FThis 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…
Chapter 85—Business As Usual?
“I still think you overacted about the snake,” I say coming out of my dressing room while straightening my tie.
“Whatever,” she replies, “be glad I don’t cut you off,” she threatens.
“I’d find a way to make you give in,” I say confidently
“You think so, huh?” she challenges. I raise an eyebrow.
“You want to test the theory?” I retort just as haughtily, daring her to try me and begging her to do it at the same time. I’ll have your pretty little ass clawing at the walls. She ponders the theory for the moment, then turns and leaves the bedroom.
“I thought not,” I say under my breath as I follow her out of the room.
“You’re going back to the Center?” I inquire, noticing that she’s dressed for work as we descend the stairs. She sighs.
“Yes,” she says, “for now. I have responsibilities, but I don’t know what the future holds yet. I still don’t appreciate being disregarded that way, so we’ll just have to see.”
“What will you do if you leave the Center?” I ask. “Stay at home?”
“We both know I’d lose my mind,” she replies. “I haven’t gotten that far yet. I gave some thought to starting my own cause, but… that seems so catty and that’s certainly not my M-O. I just wish she could truly see what she did. It’s unacceptable and I just can’t tolerate it… and I won’t keep talking about it with you because I don’t want you to feel like I’m trying to make you take sides against your mother.”
“I don’t think that,” I say, placing my hand in the small of her back and leading her to the kitchen.
“Ronald Holstein on the line, sir,” Andrea says through the intercom. “I’ve been telling him all week that you were out of the country and expected back today. He’s been calling every day nonetheless.”
“Whenever he calls, tell him that I’m in meetings until further notice,” I reply. Let his ass stew for a while until I decide what I want to do with him… and we won’t be doing some simple shit like kidnapping his fucking dog, either.
“Yes, sir,” Andrea says.
“I know you’ve got a hundred meetings today, but you’re going to want to hear this,” Josh calls in my office from the reception area before I close the door. I gesture him in, and he closes the door behind him.
“Sir, let me start by saying that it’s not my business what you do in your private life, but I’m sure that you hired me because I’ve always got my ear to the ground and because I’m more insightful than most.” I already don’t like the sound of this.
“I’m listening,” I say as I gesture to the chair in front of my desk.
“Well, the puzzle is falling together, sir,” he says taking the seat. “Elena Lincoln is still talking to whomever will listen, but now she’s starting to say a little more.” I frown.
“A little more like what?” I ask.
“She’s saying things like people in high places are going to fall when her book is published,” he says. “She insinuated these things before, but she didn’t come out and say them. Now, she’s saying them—to other reporters and it’s filtering back down to me. I was going to make another trip back up there to see her, but I really don’t think I need to. Her diarrhea of the lips along with Ron Holstein’s foot-in-mouth syndrome has pretty much given me all I need.
“I should tell you that her conversation is not nearly as cloaked as she thinks it is. I only say that because it wouldn’t be wise to give away her story before publishing, or her book would be worthless. Bearing that in mind, I can only assume that she’s not fully aware of how much information she’s leaking and, sir, anybody with even the slightest inside hook would have no problem finding you in her code speak. What’s more is that they would probably find a few others, too… I did.”
Oh, fuck, this just keeps getting worse and worse.
“Okay, Josh, I need you to give it to me straight,” I say. “I can’t follow any more riddles.”
“Nineteen out of 20 journalists don’t have the background information or resources that I have,” he begins. “They could get it, but it would take a lot of work and even more time. By then, the story would be blown wide open. She didn’t give me the name of her ghostwriter, but she gave me her pen-name—BD Simmons. There’s no risk in giving me that because there’s nothing else published in that name. However, these ladies aren’t as savvy as they pride themselves to be.
“I don’t know what they’re expecting, but I can almost guarantee that Lincoln is counting on the safety of the prison walls, as ironic as that sounds. Her ghostwriter has anonymity on her side. For whatever reason, they’re both underestimating the danger of the situation. Knowing what I know about Lincoln—the public information and the inside information, you should know that it doesn’t take too much ingenuity to figure out what BD Simmons is an acronym for.”
No, it doesn’t. I figured it out the minute he said the name. BDSM.
“So, of course, the first thing I did was check her old haunts, her old sources, her submissives…” Jesus, this is so much more of this conversation than I really want to have with Josh. “The logical paths lead to three of her girls—two still studying journalism and one with a degree in literature. They all have other… interests at this time, according to Alex, but one has been visiting her at the prison, quite freely I might add.”
“And who is that?” I ask.
“That would be one named Greta Ellison. It didn’t take much more than context clues to figure out that she was BD Simmons.”
“Fucking hell!” I hiss, trying not to curse too loudly or crash something against the nearest wall. Why the fuck do I keep letting these people get away and the minute I let them out of my sight, they bite me?
“Get Welch in here!” I bark into the intercom.
“Yes, sir,” Andrea replies.
“You’re sure that Ellison might not be just filtering the information through to her? Like being a liaison between Lincoln and the ghostwriter?” I ask, not wanting to believe that I was gullible enough to set this bitch free instead of crushing her when I had the chance.
“Sir, to be able to stand in a court of law and tell you that Greta Ellison is Lincoln’s ghostwriter, I can’t. To look you in the eye and tell you with at least 95% certainty that Ellison is her ghostwriter, that I can do. No matter what your content, you can’t get a decent feel for the story—for what the real author wants to portray—without a face-to-face meeting. Even with every fact airtight and recited to you, you wouldn’t be able to relay a successful story without meeting personally with the subject, and Ms. Ellison does that a lot.”
