Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 25

The quarantine continues, and it’s starting to take a bit of a toll on me. How is everyone else doing?

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 25

CHRISTIAN

For the first time in a long time, things are quiet at GEH. I almost don’t know what to do with myself. I’m of two minds with the serenity.

One, I can finally take a breath and relax for a moment. Everyone is doing what they should be doing, and my business looks exactly as it should. Time to zero in on some new acquisitions.

Two, it’s too damn quiet. Either someone is plotting something from the inside or there’s an attack brewing from the outside. Either way, I should be preparing myself for friendly or hostile fire, for some kind of Apocalypse—foreign or domestic.

Instead, I decide to use the downtime to do some research on the family dog.

I’m diligent in my study about pit bulls. Just because my wife wants one doesn’t mean that I’m blindly going to buy one if I find that it’s a bad idea, and I don’t care what she says. I have to be mindful of my children and anyone who comes to visit us for that matter.

I may have delved further than I needed, but I don’t care. I find myself sitting in my office on Wednesday morning reading an in-depth study on pit bull temperament from 2006. When given a series of test to determine general temperament and aggressiveness, pits were shown to have a better temperament and less aggressive tendencies than hound dogs, herdings, terriers, beagles, some mixed breeds, and even many toy breeds like Chihuahuas.

Pit bulls are loyal because they love humans. They’re eager to please, which makes them great family dogs. I would imagine that most dogs like humans, though, unless they’re feral, stray, or taught to be aggressive to humans. Nonetheless, it appears that they like working with humans and they make good police dogs because they’re pretty easy to train. That is a definite plus!

They’re affectionate and they’re snugglers. My wife and kids will love that.

They’re very athletic. I like that, because I can take him on a run with me.

They’re a very healthy breed and they don’t shed a lot. That’s good, too, because it’s going to be our responsibility to care for this dog and the lower the maintenance, the better. I’m glad she didn’t decide she wanted a husky or a retriever. I see that they’re great dogs, too, but my research shows they shed a whole fucking lot! And I don’t think I could deal with Shih Tzus or yorkies or Pomeranians—safe, maybe, but too damn small.

The more I read about pit bulls and the different breeds of dogs compared to them, I realize that my wife was right. Pit bulls are a good choice for a family dog and can even be protectors if trained correctly.

Once I’m satisfied that this decision won’t bite us in the butt—literally, I send out the all-points bulletin that our family will soon be adopting a pit bull puppy so that close family and friends who come to visit won’t be shocked when they see him. I plan to give the cleaning staff a raise for having to clean possible accidents.

I don’t know anything about adopting a puppy and I’ve decided not to delegate this task to either of our PAs. If we want a dog, we’ll have to find one ourselves. I begin a search for puppies in the area. I am having absolutely no luck. I’m finding dogs for sale, but they’re older dogs. There are backyard breeders everywhere, but I don’t trust them. They just take their dog and they breed it with someone else’s dog who says it’s pure bred and it’s a crap shoot. There’s even a pit pull puppy rescue here, but they don’t have any puppies. And even with the rescue, you’re still likely to get the puppies from those backyard breeders. It’s time to send a text to my wife.

**Where in the hell do you find pit bull puppies in Seattle? **

I’m scrolling through the internet still trying to find what I need when my phone rings. It’s Butterfly.

“Hey,” I answer.

“Are you looking for pit bull puppies right this second?” she asks. Duh, didn’t I just send you a text.

“Um, yeah,” I reply.

“That’s so strange because so am I,” she says, her voice full of mirth. Oh… okay.

“This seems like an impossible task, baby. Have you found anything in the Seattle area?”

“No, but I didn’t expect to,” she replies. “Breeders are most likely going to be in more rural areas. We may even have to look out of state.” I frown.

“How do you get a puppy from out of state?” I ask. “We have to go pick it up?”

“Yes, or have it shipped,” she replies.

“Shipped? You mean like Amazon?” I ask, horrified. She laughs.

“Something like that, yeah,” she replies, “but there are humane and professional methods to ship an animal, Christian. Don’t worry.”

I’m sure there are, I’m just not familiar with them.

“So, what do you suggest?” I ask.

“I’ve seen a couple of breeders so far that look promising. One is in California and one, I can’t see where they’re located from the site. They have great testimonials and genetic and health guarantees. They look like they care about their dogs because their warranty is void if you take the dogs to one of two major vet hospitals because they’ve seen overmedication, misdiagnosis, and overcharging. I figure we could do some research and see where this second one is located and see which one would best suit our needs.”

“How did you find them?” I ask.

“Probably doing the same thing you did. I searched for ‘pit bull puppies in Seattle’ and ‘pit bull breeders Seattle.’ I know people have a lot of things to say about puppy farms, but I can’t take any chances. I want to find a reputable breeder with traceable references that can get us a quality pedigreed dog.”

“Oh, you’ll get no argument from me,” I tell her. “Elliot was telling me about his dog and that he’s a rescue. He asked if we were planning to get a rescue, and that’s an unequivocal ‘no.’”

“Elliot has a dog?” she asks.

“Yeah. I can’t remember if he told me the breed—I think it’s a mix. It’s a therapy dog for him and Valerie. She hasn’t told you? He says she loves that dog.”

“It’s not her fault. It’s been wild since Vegas and we haven’t had a chance to talk. I’m going to call her. I’d like to meet the little guy.”

“I don’t know if he’s a ‘little guy,’ baby. I can’t remember the breed.”

“He’s smaller than me,” she says. I remain quiet. My woman is short and very petite.

“Watch it,” she says, noting my silence.

“I didn’t say anything!” I defend.

“Your silence speaks volumes,” she rightfully accuses.

“Well, maybe I should’ve just said the dog could be bigger than you,” I tease.

“Asshole,” she replies.

“I love you, too,” I laugh. She disconnects the call. I would normally scold her for hanging up on me, but I’ll give her this one. I chuckle and put the phone on my desk.

*-*

Various conversations are going on at dinner. Butterfly and I are further discussing our choices for a dog breeder. Gail chimes in with mirth about how Ms. Solomon thought all of Sophie’s kitchen wares were for her and was highly disappointed to find out that they weren’t. She subsequently performed an inventory of the kitchen with Ms. Solomon and realized that there was a utensil or three that could use replacing.

Marilyn sits quietly at the table as she has for the last three nights. She takes very small portions of food, then eats as much as she can. To say that I’m elated to see her eating at all is an understatement, but I must admit that it looks like quite the task for her. On the two previous nights, she ate about half her food, then excused herself from the table looking rather ill. Tonight is no exception, only this time, after she and Keri have finished feeding the children, Butterfly follows Marilyn to her room.

Sophie is visibly absent from the dinner table, and when everyone has left except me and Chuck, Jason tells us why.

