitting in a wheelchair and her skin is hanging off of what you can see of her face. Her blonde hair is once again growing out to its brown and gray roots, and she truly looks like she’s got one foot in the grave. It truly warms my heart.

After an email or twelve to various departments and my executive team, I head down to the Romper Room suite to see my babies… all of them.

*-*

“They’re playing all your songs tonight, Al,” Butterfly laughs.

“Looks that way,” Allen concurs.

James flew down to be with Allen for the weekend and a few of us take a chance again to get out of the hotel. Butterfly found a place online called Oddfellows. It’s north, just on the outside of the Freemont Street Experience near the courthouse. It’s an alternative-type dance club where I would suspect no one would know who we are or at least they wouldn’t expect us to be here. Each night has a theme, and tonight is 80’s night, apparently right up Butterfly’s and Al’s alley.

The order of the day is jeans and casual clothes, so I didn’t have to worry about my girl wearing some skimpy dress that would be the envy of all the women and the desire of all the men. There’s a skimpy dress here and there on the dancefloor—which has a small stage and a huge, wall-sized video screen as its backdrop—but not Butterfly. No, she wants to dance and gyrate, and that silk shirt, black jeans, and Louboutin stilettos are still enough to showcase that beautiful body and cause a few women to sneer and more than a few men to salivate.

My girl has had a Cosmo or two and is bouncing happily in her seat to the music, an eclectic mix of artists from what sounds like the 80’s and maybe a touch of the early 90’s.

“So, how do you distinguish between Allen’s songs and your songs?” I ask. “You’re both singing them all.”

“Well, Al was the quintessential white boy, so he introduced me to Billy Joel, Duran Duran, the B-52’s, A-ha, and Wham, to name a few. I was the reverse Oreo, so to speak, so I introduced him to Motown, Kool and the Gang, Bobby Brown, and Salt-n-Pepa. It appears that they are tapping into the 80’s white boy tonight.”

Just as she finishes that statement, the familiar twang of the beginning of Take On Me fills the air and my girl deliberately begins to wildly bob her head like a hand-banger, after which she leaps to her feet and begins to do that dance where the girls bounce back and forth on their toes from one foot to the other, her hands doing a calmer version of the swim, and all I can think to myself as she and Al pipe out the lyrics is, “Who is this girl?”

She went to the hospital briefly this afternoon and when she returned, I was informed that we were going out tonight. She disappeared into the bedroom for an hour or two and when she emerged, she was wearing the ensemble that she’s wearing now, quickly putting the kibosh on my more formal garb and instructing me to go and change. We’ve had a seafood dinner and my wife and her gay boyfriend are feasting on a dessert of Cosmos and 80’s music.

Once A-Ha has finished singing the last bars of the song and the lead singer bursts out of the cartoon world and into live color on the life-sized screen, Allen and Butterfly return to the table with me and James to quench their parched throats with a swallow or three of their Cosmos. Just as they’re catching their breath and reminiscing over yet another 80’s tune, an unfamiliar intro of horns begins to play. Butterfly looks up at Allen in acknowledgement and Allen raises a brow at her.

“Do you remember it?” Allen asks her.

“Of course, I remember it!” Butterfly replies.

“Well, what’re we waitin’ for?” Allen says, sliding out of the booth. Butterfly giggles as he takes her hand and they head off to the dancefloor. I look at Jason, who just shrugs. A few moments later, we watch as Allen and Butterfly break into a perfectly choreographed routine of what looks like a mixture between a foxtrot and a jive, and with all the spins and perfect steps they’re doing, you can’t really tell who’s leading. I look over at James, who’s as stunned as I am to see them dancing together like that. They actually look like they can compete professionally.

What’s more, I don’t think I’ve seen my wife smile this widely in weeks.

“Do you ever feel left out of their little club?” I ask James honestly. He shakes his head as he swallows his beer.

“No,” he says, “Allie makes sure that doesn’t happen. We have our own little club and everybody can’t be a part of that one.” He raises his brow and takes another drink of his beer. I remember Butterfly mentioning to me once that they dabbled a bit in the lifestyle. I don’t know if they’re still in it or how deeply they’ve gone, and I dare not ask without invitation, but he’s right—no one should be privy to the “marriage” club relationship unless you’re practicing Polyamory, and that’s a huge no-no for me and Butterfly. I don’t want anyone else’s hands—male or female—on my woman!

“I’ve never seen a friendship like theirs,” James continues. “Never. If I wasn’t certain of Allie’s love for me, I’d feel threatened. I’m a little jealous that I never had a friendship like that in my entire life.”

“I think we’re both lucky to have found them,” I tell him. “They’re in love with each other as much as two people can be in love and not share a sexual relationship. For her to have the capacity to love him unconditionally and then love me, too… yeah, I’m the luckiest man alive.”

“I might have to dispute you on that one, Chris,” he says, watching his husband finish a flawless dance with my wife. They were clearly in their own world and appear a bit surprised to discover that the dancers cleared a small hole in the dance floor for them to finish their routines while the spectators looked on, and they’re a bit taken aback when the room erupts into applause for them.

I discover later that the song that gave them dancing feet is called Mambo #5.

My girl returns to her seat and a Cosmo and a bottle of water later, she’s back on the dance floor, perfectly mimicking the steps—and adding a few of her own—to the Salt-n-Pepa, Push It and Janet Jackson Control videos.  

And now I know how my girl learned to dance. She probably spent quite a bit of time mimicking music videos.

I have to admit that concept behind the Tainted Love video, I can’t get with that. It looks too creepy to me. I’m surprised that I’ve never seen it before now. He’s singing to a little girl—he looks like a fucking pedophile. Jason notices my expression and leans over to me.

“You okay, Boss?” he asks.

“This song was popular back in the day, I remember it,” I tell him. “This was the concept behind it the whole time?” He looks at the video, then looks back at me.

“I… I don’t know,” he says. “But you know the eighties, Boss. There was a lot of artistic expression that didn’t necessarily make sense.”

“There’s nothing confusing about that,” I retort. “He’s singing to a child about tainted love. That’s disgusting! Who approved this message?”

“I wouldn’t get too upset about it, Boss,” Jason says. “The song is 35 years old and the guy singing it is probably twice as old…” and probably out molesting children if his video is any indication!

I purse my lips and shake my head. How jaded must my mind be to get this angry over a 35-year-old video whose director obviously adopted a very fucked up sense of creative license?

“You’re not off the mark on this one, Chris,” James says, bringing my attention back to him. “I think it’s weird, too, and that’s putting it nicely. It’s making me pretty fucking uncomfortable. That song was originally done in the 60’s by an artist named Gloria Jones—this is a cover. She made it very clear that it’s about a relationship gone sour and she’s singing to her lover about how she feels their love is one-sided and now putrid. Where the concept falls that he’s singing to a little girl is beyond me.”

“Thank you!” I say, throwing my hand in the air. “I’m not crazy! I still like the song, but that video sucks!” I bottom out my bear and search for the waitress to get another one. While I’m searching the room, my eyes land on Butterfly and her lifetime dance partner now dominating the floor to Paula Abdul’s Straight Up.

I’m mesmerized once again watching her mimic the moves in the music video with Allen as the perfectly in-sync backup dancer. I completely forget what I was bitching about watching her flawlessly execute that Butterfly thing that Paula Abdul does with her legs. She’s graceful and beautiful and if there’s conversation going on around me, I can’t even hear it anymore. I could watch her all day.

Next, another Paula Abdul song comes on accompanied by a video that would disturb me as much as the Tainted Love video… if it wasn’t so cute. It’s the video for Opposites Attract, and Paula’s love interest is—of all things—a cartoon cat. The entire video is a dance video and she and Allen never miss a step. They use whatever room the other dancers give them, whether it’s a few feet or the entire stage area of the dance floor. After watching her execute some of the rubber-band moves of Paula Abdul, many people usually just move out of the way. I’m totally blown away when she and Allen mimic the tap dancing scene near the end of the video.

Fuck, is there anything this woman can’t do?

They stroll back to the table like Paula and ScatCat strolls off the screen at the end of the video, smiling so hard that their faces should break. Amidst the thunderous applause and cheers, they’re cut off by one of the women that was dancing just before they get to the table.

“Are you guys a couple?” she asks. “You look great together!”

“Thank you,” Butterfly says sincerely. “No, we’re not. Actually, we’re both married. He’s my gay boyfriend.” She squeezes his hand and lays her head on his shoulder.

“And she’s my fag hag,” Allen replies, laying his head on hers.

“Wow, really?” the girl says, somewhat wistfully. “You’re kind of hot.” James reaches up and takes his husband’s free hand, guiding him to the seat next to him.

“I think so, too,” James says protectively.

“Wow,” she says, looking at Allen and his husband, “two hot guys. You can’t go anywhere in public, can you?”

James chuckles loudly and Allen laughs as the young lady’s eyes travel around the table and land—widely—on me. Butterfly slides into the booth next to me and latches onto my arm, smiling at the girl.

“Please tell me that’s another one of your gay boyfriends cuz I’ll turn him straight,” she says without taking her eyes off me. Butterfly shakes her head and flashes her rings.

“Nope. Husband,” she says with a smile.

“Shit!” she says. “Sorry,” she says to Butterfly, repentant and with pouty lips, then she rolls her eyes. “Three hot guys.” Her eyes wander to a lone Jason sitting on the opposite side of the table in a chair he commandeered and brought to the table. Before she can question, he holds up his finger and flashes his ring.

“Fuck!” she exclaims. “Four hot pieces of man-candy and they’re all taken! Figures!” She throws her hands up and marches, frustrated, away from the table, causing us to burst out in laughter while Jason just shakes his head.

“I had no idea you guys could tap dance!” I point out once our admirer has left.

“She can’t, I can,” Allen says, proudly.

“Well, she was doing a pretty good job up there,” James says.

“Only because he taught me that routine,” Butterfly says before taking a healthy chug of what must be room-temperature water.

“And she scares the shit outta me doing it in stilettos!” Allen chimes in. “The entire time, I was afraid that she would tweak her damn ankle!”

“But I didn’t, so keep your shirt on,” she says, waving down a waitress.

“My girl can do anything in stilettos,” I say, remembering what she said to me after our first night together. James’ brow furrows.

“Anything?” he asks, puzzled.

“Anything,” Butterfly confirms.

“Can you rock climb?” Jason asks, with a smirk.

“If it’s me or the rock, I’ll figure it out,” she replies.

The waitress has made her way to the table and Butterfly gets another round of drinks, lots of water, and soda for Jason. Once the waitress returns, I hand her a $100 bill and thank her for the drinks.

“I’m hungry again,” Butterfly announces after chugging an entire bottle of water.

“I can see why,” I say. “You’ve done a workout up there that would put Zumba to shame.”

“And I’m sweating like a pig,” she says, pulling the material of her shirt from her body repeatedly, using it to fan herself. “Give me your blazer,” she says.

“Why? Are you cold?” I ask.

“I will be in a minute if you don’t give me your blazer,” she says, and snatches her drenched silk shirt right over her head… in the middle of the damn club. I’m stunned just looking at those beautiful mounds held up by a stylish black sports bra.

“Shit!” Jason says, ripping off his suit jacket to cover Butterfly while she uses her 100% silk shirt to dry her sweat to a background of whooping onlookers.

“Your Highness!” Jason scolds over the music.

“Heeeeey! We agreed!” Butterfly protests.

“Your. Highness!” Jason reinforces, saying the second word so hard that Butterfly jumps in her seat. “Please! Don’t ever do that again!”

She stares at him like a child being scolded by her father. His words are a request. His tone is, “If you pull that shit again, you’re grounded for a month.”

“Okay, okay, sorry,” she says in a whiny, petulant, teenager voice. She buttons the suit jacket which is at least three sizes too big for her, her sports bra still peeking out from the neckline. She rolls the sleeves up to accommodate her hands, never raising her gaze to any of us while she’s doing it. I’m certain that she’s feeling chastised and a bit embarrassed. She had better be glad I was hypnotized by her tits or my reaction may have been a bit more… animated.

“Okay,” I say when she has fiddled with the sleeves a bit too long. “Back to the dancefloor.”

I push her out of the booth and slide out behind her. I’m dragging her to the dancefloor by her hand and she’s somewhat stomping behind me with her head down like I just told her to go to her room.

Geez, Butterfly, spoiled much?

I dance a little with her and she’s not into it at all, doing the obligatory two-step with minimal movements of her arms.

Well, this will never do.

“Okay. Fine. You don’t want to dance with me? I’ll dance by myself.”

I turn away from my wife and begin a series of crazy gyrations reminiscent of the final scene of Footloose. It’s not really bad, except if you take away the weird dresses and prom decorations, you’ve got one guy on the floor looking like he’s having a seizure.

When I turn back to my wife, she’s got one arm crossed over her chest and one hand covering her mouth, stifling a smile that she’s trying not to let show.

“No?” I say, shaking my head. “Okay, how about this?” For my next rendition, ladies and gentlemen…

I begin a really bad… and I do mean really bad rendition of Austin Powers’ fembots dance. Seriously, the dance was already bad on its own, but I made it worse. Now, both my wife’s hands are covering her mouth. And for my finale, folks…

I break into a flawless rendition of Napoleon Dynamite’s “Vote for Pedro” dance to Canned Heat… only I’m dancing to Break My Stride. And, well, flawless may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I must admit that Napoleon Dynamite was one of my guilty pleasures, so I know that routine very well. If it’s not flawless, it’s pretty damn close.

“Okay, okay, you’re making a fool of yourself!” my wife says, halting my exquisite execution through her laughter by putting her arms around my waist.

“Yeah, but I made you laugh, didn’t I?” I say victoriously.

“Heartily,” she says as I pull her against me and kiss her quickly.

“And he’s right,” I say, holding her over Jason’s way too big suit jacket. “What you did was worthy of a punishment. If you ever do it again, you’re going to get one, and you’re not going to like it. Understand?”

My voice is sober, but not harsh. It’s matter-of-fact. If you’re a bad little Pussycat, you’re going to get spanked. She nods and drops her head like a good little soumise.

“Yes, Sir,” she replies softly, and I hear it loud and clear as if she were speaking through a bullhorn. I put my finger under her chin and lift her head.

“Good girl,” I say, kissing her softly again on the lips. “Now, let’s go find something to eat.” I take her by the hand and lead her from the dancefloor.


ANASTASIA

Last night’s workout has turned out to be murder on my joints. I’m exhausted and sore, but not too tired to have breakfast with my children. I’m able to convince Marilyn to have a few pieces of fruit, but I’m certain that we’re going to have to graduate to more real food for her very soon. While Pedialyte, Ensure, and smoothies offer sufficient nutrition for her, she can’t survive off of those things indefinitely.

“Daddy, why do you call me ‘Sunflower?’” I ask when we are the last two people at the table. He raises his brow.

“I’ve… called you that almost since you were born,” he says. “Why do you ask?” I drop my gaze.