She has no other reason to meet with Lincoln. There’s nothing for her to gain from the acquaintance, and I threatened her the last time we met. I let her ass go, but I threatened her…
And she threatened me.
“You think you’re so much. You’re not untouchable, Mr. Grey, and I’m just the one to prove it!”
This should come as no surprise to me. I remember our first meeting. She wasn’t just an airhead when I interviewed her. She was brilliant. She was perfect. She knew all the right things to say and do to get me where she wanted me and that can’t be taught. She’s wily, cunning, sly, and conniving… and she’s smart. Now, she seems dead set to destroy me and my family by any means necessary. I’ve got to destroy her first.
The gloves are off… all the way off.
“I won’t say, ‘Good Morning,’” Alex says as he opens my office door. “I can already tell it’s well past fucked up.”
“That’s an understatement,” I say coolly, my mind travelling more miles per hour than I can clock. “Close the door and have a seat.” Alex enters and closes the door behind him.
“This thorn is never going to go away,” I say, standing from my chair and walking to the window. “She’s on the watch list. How was it that she was seeing Lincoln and we didn’t know?”
“The same way that she stole Her Highness’s gun, sir,” Alex says. He scrolls through his tablet and hands it to me.
“She’s like Ethan fucking Hunt, sir. She can physically turn herself into anyone, male or female. There’s no way to tell who she is when she leaves her home. We didn’t even know that she was visiting Lincoln until we worked our way backwards and reviewed Lincoln’s visitor logs…”
Do I even want to know how he got access to Lincoln’s visitor logs without Holstein’s cooperation?
“Then we coordinated the people leaving the apartment with the people returning. She hasn’t gotten smart enough to change disguises before she gets home. Then again, she doesn’t need to.”
I scroll through the pictures and see men and women of every nationality identified as Greta Ellison. I even had to turn the tablet around to confirm the person was her a few times. Height and build don’t change. Shape can be masked by clothing, but she’s definitely different people.
“A few times, she logged in to see Ron Holstein, so he’s definitely in on it,” Josh adds.
“Yeah, I figured as much,” I say, still swiping through the many faces of Greta. She’s dangerous—extremely dangerous—and she must be stopped.
“Josh, who have you deduced could also be in this book?” I ask. He twists his lips. He doesn’t want to tell me.
“High-profile officials,” he says. “Some politicians, philanthropists, businessmen like yourself…” That’s all I need.
“Any way to get word to them without totally letting the cat out of the bag?” I ask. “You know, they don’t need to know where the information is coming from and I don’t even need to know who they are… it’s better that I don’t. Just a little tip-off that they may soon be in a tell-all book about their dirty laundry that may make it look even dirtier than it really is.” His brow rises.
“I see what you mean. I may need your help, Alex,” he says.
“I’m at your disposal,” Alex says.
“Then, get on it,” I tell Josh. “I’ll have more questions for you once I sort my rambling thoughts.”
“I’ll keep you posted,” he says as he stands to leave.
“Alex, you stay. I need more information from you.” Josh pauses, but only briefly before he leaves the room. I go over to the desk and flip the switch that scrambles recording signals in my office, even my own.
“She’s a chameleon,” I say, once I know that I’m no longer being recorded. “She’s a fucking dangerous, pestilence ass chameleon that’s not going to fucking go away.” I walk to the window.
“Do you know that I presented her with proof that I knew she was the one that stole my wife’s gun?” I continue. “I had her pinned in a BDSM club between three people that could have killed her with our bare hands, confronted her, threatened her, and let her go and she still came back?” I hiss angrily.
“Yes, sir, I do,” he says. Of course, you do. It’s your job to know. It only takes a minute to ponder what needs to be done.
“Ellison is smart. She’s cunning and she’s brilliant. She gave that gun to a woman that she knew was unstable, delusional, desperate, and had a bone to pick with me. She knew what that woman was going to do with that damn gun, and she gave it to her anyway.”
“Yes, sir,” Alex concurs.
“That woman tried to kill me with that gun,” I say, handing him the tablet, “and had it not been for Jason, she would have succeeded. As an accessory, Ellison tried to kill me.” Alex cocks his head and ponders.
“With the right evidence, a court of law would say that you’re absolutely correct…”
“Fuck the court of law!” I bark. “Because of those two conniving, murderous cunts, my bodyguard and best friend took a bullet for me and that’s the only thing that saved my life and nearly cost him his!” Alex examines me.
“What do you propose?” he asks.
“Get started with Josh to alert the other officials that they’re technically in the hot seat. Between my world-class security team and my extremely savvy PR department, I’m sure innuendo can be circulated to the press without upheaval or suspicion.” Alex casts a knowing gaze upon me.
“You’re creating a smokescreen,” he says.
“I wouldn’t call it a smokescreen,” I reply, “just more people of interest. I was the center of her last trial. The spotlight is already going to be on me. I want to see how many other people we can cast center stage.”
“I know we’re not being recorded,” he says. “I need to know what you have in mind.”
“You know what I have in mind!” I retort sharply. “She’s a thorn, a deadly thorn in my side and she needs to be extracted… and her little dog, too.”
“Are we talking Lincoln or Ellison…”
“We’re talking both!” I say before the words are completely out of his mouth. “But we can’t be sloppy. The minute that smokescreen starts, I need shit to get rolling on the lot of them… Lincoln, Ellison, Holstein, and his haughty ass secretary, too.
“Why the secretar…?”
“Because she pissed me off!” I hiss… and she doesn’t know who she’s fucking dealing with. Alex straightens his back.