“I had to tell Sophie that she may not be able to go to Italy this summer. She’s crushed,” he says. I frown.

“Why?” Chuck asks. “What did she do?”

She didn’t do anything,” Jason replies. “Both parents have to be present to sign for a minor to get a passport. If they’re not able to get to the passport office, then the absent parent has to sign a document that says it’s okay for Sophie to get a passport…”

“Let me guess,” I say, “Shalane won’t sign.”

“You got it,” he laments. I sigh, frustrated.

“But she’s in jail and you’ve got sole custody of Sophie,” I argue. “Doesn’t that mean something?”

“I have sole physical custody of Sophie,” Jason says. “We still have joint legal custody of her. Shalane being in jail doesn’t mean she gave up her parental rights.”            

“Jason, how did you ever fall in love with that woman?” Chuck asks. Jason shrugs.

“She wasn’t always that woman,” he says. “She used to be fun and vibrant and caring. I think my job changed all that. I don’t know what she was doing when I was overseas, but she seemed so supportive and loving. When I got back home from doing my tours, it was like a second honeymoon.

“When I started doing security, she started getting restless. I was floored, man. I had done years overseas for much less money and she never behaved like this. Now, she was complaining that I was never home and that she and Sophie never saw me. They saw me a hell of a lot more than they did when I was active duty!” He shrugs.

“Well, then the other guys started showing up and… the rest is history. She became a flaming bitch after our divorce. I don’t know when the drugs and the pure and utter resentment set in but, yeah, that’s our life now.” 

“Is there anything else we can do?” I ask. “We’re just taking her on a trip. We’re asking for a valid passport. We’re not smuggling her out of the country!”

“I can file for sole custody—you know how long that takes. I can ask for a court order to get a passport without her permission, but it’ll most likely be too late for Italy by the time I get it.”

“You should file for it anyway,” I tell him. “It’s worth a shot and I’m willing to plan another trip just to spite the bitch.” Jason scoffs.

“Maybe I will,” he says. “For now, Sophie’s angry and hurt, and I hate that. She’s a good girl. She doesn’t give us any trouble, and she deserves this trip. She doesn’t deserve for her mother to continue to try to use her as a pawn every chance she gets. Shalane doesn’t care or understand that all this is going to do is hurt her daughter and alienate Sophie from her. Nonetheless, Sophie wants to talk to her to see if she can convince her to sign the papers.”

“Do you really want to do that?” I ask. Jason looks down into his coffee cup.

“She has to see her twice a month anyway,” he replies. “They can talk about whatever they want. If she wants to talk to the bitch about her passport, there’s nothing I can do to stop her. Quite frankly, if Sophie can’t convince her to sign the papers, nobody can.” I shake my head.

“This is utterly ridiculous,” I declare. “When is the next visit?”

“Saturday, as luck would have it… good luck or bad luck, well, that remains to be seen.”

“Dude, I’ve heard that there’s a thin line between love and hate, but I’ve never understood it. I’ve seen people who have vowed to spend their lives together ‘til death do us part’ throw more venom and rocks at each other than the Capulets and the Montagues. I could never, ever imagine building a family with Keri and then behaving this way,” Chuck says.

“It’s hard work,” I tell him. “My wife and I have only been married for a couple of years—not even that yet—and we’ve already run the gauntlet. I know there are things that we haven’t experienced yet, but we’ve been through a lot. Hell, I left my whole family and ran away from home for nearly three weeks.” I thrust my hand into my hair. “All I can say is that you have to find that place of respect and stay there. No matter what happens, you always have to get back to that place of respect.”

“I thought it was love,” Chuck says. I raise my brow.

“Let’s ask the one gentleman among us who’s been through a divorce,” I say, turning to Jason. “Did you still love Shalane when you were going through your divorce?” I ask, already knowing the answer.

“I certainly did,” he says. “I loved the woman that she once was, the one that I married who wanted to build a family together… but she wasn’t that woman anymore.”

“Did you still respect her?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Nope,” he says. “She had cheated on me and lied to me and all kinds of things.”

“Even though you still loved her, would you had taken her back if she decided that she didn’t want to get the divorce?” I ask. He has to think about that one. Love is very powerful.

“Knowing what I know now, hell no, but back then, it would have been more of a reluctant ‘no.’ I couldn’t trust her anymore, and she would have had to go through a hell of a lot to get my trust back. I wasn’t willing to go through all of that—wondering if she was partaking in midday rendezvous when I was working; being suspicious of every little thing she did; afraid to take assignments for fear that she’d be throwing orgies when I was away. I wouldn’t have been able to take the good jobs for the good pay because I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. You know we can’t have that with what we do. I would have ended up a mall cop,” he says to Chuck, who nods in agreement.

“Honestly, I think it’s a little more detailed than just ‘get back to that place of respect.’ I think it’s more than that, but I can say that if you can’t respect them, you can’t move on with them,” he concludes.

“So, here I am looking at three phases of a relationship—the beginning with me and Keri, in progress with Christian and Ana, and the crash-and-burn end with you and Shalane. What’s to make me feel like if I marry Keri, I won’t end up where you are?” Chuck asks.

“You don’t know that,” Jason says, “but if you’re planning to get married because you’re expecting everything to be perfect, don’t get married. I present exhibit A.” He gestures to me, and I purse my lips and raise my hand. He’s right.

“Everything is certainly not perfect in our relationship,” I tell him, “and I expect more obstacles in the decades to come, but I wouldn’t trade my wife for anything.”

“And then, you have to remember that there are success stories. Look at Grace and Carrick,” Jason points out. “You’re rolling the dice no matter what you do, Chuck, but you have to remember that while your feelings are very important and deserve to be recognized, there are two people in the relationship, and you must be ever mindful of that other person’s feelings, too.

“I think that’s where Shalane and I dropped the ball. I didn’t understand or get the fact that she resented me working all the time. I couldn’t reconcile the fact that if I was away on active duty for years and she was okay with that, what was the problem with me working long hours as long as I came home at night? She complained, but she never answered the question, and the next thing I knew, she was sleeping with other guys.

“I was doing what I felt I needed to do with no real consideration for her feelings because I didn’t know what they were, and she happily went gallivanting out in the street into the arms of other men with no consideration at all for mine. The only marriage that can survive that is one of convenience, and even then, it may not survive.”

“Well, no offense, but this is depressing. I’m going to find out if my woman is done with her duties. Then I’m going to do my best to forget this conversation,” Chuck says, finishing his coffee and standing up. “Goodnight, guys.”

We say Goodnight simultaneously and Chuck goes off in search of Keri.

“I’m going to go check on Soph,” he says. “She might be hungry now… unless she’s cried herself to sleep.”