“My mother’s favorite flower is a sunflower,” I say. “It took me nearly 30 years to find that out and I found out from a stranger.” Daddy gasps.

“Oh,” he says, sadly. “I forgot all about that. Yeah, that might have been where it came from, come to think of it. I did love that woman once upon a time… very much. It wouldn’t have been too far fetched. I’ll stop if it bothers you…”

“Absolutely not!” I scold. “’Sunflower’ is something special between us that just happens to be her favorite flower.” Daddy nods and drops his head.

“I know why you didn’t tell me everything, but it hurts that you didn’t tell me everything.” I sigh heavily.

“I didn’t have the heart, Daddy,” I reply. “Those details are even hard for me to watch right now, and I remember everything vividly, like it happened yesterday. It was selfish of me not to prepare you guys for what was coming, but what could I do?”

“Nothing, Sunflower,” he says, his eyes filling with tears. “You couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t do anything then and you couldn’t do anything now.” He throws his gaze to the ceiling, trying to fight his tears.

“The only times I’ve ever cried was over you,” he admits. “I was broken when I lost Carla. I was destroyed when I lost you. It was the worst pain I had ever felt when you left me.” I cover my mouth and choke back a sob.

“I know, Daddy,” I say once I’m able to speak. “I felt the same way about you. All those horrible things she made me say to you…”

“I knew it wasn’t you, Annie,” he says. “The words weren’t yours and I could tell right away…” He trails off. “When I showed up at that hospital and you were all frail and weak, dear God, I wanted to burn this city down to find out what had happened to you. I was so angry with Carla. She couldn’t even tell me what was going on! She didn’t have any answers. She blamed you the entire time I talked to her, saying that she had no idea what you had gotten into. Your bruises were mostly healed, but you still looked broken. The pictures that I saw… I had seen men tortured in POW camps that didn’t look that bad.

“All these years, she just walked around like, ‘Shit happens,’” he says, his voice cracking. “Then, she had the nerve to show up at the hospital after you were kidnapped; all that shit she said in the press… Who the hell does she think she is?”

Daddy is getting angry and he’s crying freely now. Daddy’s right—I don’t remember ever seeing him cry. Marines don’t cry, but he’s crying now.

“How could she birth someone into the world and then treat her that way?” he sobs. “I wouldn’t treat a dog the way she treated you. And dear God in heaven, when she called me and told me that you were missing again…!”

Daddy is weeping now. His body is shaking violently with his sobs. I hold his hands tightly as he cries, my own dam bursting along with his. He’s been holding this in for a lot of years. He needs to get it out.

“I did everything I could to keep you,” he sobs. “This never would have happened if she had just let me keep you. I would have protected you… spared you all this agony…”

“I know, Daddy,” I weep. “I know you would.”

“Your capacity for kindness never ceases to amaze me, Annie,” my father says with tears streaming down his cheeks. “I’m not ashamed to say that after hearing her version of what happened, and what she felt, and knowing what you went through, I would have immediately pulled the plug on that woman!” He says the last part through gritted teeth.

“I’m angry and hurt for everything that she did to me,” I admit, “everything that she allowed to happen to me—from ripping me away from you to allowing her monster of a husband to mistreat me to the entire ordeal with Green Valley. I’m hurt and disappointed and enraged down to my very soul… but if I just let her die, then I’m no better than she is.

“At the end of the day, I have to live with my decision. That’s why I’m making sure that she’s getting the best care, but it’s not out of love or devotion. It’s out of human obligation. I’m her next of kin, and I will see her through to the end of her advanced directive or until she awakes, whichever comes first. Then, I’ll put her in a nursing home or the grave, whichever is necessary.”

“That’s still more kindness than she deserves as far as I’m concerned,” Daddy says, wiping his eyes. “I would either be donating her body to science or walking away and leaving her right where she lay! I guess the Man Upstairs has to work on my heart. I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven her for what she put you through.” I squeeze his hands.

“Forgive her, Daddy,” I say, through my sniffles. “I have. I can’t hold onto it anymore. I forgave her years ago when I gave her that money and told her to get out of my life. It still frustrates me that she did the things that she did, and that she was so heartless and cruel, hence my recent meltdown. That’s what happens when I dwell on it. That’s why I don’t dwell on it. You shouldn’t either.” He sighs heavily.

“You’re so wise, Annie, that it scares me sometimes,” he admits.

“Trust me, it can be a very heavy cross to bear,” I lament, wrapping my arms around my Daddy and hugging him with all my might.

Later that afternoon, I stop in at the hospital to collect more cards from more flowers and have some of the older arrangements removed. I told the nurse that she could decide what to do with them since some of them look like they may have been dying. I can still see the disapproval in her eyes when I give her instructions even though she doesn’t say anything to me about how she feels. It’s none of her business anyway. Henry, my mother’s guard today, shows me her visitors’ log.

Fourteen people have been here to see her since I said she could have visitors. What was that, like a couple of days ago?

I push down the anger, envy, and resentment that I feel each time I think about the number of visitors that this selfish adult grandmother has received in just the past few days that a 15-year-old girl wasn’t afforded in several weeks.

“Neti, neti,” I repeat to myself, standing in my mother’s room. “Neti, neti…”

Studying with Marilyn about meditation and restorative yoga, I came upon this simple Sanskrit chant. Neti, neti which simply means not this, not this. It’s used to push away bad omens, bad thoughts, bad situations. I use it to try to cleanse myself of the hateful feelings and energy that consume me when it comes to dealing with this woman. My negative energy can’t be conducive to her healing, and it’s certainly not conducive to mine.

“Neti, neti… neti, neti… neti, neti…”

I recite the damn thing all the way back to the hotel.

*-*

“Aunt Ana!”

Sophie gives me a big hug once she and Gail get to the hotel Saturday evening. She appears to be very happy to be here.

“Sophie!” I say, returning her embrace. “So… Vegas. How many of your friends can say this is where they’re spending their semester break?”

“None,” she giggles. “Most of them are talking about going to some exotic place for spring break, but I’m in Vegas now!” I laugh with her. There’s no use in spreading my hatred for this place. A lot of people like it here; I just don’t.

“I know that Gail and Jason have some things planned, but I’ve got a thing or two planned as well,” I tell her.

“It’s not all kiddie things, is it?” she laments. “I want to do some kiddie things, like I want to go to the Adventure Dome, but I don’t want to do all kiddie things. I want to do some grown-up things, too.”

“Like a Las Vegas food tour?” I ask, “Or dinner at one of the world-renowned chef’s restaurants?”

“Yeah!” she replies, starry-eyed.

“Well, that’s what I’ve got planned,” I tell her, and she hops in place and claps.

“Oh, yay!” she says. “When do we go?”

“The restaurant is tomorrow night, and the food tour is Tuesday. Is there anything else besides Adventure Dome that you want to do while we’re here?”

“I want to go to Sur La Table,” she says. “I’ve been to the one in Pike’s Place and I wasn’t really impressed. I want to see what the one here looks like.” I nod.

“Your wish is my command,” I tell her. “I’ll talk to Gail and Jason and see what they’ve got planned and we’ll fit it in among their plans, okay?” Sophie nods happily.

“Okay,” she says. I type into my phone memos to check out Sur La Table. The moment Google sees the name, it suggests the cooking classes that they have at the store in Summerlin. That would be fantastic! I’m glad my phone is on silent or Google would have blown my entire plan!

“Aunt Ana… I know why you’re here,” she says solemnly. I raise my gaze to her. I don’t really know how to respond. “It’s all over the news at home.”

I swallow hard. How do you explain something like this to a 13-year-old girl?

“I know about your mom, too,” she says, looking at her hands. “I just wanted to get that out.”

“Okay,” I reply.

“I don’t really understand this whole thing,” she says, her brow furrowed. “I really thought the police were supposed to help you.” I sigh heavily.

“Most of the time, they are,” I reply. “This guy… had a brother he wanted to protect more than me.”

“Well, that’s just… crappy,” she says. I know what she really wants to say, and crappy wasn’t it. “Everybody has somebody they want to protect. Does that mean that I have to worry about if the police are going to put somebody else’s well-being before me?”

I shake my head. I can’t tell her that this won’t happen. They very well might put someone else’s well-being before her for many reasons, including but not limited to protecting their own family.

“Let’s hope that’s not the case, Sophie,” I tell her. “I would think that overall, the police would want to do the right thing, which is to protect and serve the public. I feel that even though there may be a few bad apples, overall, the police are good people.”

“I hope you’re right,” she says, “but I still think I want Daddy to teach me how to shoot when I’m old enough.”

“Well, it’s not a bad skill to have,” I concur. She’s quiet for a moment.

“What they did to you,” she says, looking down at her hands, “it was horrible. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever heard… even more horrible than my mom doing drugs… even more horrible than here trying to sell me to that guy…”

“That was pretty horrible,” I interrupt her with a furrowed brow.

“This was worse,” she said. “Somebody saved me… the police saved me. Nobody saved you… and I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

I’m doing my best not to get choked up. I know what she means, but that’s a huge responsibility for a little girl to take on about something that happened before she was even born.

“There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, baby,” I tell her, taking her hands. “These were horrible people and they did a horrible thing, and now they’re being punished.”

“I’m still sorry,” she says, now looking in my eyes, “I’m sorry that someone came to save me, and no one came to save you.” Oh, dear God.

I know what she’s feeling, and I can’t explain it away. I just take her in my arms and give her a really big hug.

“Thank you, Sophie,” I say, trying to keep my voice from cracking. “I think that’s the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me.”

*-*

Dinner tonight is at the Buffet at Aria, and poor Sophie wants to try everything on the menu. The food is spectacular, the dessert divine, and my honorary niece is eating herself into a stupor. Even my normally picky eater Mackenzie is shoveling different fruits and vegetables into her mouth.

Marilyn didn’t even bother to succumb to the pressure of a buffet, so she’s sitting this one out.

“We’re in Vegas,” Christian says to Chuck while Keri and Gail are off at the food stations. “Have you asked her?”

“Of course, I have,” Chuck replies. “I didn’t expect her to be here, so I left the ring at home, but I was prepared to buy another one if she had said, ‘yes.’”

“So, I take it that it was a ‘no,’” Christian replies. Chuck sighs.

“She’s afraid of something, but I don’t know what it is,” Chuck replies. “I adore her, and I’m certain that she loves me. I just don’t know why she won’t marry me.”

“Maybe she doesn’t want to be beholden to you,” I say. “I love Christian very much, but I wouldn’t want that either.”

“Well, first of all, I wouldn’t do that to her,” Chuck says, slightly affronted. “And second of all, she wouldn’t be. She’s here on her own visa and her job is with you, just like mine is. Granted, she got it because of her affiliation to me, but let’s face it. As much as I love her, if she was shit, you guys wouldn’t let her tend to your children. And now, she’s got her teaching certification, so she really doesn’t need me that way. I don’t think that’s it.”

I think it is. I think she doesn’t want to lose her independence and that she’s afraid that if she marries an American and she’s Anguillan, that’s just what might happen.

“I see those wheels spinning,” Chuck accuses. “You know something I don’t.”

“You’re right,” I confess. “I know how it feels as a woman making my own way and not wanting to lose that feeling. As much as I’ve become accustomed to the lifestyle that I enjoy with my husband, if something happened and I lost it all tomorrow…”

“Which is impossible,” Christian interjects.

“But if it did,” I retort, “I could still go out into the big, wide world and fend for myself. I’m just saying. I don’t know if that’s the problem, but maybe you should ask her what she needs in order to make that step. It may not be that she doesn’t want to spend her life with you. It may just be that you’re asking the wrong question.” He rolls his eyes.

“No offense, Ana, but I can’t hear the shrink right now. I love that girl, and if asking her to marry me is not the right question, then I don’t know what is. Excuse me.”

He stands and heads for the door, and I think he’s going to the restroom. I watch him leave, then crack my neck and finish my wine.

“I’m sorry I asked,” Christian says. I shake my head.

“It’s not your fault,” I reply. “I’m always trying to shrink someone else and I can’t even shrink myself. I’m all tied in knots in this place. I’m barely hanging on from day to day. You all had to bring my children down here to keep me grounded. Who am I to try to give someone advice on how to live?”

“A licensed psychiatrist and a damn good one,” he says, putting his arm around the back of my chair. “You do know what you’re talking about, and you’re right. He just doesn’t want to hear it. He’s raw from another let-down. And baby? When a doctor is ill, she doesn’t diagnose herself without tests. Don’t beat yourself up because you don’t have all the answers for all this crazy shit that’s going on in your life.”

I will not cry…
I will not cry…

“I thought I was supposed to be the shrink,” I say, laughing to fight my tears. He smiles widely and kisses me on the cheek.

“We both know I’m no shrink,” he replies. “I just love you and I want you to be happy.”

I smile and lean on his shoulder. I love Chuck and Keri, too, and I want them to be happy. I just wish I knew what was really holding up Keri’s decision


A/N: Freeds opened in Vegas—Henderson to be exact—in 2017, not 2015. Creative license.

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. Be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

There has been yet another development where if you feel the need to talk to fellow readers about personal issues, you need a sounding board, or you want to vent about something in your life, please feel free to visit the link on the left in the menu entitled “Do You Need To Talk.” No subject is taboo. I just ask that you approach the link with respect for those who have concerns as well as those who respond. You can also get to the link by clicking HERE

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 17

This is a work of 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…

Season 5 Episode 17

CHRISTIAN

“Oh, absolutely, Mr. Grey.”

I don’t want Butterfly to know what I’m doing, so I’ve come down to the concierge’s office to make all of the arrangements. Percy informs me that he will do whatever is necessary to make my children comfortable for our stay. He has a second desk in his office, and he has allowed me to use it to make calls to get the children here without Butterfly knowing. She’s going to see her mother today out of duty, but she’s in bed this morning. She said she didn’t feel like getting up after that horrible crying spell she had last night. I told her that I was going to have a meeting with security—which I did—but now, I’m handling getting the children here.

“I’ve ordered two new cribs and baby linens from Buttercup Baby,” Percy says. “They’ll be here by noon and they assemble them for us as well.”

“Outstanding,” I tell him. “I’m surprising my wife and I’m sure that she wouldn’t be comfortable with the babies sleeping in cribs that have been used by others. You know new mothers…”

“Yes, sir, I do,” he says with a smile. “My youngest is four.” He winks. “We’re childproofing the Presidential Suite down the hall from your security suites. We’ll remove one of the beds from the two-bed room and it should accommodate the cribs nicely. We’ll also remove unnecessary furnishings from the suite to make room for any other equipment, playthings, etc. that we’ll be moving into the room. The childproofing should take about an hour and should be done by the time the cribs arrive.”

“Can you order supplies from that baby store, too? Diapers and such… I’ll have our nanny prepare a list for you. I don’t want them to have to pack the entire house on the jet. The refrigerator will need to be stocked, too. I’ll just have her call you. Her name is Gail Taylor.” He raises his brow.