“What are we talking here, and in what order?” he asks.
“Punishments for Lincoln begin immediately—subtle at first, but by the time it’s over, she’ll know who it is.” I’ll come up with something creative for her at the end so that she won’t be willing or able to fuck with me ever again. “Save the secretary for last. I just want her seriously inconvenienced, extremely uncomfortable, and if I forget while pursuing the bigger fish, it’ll be your responsibility to make sure those wishes get carried out.”
“Holstein? Thorough retaliation—annihilation, if possible. My only requirement for him is that he gets to live,” I growl. “His begins the moment the signals start to rise from the smokescreen, so get that going now.”
“And Ellison?” he asks. I only glare at him. Ellison… big, little bitch with too much power, real and assumed. She’s become more than an inconvenience! I don’t know if she’s chasing money, fame, or revenge, but whichever it is, it’s going to cost her dearly. She has no idea how far this woman has taken her down the rabbit hole, if for no other reason but the information that she’s given her, let alone how she plans to use it.
My silence answers his question.
“Duly noted,” he says, rising from his seat. “Anything else?
“I want to be there for every step of what happens to Ellison until I tell you that I don’t,” I say.
“Yes, sir,” he says coolly before opening the door to leave the room. I know that I’ve already missed a meeting and Andrea didn’t inform me. She knows me so well that she probably knew to reschedule with me in a meeting with Josh and growling for Alex. Just as Alex reaches the elevator, I hear something I don’t think I’ve heard in all the years that she has worked for me.
Andrea raises her voice.
“Mr. Holstein, I don’t care who you are or who you think you are, but I am a professional, and unless you can conduct your calls to this office with a little professionalism and decorum in the future, I will disconnect your calls every time I hear your voice. How’s that for a short-skirted, pencil pushing answering machine… sir?
Whoa! Holstein said the wrong thing to the wrong person and Andrea’s giving him what-for on this end of the line.
“Well, if you think you haven’t gotten through to him before, let’s see how successful you are now!” She slams the receiver down and closes her eyes, taking a deep breath. Alex and I make eye-contact before he nods and boards the elevator. When Andrea opens her eyes, I’m peeking around the door jam at her.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Grey, but you don’t pay me enough to put up with the names he just called me.” My face falls.
“More than a ‘short-skirted, pencil-pushing answering machine?” I ask, as if that wasn’t bad enough.
“Much more,” she says, her voice low.
“The next time he calls, put him on hold,” I say. It’s time to put my plans into action for this fucker as soon as possible. I don’t disrespect Andrea and I won’t allow anyone else to do it, either. His dick has gotten way too big for his pants, and I’m about to whack it down a couple of inches.
Al was two steps ahead of me and conferred with my accounting department about the best way to itemize and categorize my assets for a will. He’s slowly working his way through the process, setting up a trust for each of the children and placing other items in a revocable living trust, and several other terms of mumbo-jumbo that I trust he’ll handle and explain to us when it’s time to sign the final documents. I inform him that we’ll plan to have dinner with him and Valerie and their significant others sometime this week to discuss some of the particulars and to get some things in writing should I and my Butterfly meet an untimely simultaneous demise. We set aside Wednesday for the meeting, pending Valerie and Elliot’s acceptance of the invitation and, of course, Butterfly’s approval.
It’s later than usual when I get home and all I can think is that I can’t wait to be in my wife’s arms. Today was packed full of catching up with whatever work and catastrophes that simply couldn’t be solved without my presence not to mention plotting revenge on my enemies. I didn’t even eat lunch, so I’m hungry in more ways than one. Just as we’re pulling into the garage, my cell rings.
“Grey,” I say without looking at the phone.
“Hello, Christian,” my mother’s voice says. I try not to sigh loudly into the phone. My last conversation with my mother involved her trying to get the inside scoop on what my wife’s plans are in terms of the Center. Now, she has spent an entire day with my wife… and she’s calling me. What is it now?
“Hey, Mom,” I say, trying to sound casual. “What’s up?”
“Is Anastasia home yet?” Why would she call me and ask me that? Why wouldn’t she call Butterfly? And yet…
“No…” I say, slow and uncertain, as I look over at the bin where her vehicle usually is and it’s empty. “Is everything okay?”
“She’s probably just still at the Center,” Mom says. “You may want to go down there and get her. It’s been a long day.” I’m noticing that my mother’s tone is a bit labored, like she’s extremely tired.
“What happened, Mom?” I ask. “Did you two have a fight?”
“No, we didn’t have a fight,” she says, slightly exasperated, “and you said that you were going to stay out of it, so that’s what you should do.”
“I didn’t call you for that reason, anyway,” she continues. “I called you because, like I said, it’s been a long day and she was still closed in her office when I left, so it might be a good idea for you to go and get her.”
Jesus Christ. This day has already been horrific. The last time I popped up on my wife at the Center unannounced… no, I won’t think that way. Mom says I should probably go and get her, so I’m going to get her.
“Okay, Mom, I’m on my way now,” I say, and Jason looks over the seat at me.
“Okay. Goodbye now.” And just like that, she ends the call. What the hell happened at the Center today? I’m just looking at my phone wondering what’s going to be waiting for me when I get to Butterfly.
“Sir?” Jason says, reminding me that we’re still sitting in the car.
“We’re going to the Center,” I inform him.
“What’s wrong?” he says with concern.