I pat him on the arm and send him to go comfort his daughter. I climb the stairs, once again pondering the time I ran away from home. Get back to that place of respect. I’d like to think we’ve gotten there. Even though curiosity is killing me, I won’t dredge it up. She has enough to push out of her mind without having to worry about that.

I ascend the stairs and decide to go to my children’s room. My wife is in there with Keri, and the children appear to have just slipped off to sleep.

“Your boyfriend is looking for you,” I tell Keri just above a whisper.

“Ah knoh,” she says, placing a blanket over a sleeping Mikey. “Gudnight.”

“Goodnight,” I say as she leaves the room and closes the door behind her. I go over to my wife who’s sitting in the window seat, rubbing Minnie on the back.

“I try to give them equal time,” she says, kissing Minnie on the forehead. “I can’t keep up with who I held last. I love them both so much.”

“Who says you have to keep up?” I ask, sitting in the window seat next to her.

“I don’t want either of them to feel neglected,” she laments. I chuckle.

“Trust me, the last thing our children could ever feel is neglected,” I say. She rolls her eyes.

“I’m not talking about material things, Christian,” she says.

“Neither am I,” I reply. She shakes her head.

“You don’t understand,” she says. “You’re not a mom.”

The average person would be offended by that statement, but I know exactly what she’s saying.

“You’re right,” I say. “I’ll never know how it feels to be a mother, to feel life growing inside of you and then push it out of you and have two living little beings in your arms that you baked from scratch for nine months. But I know how it feels to be a father. I know how it feels to watch your body swell with our children inside, and to worry about you 24 hours a day the entire time that you were carrying them. I know how it feels to see those babies enter this world and take their first breaths. I know how it feels to look at my family—the three of you—in utter awe, knowing that love created this entire conglomerate and that nothing I ever do in my entire life will ever be as magnificent and glorious as this.

“Most of all, I know how it feels to look at you with our children and watch how you melt with love and compassion whenever they’re around, wishing that I had a mom like that when I was their age—one that was able to chase away my monsters. And when I see you with our children, I know for sure that one thing that they will never feel… is neglected.” She looks up at me with those guileless blue eyes.

“Thank you, Christian,” she says, softly. “That’s so sweet.”

I kiss her gently on her temple. It may have been sweet, but I meant every word.

“How’s Marilyn?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“Still not doing very well, I’m afraid,” she says. “She eats because she knows that she has to… and she’s kind of being forced to… and then she goes to bed because her stomach is in knots.”

“That can’t be good for her digestion,” I say.

“It’s the only way she can keep any food down,” she says. “She confessed to me that she tried to eat one of her favorite muffins on Monday and she couldn’t even choke it down. She’s trying, but I’m convinced that she’s going to need some more help.” I shake my head.

“How do you let somebody suffer like this that you once claimed to love?” I ask in disgust.

“If you’re talking about Gary, Christian, he probably doesn’t know she’s feeling this way,” Butterfly excuses.

“Of course, he doesn’t know!” I shoot. “He left her out to dry and didn’t look back. She’s falling apart and her friends have to pick up the pieces!”

“Sssh!” she scolds as Minnie stirs a bit but goes back to sleep. Apparently, my voice was louder than I intended. She puts Minnie in her crib and rubs her back a little to help her get back to sleep.

“Where’s Gail?” I ask, my voice soft again.

“Down with Sophie,” she says. “I can’t very well justify her taking care of my kids when her kid is having a crisis. Did you hear that spiteful cow won’t sign the papers for Sophie to get a passport?”

“I heard,” I say. “I wish there was something I could do to speed this process up, but this is federal. You can’t fu… mess with it.”

She looks up at me, then checks Minnie again before gesturing for us to leave. We exit the nursery and close the door behind us.

“There are some people in this world that I wish would just go straight to hell, and she’s one of them,” my wife says as we walk to our bedroom.

“Not before she signs the papers,” I say, closing the door behind us.

“Christian!” she scolds. I scoff at her.

“How is what I said any harsher than what you said?” I inquire honestly. She twists her lips.

“It’s not,” she cedes before pulling her shirt over her head. “I should have taken the high road before I said anything. It just pisses me off so much!”

“I know,” I say, unbuttoning my shirt and pulling it off my shoulders. “This is just one of those times where we’re going to have to hope that good prevails.”  

“Sometimes, you just want to be more proactive,” she says, stepping out of her pants and her panties and walking to her bathroom. Damn, that ass!

“I know how you feel,” I say, stripping out of the rest of my clothes and leaving my boxer briefs. “You know how helpless I feel right now.”

She’s quiet, so I know she must be brushing her teeth. I duck into my bathroom and quickly brush mine, managing to make it back to the bedroom before she does and sit on the side of the bed. A few minutes after I get back to the room, she comes out of her bathroom in a nightshirt brushing her extremely long hair.

“You would think she would want to do everything in her power right now to get into Sophie’s good graces, not piss her off,” Butterfly says as she vigorously brushes her hair over her shoulders and in front of her face.

“It’s never been about being in Sophie’s good graces,” I correct my wife. “Anything she ever did was never out of any consideration for Sophia. Even that Thanksgiving she allowed Sophie to spend here with Jason was because she was hoping to be invited, too. Sophie has always been a pawn, a tool, or a means to an end. I’m surprised that girl is as well-rounded as she is with the mother that she had to contend with all these years.”

“She’s about to be 14,” Butterfly says, still tackling her hair. “She’s coming up on a very delicate time in her life and her mother is not here. This is the time that her mother should influence her the most and she’s not here. She’s not going to be in there forever. She has no concern whatsoever what her relationship with Sophie is going to be like once she’s free?”

“Apparently not. The entire time I’ve known of her, it’s been ‘how could she hurt Jason?’ Sophie’s feelings never came into play—ever. I just didn’t know how bad it was until Sophie almost went to Spruce Street,” I tell her. She shakes her head and stops brushing her hair.

“She’s there for rehabilitation—to repay her debt to society—and she has no interest in rebuilding her relationship with her daughter… the daughter she tried to trade for drugs, I might add. That’s sad. That’s really fucking sad.”

“Well, that’s Shalane,” I tell her, “I really don’t expect her to change anytime soon. Now, at the risk of sounding extremely insensitive, I really don’t want to talk about Sophie anymore. I don’t know if you’re trying to be comfortable in that little night shirt, or if you’re trying to torment me, but I need you to bring that hot little ass over here right now before I combust.”

A coy smile creeps onto my wife’s face as she slowly walks over to me, places the brush on the nightstand, and crawls onto the bed and on top of me.

ANASTASIA

The guest list for my party is perfect. It’s all the usual suspects—the Scooby Gang, the Thanksgiving crowd, Courtney and Vicky, Harmony, Jason and Gail, Chuck and Keri. We decided to keep the crowd adult only, so there will be a sleepover at the Greys tonight with Luma’s girls and Sophie along with the twins and Marlow’s sister Maggie. Ms. Solomon and the staff have graciously agreed to oversee the slumber party festivities so that our nannies could join their significant others at the soiree.