“Taylor… any relation to Mr. Taylor?” he asks. I nod.

“She’s his wife,” I reply with a smile. “Long story.”

“No doubt,” Percy says with a smile. “When do you want the suite to be complete?”

“No later than tomorrow morning if you can pull that off. I’ll be eternally grateful,” I reply. “You have my Amex on file. Use it however you need and give me itemized documentation of what’s spent. Even a billionaire knows a write-off when he sees one.” Percy nods.

“I can pull it off. Leave it to me, Mr. Grey,” he assures me and leaves the office. I call Gail and give her Percy’s direct number, then inform her to have the children ready to travel in the morning. I’ve recruited Marilyn to help us with baby care duties for the rest of the week as Keri will be coming alone with the twins and their security details. Gail and Sophie will come on the weekend and stay the next week as Sophie will be on winter break next week and the stay won’t interfere with school. She and Gail can stay the week and then go back to Seattle while we sit in this holding pattern.

Everything has to be done covertly so as not to tip Butterfly off. I’m certain that if I suggest bringing the twins here, she’s going to disagree and try to kibosh the idea, but once they’re here, she’s going to be really happy.

I go back to the suite and find Butterfly in the living room, lounging across the big chair in one of the terrycloth robes.

“Is everything okay?” she asks when I enter the living room.

“As well as can be expected. Nothing’s burning down,” I say, feigning disinterest. “What’re you doing?”

“Talking to Laura and being amazed by how news from America gets to her faster than it gets to me,” she replies. Oh, dear Lord, what now?

“Well, she’s active on social media, darling, and you’re not,” I remind her.

“Maybe I should be more active, then,” she replies. I immediately panic.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Butterfly,” I warn. “We could very easily become targets of some crazed lunatic. You know there are people who stalk social media to find out your habits, your comings and goings, any weaknesses that they can exploit.”

“Oh, keep your shirt on,” she says. “I’m not talking about exposing trade secrets or the combination to the family safe. I’m just talking about paying more attention to certain topics. I’ve already set up a Twitter account with Laura’s help.” I frown.

“Another account?” I lament. “Butterfly, if you share even the slightest opinion, someone may be able to decipher who you are.” She turns her gaze to me.

“Christian, even the POTUS has a Twitter account. You really need to lighten up,” she says before turning her gaze back to the phone.

“Yeah, but he has a much better security force than we do,” I comment. She looks at me and rolls her eyes. “You’re asking for it,” I add.

“Sure, I am,” she says, still scrolling through her phone. “Relax, Christian. There’s so many Anastasia Greys and Christian Greys that if I were to put my name, rank, and serial number on here, they still wouldn’t know it was me.”

“You don’t have a rank and serial number,” I reply. She glares at me.

“Okay, this portion of the conversation is over or you’re going to frustrate the fuck out of me.” Well, I’m not trying to do that. I just want her to be careful.

“What’s your handle?” I ask. She raises a brow at me.

“Why? Are you going to send me a friend’s request?” she says sarcastically. I give her a knowing look. “Oh, gosh, seriously, Christian?” she whines.

“Anastasia?” I warn. She sighs heavily and rolls her eyes again.

“I’ve told you before, I’m sure, but it’s Mercer Doctor Lady. And quite frankly, Christian, there’s nothing to stop me from making as many IDs as I want,” she retorts.

“Except that you won’t because you know that I won’t be pleased,” I reply, sending off a text to Mac about my wife’s new hobby and her username.

“Keep fucking with me,” she mumbles, and I’m sure that I wasn’t supposed to hear it. I raise my gaze to her and she’s looking back at her phone.

“So, what’s the word on the Greys in Cyberland?” I ask.

“Nothing new,” she says. “Just that my mother is dying in the hospital and a bit of buzz about my purple silk suit, that’s all.”

“Your mother is dying?” I ask, my brow furrows.

“Not that I know of,” she replies, “but with that advanced directive, who knows?” Her thumbs are typing away on her phone. “Jax says, ‘G’day.’” I chuckle aloud imagining Jaxon’s accent saying that very thing.

“Tell him, ‘G’day,’” I reply mocking a very bad Australian accent.

“They’re talking about maybe coming to the States sometime this year since they have new friends in Seattle,” she adds.

“That would be great,” I reply enthusiastically. “Tell them to let us know for sure since we’re planning to do Rome this summer.”

“Do we have dates yet?” she asks as she types into her phone.

“No, but we should probably work on that soon,” I reply. “Are you going to the hospital today?

“I haven’t decided yet,” she says. She drops her hands into her lap with her phone. “Christian, is it wrong that I resent her flowers?” I pause.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I say. “Why do you resent her flowers?”

“Because nobody sent any to me,” she says, gazing in front of her at nothing. “I don’t remember how long I was in that hospital and no one sent me anything—no ‘get well’ wishes, no flowers or stuffed toys, nothing. She’s got so many flowers in her room that if she gets any more, I’m going to have to have some of them taken away. I didn’t get a damn thing. The only present I got was Daddy coming to get me out of there. I’m jealous and I’m angry and I don’t think she deserves it. What the hell is wrong with me?”

“Not a damn thing,” I chime in quickly, and she turns her gaze to me. “The only thing that I see wrong is that you’re asking if you’re wrong. The woman who was supposed to love you over everything else left you to die. You awoke alone in that cold and sterile room and you were only 15 years old. Notwithstanding anything that happened before or after that moment, no human being—let alone a young girl—can be expected to walk away from that unscathed. As far as I’m concerned, you have every right to resent the human kindness that’s being shown to her, apparently by several people, when this one person who should have extended a mother’s love to you didn’t do it. And that’s my professional opinion.”

“Your professional opinion?” she says with a strained smirk.

“Yes,” I say, moving over to sit on the floor next to her chair and taking her hand. “I think what you’re doing right now is nothing short of amazing, and that anyone else in your position who has been through what you’ve been through would let that woman rot… and rightfully so.” She looks at the ceiling and sighs.

“Inside,” she says, “deep inside where I’m hurting and I don’t let anybody in, that’s really what I want to do. I want to walk away from this whole thing and let all of her flower bearers take care of her, but I can’t. I can’t bring myself to do it. For so many reasons that I can’t verbalize, I can’t bring myself to do it.”

“Butterfly, take comfort in the fact that you’re a good person with a conscious. You’re a better person to your mother than your mother ever was to you, and if the only drawback that you have is that you resent those damn flowers, then resent those damn flowers. I recommend that you start getting rid of them when you get back to the hospital if there’s that many…”

“I’m not trying to be petty, Christian,” she protests.

“You’re not being petty,” I retort. “Getting rid of all of them, that’s petty. Getting rid of some of them, that’s not. You’re just thinning them out.” She sighs.

“I could send them to rooms with people who don’t have any flowers… like I was.” She drops her gaze into her lap. She’s reliving this whole thing over again and it hurts like hell to watch it. I rise to my knees, cup her cheeks in my hands, and kiss her gently.

“I think that would be a wonderful idea,” I tell her, rubbing my nose against hers. “Guess what I found out?”

“What?” she asks.

“That place with the crazy cakes on television—Vegas Cakes?”

“Yes,” she says expecting.

“It’s called Freed’s Bakery and they’re just down the road a bit. What do you say we order some sweets and get lost in a mountain of German Chocolate and fruit tarts? They deliver.” A wide smile spreads across her face.

“Oh, Christian, that would be divine!”

*-*

We spend what’s left of the morning and a good part of the afternoon in sugar-induced giddiness, after which my wife decides to let Mini-Morton sleep in peace for the day and she and Allen head to the spa for the rest of the afternoon. Now, I don’t know how appropriate it is, but I feel like we need to get back to ourselves. What always helps me get back to myself is a good scene.

We haven’t been in the playroom since we started seeing Artemis and Savvina, which means we haven’t had full-on playtime while exploring our new rules and dynamic. I know that we need to be mindful of what we’ve learned, but making too many advanced plans for a scene somewhat defeats the purpose. It’s more like an appointment instead of playtime, and who needs that?

I take the time that my wife is in the spa to do a little shopping. I haven’t been BDSM shopping in a while, not for travel toys, anyway. That trip in Australia was quick and dirty. This one will be slightly different—travel toys that can go home with us if we like. She had a wonderful reaction to that paintbrush on her clit. I never would have thought of that had the girl in the store not told me about it.

I’ve found some divine toys and bondage items at this store called Lovers Lane. I’m taking a chance coming here, but I don’t want to get any substandard products and my research tells me that this place is the best.

A blindfold, a leather crop, a butt plug, some oils, lube, sanitizer…

Thigh-high black stockings with the thick lace, elastic trim—no garter required…

BDSM wax play candles…

I pick out a few items that I need, the old faithful implements as well as a few new ones. I buy more things than I plan to use, but I’m going to try to use as many of them as I can, even if our escapade has to pick up on another night.

I’m a little aroused already thinking of the things I plan to do to my Pussycat. I’ll have to ease her into the new stuff and gauge her reactions to them. Hopefully, she’ll remember what she’s learned about her limits, but it’ll give me great pleasure to watch her carefully and see for myself what things she can and cannot take. I remember my training, and I’m going to take it slow, but I think we both need a scene right now—a pretty intense one at that.

I can hardly wait to get my hands on my little Pussycat

*-*

“Christian?”

I hear her call my name when she gets back to the suite. She stopped for Chinese with Allen, giving me more time to prepare myself and the suite for playtime. We won’t play in the bedroom. That’s too predictable. The en suites are not practical with all the hard surfaces, but we’ll be utilizing the rest of the suite as needed.

I emerge from the bedroom in my Dom uniform—black slacks, white linen shirt, and socks and shoes. I’m careful to never present myself to her in only this simple garb… unless I’m ready for action. She’s removing her coat and stops, stuck in suspended animation when she sees me. I slowly close the space between us, and finish removing her coat, tossing it onto a nearby chair.

“Would you like to play, Pussycat?” I ask in my Dom voice. She swallows hard and her pupils dilate.

“Yes, Sir,” she breathes, dropping her gaze immediately. I put my finger under her chin and raise her gaze to mine. Then I take a few steps back.

“Take off your clothes,” I say. “Don’t take your eyes off mine.”

She steps out of her shoes as she undoes her slacks, not slowly or sensually, but at a leisurely pace… not hurried, just comfortable, careful to keep her gaze on mine.

She slides out of her slacks and tosses them on the chair with her coat. Next, she undoes the buttons of her shirt, removes it and tosses it onto the chair as well. She’s standing there in her bra, panties, and pantyhose awaiting instruction.

“Everything,” I command. She slides carefully out of her pantyhose and panties simultaneously before reaching behind her and undoing her bra, all of her underthings joining her other garments on the chair.

I stand there and soak her in for a while—her full, round breasts, her curvy hips and luscious thighs, her shaved core hiding from me…

You’ll fuck her soon enough, Grey. Draw it out… make it worth it.

I reach in my pocket and retrieve the stockings.

“Put these on,” I say, handing them to her. She takes them from my hand and proceeds to gather the first one to put it on. I walk behind her to observe that glorious ass when she bends down to put the stocking on her foot. I groan audibly when she does, and she remains in the bent position while gently pulling the stocking in place to her upper thigh.

Oh, Pussycat, I plan to torment you as much as you’re tormenting me right now.

Mentoring with Artemis and Savvina exposes us to enough BDSM—with the occasional bondage fuck are slight impact play in between—but we haven’t had a full scene in months! We’ve learned new parameters since we’ve been seeing Artemis and Savvina, but we haven’t put them to use yet in a full scene. I plan to do so this evening.

I produce a butt plug from my other pocket and put it in my mouth. As she’s about to stand upright, I grab her ass firmly which signals her to stop. Her legs are still slightly spread from donning her stockings… Perfect. I push my hands in between her legs and thrust my middle finger into her pussy, my third finger rubbing her clit.

She gasps, but she’s wet as fuck! She’s even tighter than she is wet. I circle my finger inside of her, gathering the wetness inside of her warm walls while the finger on her clit aids to increase the lubrication. Her breathing picks up a bit, and she puts her hands on her thighs to support her weight. I crouch behind her so that the display is right in my face. My cock is hardening to solid steel as I watch my finger disappearing into her core, her juices spilling out into my hand. I feel the warmth and meatiness of her inner walls and it’s almost unbearable imagining being inside of her.

I hear her breathing increase and one of her legs begins to tremble. She’s getting close. My Pussycat is such a sexual being that even the slightest manipulation with the right rhythm and pressure can cause her to explode. I have to stop or it’s game over for her.

I drag my wet hand from her core and her clit, causing her to gasp and moan again. Fuck, she’s such a nymph! I spread the wetness I’ve gathered from her pussy to her inviting little rosette, staring at me and begging for my attention.

Here I come, baby. I’ve hardly forgotten you.

Her pink little asshole puckers when I anoint it. I fucking love that shit. I coat her ass with all the moisture that I’ve gathered from her cunt, then slowly breach the rosette with the wet finger. I reach around her body this time and use my other hand to finger her clit, rhythmically, while pushing my finger into her ass. She groans, panting while I fuck her with my hands, and when her legs begin to tremble again, I cease the manipulation of her clit, but continue with my finger in her ass.

She’s breathing heavily again, and I remove the finger from her ass. Making sure that the butt plug is thoroughly lubricated, I pull it from my mouth and slowly begin to push it inside of her. She gasps, and visibly relaxes her asshole, allowing the butt plug to slide effortlessly inside. I literally drool when her asshole swallows the butt plug, leaving nothing visible but the large blue jewel.

“Fuck,” I hiss quietly, wondering if I’m going to be able to complete the scene before I dive into her and fuck her senseless.

“Stand,” I tell her, rising upright behind her. She obeys, panting sensuously.

“Go over to the dining table.”

Yes, Pussycat. I don’t have any of my benches here, so the dining table will have to do.

Greystone is angrily pulsing against my pants as I watch the rolling-hip-wobble-ass-butt-plug-walk across the room and over to the dining table. There’s no use in even attempting to hide this erection. I can see the prominent outline of my hard cock straining to get out of these clothes. If I didn’t have my shirt tucked in over it, the head would be sticking out of my pants right now.

I walk over to the dining table and move in front of her. She gasps when she sees my cock through my pants and licks and bites her lips. Fuck, fuck, fuck!

“What are your safewords, Pussycat?” I ask.

“Bells, whistles, and…” She pauses and I nod. “Ladybug, Sir.”

That’s right, Pussycat. You can’t come without permission.

“I can trust you to use your safewords when needed, Pussycat?” I ask.

“Yes, Sir,” she replies. I take a deep breath and hand her a ponytail holder.

“Good girl. Now, while I love your hair, I don’t want it to get in the way,” I say. She takes the ponytail holder and quickly fashions her hair in some kind of ponytail-bun assuring that it will stay out of the way for the rest of the scene.