“Nothing that I know of, but Butterfly isn’t here and she most likely still has the children with her. I’d like to go and bring them home.” He twists his lips at me. “While we’re on our way, you can call Chuck and make sure that everything is okay, but my mother just called and told me to go get my wife, so I’d like to see her, okay?”
There. I’m not trying to catch her in anything, nor do I think I would. I just want to go get her.
“Very well, sir,” he says, and starts the car again. As we’re crossing the bridge, he put Chuck on the speaker.
“As far as I know, she’s fine,” Chuck says through the speakers. As far as he knows…?
“Why wouldn’t you know?” I ask.
‘Because she’s been holed up in her office all afternoon,” he says. “She hasn’t come out and when I went to check on her, she called through the door, ‘Leave me alone! I’m busy!’ So, knowing that she’s okay, I did what she asked and left her alone. I do know—through the grapevine—that she and Grace had an intense conversation today and Grace didn’t look happy when she left. She stayed all day, but she was less than pleased.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Jason asks.
“Because I think that’s why she’s still in the office,” he said. I sigh.
“She fought with Mom,” I say. Mom said they didn’t fight. Jesus, the day was at least as hard for her as it was for me and now, she’s hiding out. “Thanks, Chuck,” I say.
“You’re welcome, sir,” he says and ends the call. Jason looks at me, questioning.
“The mission hasn’t changed. Get me to my wife.” I wonder if she’s hiding from me thinking her argument with my mother is going to cause us a problem? I’m even more eager to get to her now than I was before.
Hurry up, Jason. She needs me…
“She hasn’t given you any idea when she’s coming back? Or if she’s coming back?” Courtney asks.
“Neither,” I tell her. “She’s never taken a day off in her life that I can remember, not even for doctor’s appointments…” which makes me question when she ever went before the whole pregnancy scare. “Then she takes them all at once. I’m still depositing her check into her account because she has nearly a lifetime in sick time accrued and she only ever used vacation time when I did so…” I trail off.
“Well, I’m certain that I won’t be as efficient as Mare was, but I’ll be happy to fill in for her the best that I can.” I sigh.
“Thank you, Courtney. Every little bit helps. I know that you have your own set of responsibilities here and I won’t interfere with your work, but of course I’ll pay you extra for helping me out. If Marilyn hasn’t decided what she plans to do at least by the new year, I’ll look into hiring someone more permanent.” It hurts to say that.
“I hope everything is okay with her. This is so out of her character. It had to be something really bad, and no, I’m not pumping you for information.” She looks down at her notepad and writes something on it.
“How are things with you and Addie?” I ask. Courtney raises her gaze to me.
“Still a little tense, but we’re talking,” she says. “Grandfather has made it clear that I’m still not getting any money from them and I’ve made it clear that I never intended to see them again, so the last thing I expect from them at this point is money. I don’t think I would want it even if they offered it to me. It reminds me too much of who I was and what I was doing… and how I felt when Grandmother disowned me. No… I think I’ll be happier earning my own way and making a life with Vick, whatever that life may be.”
“I’m glad that the two of you are talking, but you know I had nothing to do with this, right?” She rubs my forearm.
“Yes, Ana… I know,” she says. “Grandmother says you only talked about it after she confronted you. I know you would never betray my trust.”
“That’s what’s most important to me,” I tell her. “I’m all for a happy ending, but I won’t take credit for a victory that means you think I betrayed your confidence.”
“I know better,” she says with a smile. “I knew from the very beginning that it wasn’t you. I knew when I saw your face when I walked into your office. I may have been focused on Grandmother, but you were clearly horrified,” she adds matter-of-factly. “We’ve… got a long way to go. I don’t know if it’ll ever be back the way it was. Maybe it’s better if it’s not. Scratch that—it’s definitely better if it’s not.” She folds her arms around her body. “I… don’t like that Courtney. I don’t know how I lived with her for so long. No matter what happens, I don’t think I could ever go back to being her. For one thing, I’m sure I’d lose Vick. She won’t take any of my crap. She calls me on my shit any and every time I try to pull it, and she supports me in everything I do. What’s more, she knew me when I was that other crazy bitch, and she still loves me. Can you imagine?”
“Your grandmother knew and loved you, too,” I point out.
“No, she didn’t,” Courtney corrects. “She may have loved me, but she didn’t know me. She thought she knew me. She knew the façade. When she saw the real me, she thought that was the façade. When she found out that it wasn’t, she couldn’t take it. That’s why she sent me away.” She sighs and stands.
“I’m going to find something to do now,” she says. “I’ll be at your beck and call of course, but as you know, there’s lots that need my special attention… and I do better when I’m moving around.” She goes to the door, opens it and steps out. I follow her to the door.
“You’re sure this isn’t going to be too much for you,” I reinforce.
“Nah,” she says, hugging her laptop. “Outlook isn’t a foreign language for me. We use it in school for the syllabi and to keep up with our classes. I just have to spend a little time deciphering Mare’s hieroglyphics and we’ll be fine. Plus, I get an up close and personal look into the super-secret life of Anastasia Grey.”
She does a spooky little wiggle of her fingers and smiles before walking away down the hallway. I turn to go back into my office, but a shadow catches my eye. She doesn’t move or speak, but I can see her standing in her doorway, or at least her shadow cast on the floor of the hallway. I say nothing. I just go into my office and close the door.
Now, she’s lurking. She won’t even face me. Yet another reason why I feel this is no longer the place for me. There was a job that needed to be done here—some things that needed to be fixed. I fixed them. I did my job, but the job isn’t completely finished. So, I’m going to finish my job here and then I’m going to find something else to do.