In all honesty, as much as I love being around Sophie, it’s better if I don’t see her hissing at Marlow and his date all night. In the interest of fairness, he won’t be at the party either, since he’s not quite 18 for another few months.  

Friday morning, Vicky comes by to bring me a dress for the evening. I didn’t really need another dress, but Christian insisted. When I show her the dress that I planned on wearing to the celebration, she agrees that my choice is better.

She brought a striking blue high-low dress with a lace bodice and chiffon skirt. I agreed to keep it because it’s beautiful, but the dress that I present is more formal and, to be quite honest, much classier. It’s from Grandma Ruby’s collection and as luck would have it, also a high-low. It’s a weighted-matte satin with a sweetheart neckline. The bodice has a lace overlay that comes up in a scooping neckline over the sweetheart and creates a sleeveless top with matching lace appliques on the top of the skirt. I only needed to accessorize this masterpiece.

“I have the perfect accessory for that,” Vickie says, opening her accessory case. “I was going to go with a classic Chanel with the dress that I brought along, but something told me to pack this set, too. Now, I’m glad I did.”

Vickie removes a black velvet box from her accessory kit and opens it to reveal the most unique set of jewelry I’ve ever seen.

“Oh, Vickie… that’s breathtaking!” I exclaim.

“It’s the Brilldoor ‘Flirt’ jewelry set,” she says. “It’s not your husband’s precious platinum, but it’s polished white gold and it’s handmade. It’s very soft, so it’s delicate. It won’t bend with the wind, but if you treat it too roughly, it will lose its shape.”

That would be a true tragedy. The set is a necklace, bracelet, earrings and rings made of akoya pearls and diamonds precariously placed in narrow, delicate, swirling treks of decorated white gold. The pieces are almost indescribable… and exquisite.

“Where on earth did you find these?” I coo, fawning over the beautiful pieces that almost look like filigree.

“It was one of those ‘invitation only’ show that I attended once. You could watch step-by-step as the pieces are being created. Of course, they were creating more than one piece at a time so that you could see a different piece at each step of the process. But watching them sketch the design and then bring each piece to life… and the stuff that they make, I’ve never seen anything like it,” she admits.

“And you’ve been holding out on me?” I accuse.

“Ana, this is only the third set of this jewelry that I’ve acquired, and I probably should have given you the price of this before I showed it to you.” My brow furrows.

“Why?” I ask. “How much is it?” She raises her brow and pulls her earlobe.

“Ana,” she sighs, “this set is 73,400 euros.” I’m taken aback.

“Okay,” I say, “now, I don’t know the conversion rate, but even I know that the euro is worth more than the dollar…”

“It’s a little over 80 grand,” she says. “If you don’t want to buy it, I can let you borrow it. It’s good advertising for you to be seen in it, but Ana, you break it, you bought it.”

Eighty grand. Christian just put his Amex Black on file for my mother. I can’t ask him to be responsible for something like this.

“You need to ask Daddy Warbucks first?” she says.

“Yeah,” I sigh. “He just committed to taking care of my newly-handicapped mother, and I feel awful asking him for something so frivolous so soon after he has agreed to such a commitment.” My heart is broken. I know in the big scheme of things, $80,000 isn’t much when it comes down to our fortune, but for one set of jewelry…

As I’m lamenting saying goodbye to a custom set more timeless than Chanel as far as I’m concerned, Vickie takes a picture of it with her phone and begins typing away. I give no thought whatsoever to what she’s doing until her voice breaks my concentration.

“He said get the set,” she says, still typing on her phone.

What? What did she just say?

“Who… what?” I say, taken aback. She raises her gaze to me.

“He said get the set,” she says. “I sent him a picture; I told him you wanted it; I told him what it cost; he said get the set.” My eyes nearly bulge out of my head.

“He knows this single set is $80,000 and he told you to get it?” I ask horrified.

“Eighty-one-five, to be exact, and yes, he told me to get it.” She seems completely unfazed by this.

“Why did you do that?” I’m a mixture of horrified and elated. She raises her gaze to me.

“You weren’t going to ask him,” she replies. “You were looking at that set like you had just found buried treasure and you weren’t going to ask him. Besides, how do you think I dress you most of the time?” she adds, as if it’s obvious. “Most of the things that I put you in go past his eyes before they go past yours—except for the things you produce from ‘Grandma’s Hope Chest.’ I just don’t think he understands how clothes fit you and how I could buy something from the thrift store if I want and you would make it look like a million bucks.”

“Don’t knock the thrift store,” I say, “I’ve found some treasures in my day going junk shopping.”

“Hence, my point.” She types into her phone again. “He just cleared the purchase. The set is yours.”

“You’re kidding!” I whisper wistfully. I finger the pearls and diamonds on the necklace as if I’ve just been presented with the Hope Diamond. “Fucking Santa Claus,” I say under my breath, recalling the title I gave him when he presented me with the Holly Golightly tiara when we first started dating.

“What did you say?” Vickie asks.

“Nothing,” I say, closing the box and placing it on top of Grandma Ruby’s blue dress. I’ll match this ensemble with a pair of navy blue sky-high Louboutins and we have an outfit. As I admire my accessories, Vickie pulls me to the side to whisper in my ear.

“At the risk of overstepping my bounds, I watch women’s bodies,” she says, “and I’ve been watching hers. At best she’s a size 2, and maybe even smaller. I would venture to say that she doesn’t have a single dress in her wardrobe that’s country club ready that fits. So, I brought something for her, too.”

I look over at Marilyn, who is admiring the blingy hair combs in Vickie’s collection of accessories. I purse my lips on the best way to handle this. I know Vickie’s right, but I don’t want to offend Marilyn. I’ve already basically forced her to go, even though I later discovered that she helped to plan the whole thing.

“She has to agree to accept the dress,” I tell Vickie.

“Oh, of course,” she says. “That’s why I asked first. I don’t want to come off as pushy—or be offensive.” Good, we’re on the same page.

“Okay. Follow my lead.” I walk over to Marilyn admiring the hair combs.

“Those are pretty,” I say, touching the hair combs. Marilyn deflates a bit.

“Do you think they’ll work with your dress?” she asks, trying to hide her disappointment.

“I was talking about for you,” she says. “Consider it a gift for all the work that I know you did planning this party.” Her eyes light up.

“Really?” she asks, the first excitement that I’ve seen in her in months.

“Oh, for that reaction—Vickie!” I call Vickie over to us.

“I’ll take these, too,” I tell her. “Marilyn likes them.” Vickie examines the combs and nods.