“Up with you now,” I say, holding my hand out to her. She takes my hand and, using one of the chairs as a step, she climbs onto the table on her knees.

“Come down here to the end,” I coax, and she brings her knees almost to the end of the table. Perfect. I take a blindfold—the final item in my pocket—and close the space between us.

“Lights out,” I say, softly, and tie the blindfold over her eyes. Her breathing quickens immediately.

“Spread your thighs a little wider,” I command, and she obeys. Her thighs are spread just so, and her clit is peeking playfully out of her waxed lips.

Control, Grey, control.

I move to the small table to the side where I’ve had all my other implements covered and retrieve the fur and leather cuffs. I take my time attaching the cuffs to her wrists before connecting them to each other behind her back. One of my favorite parts of BSDM has always been the binding, second only to impact play. I light one of the candles—blue of course—and turn back to my Pussycat.

There she is, kneeling on the table, blindfolded with her breast pushed out in front of her due to the wrist restraints.

Fuck!

I walk over to her and wait patiently as the wax begins to melt, ready to note her reaction from the first drop. Her chest is rising and falling in anticipation, and the blue wax finally turns to liquid, a single drop falling onto the top of her breast. She jumps from the sensation and gasps in surprise. Her knees fall open a little wider and her clit is now prominently protruding from her lips.

I wait, wait for her breath to calm, wait for the sensation to settle, wait for her safeword. She calms, and she doesn’t safeword.

“More?” I ask.

“Yes,” she breathes. “Yes… Sir…”

I allow another drop to fall on her breast and she gasps again, leaning back to expose more of her body. I let another drop fall, then another, and another… her abs, her chest, her neck, her shoulders. She writhes from the sensation, each drop causing a reaction. The candle is almost to the end and I have to light another. This one burns a little faster, the liquid running down her skin this time, turning her chest and abdomen into a beautiful blue sculpture.

When I light the third candle, I don’t know if I’m lighting it for her or for me. She’s loving this; her reactions are sexual and provocative, and she looks fucking divine. All this time, I haven’t spilled a drop directly onto one of her nipples…

Until just now.

Her gasp is audible—shrill, and she’s panting like a marathon runner. She doesn’t safeword, and I nearly come in my pants. I drop another drop on her other nipple and she gives me the same shrill gasp.