What, I have absolutely no idea. Maybe I’ll get in touch with Josephine Kennedy, our sponsor for Broadmoor. She’ll probably have some suggestions. I don’t need to be in any kind of executive position. I just want to be somewhere that I can do some good and my opinion is valued.
Knowing that I don’t have much time to implement the learning programs needed before the school year starts, I immediately get to work researching the necessary requirements for a learning coordinator. I fire off a text to Keri to meet me in the office as soon as she has a moment.
Every time someone knocks at my office door, I get the willies. I don’t want to talk to Grace at all, to have her confront me about my absence or to rehash why I feel like she should treat me with more respect and consideration. These things should be understood. You hired me to do a job; then let me do it and don’t interfere with it. If you’re going to interfere and do things your way, what do you need me for?
Anyway, this time, it’s Keri at my door.
“Ya wanted ta seh meh, Annah?” she asks cautiously when she enters the room.
“Yes, please, come in,” I say. She slowly walks in and takes a seat. I can tell that she’s nervous, so I get straight to the point. “I need your help.” She looks shocked.
“You do?” she says, her surprise evident. I nod.
“First, I need to ask how the process is going with getting your teaching certificate here in the states. Were you still planning to do that, or had you changed your mind?”
“Noh! I mean, yes! I mean…” She’s terribly nervous. I’ve never called her into my office in an official capacity, ever, and she’s not quite sure how to handle it.
“Keri,” I say, rising from my seat and walking over to her. “Relax. You’re not in any trouble or anything like that. I just… I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone. I need some information and I just want to know what your immediate plans are.” Keri sighs heavily and rolls her eyes a bit.
“Ah’m sawtty, Annah,” she says. “Ah jus feel lak Ah’m bein’ cawled to da ptincipal’s awfice!” She laughs. In effect, she is, but only because the principal needs her help.
“I understand,” I say.
“Yes, I steel plan on gettin’ mah teachin’ cehtificate heyah. Ah cahl de school bohd ahnd dey sey Ah got ta tek de necesetty exams foh residency. Ah alreaty apply foh the exams since mah degtee is enough foh da requyment. So, Ah’m wehtin’ foh dem ta tell meh when da test gwine be and Ah should be okay.”
“They didn’t say anything about your citizenship or anything like that?” I ask.
“Ah’m heh on a work visa. Ah can keep dah sem visa or get a new one if I choose to teach. Ah wold luv to teach, Annah. I miss me bebbies.” I know that she’s talking about her students in Anguilla.
“Have you thought about becoming a resident?” I ask. She shrugs.
“Anguilla ask de sem ding when I cawled for mah recohds an cehtifications. Dey say, ‘ahe ya gwine stey dere in da states or ya come back to Anguilla?’ I tell dem it not my immediate plan ta stey, but don know what happen in de furtah.” I frown.
“You may go back to Anguilla?” I ask sadly.
“Me don know,” she says honestly. “Anguilla me home. I could nevah leave hah forevah. But me heart wit me Choonks. Das wheh Ah mus be.” That’s an enigmatic response.
“Does Chuck know that you’re somewhat on the fence about returning to Anguilla?” I ask. She nods. “How does he feel about it? He can’t be happy.”
“He not,” she says. “He tinks me run out da doh anyday wit mah bags. I tell him, ‘Choonks, don tek it dat weh. Ah jes not wannah lose meh woots, das all. Jes like yah not wannah stey in Anguilla becuz yah home heyah, I no wannah be in Anguilla witout yah, but Anguilla me home, too. Meh woots deyah. I don wanna lose dat.’”
“So, we’re not talking about packing your bags and moving back to Anguilla when your visa is over. We’re just talking about being able to go back to Anguilla as you please so that you don’t forget your roots.”
“Yeh,” she says, confidently. “I noh move back to Anguilla. Lek I seh, mah heart wit me Choonks. Ah havta be wheh he is.” I sigh heavily. It would be a devastating day all around if we lose Keri.
“Well, that’s good to hear,” I admit. “My second question is more detailed. You worked with small children in Anguilla, right?”
“Yeh, all me bebbies primery school, some younga,” she says. I nod.
“I’m trying to come up with a plan of action to get started with our early-learning program when the school year starts. I have some good solid ideas that we presented to get our licensing and accreditation, but now we need to tweak it and get it ready to roll out. I could really use some help.”
I confer with Keri about what direction we should take in terms of curriculums. I know that the subjects in Anguilla will most likely probably vary from the subjects in America, only because of the difference in culture and the direction of the curriculum as it relates to the region, but I’m certain that the basis is the same. I’ve done a little research to get a basic framework, but I’m definitely going to need some help in nailing down the particulars.
Keri turns out to be invaluable. We’re at it for hours fine-tuning our curriculum and learning plans. We’ve already done some interviewing for teachers and tutors, and we’ll have to make some decisions this week, which means that whether I want to or not, I’ll have to meet with Grace.
There’s no use putting it off.
Once I’ve finished with the basic curriculum, I ask Keri to look it over and see if there’s anything else that we may need. I don’t want to present this outline and framework to the teachers and tutors that I plan to hire, and it turns out to be total garbage. Then I send a text to Grace that we need to chat about the teaching staff and to let me know when she’s available to do so.
It was like carving my tooth out with a chisel just to send the text.
Not half an hour after I hit send, Grace is at my door.
“May I come in?” she asks. I sigh inwardly.
“Please,” I say, standing and gesturing to the seat in front of me. She enters and sits down, and I close the door behind her. I jump right in.