“You got it,” she says. “If I may…” She goes over to her garment bag and takes out a beautiful white dress—also a high-low dress, more like a mini with an attached skirt. The thing is so small, it looks like a child can fit it.

“I brought this for you. I knew you were going to the party, but I didn’t know if you would need one, too, since you’re a bit petite. If you like it, you can have it.”

Marilyn looks from Vickie to me and then back at the dress. She smiles a soft, knowing smile and sighs as she examines the dress, running her hands over the delicate chiffon.

“It’s very pretty,” she says, “and it goes very well with the combs. Thank you.” Vickie smiles.

“Why don’t you try it on?” she says. “If it needs any altering, we can get that done quickly.”

“I doubt that it will, but I’ll try it on,” Marilyn says. The dress has a built-in bra, thank God. I don’t think we would have found something strapless on such short notice. It only takes her a moment to change into the dress, and once she does, it’s stunning. Even Marilyn herself couldn’t deny it.

“My work here is done,” Vickie says, zipping her garment bag and closing her accessory case. “We’ll see you for dinner at six.” We thank her again as she leaves.

“Okay, now,” I tell Marilyn. “It’s time for some pampering, trimming, waxing, and threading. What say you?”

“I say that I’ll call Miana’s and set it up for whatever time you like, but I’m going to pass,” she says.

“Maaaaaare,” I whine, “it’s gonna be a girlie day. When was the last time you’ve had a girlie day?”

“Bosslady,” she says, “I appreciate the combs, and I love the dress, but the laying on of hands I can’t do right now. I’m just now working my way into trying to eat. Baby steps, please.” I sigh and purse my lips.

“Okay,” I pout, “but what about your hair? I know you’re going to want it to look good.”

“I still know how to style my hair, Boss,” she says, “and I have two gorgeous new combs to help me.”

Knowing that I’m not going to convince her to partake in the spa afternoon, I don’t harass her further. She sets up the spa day for 1pm, and I send out the APB for anyone who wants to come over and get pampered. Val and Maxie quickly take me up on the offer. Mandy shows up later, and Gail and Keri were both front and center. Courtney and Harmony both have class, so they couldn’t make it. Marilyn opted for a peaceful soak at home and to pluck and shave herself. She’s going to need a spa day soon—if nothing else, a massage to release all the toxins that are her life… and a trim. I love her, but her hair looks hideous.

It’s showtime, and we all head to the Broadmoor Country Club for dinner. Promptly at 6:00pm, all of the partygoers from Grey Crossing arrive at the country club and our private room reserved for the occasion. It’s only now that I feel like I can breathe—that the trial is behind me, my mother’s drama is behind me, Las Vegas is behind me. The first thing I ask for the moment I take my seat is a Cosmo from the bar. Val takes the cue and asks for one, too, causing Christian’s and Elliot’s eyes to widen.

What’s with them? It’s not like we’ve never drank Cosmos before. In fact, Christian made perfect—and endless—Cosmos for us when we were on his bo…

Oooooooooh.

I pay no mind to my mental wandering and gleefully sip my Cosmo when it arrives.

Christian and Marilyn went right after my heart and chose a menu with Indian cuisine. Oh, heavenly Father, the food is divine, and there’s live music playing from the band all throughout dinner—maybe a little too chamber-musicish for me, but still nice. The meal starts with Mughlai tomato soup, falafel, baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, and hummus all with fresh pita bread. I don’t want Marilyn to get sick, but she seems to take the soup and the tabbouleh pretty well in small portions. That makes me happy.

Once we’ve munched happily on the appetizers, the main courses begin—Samosa, chicken and paneer pakora, chicken tikki, stuffed grape leaves, and cilantro and tamarind chutney. The food is paired with a fruity rosé that compliments the flavor nicely. At this point, my tummy is happy and I’m comfortable discussing the details of the trial with those who weren’t present to see the carnage. There’s only so much that’s being shown on television since there are still other defendants involved.

I tell my captive audience about my mother’s surprise testimony, followed by her Evel Knievel rocket launch off the freeway overpass and my subsequent experience with the catty nurses at the hospital. Then, of course, I let them in on George Sullivan throwing himself under the bus for his brother, which didn’t help the case at all. Whitmore’s sister’s testimony was a bit of a lowlight of the trial, and I’m saving the best—or worst—for last.

Conversation is moving along, and I brush over Whitshit’s useless testimony to focus on Vincent Sullivan and is entourage. Needless to say, there’s the same shock and awe when my listeners hear that Vincent was gay and that his involvement was most likely to win the affections of Whitshit.

Dinner is over and before I attempt any dessert, I have to dance off some of this food. I take my husband’s hand and drag him to the dancefloor.

“Marilyn didn’t eat much, but she did okay,” he says while we’re dancing. “She had a little soup and salad and a few bites of meat, and she doesn’t look like she’s headed for the bathroom to vomit.”

“You were watching her, too, huh?” I say as we move instinctively across the floor. “I think she’s probably on her way to doing better. She just had to introduce some food into her system. As long as she takes it slow, she may be moving in the right direction.”

“I hope so,” he adds and we both look over at her. She’s beautiful tonight, but frail… and sad… and lonely… and it’s written all over her. I just shake my head.

“I really hope things look up for her soon,” he says, falling back into step with me. “I don’t imagine that she can… shit!” He says the word so hard that it shocks me.

“What?” I ask, looking up at him.

“Hey… Ana,” I hear behind me. I know that voice. I turn around and I’m horrified by who’s standing there.

“Gary!” I breathe. Dear God, Gary’s here. “H… hi. I… didn’t know you were coming.” My thoughts are all jumbled for a moment and when they clear, all I can think is that I haven’t seen or heard from my friend for months, and I’m so glad that he’s here. I throw my arms around him and hug him firmly, relaxing a bit when he returns my embrace.

“It’s good to see you,” I say sincerely, trying not to cry. It’s been hard not knowing if he was okay.

“It’s good to see you, too,” he replies, softly, laying his head on my shoulder like a lost little brother… which to me, he was. However, I have to snap out of my own relief at his return to face an extremely stark reality.

I release him and look over at Christian who is glaring at Gary like he might pounce on him any minute. I quickly look over at Marilyn, who is unhappily lost in her own world and unaware that it may be about to come shattering down around her again.

Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck!

“Christian,” Gary says to my glaring husband.

“Garrett,” Christian responds coldly. There’s a brief standoff before Christian excuses himself and leaves. I don’t know if he’s aiming to do damage control with Marilyn, but it’s my job to do it with Gary.

“We didn’t think you were coming,” I say, trying to draw his attention away from the dinner table… and Marilyn. “I hadn’t heard from you…”

“I know,” he says, cutting me off. “I’ve been a terrible friend, and I’m sorry. I’m glad at least some of those bastards are finally getting their just deserts.”