Caught lightning in a bottle twice. What’s more, that drop rolls down to the tip of her nipple until it’s hanging off in suspension and dries that way.

~~~Las Vegas Scene

Fuck, that is so fucking hot.

I finish the rest of the third candle on her thighs, then pull out my phone. I take several pictures of my beautiful blue nymph and our first experience of candle play. Her ecstatic poses and facial expressions captured in the pictures look like she’s posing professionally. I may need to put these in the playroom.

I put the phone away and quickly turn my attention back to my Pussycat. That clit is protruding so far, I simply can’t help it…

I pull a chair to the end of the table, have a seat, and run my tongue over the inviting clit. She cries out, leaning back onto her hands to support her weight. Looking at her this way, I already know that I’m going to fuck her in this position.

I lick her again, tasting her juices and wondering if these are new from the wax play, or the ones from when I finger fucked her earlier. No matter—they taste the same and still make me want to fuck the shit outta her!

I indulge in the pussy for a few more moments, tasting her and watching her chest rise and fall covered in the blue wax. It’s now that I realize that the wax most likely serves the same purpose as a gently flogging—to heighten the sensation and to bring the blood to the surface of the skin. That shit really turns me on!

I give her clit a reprieve and retrieve the harness from the table. I help her get back to an upright position and have her turn around so that her ass is to me. I kiss the cheek and give the butt plug a little turn and pull, enjoying her reaction to the sensation. I get a pillow from the sofa and instruct her to lay on the pillow with her ass in the air.

Yes, that’s it.

I attach the harness around her waist and then pull the leather strap between her legs and tighten it behind her. She whimpers, no doubt feeling the strap against her tender clit and feeling it push the butt plug into her ass.

Hold tight, Pussycat.

I finish the visual by binding her ankles together in a pair of cuffs to match her wrist cuffs. If she could only see how fucking beautiful she looks—bound, harnessed, and blindfolded on the dining table and served up like Thanksgiving dinner. I take a few more pictures of her for my collection.

“Okay, Pussycat?” I say, leaning down to her face.

“Yes, Sir,” she says, her voice relaxed but Nirvanic. I stand behind her and introduce her to a little surprise in the harness. The thick strap between her legs has a slit in the middle—not completely open, but with a nylon covering over it. I manipulate the slit so that the thin nylon covering is right over her cunt, so that I can play with her clit and feel her wetness slipping through at will. I don’t think she realizes it yet, but she will…

I retrieve my crop and give her a solid whack with the tip of it on her ass. She jumps from the first sensation but settles again. The second and third whacks cause her to gasp, but the fourth strike is a gentle flicking of her clit.

She squeals, then pants, whimpering and trembling. I flick it again, and she’s whimpering again. I flick it repeatedly and I see her body stiffen, as much as it can.

I return to pinkening her beautiful ass cheeks—a gentle spanking to pull the blood to the surface and then a bit of tormenting of the pussy.

I run the braided stem of the crop between her legs, over her opening and her clit. She groans deep in pleasure, almost unable to withstand the sensation. I watch her bite her lip to stifle the sound of the enjoyment, the only part of her body able to move is her hands in the cuffs. Her fists clench and she jerks when I strike her cheek with the crop, absorbing the impact of the blow. Her fingers flutter open and wiggle helplessly with any pleasurable sensation—flicking her clit with the tip of the crop; running the braided portion over the nylon slit in the leather.

Next, I torment her with the Plume feather tickler—her back, her ass, her clit, the bottom of her feet… I stop when she’s mindless with sensation.

I’m ready to fuck now.

She gets a reprieve while I strip. It’s a wonder my dick didn’t rip straight through my boxer briefs! It’s ready for a goddamn jousting match when I finally free it from my clothing.

Now, how will I take her?

Remembering that I want to fuck her in that position she was sitting in when I “waxed” her, I go to the Lovers Lane bag and retrieve the thigh cuffs that I planned to use on her attached to those ankle cuffs that she’s wearing.

Maybe later, but I’ve got other plans for them right now.

I attach the restraints to my own thighs and go get my Pussycat.

“Come on, Pussycat,” I say as I remove the harness from her. I release the clamp holding the ankle cuffs together, and Pussycat rolls to a sitting position, wincing a bit as her cropped ass meets the hard table. I help her to the floor and lead her to the living room. I take a seat on the large chair and guide her to my lap.

“Straddle me,” I instruct her, and she throws her legs over my thighs. Just as she’s about the descend on me, I straighten my cock and guide it right into her wet pussy. She freezes when the head breaches her core.

“That’s it,” I hiss, Greystone begging her not to get up. “Keep going.”

She’s still so tight that she has to ease down onto my eager dick, but when she has taken all of me, I have to take a deep breath to compose myself. I just sit there for a moment before I move.

“Lean back,” I command, my voice throaty as fuck. “Put your hands on my knees.”

When she leans on my knees, I put my arms around her and attach each of her wrist cuffs to my thigh cuffs. Then I sit back and observe her—spread out straddling me with blue wax over her breast, torso, and thighs… and her pussy wrapped around my cock.

“Okay?” I ask.

“Yes, Sir,” she purrs.

“Good… now ride me… slowly.”

She rises off my cock, slowly, then drops back down onto me… again… and again… and again. She licks her lips as her wetness coats me, making that delicious creamy sound as she fucks me. I scratch my nails over her body, removing the wax from her skins.

She moans, then whimpers, closing her eyes as she rides me.

When her skin is clean enough, I produce the battery-operated wand from just behind me. She leaps when I touch it to her clit.

“Ah!” she yelps, unable to keep quiet from the sensation. She continues to ride me, and I touch it to her clit again.

“Ah!” she yelps again. “Sir! I… I…”

“I know,” I reply, nearly growling. She’s tormenting me as much as I’m tormenting her. I feel my cock thickening inside her and I can’t help but touch the wand to my aching dick as she rides it.

“Fuck!” I hiss, throwing my head back in ecstasy. The damn thing isn’t even on its highest setting! Maybe somewhere in the middle. I touch it to her clit again… and again.

“Uuuuuuuggggghhhhh!” she laments, throwing her head back and quickening her pace on my cock. Her breath is getting heavier. Her tits are falling to the side just a bit and they look fucking divine. I open my legs a bit to get a deeper thrust as I wand her clit once more, a little longer this time.

“Aahhh, God!” she mewls, now rocking her hips forward a bit as she fucks me. Shit, I’m going to come like this. I raise my pelvis with each of her hip rolls, meeting her deeply as I wand her at the same time. She’s increasing her pace and as my dick gets harder, I pinch and rub her nipple with my free hand… and she’s still wearing that butt plug, too… and the blindfold.

She nearly sobs when I tease her nipple. She’s fucking me hard, fast and deep, dropping down on me with fire and fervor, her head back, her body bowed, and her hair falling out of the bun behind her and caressing my inner thigh with each wild and hard bounce. She’s whimpering and my dick is throbbing—hard! Fuck, I press the wand to her clit and feel the vibrations all the way inside of her. She freezes…

“Ladybug! Ladybug!” she pants!

I stop fucking her and move the wand. Her body is sweat-coated, flushed, and beautiful. Her chest rises and falls in such sensuality that I bite my lip to keep from thrusting into her again and pushing her over the edge. I stroke her body with my flat hand hard from her torso up and between her breasts. She looks positively delicious! She’s heaving as she slowly comes down from her near orgasm and my primal instincts are nearly eating me inside out. I watch her writhe from desire and need for several more moments, the Neanderthal inside beating his chest in arousal and frustration.  I can’t touch her sexually anymore without a check in.

“How’re you doing, Pussycat?” I say, and the tone of my voice surprises me—pure, primal Dominance seeded with just a touch of concern. She pants a bit.

“Good… Sir…” she breathes.

“Good girl,” I reply. When I’m certain that she’s not going to explode with the next movement, I reach around and release the clip from her wrist cuffs to my thighs. I attach the wrist cuffs together again in front of her and take her in my arms. Standing from the chair, I carry her back to the dining table and lay her down on her back.

“Hands over your head,” I instruct her, and she obeys. Fuck, she’s beautiful.

“Wrap your legs around me!” I say eagerly, almost unable to control myself. She wraps her legs around my waist, and I begin to thrust into her. I can’t help it. I can’t fucking control it. She feels so fucking good.

I grab her ass to hold her hips up for better penetration and my fingers brush against the jewel of the butt plug. Remembering that it’s there does nothing for my stamina and causes me to fuck her harder. She’s keening with every deep stroke and her body curls towards me.

Fuck, I’m going to come. She looks so goddamn good.

I thrust into her several more times, my cock searing in pleasure, my balls tightening almost to the point of pain. Her mouth is hanging open for several moments and she clamps her hands together in the cuffs, a familiar sheen forming her body.

“Ladybug! Ladybug! Lady…”

“Come for me, Pussycat…”

I barely get the words out of my mouth and she is exploding in orgasm around me. The feeling is so fucking phenomenal that I cry out shamelessly when my climax strikes, throwing my head back and yowling almost like a wolf to the full moon.

My Pussycat covers her face with her forearms, flinching from her massive release. I can tell she almost can’t stand the intense sensation. I’m not quite done with you yet, Pussycat. I have one more surprise for you.

I withdraw from my soumise and she closes her knees and draws them close to her, rolling onto her side. You’ll have a moment to recuperate, Pussycat.

I go over to the sofa and set up my final scene—pillows to prop up her hips, and my final two sex aids. I won’t torment her too badly. Her next orgasm will most likely be quicker than she expects and more powerful than the first. I watch her for a few minutes, examining her breathing and gauging when she has come down from her last orgasm. After a while, I walk over to the table and lean down to her ear.

“Are you ready, Pussycat?” I whisper. She swallows hard.

“Yes, Sir,” she says. I take her hands and help her to get off the dining table, then lead her to the large sofa.

“Bend over,” I instruct her. She obeys and I slowly pull the butt plug out of her ass. She hisses, then moans as it’s removed. I lead her back to the sofa and I take a seat. I lubricate my dick and instruct her to take a seat.

“Just sit right down, Pussycat,” I tell her. She sits on my lap, and I situate my cock between her ass cheeks. Her breathing is picking up again, and no doubt, she’s wondering what I have planned.

“Open your legs and lean back.” When she opens her legs, I begin to massage her with a lubricated pussy cup. She gasps at first. The lube starts off kind of cold, but it’ll warm pretty soon. The pussy cup has several little tickler fingers inside that’s going to drive her wild once I get it sealed on. It has a small, but powerful, rabbit vibrator attached to it, and… it’s a pump. So, it attaches with suction and doesn’t let go until I release it.

I’m shamelessly rubbing my lubed dick between her ass cheeks, taking pleasure in the friction and stimulation. If I don’t take my pleasure however I can get it, she’s going to come a whole lot sooner than I will, even with that valium-laced ass.

I manipulate that pussy cup until it feels like it’s in the right position—lips covered, but open a bit and exposed to the lubed fingers, then I squeeze the pump until it has a nice tight seal. She gasps a bit, but then bites her lip.

Yeah, I’ve got the right suction.

“Stand up, Pussycat.” She stands and I release her cuffs, leading her to the part of the sofa that has the pillows stacked.

“Feel your way,” I instruct her, while fisting my hard dick. “Lay face down with your hips on the pillows.”

Still blindfolded, she awkwardly feels her way to the sofa and the pillows with the pussy cup attached and lies with her ass perfectly sticking up in the air, her chest and head on the sofa and the pump hanging onto the sofa between her legs.

Shit, don’t come yet, Grey.

“Put your hands behind your back.”

She does, and I reattach her cuffs behind her.

Oh, hell. This is gonna be quick.

I position myself behind her and prepare myself. Do I turn on the pussy cup first and then enter her or enter her first and then turn on the pussy cup? Shit, with those controls located between her legs, I won’t even be able to reach the pussy cup once I’m inside her!

I set the vibration to two out of five and turn it on. She gasps loudly and jumps.

“You okay, Pussycat?” I ask.

“Aah… aahh… yes!” she breathes. “Yes… Sir!” Good. I open her cheeks to expose her rosette and slowly push my lubricated cock in. My lubrication has already begun to warm with the earlier manipulation of her ass cheeks and my hand. It takes a moment, but once I’m inside her, she feels like hot butter.

“Aaahh… oh God…” she moans. I haven’t even started fucking her yet, so I know it’s the pussy cup. I straddle her with my legs over hers, take both her hands in one of mine and stabilize myself on the back of the sofa with the other hand.

“You can come, Pussycat,” I say, my voice deep with passion.

“Thank you… Sir…” she breathes. I’m thrusting into her slow and deep and she’s moaning loudly with each thrust. Oh, fuck, her ass feels good. I’ve got this heating lube on my dick and she’s already tight as fuck and I love her ass so fucking much. It’s bouncing hard on my pelvis and caressing every fucking inch of my cock… and she keeps pushing it harder against me trying to get that deep anal stimulation that she likes. Not only that, but each thrust is pushing that sucking and vibrating pussy cup onto her clit.

Her moans are so loud that they’d almost be embarrassing if they weren’t so fucking hot. I fuck her harder, deeper and faster, opening my legs a little for deeper penetration and using her bound hands to pull her back against me with each thrust. I’m riding this ass like you would the mechanical bull and my dick is digging deeper and deeper with each thrust. Shit, I’m fucking blind and dizzy with pleasure. The heat is making this shit so intense, I don’t think I’m going to be able to fucking stand it when I come.

Pussycat’s hips have totally taken on a life of their own. I think she has forgotten that she’s even in a scene anymore. She’s fucking with purpose when her ass rises and rides with me.

“Fuck!” I hiss as I feel my cock burning inside and outside. “Fuck! Shit!”

My hips pump hard and fast into her and I feel a hard, burning stream of fiery cum rise through my dick causing me to kneel and grab my wife’s ass so hard that I’m certain I’ll leave fingerprints behind. I’m thrusting and pumping and coming in that ass so hard that I’m trying to be conscious of hurting her, but I can’t. This shit has total control of me.

After a few moments of hard coming and wild thrusting, I realize that I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

She buries her face in the sofa cushion and screams out a violent release, pushing her ass high and hard into me. She stays that way for several moments, squirming and coming and screaming. I’m coming down from my heated and crazy orgasm and she’s still going. However, she did start after I did. I knew it would be bigger… I didn’t know it would be that much bigger!

“Sir! Please! Take it off! Please, Sir, take it off!”

Shit, I forgot about that fucking vibrating cup!

Remiss to leave the valium ass, I slide quickly and carefully out of her and locate the switch to stop the vibration. Her ass is still in the air, but probably because she’s not going to drop her pelvis until I get that thing off of her. I release the pump and it falls into my hands, and her hips fall onto the pillows. She breathes a huge sigh of release but is still panting and trying to catch her breath.

My dick is still hot, but it has tapped out, too.

I release her cuffs from her wrists and kiss up her spine to her neck, then remove her blindfold. I stand from the sofa and lift her into my arms, situating her so that her exhausted body is cradled in my arms and her head is on my chest.

“Very well done, Pussycat,” I say as I carry her to the en suite, “very well done.”


ANASTASIA

I decide to go to the hospital and see about my mother on Wednesday morning. Christian’s been on the phone since the early hours, no doubt tending to his first love, and I truly need to see if there’s any change in Carla’s condition.

As I suspected, there are more flowers in her room. It looks like they brought more hospital tables in here to accommodate them all. I just shake my head and go to the nurses’ station.

“Is Dr. Lee in today?” I ask.

“Not yet,” the nurse tells me. “I don’t think he’s due to come in until the afternoon.”

“Is there any change in my mother’s condition?” I press. “Has there been any improvement? Any signals at all?” Her face falls slightly.

“I’m afraid not, Mrs. Grey,” she says. “Not to my knowledge anyway. The doctor would be able to better answer that question for you, though.” I nod, feeling a bit helpless.

“Her room is turning into a bit of a greenhouse,” I say. “Is it possible to remove some of the flowers and take them to patients who don’t have visitors… or no flowers in their rooms?” I realize that my situation was a bit of an anomaly. It’s rare that someone is admitted to the hospital and has no visitors, but I’m certain that some of the rooms can be brightened with an arrangement or two.

“That’s very kind of you, Mrs. Grey,” she says. “I’ll get a cart and get to it.”

“Thank you,” I say with a soft smile before returning to my mother’s room.

“Um, Mrs. Grey?” the nurse calls behind me, and I stop. “In her condition… it’s not usual, but…” She’s having a hard time saying what she needs to say. Oh, for Christ’s sake, spit it out.

“Is Mrs. Morton allowed to have any visitors?” she asks finally. “A few people have come to see her and… we didn’t have your permission.”

I twist my lips. She is my mother. Anastasia Grey’s mother. Unmonitored visitors could pose a huge problem.

“While I’m here, yes,” I tell her. “I’ll have to make arrangements for a member of my security to be here around the clock. Once that’s settled, then she can have visitors in my absence.” The nurse frowns.

“Mrs. Grey I can assure you that she’ll be safe,” the nurse says. I shake my head.

“It’s way too much for me to explain, ma’am,” I tell her. “I’ll arrange for security as soon as possible so that well-wishers can come and see her freely.” She purses her lips, shrugs, and nods.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey,” she says and turns her attention back to whatever is on the counter in front of her.

Once I’m back in her room, I begin removing the cards from the arrangements, intent on sending thank you notes if my mother doesn’t come out of this alive or giving the cards to her and letting her do it if she does. I count the cards and make note of who sent which flowers since some of them will be leaving the room.

Twenty-two.

Twenty-two separate arrangements, and I didn’t even get one… not even a get-well bear from Mommy.

I’ve got to stop comparing this situation to mine. It’s my responsibility to make sure that she gets the care that she needs. If I continue to feel hateful towards her, I can’t do that. Maybe she did deserve these flowers from the people who sent them. Maybe she’s worthy of the love and concern they’re giving to her. I shouldn’t besmirch her getting that from them, because she sure as hell won’t get it from me.

As I’m putting the cards in my purse, the first of Carla’s well-wishers taps lightly on the door before entering.

“Yes?” I say, cautiously. She’s not wearing scrubs or a lab coat, so I know she’s not staff.

“Ana…” she says, her voice somewhat wistful as she proffers her hand. “Anastasia, hi. It’s… good to see you.” I take her hand out of courtesy.