“The school year is starting in a few weeks and I don’t want to be caught unprepared like we have these last terms,” I say, picking up the papers showing the progress that Keri and I made and handing it to her. “We already conducted several interviews and with where we plan to start, I would think we don’t need too much staff right now—a few teachers and a tutor or two and someone to act as principal or superintendent just over the scholastic portion of the program…”
I continue discussing what I think would be the best direction for the preschool and tutoring program—afterschool classes, playgroups, and eventually, a possible part-time homeschool, particularly for at-risk families, namely residents in the dorms while Grace looks over the proposals and plans that Keri and I have collaborated on so far.
“You’ve been quite busy,” she says raising her eyes to me. “I’m glad the Center won’t suffer because of our disagreement.”
I wouldn’t say that just yet, Grace.
I continue the conversation as if nothing had been said about our disagreement and make suggestions as well as request input on who would be the best candidates for the positions we would like to fill as we really need to get the ball rolling like right now. Grace gives her opinions on who she thinks will fit the immediate bill and luckily, except for one, they were the same people that I think will work best. I cede to her judgment for the last person, selfishly thinking that if they didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have to be the one to contend with it. She would.
It’s a bit late in the afternoon when we bang out our initial steps and final choices, and I’m more than ready to discontinue the conversation. I’m not, however, ready to pick up the conversation that she wants to have.
“I really feel I did the right thing,” she says with conviction.
“Grace, this conversation is moot,” I say matter-of-factly. The time for us to have this conversation has passed.
“You won’t even discuss it with me?” she asks, her voice rising an octave in disbelief.
“No,” I say finitely. “I don’t want to fight with you or dispute this with you anymore. What you did could have had disastrous results, and if you can’t understand that, there’s nothing for us to discuss.” She sighs.
“Fine. I was wrong,” she says, almost like a petulant child. I shake my head.
“You don’t get it,” I say. “I’m not looking for capitulation. I don’t need you to admit that you were wrong. I need you to see that you were wrong. Courtney had come miles from where she started. Her progress was fucking immeasurable. Addie barely recognized her as the hell that she sent back to her hellhole hometown. What you did could have set her back far beyond her starting point, and what would you have to say had that happened? What could you have possibly said to me—to Courtney—had you, in your self-proclaimed omnipotence, destroyed all the work that she put in to achieve what she achieved?”
“Can’t you see that sometimes, everything isn’t answered by theory and book-smarts? Sometimes—oftentimes—there’s emotion involved, and you just have to go with your gut?” Her voice is beseeching.
“I can see that, Grace, but can you?” I retort. “Logic dictates that the strides made by Courtney should have had her running back to Addie to present her new self—to show her grandmother that she was nothing like the person Addie last saw. The fact that her grandmother felt that she was nothing, she had to prove her wrong—for herself, but in the process, she made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with the source of her uncertainty. When they parted ways, Addie pretty much told her that she was better off dead. She cremated and buried Courtney’s mother this past summer with no pomp and circumstance, and you just take it upon yourself to say, ‘Oh, it’s a good idea to shove these two into each other’s faces!’ If you can’t see what’s wrong with that, just how fucked up a judgment call that was, then you’ll do it again and I can’t tolerate seeing all my hard work destroyed that way. I might as well go back to my practice.”
“I… I… I didn’t know…” she stammers.
“Of course, you didn’t know!” I bark. “There’s a lot you didn’t know! I’m the psychiatrist! I have all the inside scoops on what’s going on in these people’s minds because that’s what I do! And you had the audacity to be offended because I pointed that out! I don’t diagnose the intricate illness of children—that’s your specialty, not mine! But they share their deepest, darkest secrets with me because of my station and I act accordingly! She trusted me! She trusted me with her secrets and her feelings, with her life! And you exploited that! Can’t you see that? Can’t you see that you orchestrated a train wreck that could have destroyed them both and they just got lucky and walked away?”
“I… was just… following my instincts,” she says, resigned.
“Well, congratulations, doctor,” I say, clasping my hands on the table. “This time, your instincts were correct, and in the process, you undermined everything I do. The very basis of my profession is privacy and trust—respecting the rights of the patient. You know the Hippocratic Oath, and you totally disregarded mine, then haughtily walked away smiling when you did it. I can’t work like that. I can’t have someone’s mental well-being in my hands and in the back of my head, constantly fearing that you’re going to make a decision that’s going to unravel the intricate tapestry that I’ve taken months… or years… to create with one of my patients based on your instincts.” I silently shake my head, indicating that this is definitely a no-go for me.
Grace bites her lip and takes a seat, humbly clasping her hands in her lap.
“Can you, for just a moment, see where I’m coming from?” she says, her voice shaking slightly.
“No…” I begin.
“Please… let me finish,” she beseeches without raising her eyes. It’s my turn to be petulant, but I just defiantly fold my arms and sit mute.
“Addie… is my friend,” she begins. “She’s been my friend for a long, long time—even longer than that crazy bitch who victimized my son.”
That kind of stings… and causes me to let my guard down a little.
“You may have known how Courtney felt, but I knew how Addie felt. She felt hurt and betrayed, and that’s what made her say the things she said to Courtney, but most of all, she was heartbroken. She felt that she would die and have nothing to show for her bloodline. She had such high hopes for Courtney, and when she saw those hopes dashed to the rocks…” She stops and swallows.
“I’m not saying that you wouldn’t understand,” she says. “You’re a mother, so you have to know that we only want what’s best for our children. Courtney’s mother was such a disappointment and Addie had her hopes in Courtney even when everybody told her that it would be a lost cause. When she finally accepted that those hopes were destroyed, it was the most traumatizing thing that had ever happened to her. She tried to move on, but she was crushed.