“Um, yeah… me, too,” I reply occasionally looking back at the table. Christian has made it over to Marilyn, and whatever he’s saying to her, she’s standing and nodding. It looks like he’s given her a task, hopefully something to get her the hell out of the room. She’s too fragile to face him right now.

“Ana… what’s wrong? Would you rather I not be here?” Gary says, his voice cracking. Shit, I can’t let him feel that way. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Marilyn just spotted him, and I can see it in her eyes even from way across the room. She’s about to bolt.

“It’s not that,” I sigh. “Marilyn is here.”

At first, he looks like he’s angry. Then he pans the room and finds her immediately. His head jerks back in obvious surprise.

“What the hell…?” he begins. As soon as he says the words, Marilyn takes off out of the ballroom. He’s ready to be hot on her heels, but I think it’ll be too much for her and I catch his arm.

“Gary… she’s not doing well,” I warn. He points to the door.

“Ya think?” he yells, his voice reverberating through the ballroom and gaining everyone’s attention that wasn’t looking at him before.

“Look at her!” he shrieks. “She’s wasting away to nothing! She looks like she’s dying!”

He brushes me off his arm like a fly and sprints towards the door behind Marilyn.

“Gary!” I call after him, but he’s clearly a man on a mission. Christian is headed towards us and I think he was intent on stopping Gary. However, my small friend who’s easily half a foot shorter than my husband plows through Christian like a bulldozer and takes off behind Marilyn. Not to be outdone, Christian moves to follow him.

“Christian, stop!” My husband turns around and glares at me. I close the space between us quickly. I’ve seen that look; I know that look; nothing’s going to stop him from getting to Marilyn.

“If that were you, would anybody be able to stop you from getting to me?” I ask. Christian’s anger deflates immediately. My mostly timid friend just pushed my tree of a husband at least two feet out of his way to get to his woman. Anybody that gets in that man’s way right now is going to be crushed and left for dead.

“She’s not ready,” he says intently to me, ever the protector ready to shield her from whatever harm he can. “You and I both know that she’s not ready for this. You know how fragile she is. She’s not going to be able to handle this right now.”

She may not have a choice. The situation is right here in her face now and try though she might, she’s not going to be able to run from it. But he’s right, she is very fragile right now.

“Come on,” I say, taking my husband’s hand and walking out the door behind Marilyn and Gary. I scan the area quickly and see nothing, but when I look outside the glass walls, I see Marilyn running across the putting green coatless with Gary several feet behind her trying to catch her.

“Shit! She’s going to die out there!” I say and I dash out the door behind them. I stop on the putting green a few feet from the parking lot and watch Marilyn running with all her might like somebody’s trying to kill her. It’s now that I realize that I’ve left without my coat, and I’m extremely relieved when my husband steps behind me and drapes it over my shoulders.

“You’re going to die out here too,” he says.

“Oh, dear God, thank you,” I say to him as I close the coat around me. Knowing that we’ll never catch her right now, I stand helplessly in place, praying that in her weakened condition she doesn’t literally catch her death of cold. It’s not freezing out here tonight, but it’s too cold to be running around with a strapless dress and no jacket.

At this point, nearly everyone has abandoned the party and has joined us on the immaculately manicured lawn to watch the drama unfold. I wish will all my might that this didn’t have to take place in such a public forum, but under the circumstances, it couldn’t be avoided.

After covering as much territory as a track star in the first leg of a marathon, Marilyn collapses to the ground on her knees, releasing a cry so heart-wrenching that it causes me to shiver and induces Christian to wrap his arms around me from behind. I think he’s doing it as much for his comfort as he is for mine.

Marilyn is screaming something, but she’s too far away and I can’t hear what she’s saying. Gary drops to his knees in front of her. Dear Lord, this isn’t good.

“Get her off the fucking ground, man,” Christian hisses from behind me. I feel the same way, but I know Mare is raw, and it’s going to take some not so gentle coaxing to get her to cooperate. Gary reaches for her and it looks like they’re fighting. More than one man moves to assist including mine, but a few moments later, the fight has left her, and they sit rocking on the cold grass.

Now, I want him to get her off the fucking ground.

As if he heard me, he wraps his jacket around her shoulders, lifts her off the ground like a piece of paper and begins to walk towards us.

For the love of God, if that woman doesn’t eat…

He’s headed off by a golf cart heading across the green towards them. He speaks briefly to the occupant before getting on with Marilyn still in his arms. The golf cart heads back to the side of the club and disappears.

There’s nothing more here to see.

I look up at Christian and sigh before heading back into the club and what’s left of my party.

I’ve polished off two more Cosmos before there’s any word on Marilyn. After some time, I see Gary coming back into the ballroom in just his shirt sleeves. Christian stands as he approaches, so I stand as well, moving in front of Christian as a barrier between him and Gary.

“How’s Mare?” I ask as he closes the space between us.

“She’s cold and exhausted and she wants to leave… and we need to talk,” he replies. He sounds exhausted himself.

“She’s staying with us now,” Christian snaps. Oh, for the love of God…

“So, what do you suggest I do, Christian? Do I take her back to my place, or do we spend the night at yours?” Gary isn’t backing down from my husband in the slightest. If Christian wants a fight, he’s going to get it tonight, and his narrowing eyes say he’s looking for one.

“Whatever makes Marilyn more comfortable,” I reply, putting my hand on Christian’s chest. Back off, Killer. You’re overstepping your bounds, here. Gary examines us both.

“Thank you.” He turns and heads for the door. With the unending need to have the last word, my husband shoots to Gary’s retreating back, “You and I will have words later.”

“No, we won’t!” Gary replies. “The intricacies of this situation are between me and Marilyn, and no one else!”

Oh, shit. Fucking shit balls from hell. Christian, for God’s sake, leave it.

“That’s just it, Garrett, it’s not between you and Marilyn. We took care of her and watched her fall apart while you took off!”

“Christian, stop,” I say, trying to get his attention, but he’s looking right past me. His fuse is lit, but he doesn’t understand, so is Gary’s. And they’re having this fight right here in the middle of the ballroom in front of the whole fucking world… or with the sensitivity of the subject matter, it might as well be!

“And while I appreciate that you took care of her, you have no idea what I was going through, and I have no inclination to explain it to you. So, you can’t put me in judgment,” Gary rejoinders.

“Christian, please!” I say once more, trying to defuse the situation.

“The hell I can’t!” Christian roars. “Look at her! She’s deteriorating before our very eyes while you’re off hiding somewhere! My wife was a few days away from having her committed!”

That’s it. He’s gone. He just announced to a room full of people that I was about to forcibly put my assistant in the hospital. I walk away from them and take my seat, pick up my glass and bottom out my Cosmo.

“And what was I going through, Christian? Do you have any idea?” Gary retorts, his voice and temper rising.