“Do I know you?” I ask.

“Oh, I’m sorry. No, you wouldn’t know me, but I’d know you anywhere. I’ve seen pictures of you and Carla speaks fondly of you. I’m Wendy. Carla is my best friend.”

Best friend? Shit, you don’t have a lot of friends, do you?

“It’s… nice to meet you, Wendy,” I say, trying not to sound too strained. She smiles.

“I’m not surprised that you don’t know me,” she says. “I know that you and Carla don’t speak. It’s one of her biggest regrets.” Oh hell, I can’t hear this.

Like an angel from heaven, the nurse comes in with a cart and begins to remove the flowers.

“You’re taking her flowers?” Wendy asks, her voice a bit horrified.

“Not all of them,” I reply casually. “The room is exploding in flora and if this is any indication, there’ll be more to come. I’m just sharing some of them with people in the hospital who don’t have flowers.” Her expression softens.

“Oh,” she says. “That’s actually… a very good idea. Carla would like that.” She turns back to my mother and takes her hand.

“Hey, old girl,” she says softly. “You stood me up for Hallmark and ginger this weekend. I’m expecting you to make it up to me.”

She takes a seat next to my mother’s bed and just sits there rubbing her hand. I look around and the nurse has filled the cart. The arrangement with the bear is on the cart and I suddenly get a small twinge.

“Don’t take that one,” I tell her, pointing to the bear. “I just… have a feeling she might want to keep that one.”

“Leave the sunflowers, too, please,” Wendy says without turning around. “Those are from me and… they’re her favorite.”

They’re her favorite? Sunflowers? How did I not know that?

I nod to the nurse and she removes the teddy bear arrangement and the sunflowers from the cart, replacing them with two other arrangements before leaving the room. I turn back to Wendy and Carla and I suddenly feel like and intruder on their visit.

“I’m going to leave you alone for a while,” I say, leaving the room before she has a chance to stop me. Chuck turns to me when I exit the room.

“Nobody except staff gets in that room without my permission,” I say. He nods once, then I turn and I walk down the hall to the family waiting room. There are a few people in here, so I go to the far corner and make a call.

“Your Highness! Is everything okay?” I roll my eyes.

“Can you please answer the phone and say, ‘Hello’ or ‘Taylor’ or ‘Jason’ or something instead of answering the phone like there’s a fire every time I call you?” I chide quietly.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness, it’s just that…”

“I know. I don’t call you that often, but if something is wrong, doesn’t Chuck usually call you? How many times have I called you with a fire?” There’s silence on the other end.

“None that I can think of immediately,” he replies.

“Exactly, so turn off the lights and sirens when you see my name unless I tell you that something is wrong.”

“So, I take it that nothing is wrong,” he says.

“Are you speaking to Chuck?” I retort.

“Duly noted. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“I know that you had people watching my mother,” I tell him. “I need her to have an active security detail while she’s in the hospital.” He silent for a moment.

“You mean no more covert?” he asks.

“You can have covert if you need it, but I need someone posted at her door. She’s been having visitors and I don’t want any unscrupulous assholes to have access to her. All visitors will be required to show identification and sign in on a personal log. I don’t want to take any chances.”

“Understood,” he says. “I’ll get right on it.”

“And stop calling me ‘Your Highness’ or I’ll fire you,” I threaten.

“Yes, Your Highness,” he says. I end the call.

“Asshole.” I scroll through my phone and try to reach Keri, but her phone goes straight to voicemail. I call Gail and her phone rings twice, then goes to voicemail. What the fuck? I want to talk to my babies. Once I leave Gail a message to call me, my phone buzzes with a text. It’s from Gail.

**Knee-deep in household tasks. I’ll call you later. The babies are fine. **

That’s an odd text, but she must’ve known I was trying to get in touch with my babies. I call Jason back.

“Hello, Ana,he says, stressing my name.

“Good, now let’s see how long you can keep it up,” I reply.

“Don’t count on it,” he says. “Carla’s first detail should be there in about 20 minutes.”

“Good. Have you talked to Gail today?” There’s silence on the line.

“Earlier, yes. Should I be concerned?” he asks.

“Probably not,” I say. “I called to talk to my babies and the phone went to voicemail after two rings. Keri’s phone went straight to voicemail. I’m probably being paranoid, but that’s never happened before.” Jason chuckles.

“Never happened to you before, you mean,” he replies. “If she’s in her beloved pantry, you won’t hear from her for another hour or so, if you’re lucky.”

“She did say that she was knee-deep in household tasks…”

“Yep, pantry. Did she mention the twins that you’re concerned?”

“She said the babies were fine, but I can’t get a hold of Keri, either,” I whine.

“Well, I can’t help you on that one, but if she says the babies are fine, I wouldn’t worry.” I’m half-tempted to ask Chuck if he has spoken to Keri, but there’s no use in getting him alarmed.

“Who’s coming to guard my mother?”

Jason gives me information on the three guards who will be taking eight-hour shifts outside my mother’s door while she’s in a coma. They’ll set up some way to have visitors log in with us before they see her. He mentions his concern about them feeling like this is an invasion of their privacy.

“They’ll do it if they want to see her,” I tell him. “If they don’t, so be it.”

I finish the call with Jason, and briefly check in with Grace.

“How are you doing, dear?” she asks. “I can only imagine that it must be quite tumultuous in your life at the moment.”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I confide. “It’s way too much to explain right now, but I’m emotionally exhausted with what’s happening with my mother.”

“I can’t even imagine what you must be going through with that situation. I’m definitely keeping you in my thoughts.”

“Thank you, Grace. She has a visitor right now, and I want to give them some privacy. So, I just wanted to check in and get an update on what’s happening at the center.”

“Oh! May I ask if she’s conscious?” Grace inquires.

“No, but people are still coming to see her, so…” I trail off.

“I see,” she says. “It may be good for her. It may help her out of the coma.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I say, brushing it off. “So, what’s happening with Helping Hands? How are things going?”

Grace gets me caught up on the early learning classes and the tutoring sessions. We’ve hired someone that can teach the classes for adult education and GED, so that’s fantastic. Keri is now certified to teach in the United States, so that’s good news for the early learning classes. Donations have slowed a bit since Christmas, but that’s the usual annual cycle. She’s hoping that the grant proposals that she and Courtney are working on—some of which have already been submitted—will bring another stream of funds into the center. We’re not pressed for cash or anything, but no need in waiting until we are to secure funding for the future.

I end my call with Grace and go back to my mother’s room to find that Wendy is still there. I turn to leave again, not wanting to force her to cut her visit short.

“Ana?” Wendy says. I pause and turn around.

“Carla told me about… your childhood, that horrible thing that happened to you. She told me about how she treated you. If it’s any consolation, she feels overwhelming remorse for not being there for you, and for the horrible way she behaved. She needs you now, more than ever… she needs you to forgive her…”

“Wendy,” I interrupt her, coming fully into the room, “I appreciate that you care very much for my mother. I’m sure that means a lot to her, but with all due respect, we are not having this conversation. I can’t begin to tell you what this woman put me through, nor do I care to rehash it. And no matter what she has shared with you, she can’t begin to tell you either. And contrary to whatever you may believe or whatever she’s told you, I have forgiven her. I forgave her years ago. I’ve already informed the staff to spare no expense to be sure that she gets the best care imaginable, and that’s more than she did for me. I don’t mean to be rude, I really don’t…”

“I understand,” she says softly before turning back to Carla and gently touching her hand. “I’m sure she appreciates you assuring she has the best care.” She squeezes Carla’s hand.

“Get better,” Wendy says to her. “We’re all waiting for you.” She squeezes her hand again, then turns to leave.

We’re all waiting for you… geez.

“If there’s anything she needs,” she says with concern, “please let me know. I’m sure you can handle everything, but there are people who would be happy to help if there’s any way that we can.”

“That’s very kind of you. Thank you,” I reply. She smiles, nods, and leaves the room.

I already know that I look like the villain to her new group of friends, but it doesn’t matter. Everywhere I’ve gone so far, somebody has treated me like shit. Why should this be any different?

I look over at my mother’s unconscious form. I want to berate her for doing it again—for bringing me back to a place where I’m obviously an outcast; where somehow, she has told her story so that she comes out smelling like roses and I come out smelling like garbage. God, I’m in hell. I want to scream at her and yell and say cruel things, but instead, I keep them to myself. What good would it do?

She looks helpless, nearly dead. I wonder if this is how I looked to her when she came to the hospital… when she left me there alone…

“Goodnight, Carla,” I say instead, and quietly leave the room. It’s nowhere near nighttime yet, but I won’t be back today.

Should I even try to be there when she wakes up? Why even bother? Is this how she felt about me when I was in that coma? Why did she feel that way? What did I possibly do—or represent—that was so horrible to her? She said she didn’t think about me; she only thought of herself. But if I don’t think of someone, they won’t feel like I hate them—they’ll just feel like I don’t care. I felt like she hated me.


A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. Be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 6

No email this time. Still training for my promotion. I’ll post as often as I can.

This is a work of 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…

Season 5 Episode 6

ANASTASIA

It’s my babies’ first birthday!

I’m walking on sunshine making mental plans for their first birthday party tomorrow. I’ve counted the guests and I’m going through my phases of Better Homes and Gardens again, only this time, it’s the birthday edition—if there is such a thing—and I’m not depressed or running from dread. I’m so filled with glee that I could just burst. There’s no GEH or Helping Hands today as I have to be sure that everything is just right for Minnie and Mikey’s birthday.

My guest list is all set—small but large for a birthday for a couple of one-year-olds, but who cares? Nothing could ruin my mood today, but surprisingly, something pretty damn morbid made it a whole lot better. The television is playing in the family room and I’m listening to the local news channel. I’m sitting at the breakfast bar working on the menu for tomorrow’s party when something on the news catches my attention.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke…”

I rubberneck to the television and feel my body floating into the family room. I don’t even remember getting out of my seat. I watch as a picture of an extremely much older-looking Elena Lincoln flashes across the screen. She didn’t look like that when she went in. I know she didn’t. Her natural hair had grown out, and it was brown. This woman, though she looks much older, has blonde hair… and she’s smiling… and she’s outside! And she looks like she’s wearing makeup! Where did this picture come from?

I’m pondering what the fuck is really going on in that goddamn prison when this bitch is supposed to be in maximum security and she’s able to get her hands on hair dye and makeup… and she’s fucking outside! I can’t see the surroundings behind her or if she’s wearing prison garb, so she could be in the exercise yard for all I know, but hair dye? And makeup? Tupac couldn’t even get a decent haircut when he was in jail!

I’ve missed the entire newscast lost in my wondering, and I scramble for the remote to rewind live TV. I’d die of suspense waiting for the story to come back on.

“Ana, what is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

I hear Gail’s voice, but I’m too focused on getting back to the story that I don’t even respond to her. I get back to the point where I see She-Thing’s picture on the screen and stop the rewind just before the story begins. I listen to the last bits of a story about the homeless people under the viaduct before the story begins to play again.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke. Lincoln was administered a routine flu shot when shortly thereafter, she began to show symptoms of a stroke. Prison officials indicate that Lincoln complained that she was dizzy, so she was instructed to lie down. Her symptoms became increasingly worse until she became unresponsive…”

“Is she dead?” I ask aloud. The words shocked me coming out of my mouth, but I don’t regret it. I want to know if the Pedo-Bitch is dead!

“Lincoln appears to have been in a coma since Wednesday, but has regained consciousness a short while ago…”

The Bitch is stomping her feet like Rumpelstiltskin while I attempt to appear unaffected.

“Although she is awake, Lincoln appears to have suffered extreme paralysis as a symptom of the stroke. At this time, she is unable to walk, move, or speak. There is currently no information on if the condition is permanent.”

Well, that’s something. The Bitch settles a bit.

“Questions arose as to whether Lincoln could have had an adverse reaction to the flu shot. Toxicology reports tested for the flu vaccine and revealed that she was given the same strain of the virus given to all the inmates and staff of the prison. Reports indicate that there was no way the flu shot could’ve caused a stroke.

“Lincoln will be moved to a minimum-security prison where a special team will oversee her care in hopes of a recovery.”

“She had a stroke from a flu shot?” I ask aloud.

“That’s impossible,” Grace says, and I forget that she was in the room. I look over at her.

“Not that I really care what happens to the bitch,” I tell her. “To be honest, it would have been good news had they said she was dead, but a stroke from a flu shot? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Well, they clearly said it couldn’t have been caused by the flu shot,” she replies. “It has to be coincidence. Maybe she got some really bad news, or she had high blood pressure or something. There has to be an explanation.” She shrugs.

There is.

It suddenly dawns on me—my husband’s words a few days ago when I asked how things went with Greta Ellison.

“Nobody’s dead… except the book, and it won’t be back.”

Nobody’s dead except the book, and it won’t be back. That is so ominous, but I guess he’s right. The book, indeed, will not be back.

“Damn,” I say, gazing at the television, the news moving on to another story. “Karma’s a real bitch.”

“You look relieved,” Gail says, her brow raised when I turn to look at her.

“I am,” I reply. “There’s no use in lying. That woman is pure evil, and I’m surprised that it hasn’t consumed her from the inside out well before now.” Gail twists her lips.

“You’ll get no argument from me,” she says matter-of-factly, “the bitch shot my husband.”

Once I get over the initial shock of Elena’s fate, I walk around for the rest of the day on a damn cloud. I consider whatever happened to that bitch a necessary evil. She’s one miserable person who was hell-bent on destroying the lives of potentially dozens of families. I wholeheartedly believe that the world would be a better place without her, and I don’t regret those feelings. I only regret that the stroke didn’t finish her off.

Second only to my two darling bundles of joy, it’s the best present I’ve gotten in a year.

My husband didn’t seem surprised.

“Did you hear about She-Thing?” I ask when he gets home.

“I sure did,” he says, coming into the family room as I’m decorating for the birthday party. “I wish the bitch had died.”

“I said the same thing,” I reply. “Maybe we should ease up on that before we bring some bad Karma onto ourselves. “

“No problem. I don’t want to talk about her anyway. So, a month ago, Santa Claus shit all over the house. Now, we’ve got Minnie and Mickey Mouse droppings.” I glare at him.

“First of all, you better be glad my children aren’t down here to hear you cursing or I’d find some way to make you pay for it, and I don’t mean a swear jar. Second, I’m having a great time, so don’t you come raining on my parade, Christian Grey!” I’m pointing at him with a Minnie Mouse wand made of a black glitter Minnie head with a pink glitter bow on it attached to a wooden dowel.

“Careful where you shake that thing!” he warns. “I don’t want fairy dust all over me!”

“Fuck you, Dr. Killjoy,” I declare.

“Oooh! Who needs the swear jar now?” he teases, capturing me in his arms and tickling me, his fingers madly manipulating my ribs.

“Christian, stop!” I giggle helplessly.

“What? What was that? I don’t think I heard you…”

“Stop or I’ll pee myself!” I warn. He stops tickling me and pulls me into his arms.

“Well, we don’t want that,” he says, kissing me softly.

“You seem in a better mood today,” I observe, closing my eyes as he peppers gentle kisses on my lips, my neck, and my jaw.

“It was a better day,” he says between kisses. “Somebody came in there and put the fear of God into my staff and they’ve been getting their shit together.”

“Mmm… have they now?” I say, still absorbing his tender kisses.

“Mmm-hmm,” he says, gently tasting my skin.

“Sheesh, get a room,” Jason says, coming from the mudroom and through the family room.

“We don’t need a room. We have a house,” Christian retorts, “and you’re in it.”

“Along with a very impressionable teenager,” he remarks. Oops, he’s right. Sophie should be around any minute to help me with the hors d’oeuvres and sandwich fixings for tomorrow.

“Look who’s talking,” I say as Christian releases his embrace. “You come in kissing Gail every day.” He pauses as he reaches his wife to do just that.

“I kiss her,” he concurs, “I don’t maul her in the middle of the family room. We’re not making out amongst the Disney paraphernalia. Hello, Love,” he says, turning to his wife and kissing her sweetly.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Christian says, forcefully pulling me back into his arms. “I’ll maul my wife whenever and wherever I damn well please… but I will be mindful of the teenager.” He looks at me again and pops a fast, hard kiss on my lips eliciting a giggle from me.

“So, what’s going on at the Ivory Palace?” I ask my husband. “Finney and Ros finally get their asses in gear?”

“Among other things,” he says. “Everybody’s waiting for the Queen of Hearts to come breezing into the office… ‘Off with their heads!’” he jests, still holding me close to him while ceasing his kissing. “It’s one thing to have one hardnosed boss, but two… and then whatever gets pass me or—heaven forbid—you, is now being picked up by the executive team who are also afraid of having their craniums severed.” He raises a brow.

“Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere!” I declare. “That’s all we needed in the first place. Why the fuck did I have to come down there and put some fire under these assholes? And what’s with the Queen of Hearts analogy? That woman was insane. I’m not that bad.”

Queen of Hearts

“Well, get used to it because that’s what the ‘peasants’ are calling you,” he says. “And the Queen of Hearts may have been insane, but she was powerful. Insane or not, if she said a head came off, a head came off, and you proved that by sending Mosele home for a short ‘vacation’ to ponder his position. And let’s not forget the fact that you came breezing in there that Monday morning in this fierce red dress daring someone to test you. And those who did were made quick examples—not down the line, but in that same meeting. I think these people know who their dealing with.”

“Must we refer to them as peasants?” I ask. It sounds so unpleasant and elitist.

“If they can call you ‘Queen of Hearts,’ I can call them ‘peasants.’ And trust me, they have a plethora of unsightly names for me, so I’m being kind.”