“That’s the reason I advocated for Courtney in the first place,” she adds. “After everything that she had done and all the problems she had caused, I just wanted to help my friend. It was wonderful seeing the progress that she was making, but Addie was still hurting… deeply hurt. We didn’t hear anything about her daughter because she couldn’t mourn her daughter. To her, it was all a lost cause.
“I found out about Adele—that’s her daughter’s name—at Mia’s wedding. I had been trying to indirectly arrange a meeting ever since. I knew Courtney was at the wedding, but by the time I had heard about Adele, Courtney had already left.
“When I say that I was trusting my instincts, Ana, I’m not just saying that I thought it was a good idea. My friend was suffering, and I just didn’t want to see her suffering anymore… and I knew that seeing Courtney—how beautiful she is and how far she’s come—would do her some good.” I roll my eyes nearly to the point of agony.
“Why. Didn’t you. Explain that to me?” I nearly seethe. “Why didn’t you come and talk to me?”
“Because just like you had confidences, I had confidences…” she begins.
“But it was okay for you to disregard mine!” I nearly shout, causing Grace to jump a bit in her seat.
Settle down, Grey.
I take a deep breath and address the situation again.
“The progress that I made with Courtney in eleven short months is more than I’ve done with a lot of people in years, and you could have undone all of that. That’s what I need you to see. This situation is the epitome of that old saying about the road to hell and good intentions. I can appreciate that you saw your friend suffering and you wanted that suffering to stop, but your. Methods. Were wrong. You threw a blowtorch into a vat of gasoline and prayed that it wouldn’t explode, and instead of alienating one person, you could have alienated three—one of which was your very close friend.
“As much as I want to say that the biggest betrayal here was to Courtney’s right to privacy and to Addie’s suffering, I can’t even say that,” I say, and she raises glassy eyes to me. Yeah, this is going to sting, Dr. Grace, so get ready for it. “The biggest betrayal is that you dismissed me. You dismissed my expertise and my feelings. It caused friction in my marriage and discord in my professional life. But you know what’s even worse, Grace? What you probably never even considered even up to this very moment? You. Destroyed. My trust! Did you think about that? Did you think about the fact that I have to trust the person that I work with and I don’t trust you anymore?
“I can’t be effective under those conditions, and I can’t just wave that off. When you’re dealing with the human mind, at any given moment someone’s sanity can be hanging in a delicate balance. One wrong word, one wrong action, can be the difference between a breakthrough and suicide—and I’m not exaggerating.” I immediately think of Ace’s shark’s tooth.
“I should have come and talked to you,” she says just above a whisper, her voice cracking.
“Yes,” I say softly, but firmly. “You should have…” and now, it’s probably too late. Grace takes a deep, shuddering breath and stands.
“Let me know what you decide to do,” she says without raising her eyes to me. “I’ll understand either way.” She turns and quickly walks out of my office. I hear her heels clicking at a quick pace down the hall and just before she closes the door to her office, I hear her begin to weep.
Dear God in heaven, I think to myself as my face falls on my arms on my desk, my hair splayed wildly over my hands and arms like a blanket. What am I going to do now…?
My head feels like lead and my eyes hurt from crying. I can only imagine that I look like pure hell from having cried myself to sleep at my desk and when I turn towards the soft, melodic voice, my husband is looking lovingly at me while stroking my hair out of my face.
“Hey,” I barely squeak out. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s late… and Mom called me,” he says. “She told me that you were still in your office when she left and that it might be a good idea if I came to get you.”
“I don’t know what to do, Christian,” I lament, on the brink of tears again.
“Well, you won’t think about it tonight,” he says cupping my cheek. “Right now, I’m going to take you home, bathe you, feed you, and make love to you. Then, you can conquer this in the morning.”
I don’t have the will or desire to fight him. I’m tired of thinking, dreaming, fretting about this whole thing. It’s getting on my nerves. I stand and proceed to leave the building and had it not been for Chuck, I might have left without my children. Mom of the year.
My husband keeps his promise, making sure that I was fed, bathed, and loved. Nonetheless, at 2:49 in the morning, I find myself staring at the ceiling while he’s sleeping comfortably next to me. I don’t know how long I’ve been lying here, but I decide that I don’t want to lie here anymore. I quietly roll out of bed and retrieve the first shirt that I can find. It’s the linen shirt that Christian wore to work, and it smells like him. It’s comforting. I put it on and button it before leaving our suite.
The children are sound asleep and I don’t want to disturb them, so I go to the kitchen to get something to drink. After I fix a spritzer, I sit at the breakfast bar, trying to think of something to do. I look at my phone and begin to scroll through it. Some time between the time I got home and now, my contacts, calendar, and apps had all been moved to the new phone.
When did he find time to do that?
I had already forwarded my calls to the new phone, but it’s probably time to leave the new number on the old message so that I can retire my 4S soon. I decide to take a look at my emails. I had cleared most of them at work, but I hadn’t looked at the junk mail to see if anything had been misrouted.
Sure enough, something had.
To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: Web Presence
Date: Saturday, December 13, 2014, 14:14
From: Laura Kelly
Hey there, Sheila!
Just a little nudge from down under to remind you to finish setting up your social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—but start with Facebook. It’s probably best for social media virgins. I know you said you had to talk to your PR people before you could pull the trigger. Remember what I showed ya!
Jax was a little depressed after visiting his mum’s grave, even more depressed when we got back to the ship and there was no Chris to shoot the shit with. You’ll have to come back and see us sometimes, or we’ll look you up next time we’re in the States.