“What the fuck does it matter? You don’t look like you’ve lost 25 pounds!” That’s it. My little friend is about to try to pummel my husband.

“Jason?” I say calmly, subsequently pointing behind me to indicate that there’s going to be a fight soon because my husband can’t keep his fucking mouth shut. Jason rises and walks over to Christian and I wave down a server.

“May I have a vodka rocks, please?” I ask while I await Gary’s response. If he ends up in jail, our money is going to bail him out and my lawyer is going to represent him in court. I hear Gary’s cool, angry voice just as my speedy vodka rocks makes it back to the table.

“Lose a baby, Christian! Then you can come and talk to me!” That was pretty harsh, but Christian drew first blood. I take a good gulp of my drink and await the flying fists.

Nothing.

My angry friend diffused the entire situation with that one statement.

I watch Gary whizz past me and out the door, no doubt to retrieve Marilyn and take her to whatever home she chooses. Christian returns to the table and I just shake my head.

“What?” he asks.

“Too far, Christian. Way too far,” I say, finishing my drink.

“What?” he repeats, and he has the nerve to look surprised.

“You always have to have the last word that you’re so busy shooting off your mouth without thinking. How does that feel right now?” He frowns deeply.

“What the fuck did I do?” Are you serious? Are you fucking serious?

“You mean besides the fact that you just outed Marilyn and all her personal business in front of a ballroom full of people? You just totally disrespected one of my best friends and completely trivialized his suffering because you only saw one half of the story! Thank you! Thank you very much!” I stand from my seat and storm over to the band.

“Hey!” I say to the guy who looks like the leader. He turns around and looks down at me. “This is my party and I need something I can dance to.” He raises his brow.

“What do you want?” he asks.

“Motown, old school hip hop, R&B, whatever you got.” He looks at me like I’ve just given him his big break.

“Your wish is my command,” he says, turning around to his band mates. I head back to the main table.

“Ana…” Christian says, trying to get my attention. I walk right past him and over to Al. Without a word, I grab his hand and begin to drag him from the table and his conversation with his husband and Val and Elliot towards the dancefloor. Just as we get to the edge of the dancefloor, the music starts playing for Michael Jackson, “Do You Remember.”

“Uh oh,” Al says. He removes his jacket and tosses it to a gaped-mouth Christian before joining me on the dance floor.

A/N:  So, apparently, my fonts are going batshit again, but I’m too tired to try to figure out what the hell is going on with them. Hopefully, it doesn’t bother you guys too much.

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 24

In honor of my beloved Falala who had the courage to put her safety and well-being above others’ opinions. I would have worried about you the whole time, my friend. Thank you for your strength. ❤ 

The picture has nothing to do with the chapter. I just couldn’t find what I was looking for.

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 24

ANASTASIA

I’m looking out the window of our Las Vegas suite trying to mentally formulate a plan of action concerning what’s next for my mother. Wendy is on her way over to help with that since she knows more of the ins and outs of this kind of thing. The sun is setting on the Strip and we’re trying to decide what the travel plans are going to be for the next couple of days. Everyone that’s here now came down in about two or three trips, and Christian has informed me that since he basically furnished the Romper Room suite that all that stuff is coming back with us minus the cribs and the bedding. He was going to leave the highchairs, too, but I told him to send those to Seattle so that we could have them on one of the other floors of the house.

On that note, Keri and Marilyn are getting the babies prepared to fly back in the morning with all the baby equipment and the extra security detail that has been here for the trial. The only people staying are me and Christian, Jason, Chuck, Marilyn, and two of the guards on rotation at my mother’s hospital room. They’ll remain here on rotating twelve-hour shifts with weekend relief until my mother is released from the hospital. She has agreed to that, but refuses to have 24/7 security once she leaves the hospital.

“I know how to tell reporters to leave me alone,” she had declared. “I’ve been doing it for quite some time now.”

I’m going to respect her wishes since she’s an adult and the only reason she had covert surveillance in the first place is because Christian thought she was trying to get to me.

Her psychiatrist was much more professional to me than all the doctors and nurses I’ve come in contact with since this entire ordeal began. Maybe he didn’t know the backstory…

A few hours earlier

“I’m going to be candid with you since I know that you’re a psychiatrist, too, Dr. Grey,” Dr. Hamlin says. “Your mother is suffering from severe depression. Of course, before knowing if she really did or didn’t attempt suicide when her car went off the overpass, I had to treat her like she’s a risk to herself and others. For that reason, she had to be restrained.”

I look over at my mother, who hasn’t raised her gaze the entire time I’ve been here.

“She’s clearly not restrained now, so…” I say, my voice trailing off.

“Your mother isn’t a constant threat to anyone. She’s just very unhappy,” he admits. “She’s had quite a few things happen, and she hasn’t sought any professional help for any of it.” He looks over to my mother. “She’s harboring a lot of guilt for quite a few things from her past, including her treatment of you…” he looks briefly over at me when he says that, then looks back to my mother. “She hasn’t healed from the loss of her husband, even though she’s trying to move on. She’s self-medicating, for lack of a better word, with her good deeds and giving back to the community, but it’s not fixing the problem.” He turns back to me.

“She’s borderline clinically depressed,” he continues. “She’s not suffering from major or manic-depressive disorder, but she is solidly dysthymic with occasional manic episodes. The occasional episodes are what give me cause for concern. It’s those moments that can be the most dangerous…

“Because it only takes a moment of desperation or hopelessness during one of those occasional episodes to do something drastic or harmful… or fatal,” I finish. He pauses.

“Exactly,” he says. I take the seat next to my mother’s bed and continue to listen to Dr. Hamlin. “As a professional, you know we have to get to the bottom of this. So, our first order of business was to find out what happened during that accident. I have to tell you that I’m still not sure, not because Mrs. Morton won’t tell me, but because I honestly think she doesn’t quite know.” I frown.

“Are you talking about, like, a blackout, or dissociative amnesia?” I ask.

“Right now, it could be either,” he says. “She had a head injury from the trauma, so there’s no way to tell if there was any pre-existing condition before the accident, something that could have caused a blackout, for example. She had a toxicology test done when she arrived to make sure she wouldn’t have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia—nothing, not even alcohol. If she had some sort of natural blackout, she just didn’t have control of the car anymore.  

“However, if she was overwhelmed by despair or depression, it could have been a moment of desperation and the immediate reaction was to turn the wheel to the guardrail—no thought or premeditation…”

“Just opportunity,” I say, looking at my mother.

“You’re a good psychiatrist, aren’t you?” he says after a beat. I turn to him.

“I had therapy after I left home and went to college,” I tell him. “After my therapy, this was my way of self-medicating.”

“Face the beast head-on,” he says.