Jesus, I would prefer not to have the company have the us/them mentality, but unfortunately, it looks like it may be what we need to get things done.

“Speaking of the executive team, how’s Ros doing with her dilemma?” I ask.

“I have no idea,” he tells me. “I don’t want to be in her personal life that way. While I truly do sympathize with her familial woes, I’m sure that I would prefer not to be in her proverbial bedroom that way. I can’t empathize with her at all because she made a vow to one woman when her heart was with someone else. I can’t speak to what she should have done or what she should do now. I can only say that it’s not my arena.”

I try not to frown. Ros is his second in command, so he very well should be concerned about her familial woes. However, I guess as the psychiatrist between us, I’m going to have to keep an eye on the situation myself. However, his reaction—though very calm and PC—is not getting past me.

“What?” he asks, obviously noting my contemplation.

“You have some very distinct opinions about this,” I say. He raises a brow. “I live with you. I’m married to you. I fuck you. I can read between the lines,” I say, answering his unasked question. He adjusts his posture, about to make a point.

“I can clearly say that’s something that I would never do,” he says. “When I asked you to marry me, that’s where I wanted to be. I had the choice to stay in my lifestyle and be with whomever I chose whenever I chose—that’s not what I wanted. I wanted you. I want you. So, the concept of wanting someone else after I said that I wanted you is something I can’t fathom. But you…”

He pauses. What the fuck? What about me?

“I’m with you. I love you. I know you well enough to know that this is where you want to be. That whole Westwood bullshit was a blip in the radar for a few different reasons, but I know this is where you want to be. The thought that you would marry me while you still had unclear feelings for someone else only to have those feelings resurface years after we said our vows—I would be murderous. I wouldn’t even know how to handle that.

“So, right now, while I am concerned about Ros, I have to compartmentalize this whole thing. What she did was selfish and cruel, and now she’s trying to find the easiest way out of the situation she created. She totally created this monsoon, and now she’s trying to get out of it without getting wet. And where the fuck does that leave Gwen?”

He’s beginning to get angry, but I can see him visibly trying to shake off his anger with Ros.

“I see,” I say, calmly. “So, your empathy strikes again, but this time, it’s striking with Gwen. How does that feel?”

He raises his gaze to me and I’m looking at him with soft but inquisitive eyes, nothing confrontational. He couldn’t empathize with Ros because he would never do that. The only thing that he could do is put himself in Gwen’s shoes, and it’s infuriating him.

“Pretty pissed off,” he says, his voice calmer, “which is why I can’t talk to her about it. When her personal shit interfered with her job, I got involved. Where it doesn’t interfere with her job, I’m out of it.” He shakes his head. I nod and put my hand on his cheek.

“I think that’s best,” I tell him. “I’ll handle it. Like you said, as long as she does her job, right?” He closes his eyes and nods, leaning into my hand.

“Thank you for not getting mad,” he says. I scoff a laugh.

“You almost had me for a minute there, Grey, but luckily, I learned to listen,” I say with a wink and a smile. We hear the clearing of someone’s throat, and we turn to see Marilyn standing there.

“Um, I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she says. Christian laughs. I turn to him.

“What?” I ask.

“She just did a ‘Jason,’” he says with mirth. My brow furrows.

“A ‘Jason?’” I ask. Christian cocks his head at me.

“If we’re in the midst of a conversation—or anything else—when Jason walks into the room, what does he do to get my attention?” I roll my eyes.

“You mean besides tell us to get a room?” I say, turning to Marilyn. “You’re not interrupting, Mare, what’s up?”

“I got a call from Alex. He said he tried to call you twice but no luck.” I begin looking around for my phone. Where is my phone?

“Hell, I don’t know where my phone is. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. He said that you were looking for a final background check on Jade Goldwin. He emailed it to you,” she says. Oh, yeah, her.

“Thanks, Mare. Did he say that there was anything to be concerned about?”

“Not to me,” she says with a shrug. “I would think if there was cause for concern, he’d ask me to get you to the phone, so I would say not.” I nod.

“I agree, but I’ll look at it anyway,” I say. She nods and smiles before heading back off towards the elevator.

“Jesus, has she lost more weight?” I was hoping he wouldn’t notice that, but she has. My silence is enough for him. “Butterfly, this is not good. She’s really going to hurt herself if she doesn’t stop this!”

“I know, I know,” I lament. “I’m the doctor, remember?” He gazes at me for a moment.

“Her parents aren’t here,” he says, firmly. “She doesn’t have a significant other anymore. I hate to do this, but it’s you, baby. It’s all you.” I roll my eyes.

“I know, Christian, I’m just trying not to ambush the girl right now…”

“You may not have a choice. She’s slowly killing herself!”

“She just got back…” I excuse.

“Nearly three weeks ago!” he counters. I deflate. He’s right. She needs to eat.

“I’ll talk to her,” I say.

“You may need to do more than that,” he cautions.

“Like what?” I recounter.

“I don’t know, but you may need to do more than that! This is serious! She’s really hurting herself right now.”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say, hoping to halt the conversation. Jesus, I’m not the one starving myself for crying out loud. I just have to figure out what to do.

“So…” he says, stalling, “what’s with this Jade Goldwin?” Holy cow, that’s the way to change gears.

“She’s coming to the party,” I tell him. “She’s in Maxie and Mindy’s Mommy and Me class, and she has a son the same age as Mindy. I just wanted to vet her before she came to my house and head her off if necessary.”

“Oh? How did you meet her?” he asks. Now he’s interested. Good grief.

“Maxie and I were shopping, and we bumped into her at the Marketplace.” He nods. I know he wants more information. I roll my eyes for the umpteenth time. Where the hell is my phone?

“Keep doing that and they might get stuck that way,” he says, swiping his phone and touching the screen. I’m about to roll my eyes at him again when I hear the muffled sound of our song playing. I look around and back at him, and he’s holding his phone up, showing me that he’s calling me. Where the fuck is my phone?

It goes to voicemail and he calls it again… and again. It took four times for me to find the damn thing between the sofa cushions. How the hell did it get there?

I swipe the screen and the battery is nearly dead. It’s a good thing I found it, or I may have never found it.

“Don’t you have a case or a clip or something for that?” he asks.

“No, Mr. Grey, I keep it in my purse, and I didn’t go anywhere today!” I snap.

“Touchy,” he teases.

“Annoying,” I counter in the same sing-songy voice. I open my email and click on the pdf attached.

“Yeah, she’s Jane Q. Housewife,” I say, scrolling through the document. “Twenty-nine, married, four boys just like Maxie said.”

“And her husband?” Christian asks.

“Sells insurance for a local company,” I tell him. “Small beans.” He nods.

“Who’s coming?” he asks.

“Just Jade and her youngest,” I say, closing my phone. “Maxie vouches for her, so she can’t be all bad.”

“Who all is coming?” he asks.

“All the grandparents, the godparents—Mia bowed out this time, the Scooby Gang… except for Gary, Luma and Herman and the girls, Marlow’s bringing Maggie and probably a date…” Sophie will love that, “… and our newest guest Jade and her little boy, English.”

“English?” Christian says in horror.

“I didn’t name the kid,” I say, with a shrug.

“Dear Lord,” Christian says. “That poor kid is going to be teased incessantly.”

“You don’t know that, Christian,” I scold.

“Baby, I’ve traveled the world and I’ve never met anybody anywhere named English,” he points out.

“Okay, so he has a unique name,” I argue, “It’s not wild or crazy, like Fallopion or something. It’s just different.”

“You’re so sweet,” he says, stroking my cheek. “He’s going to get teased. Whoever came up with that name, that’s grounds for divorce.” I gape at him.

“You’re kidding, right?” I ask in horror. He raises a brow.

“Am I?” he asks, impassively.

“You’re saying that when we have another kid, if for some reason you’re indisposed and I come up with a name that you don’t like, you’ll divorce me?” My voice rises to a squeak on the last two words and I think hearing it come out of my mouth makes him realize just how ridiculous he sounds.

“Well, no, but you wouldn’t name our child something ridiculous like English!” he quips.

“And what if I did?” I say, putting my hands on my hips.

“Then there would definitely be some papers filed somewhere,” he says, “maybe not for divorce, but we would be changing that kid’s name. And anyway, it’s a moot point because we sat down and picked our children’s names together, months before they were born. So, why are we arguing about a kid who isn’t even ours?”

I twist my lips and fold my arms. The argument does seem a tad ridiculous.

“You were the one who started talking about divorce,” I pout.

“Yeah, and you were the one to actually take it literally,” he retorts. “Divorce you? Over a name, even? Seriously?” Asshole.

“Be useful and grab that garland,” I pout.

“Hey, wait, I’m not getting roped into decorating,” he protests.

“Oh, yes, you are!” I whirl around on him. “You came in here pissing on my happy place then we’re talking about everything from Elena to Queen of Hearts to Ros to Westwood to Marilyn to some random kid named English to divorce and dammit I want my happy place back!” I say the entire sentence without breathing and he just gazes at me.

“I got your happy place right here,” he remarks, matter-of-factly and I roll my eyes for the 101st time today.

“Grab the damn garland, Christian.”

*-*

It’s Saturday, the day that we meet with Artemis and Savvina, but that’s not until much later. Right now, Minnie and Mickey Mouse decorations are exploding all over my dining room and family room much like yuletide exploded all over my house for Christmas. I’m definitely in the mood to celebrate.

There are two giant Number One balloons to greet you at the door. One has a Mickey Mouse head and the other, a Minnie Mouse head. There’s also a Minnie and Mickey sign that reads, “Welcome to the birthday clubhouse.” Once they don their Minnie or Mickey Mouse party hats, the kids get to munch on “Daisy’s garden vegetables,” “Goofy grapes,” or various melons cut in the shape of Mickey’s head and garnished with blueberries and pineapple. There’s always a way to get kids to eat healthy if you make it fun.

They also get to build ham and turkey sandwiches out of bread, turkey, ham, and cheese all cut in the shape of Mickey’s head with choices of lettuce, tomato, pickles, and condiments as well—or they can choose to have Mickey shaped chicken nuggets or a hot dog from the “Hot Diggity Dog” bar. There are games and bubbles and prizes to keep them occupied, but let’s face it—who’s not going to have fun in Mickey Mouse land?

I was smart enough to know that “Hot Diggity” dogs and chicken nuggets wouldn’t cut it for the parents. So, we have the option of what I call “Chicken Bacon Crack Pinwheels,” Rueben pinwheels, quinoa salad, and seven-layer dip, along with the aforementioned fruits and vegetables. The drinks were either “Pirate Punch” or “Sea Water” from the Pirate Mickey drink bar, and various Mickey and Minnie Mouse cupcakes are spread around the house, along with the Mickey/Minnie birthday cake on the kitchen counter.

Sophie has help me with most of the same-day preparation, like she always does. She wants to be a chef or a caterer, and she loves preparing the food and decorating the house. She’s so grown up for her age that I’m a little afraid that she might be missing her childhood. With a mother like Shalane, though, she’s probably already missed it. She’s seen too much for her age, and once you see certain things, you just can’t unsee them.

Sophie shed her purple tresses shortly after her last altercation with Marlow’s most recent date on Christmas, and after a visit to Miana’s, Jason is glad to see her enter with shiny, beautiful, billowing blonde waves. She actually looks a little older, but it’s most likely because that purple hair made her look so much younger to me.

She gleefully helps me finish setting up for the twins’ party which, as we all know, is really a celebration for the parents, but I don’t care. My little brother will be here. Max is bringing Mindy and I even told her that she was clear to bring Jade to the party since they’re such good friends. I should definitely get to know her if they’re that close.

Celida and Mariah will be here. At the tender age of 6 and 8, they love parties for whatever reason. Maggie’s coming, too. I don’t know if Marlow will be bringing a date this time, but I almost wish that he wouldn’t. It usually ends miserably for him and for Sophie. Until she gets over this crush that she has on him, she’s not going to behave. She’s a woman scorned at 13, and most women scorned don’t even know how to behave as adults!

Mia has decided to sit this one out, but the grandparents and godparents will be here, and of course, our resident waif, Marilyn. I hope I can get her to eat some cake or something before Christian declares martial fucking law!

The guests are now arriving and surprisingly, Maxie, Phil, and Jade arrive before Al.

“Forgive me,” Jade begins, “if I seem a little out of place today. I can’t believe I’m here—this place is absolutely astonishing. And the decorations—dear God! Did you do this all yourself or did you have help?”

“Well, both, actually. I did it myself, but I had a little help, too. My biggest helper was this young lady right here…” I snag Sophie as she’s walking by. “This is my resident party helper, Sophia. Sophie, this is Jade, and you know Maxie and Phil.”

Sophie smiles and waves shyly.

“Hi,” she says sweetly.

“Hi, Sophia,” Jade says, “or do you prefer Sophie?”

“Sophie’s fine,” she says. Jade smiles.

“This is my son, English,” she says. English is older than the twins, but he manages a smile and a wave from his mother’s arms.

“English,” Sophie says, as if testing the word, “I’ve never heard of that as a name before.”

“He’s named after his paternal grandfather,” she says. “My husband insisted.”

“Oh,” I say, “so it’s a family name.” She nods.

“I would have chosen something normal, like Chad, or Blake, or Worcestershire,” she says, rolling her eyes, and I know the last one was a joke, but with a name like English, you can’t be too sure.

“It’s unusual,” I say, “but it’s nice.”

“Thank you,” she says. “It does sound distinguished at the very least.” I see my husband and decide to poke a little fun at him.

“Christian, come, meet our guest,” I say loudly so that he can’t ignore me or try to get away. He raises his brow at me because he knows what I’m doing, but I don’t care.

“This was my other helper,” I say to Jade when he comes over to us. “He hung a piece of garland or three.”

“A piece of…” My husband trails off in mock horror and I pretend to ignore him.

“Christian, this is Jade and her son, English,” I say, introducing them.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” he says with a nod of his head.

“Likewise. Thank you for having me,” Jade replies cordially.

English is an unusual name, isn’t it, Christian?” My husband throws a side gaze at me. “It’s a family name,” I tell him. “He’s named after his grandfather.” Still grounds for a divorce, Sir?

“Is that so?” Christian says. “Tell me, what is the origin of that name.”

“I have no idea,” Jade says. “As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m assuming it’s English! I can’t even derive a nickname from that, so I just call him Eddie.

My knees buckle and I’m literally choking on nothing. Christian catches me as I’m going down and makes an excuse to get me away from Jade. He takes me over to the pirate bar and I sit down.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I just wasn’t ready. It caught me off guard,” I excuse.

“Okay, so you can just sit here until you’re back on guard,” he says, kneeling in front of me.

“Really, Christian, I’m fine,” I assure him. “That’s just the last name I expected to hear at my children’s birthday party.”

“Well, maybe Maxine should tell her friends to do some homework before she brings them around,” he states.

“Oh, please,” I lament, “aren’t I considered enough of a prima donna to the public without people having to know my life history before they visit me? Besides, what would we do, tell her to change her son’s nickname because of my ex-boyfriend? Just let it go.”

I raise my head just in time to see Maggie giggling with Sophie, and a few moments later, Marlow enters… with a date, and not the girl from Christmas. Jesus, what was that, a month ago?

“You may need to talk to him,” I say to Christian while gesturing to Marlow. He looks over his shoulder at Marlow, then back at me.

“What?” he asks

“The girls,” I whisper harshly. “He brings a different girl to every event.”

“He’s young, Butterfly,” he excuses. “He’s not attached to anybody and I know he practices safe sex.” I know that too, but…

“He brought one girl to Mia’s wedding in September; another one to Thanksgiving; another one to Christmas; and now another one to the twins’ birthday. That’s four girls in five months! You don’t see anything wrong with that?” Besides the fact that it’s totally tormenting Sophie, it just doesn’t look good… and it’s not smart!

“He’s a young boy sowing his oats like young boys do. He’s no dummy. He won’t get caught up in a bad situation. I don’t see the problem.” I cock my head at him.

“Oh? So, if Michael brings a string of girls home from the ages of 15 to 18, you wouldn’t have a problem with that?” I ask.

“No,” he says matter-of-factly. Is that so, Mr. Grey? I fold my arms and square off.

“And if Mackenzie brings home a string of boyfriends?” I say, and just let the words hang in the air. His face blanches and he begins to look a little ill.

Mm-hmm, that’s what I thought. What’s good for the goose is going to be good for the gander in this house, Grey. So, if you don’t want to see your little princess doing it, don’t think I’m going to allow little Master Grey to get away with it either.

“Talk to him,” I say, firmly before rising from the breakfast bar and going back to the dining room.

I greet my guests and assure everyone that I’m okay, chalking my coughing spell up to an unexpected bout with my own saliva. Marlow introduces me to his date—Tasha, I think her name is. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure that I won’t see her again after today.

Sophie and Maggie have taken to getting the children situated and playing “Pin the bow on Minnie” when Al finally decides to grace us with his presence.

“Sorry we’re late,” he says, and that’s all he gives me by way of an explanation, not that I need one. He and James are both as loose as a noodle and look like fresh, new daisies. I’m sure sex was involved.

“You nearly missed your godchildren’s party, you sex fiend,” I say, my voice low.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” he says waving me off. “You haven’t even opened presents yet.” I roll my eyes. “Who’s the bird with Maxie?”

“That’s Jade,” I tell him. “She’s in a Mommy and Me class with Maxie, which they probably had to miss to come to this party.” He looks at me.

“You sound a little snippy,” he observes. I glare at him.

“Jealous,” I say, honestly. “Maxie got married before me; had her baby before me; and now she’s moving on to new friends without me. Yeah, I’d say I’m just a little snippy.” I look over at Jade and Maxie having a conversation with Val.

“Jade calls her Max,” I say with disdain. “Her son’s name is English.” Al frowns.

“English? That’s his name?” he asks. I nod. “That’s odd. Where did that come from?”

“Apparently, it’s a family name. And get this, his nickname is Eddie.” Al literally winces at the mention of the name. “Yeah, my sentiments exactly, only a little more graphic.”

“Well, she seems like a nice enough person,” he says.

“She is,” I admit. “I just resent the fact that she’s apparently taking my place.” Al scoffs.

“Darling Jewel, she may be friends with our Maxine, but trust me—nobody can replace you.” He puts his hand on my shoulder.

“You’re sweet,” I tell him as we go to join the party.