Look for LauraLee Kelly on Facebook. You can’t miss me!
Missing you guys already!
Laura showed me the basics while we were on the cruise and we ran around her social media accounts a bit, but we never actually set up an account for me.
Social media. Facebook. Hmmm…
Screw PR. I’ll just create an alias.
I go to iTunes and download the Facebook app. Sign up with an email.
I go to Gmail and create an alias email just for this purpose. You can’t be too careful.
First name… Anastasia
Last name… hmmm.
There’s no taboo attached to that name for me anymore. It’s a name that I used to escape, and I escaped, so…
Welcome to Gmail!
Back to Facebook.
Sign up. What’s your name?
Hmm… it still feels too obvious.
Mercer Mistress… Hell, no!
Mercer Doctor Lady.
Good enough for now.
Upload a profile picture…
I do a quick internet search and find a picture of a black and white butterfly that reminds me of Marty.
I download it to my phone, then upload it as my profile picture.
Invite your friends… well, I only have one that I know of on social media…
LauraLee Kelly. I need her email. Nah, I’ll look her up and invite her to be my friend. It’s faster.
I have access!
She’s right. I find her quickly and send a friend request. I create the same account with Twitter, then I make the mistake of going to Facebook and Twitter and doing a search for my name.
There are a million of me!
I could make a page with my real name and no one would be any wiser, but no. I’ll hide behind Mercer Doctor Lady. Not very creative or catchy, I know, but it’ll fit the bill. I answer a few questions about books and hobbies.
There’s nothing on my timeline since I don’t have any friends, so I see what Facebook has to offer.
Videos… relationship advice… reality TV snippets… groups that might interest me… comedy…
I like comedy.
I watch several comedy videos and share many of them to my timeline.
I’m dying laughing over Steve Harvey and Family Feud…
Ellen Degeneres, well, I love her. I follow her and Steve on Facebook.
The Real Housewives of what? Where? What real housewives behave this way? And you’re still married? These women need to get a damn life!
“What are you doing down here?”
I’m startled by Christian coming to the kitchen in his pajama pants. I’m even more startled by something else…
“I was just… I couldn’t sleep,” I say. Hell if I’m telling him I spent all night on Facebook. His gaze softens.
“I didn’t do my job, then,” he says, closing the space between us. I put my phone down and sigh.
“It’s not you,” he says, “and I don’t want to pull you into the middle of what’s happening between me and your mother.”
“She said you didn’t fight, but I have a feeling you did,” he says. I look up at him.
“You thought I fought with your mother and you still brought me home and took care of me?” he shrugs.
“She’s my mother and I love her very much, but she went home to her husband. You’re my responsibility.” I wrap my arms around his waist and lean on his chest.
“I love you,” I say, breathing in his scent.
“I love you, too,” he says. I sigh. “You’re holding it in. You have to tell somebody.” I lean back and look up at him, twisting my lips.
“She looked like a broken puppy when she left my office, and I heard her crying,” I say. “She broke us… plain and simple. She broke us as a team. I have to trust who I’m working with. That’s it. I don’t expect you to take sides here, I really don’t, but I have to say it out loud. She broke us. She broke the team, and I don’t know if it can be fixed.”
“Any idea what it would take to be fixed?” he asks.
“Time, for one,” I admit, “and I’m not sure I’m willing to put it in.” She begged me last year to give Courtney a chance and I did, and we built something, and then she tossed it out like trash. Fuck how Courtney was feeling; fuck what Courtney wanted; Addie was more important.
“You’re taking it really personal, baby. Can you tell me why?” he asks.
“Because this could be anybody,” she says. “This could be a scared and battered wife and mother hiding from her abusive husband. I put in the work and get to the core of this girl’s deepest, darkest secrets—get her to where she’s not afraid to fall asleep at night; to where she finally sees that she’s out from under the oppression of her abusive husband and can do something with her life… move forward like Marlow’s mother did. And then Grace somehow brings the abusive father back into the picture. All that work I’ve done for nothing, and her only excuse and reasoning is that she’s following her instincts.
“Yes, that’s more graphic. Addie wasn’t abusive, but Courtney was crushed, crushed enough to never want to see her grandmother again, and Grace disregarded that… disregarded her feelings, disregarded her wishes, disregarded my work as a person and a professional. It’s very personal, Christian. How can I work with someone like that?”
“Then… why were you crying?” he asks.
“Because I obviously hurt her, and I didn’t mean to. We didn’t fight, but I was merciless in my explanations. She put her friend’s feelings over all professionalism and trust, the very basis of my profession. If she’s going to make decisions over my head without any consideration for my wishes, opinions, or input, then why am I there? I feel strongly about that, but I didn’t mean to hurt her—and I don’t know if she was hurt over understanding what she did to me or the concept of losing me.” He hugs me again.
“You’ll figure it out, baby. I know you will,” he encourages, “but doesn’t it feel better to get it out?”
“A little,” I say, sinking into his embrace.
“What have you been doing down here all night?” he asks. I twist my lips and look up at him, then push my phone over to him.
“Facebook?” he says, mirthfully. “You’ve been on Facebook all night?”
“Watching videos,” I say. “I don’t have any friends online.”
“You’ve got one, Mercer Doctor Lady,” he says and hands my phone back to me.
Laura accepted my friend’s request.
A/N: Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise’s character in Mission Impossible. He was a master of disguise and could make himself or anyone else look like anyone anywhere.
Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/
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, 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.