Everything is going well, and the children are having a really good time playing games, opening prizes, and blowing bubbles. I’m with Minnie most of the day, standing her on her feet and coaxing her to walk with me, which she does. She’s doing very well keeping her balance and standing for several moments until she realizes that she’s standing, or she moves too fast to get to some new toy or adventure. Then she’s back on her hands and knees again. I think it’s adorable and, sure enough, after a few hours of guidance, she’s toddling around more than she’s crawling. Christian gets a few videos on his phone since I’m detained with entertaining. We’re just finishing singing “Happy Birthday” to the twins and I’m cutting and serving cake when I hear it.

“Is constantly twirling your hair an art form or can anybody do it?”

Oh, dear God. I raise my gaze to see Sophie, once again, facing off with Marlow and his date. Tasha looks at Sophie, appalled.

“Is this little brat talking to me?” she asks Marlow while pointing at Sophie. Marlow appears to be trying to smooth things over while Sophie stands there looking like she had nothing to do with Tasha’s current mood.

“No, Marlow! Does she speak to any other adult in this room that way?” Tasha shoots. I know what that means. Marlow is 17, so this girl is probably 18, and by pointing out that she’s an adult, she most likely just turned 18 and she’s smelling her adultness. I sigh.

“Nice one, Sophie,” I lament quietly.

“I don’t care,” I hear Tasha say. “In our house, children know to stay in a child’s place. Someone apparently forgot to teach her that!” She is furious. She throws a murderous look at Sophie and walks away.

“Seriously, Sophie?” Marlow hisses. “Jesus Christ, what’s going on with you?” and now, he’s livid, too as he goes after Tasha. I take this opportunity to make my way over to Sophie.

“Sophia!” I say quietly, “seriously, you’re going to have to stop this. Marlow is going to despise you if you keep this up.”

“I wasn’t trying to tease her,” she excuses, “it just slipped out. She stood there the entire time twirling her hair around her finger. Jesus, is she that flighty or is it a nervous tick?”

“And if it wasn’t her hair, it would be her shoes, or her dress, or her voice. This is getting out of hand!”

“What does it matter what I say?” she says. “He still going to do her.”

“Sophie!” I exclaim appalled.

“They’re so obvious! How can he not see it?” My question is how can you see it so clearly? “How can he even like these girls? They’re scatterbrains. They have the attention span of a goldfish. None of them even show up again after the first time!”

That’s what I said, but that could have a lot to do with you.

“Well, for whatever reason he likes them, he likes them, and you’re going to have to stop being rude to them. For one thing, it’s not very ladylike at all. And for another thing, I defended you when that girl passively aggressively insulted you at Mia’s wedding. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see how she made you feel although Marlow was clueless. What ground do I have to stand on right now when you’re behaving the same way she did? And third, and most important…” I put my hand on her shoulder and hold her gaze.

“I’m very fond of you, Sophie,” I say. “I consider us good friends, but I don’t like for anyone to insult the guests that come to my home and you do that repeatedly with Marlow’s dates. If they lash out at you first, I completely understand your need to defend yourself. But when you say disparaging things against them for no reason, that’s unacceptable behavior, Sophie.”

This is the first time that I’ve had to scold Sophie and I really don’t like it, but it’s necessary. She shrinks a bit as my words sink in.

“I really didn’t think about it that way,” she says. “I still think they’re flighty little thots, but I don’t want to make you guys look bad. I’m sorry, Ana.” I nod.

“You might want to apologize to Marlow and his date,” I tell her. She grimaces.

“I can’t do that,” she squeals quietly. “He already hates me, and I couldn’t face him right now… or her. Please don’t make me do that I’ll die!” She says the last part all in one breath, and I really believe she would just keel over and die if she had to face Marlow right now.

“Well, I can’t and won’t force you to do anything, Sophie, but you might want to think about your behavior and what damage has already been done.” She sighs heavily as if I’ve just pardoned her from the death penalty.

“Sophia!”

I discover that I may have spoken too soon. Gail’s voice interrupts our conversation and she is none too happy as she comes marching over to us.

“Sophia, is it true that you said something unkind to Marlow’s date?” Gail accuses. Sophie’s mouth falls open and she looks in horror over at Marlow. When I glance at him, he and his date are looking in our direction like they’re waiting for the ax to fall. Oh, this is just great.

“I can’t believe it,” Sophie says incredulously, her voice three octaves higher than normal. “He snitched on me?”

“So, that means that it’s true,” Gail accuses, a statement not a question.

“I was just kidding around, Momma Gail,” Sophie excuses. “It’s not my fault she can’t take a joke.”

“That’s because she didn’t find it funny,” Gail says. “You can’t say mean things about people and think it’s okay. It’s very unbecoming, and you owe them an apology. You march over there right now and apologize.”

As if Sophie’s face could show any more horror, she glares over at Marlow and his date then turns her gaze back to Gail.

“No,” she says, calmly, her voice resolute. You could knock Gail over with a feather right now.

“Excuse me, young lady?” Gail says in disbelief.

“I’m sorry, Momma Gail, but I’m not going to apologize. He already won. He snitched on me for hurting his girlfriend’s feelings, and now they’re staring at me waiting to see what kind of trouble I’m going to get in. So, he won. I’m in trouble, I already know it, but I’m not going to apologize.”

Sophie stands firm on that sinking boat that she’s not going to apologize. To already be convicted of the crime, she pled her case very well for a 13-year-old kid. Right now, Sophie would rather run naked down the I-5 than to go over there and apologize to Marlow and that girl. Gail looks at her stepdaughter and knows that it’s a lost cause to try to make her apologize.

“The party is over for you, young lady,” Gail says firmly. “Go to your apartment. You’re grounded for the rest of the weekend.” Shit, there goes my helper.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sophie says dutifully, and marches past Gail without looking back at me or at Marlow and his date. I roll my eyes before Gail turns around to look at me.

“What?” she says. “She was wrong. She’s going to turn out to be a bully if we don’t nip this in the bud.”

“I highly doubt that,” I say, “but don’t be too hard on her. You know, teenage angst, sibling rivalry… She was probably just giving her ‘brother’s’ date a hard time, nothing more.” I do the finger quotes around the word brother knowing damn well that it’s more than that, but she’s not a bully. She’s lashing out because she’s jealous.

“I don’t know,” Gail sighs. “I hope you’re right.” She walks over to Marlow and his date and says something to them. I turn away and head over to the food table. I can’t help but empathize with Sophie again. Even though she was clearly wrong, he told Mommy on her. There’s no better or more thorough way to drive home the fact that he looks at her as nothing more than a child than to tell Mommy that she said something wrong. There’s no way in hell Sophie was going to apologize after that. She’ll most likely gladly take the grounding and hide under her bed for the next two days.

“Trouble in the happiest place on earth?” My husband’s voice breaks me out of my thought process as I fill my plate with a few pinwheels.

“I just lost my party helper,” I say, taking another pinwheel. “Sophie was poking fun at Marlow’s date, something about twirling her hair on her fingers, and Marlow didn’t like it. Apparently, he told Gail and now Sophie’s grounded.” Christian frowns.

“He snitched on her?” he says. I raise a shocked gaze at him.

“That’s exactly what she said!” I say, surprised.

“Well, yeah, me and Mia used to do shit like that to each other all the time—me and Elliot, too—but we didn’t snitch on each other.” I smile and shake my head.

“I think it might be a different dynamic here, Christian,” I say before I realize that I’m saying too much.

“How so?” he asks, and before I get the chance to trip over my tongue, he continues. “He considers her a little sister and that’s just how she’s acting, like a bratty little sister trying to embarrass him in front of a girl. But hell, he snitched. He broke the sibling code.” I frown.

“There’s a sibling code?” I ask incredulously.

“Well, apparently not with him,” Christian says. “I know there are some siblings who’ll squeal if you left the top off the mustard, but in our family, Vegas rules applied—what happened outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge stayed outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge.”

Well, that’s scary. Stuff was going on right under their nose and they didn’t know it. That’s probably why Pedo-Bitch could so easily get to Christian and almost to Elliot. Everything was so hush-hush.

At this point, I don’t know who’s side I’m on.

“Yeah, well, I’d say the lines are drawn in the sand now,” I say, eating a pinwheel.

“I’d say you’re right,” my husband concurs.


CHRISTIAN

“When you are in a submissive role, your duty is to serve. However, it cannot only be your duty. It must be your desire. You cannot force this relationship–it has to be something that you want… crave or desire, even. Some soumises are born, some are cultivated. Either is fine, but this must be something that you want to do for yourself, or you’re wasting your time.”

Pussycat and I are sitting in our mentors’ den. The sessions with them and our attendance at the Munches have been highly rewarding and very informative. Pussycat has done lots of research on her own along with several assignments given to her from Savvina. She has brought several questions to our sessions, and today’s question has to do with tasks.

Tasks are generally set in a 24/7 D/s relationship, which ours is not. However, Pussycat points out that she can see how having a task or even several tasks would help her to maintain a submissive mindset. It doesn’t mean that she is releasing any of her independence. It just means that she’s acknowledging that I’m her Dominus and she, my soumise—and that in that role, she has the attitude of service, which is why Savvina is speaking on the duty of a soumise to serve.

“Service is a relative term,” Savvina continues. “It may mean that you perform direct duties required by your Dominus or it may not. It may also mean that you make yourself available for what he needs, or that you assist him with a skill or ability that he may not have. The possibilities are endless, and the two of you will set the guidelines for how you will serve him or what your specific tasks will be, if any.” Pussycat looks at me.

“Are there any specific tasks that come to mind that you think you may require of me?” she inquires. I ponder for a moment.

“None come to mind immediately,” I admit, “but I’m certain that we’ll come up with something.”

As we’re speaking, the coffee service arrives and is placed on the table in front of us. Savvina dutifully prepares two cups of coffee—one for Artemis, and then one for herself. She prepares Artemis’s cup with cream and sugar, and then her own before she sits back to enjoy the coffee. Pussycat’s and my cup remain empty.

I immediately see this as a test from our mentor if Pussycat is willing to serve—literally, although I’m not sure this is what she meant when she asked about tasks and service.

Noting that Savvina didn’t pour any coffee for us, Pussycat pauses only for a moment before retrieving the silver coffee pot and pouring a small amount into her cup. She replaces the coffee pot and takes a sip of the coffee. Then she retrieves the coffee pot again and fills my cup nearly to the brim. She adds a bit of cream and sugar before stirring it and handing me the cup and saucer, which I graciously accept. She then prepares her own cup and relaxes in her seat to enjoy her coffee.

“Why did you pour your cup first?” Savvina asks.

“I didn’t pour my ‘cup’ first. I poured a tasting in my cup,” Pussycat responds.

“And why would you do that?” Savvina asks. “Why would you pour coffee for yourself before pouring coffee for your Dominus?”

“Because I didn’t make the coffee, and it wasn’t made in my home,” she says. “How he takes his coffee is dependent on the brew, so I had to taste it to know what to put in it.” Savvina raises a brow and looks at me.

“Does she normally serve your coffee at home?” Savvina asks.

“Never,” I reply. “As of late, I’ve been leaving the house very early–before she wakes. It’s not something that I require her to do. Our staff makes sure that the coffee is prepared before either of us wakes. I sometimes leave so early that I just get coffee at the office.”

“How do you know how he takes his coffee if he’s never home or you’re not awake when he drinks it?” Savvina asks Pussycat, and she’s at a loss for words. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that she was affronted.

“If you are serving your Dominus, you should never drink or eat before he does,” Savvina says, and crosses her legs definitively. Pussycat is silent for a moment, her brow furrowed, and just as Savvina begins to speak again, she interjects.

“I disagree,” she says, crossing her legs as well. Savvina’s brow rises again.

“And why is that?” she prompts Pussycat.

“If I make my own coffee, then I want it strong and black. If he drinks my coffee, he wants it black, too. It’s been that way since the first cup of coffee he drank at my apartment more than two years ago. Coffee in restaurants or at the office are a good, robust blend, but not as strong as mine—as is the coffee made by my staff at home. In that case, he’ll take a little creamer, but not sugar. Designer coffees usually have a flavor of their own, so he won’t take anything in those either, unless he opts for a shot of espresso. If coffee is particularly weak, it’s nothing but English tea to his palette. So, he takes it with cream and sugar. So, I beg to differ with you, because if it’s coming from a strange pot, unless he’s pouring his own coffee, I don’t know what’s in the pot. So, I have to taste it before I serve him.”

Touché.

“Well,” Savvina says, “The teacher has been duly chastised.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “This is a perfect example of service being a relative term and the two of you setting your own guidelines for your definition of service. You came to me with a question about tasks and service, and you ended up educating me on one of the most important aspect of the D/s relationship—that it’s totally a la carte, and that each couple writes their own rules and guidelines for their relationship.” She turns to me. “You should be proud.”

I look at Pussycat, who’s unsuccessfully resisting the urge to smile. I reach over, take her free hand, and kiss it gently.

I am, very proud.

*-*

“I’m going to stop breastfeeding.”

I’m shocked to hear this announcement come from my wife as we’re riding into GEH on Monday morning. She lives to breastfeed our children and now she wants to stop?

“May I ask why?” I probe. She drops her gaze.

“There are so many reasons to stop,” she admits. “I’m more active outside of the home, with GEH and all, and even without GEH, I’m going to be more active with Helping Hands. We’re going to Vegas in a week and we don’t know how long we’re going to be there. I can’t go to the bathroom and pump every few hours and I don’t want to risk leaking all over my clothes. Most importantly, our children are drinking out of sippy cups and eating solid food. They just turned a year old. It’s time.” I twist my lips.

“You don’t seem too happy about it,” I tell her. She sighs. Breast-feeding was how and when she bonded most with the children. Now, she’s not going to be doing it anymore.

“We all have to be weened in one way or another,” she says with a shrug. “We might as well start doing it now before I start suffering from separation anxiety.” I take her hand and kiss it gently.

“I’ll be here for you,” I say. “And if I’m honest, I’m being a little selfish, too. Watching that nectar drip from your breast when you’re full and you come is very sexy.” That elicits a giggle from her.

“I know. I guess we’ll just have to ween you, too.”

I try not to stare at Marilyn throughout the morning, but she’s getting thinner and thinner and it’s not looking good on her. When she catches me staring at her, I ask her for a moment of her time.

“You’re going to Las Vegas with us, right?” I ask.

“That’s my understanding,” she replies.

“You know Las Vegas has some of the best cuisine in the country,” I inform her. “World-renowned chefs have restaurants there in some of the casinos and hotels. Have you possibly thought about which ones you may want to visit?” She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“I hadn’t given it any thought,” she says, her voice a bit perturbed, but I don’t allow it to sway me.

“Butterfly and I are hoping to go to Americana one night while we’re there. You’re welcome to come. I hear the food is exquisite…”

“I know what you’re doing, Christian,” she says. “You haven’t talked about any of the shows, none of the sights, not the nightlife or even the spas. You’re only talking about the food.” I purse my lips.

“I’ve known you as long as I’ve known my wife,” I say. “I’ve never seen you this thin… and you’ve gotten thinner just over the last couple of weeks. You barely touch your food at dinner if you eat anything at all and I have no idea what you’re eating throughout the day. You’re fading away in front of us…”

Marilyn hugs her iPad to her body like a shy schoolgirl as I drone on about eating and meals, and I get the feeling that I’ve lost her, so I stop talking.

“I’m not trying to preach to you,” I say, softening my voice. “That’s the very last thing I’m trying to do. I just don’t want to see you cause undue harm to yourself.”

She nods, and a single tear falls down her cheek. Shit.

“I’m sorry if I spoke out of place or if anything I said offended you,” I add.

She nods again, but doesn’t raise her head.

“Can I get you anything?” I ask.

“I just need to go to the restroom,” she says, her voice small.

“Yes, of course, by all means…”

She’s out of the office before the words are out of my mouth. My en suite would’ve given her more privacy, but I get the feeling that she wants to be as far away from me as possible. She brushes past the reception desk and nearly runs into Butterfly on her way to… the restroom.

“Mare?” Butterfly calls after her, but she continues her bolt down the hallway. Butterfly turns to me and storms into my office.

“What did you say to her?” she demands, Momma-Bear loins girded for battle. I roll my eyes and thrust my hands into my hair.

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” I say, my voice squeaky as I explain myself to Mistress. “I just informed her that Vegas has a lot of good cuisine and world-renowned chefs and that she was free to try any of them. I just thought that something may awaken her palette again and encourage her to eat.” Mistress deflates immediately.

“Oh… that,” she says, her voice somewhat small as she falls onto my sofa. “I don’t know what to do, Christian. I know this isn’t good for her. I can’t force feed her, but she’s got to stop this.”

“At the risk of sounding insensitive,” I say, sitting down next to my wife, “she’s going to have to address this before she gets on that plane. She’s going on this trip in an official capacity. She’s flying on a GEH jet, and she’s staying on a GEH dime. There’s all kinds of liability involved if something happens to her while she’s on this trip. Though it was small, she had a medical procedure two months ago and she’s not looking well at all. She needs to be medically cleared to travel, not to mention her doctor needs to see what’s become of her.”

“Don’t you think that may be a bit drastic?” she replies. I can’t even find the words to respond to that. My face must display utter horror as I scoff and gesture wordlessly to the door that Marilyn just hastily exited.

“Alright, alright,” she says, raising her hands in surrender. “You’re right. I’ll talk to her. I’ll get it done.” I lean over and kiss her.

“It’s for her own good, Butterfly,” I say. She drops her head and worries her scar.

“I know,” she says, her voice full of defeat.

Son of a bitch, where the hell is Garrett? The girl could die, and he wouldn’t even know. Would he even care? He’s a real fucking prince among men, I swear!


A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

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