“Exactly,” I reply. “That’s how I knew she sounded suicidal.” He sighs.

“She doesn’t want to die,” he says, turning back to my mother. “She’s just in despair, and she needs to come out of it. I truly believe this can be managed without institutionalizing her, but she’s going to be here for a while—mending from her physical wounds. I suggest we begin intensive therapy and a regimen of anti-depressants.

“She has some serious monsters that she needs to deal with, and she hasn’t done it. We covered a lot of ground in our sessions, but not nearly enough. Her ‘come to Jesus’ moment with you and the loss of her husband both happened within the last two years. She loved Stephen and now he’s gone. She never talked to anyone about that—never grieved properly. No one even came to his funeral except you, and even that experience was unpleasant. Once you left, she fell apart. Yes, her behavior to you even on that day was deplorable, but she was still grieving.

“She’s vicariously watching your life bloom through the press and she can’t be a part of it. She can’t see her grandchildren. She can’t celebrate your triumphs. It’s adding salt to her wounds. By no means am I telling you that it’s your responsibility to forgive your mother for how she behaved towards you, but it is her responsibility to forgive herself or if she doesn’t succeed in killing herself by opportunity, she’ll succeed by stress.”

I look over at my mother. I get everything he’s saying, and while I appreciate his attempt to remove the responsibility from me for my mother’s mental recovery, he’s still pointing to me as the source of her depression.

“What do you think of this, Mother?” I ask. He’s right about one thing. I’m not going to take responsibility for her. If she’s beating herself for the person that she was—or wasn’t—when I needed her, well then, she just has to deal with that. She shrugs in response to me.

“I’ve never really thought about dying,” she admits. “I told you how I feel about the so-called afterlife. I’m just tired of feeling this way. I’m tired of all the darkness and I’m tired of feeling like there’s no hope. Even the things that I do that make me happy only last for a moment and then they’re gone. And I really feel like no one would miss me if I were gone…”

I stand up and leave the room. I retrieve the sign-in logbook from the podium next to her door and re-enter the room.

“Well, I can tell you that’s not true,” I say, tossing the sign-in logbook onto her bed. Her brow furrows as she takes the book and opens it.

“What is this?” she asks.

“That’s the logbook of every visitor that has come to see you since you’ve been in the hospital,” I reply. “I’ve had to have flowers removed from your room three times to make room for fresh ones. I had the others delivered to other rooms that didn’t have any flowers because there were so many in this room that people couldn’t get in here.”

She turns the page and scans it, then covers her mouth, tears pushing through her tightly squeezed eyes. She shakes with sobs for a few moments, before she composes herself.

“I don’t like feeling this way, Dr. Hamlin,” she says between her tears. “What do I need to do to make it stop?”

Present

Of course, when we get to the root of her problem, I would be there. I fucking hate that. She didn’t take responsibility for my pain and I’m supposed to take responsibility for hers? I was a kid, and I did want to die. I wanted to die for nearly four years to get away from the hatred and the scrutiny and the ostracization—to feel safe walking to and from the bus stop and not like somebody was going to jump out at me, crack me upside the head again and finish the damn brand! She never felt that. She never felt the anguish, shame, and fear that I felt. No matter how badly she feels right now, she never felt that, and she never will!

And yet, I still feel shitty.

“Hey, God,” I say, looking out the window and over at the Aria Hotel. “It’s me again. I know You’re all perfect and everything, but I’m not. I don’t even want to be perfect; it’s too big a responsibility. I hate what she did to me. I hate how she made me feel. It was easy to let that go as long as I didn’t have to deal with her. Now, I feel like I’m succumbing to peer pressure—like I’m supposed to let her off the hook because she’s suffering so much now.

“The thing is that when I suffered, she wasn’t there for me. I didn’t have the knowledge that I have now and getting to the next day was pure hell. I couldn’t see the horizon or over the rainbow. I didn’t know what was waiting for me when I left home, I just knew that I had to get out of there. I was willing to run off into total uncertainty and the black abyss just to get away from her. I was afraid to turn to the one person that I knew still loved me for fear that she would find me, and now I’m supposed to feel guilty for her plight?”

I sigh heavily and drop my head.

“Forgive me, Lord, but I don’t,” I say, a single tear falling from my eye. “I feel somewhat guilty for not feeling guilty, for not feeling any kind of conviction for her human suffering. What kind of cold-hearted human being does that make me for not feeling guilty for what my mother is going through? I just want to get everything set up and get out of here.”

I know what’s going to happen to her now, and I know what needs to be done. I figure taking care of all of the preliminary things that need to be done can be done in the next 24 hours. Everything else can be coordinated through telephone and email and whatever other means, but on Friday morning, I’m flying out of this joint. I’ve had enough of this place.

“Give me strength to get everything done here that needs to be done and to get back to my peace,” I say finally and end my prayer.

A few minutes later, Marilyn comes to the suite to help me set up for my meeting with Wendy. She’ll be coming to help start getting things set up for my mother and to be listed as the primary contact wherever I need her. That conversation with my mother after Dr. Hamlin left was one to remember…

“Do you trust Wendy?” I ask her pointedly. She sharpens her gaze.

“With my life,” she says emphatically, as if the answer should be obvious to me.

“Good,” I reply, looking down at my phone, “because she’s going to be responsible for making decisions for you on my behalf when I’m not here,” I add as I compose a text to Wendy to come to my suite this evening. “I just want to be sure that you’re not in the hands of someone who would take advantage of you or abuse you.” My mother scoffs lightly.

“Anastasia, I trust Wendy more than I trust you,” she replies. I raise my gaze to her and she’s looking directly at me, unapologetic. I can’t say that I blame her. It should smart a bit after everything I’ve done for her in spite of the circumstances, but it doesn’t. I’d have to care for it to hurt. That’s Wendy’s department.

I’m not sure if she said that just to get under my skin, but just in case, I return with a shot of my own.

“As well you should,” I reply unfazed, returning her unapologetic glare. She deflates infinitesimally, and I see that I’ve sent her a message that I haven’t sent before. Any other time that we’ve talked before this incident, I’ve been at the disadvantage as a child, or I’ve been emotional or chasing her out of my life. This time, she gets to see that not only am I not the same child that she took advantage of, but that I can be as cold, callous, and unfeeling as she was during my time of suffering and that she really can’t do or say anything to hurt me anymore. The fact that she seems to have everyone falling at her feet and worshipping the ground that she walks on when she treated me like such shit… yeah, that hurt. But her direct actions and words… nah!

I know who you were, they don’t. If they know who you are now and they love you, all well, fine, and good, but they didn’t have to deal with what I dealt with and who I knew. I don’t know this person, and when I needed you, you weren’t this person to me. So, yes, you should trust one of them more than you trust me.

*-*

“This is the best bed for when she comes home,” Wendy says, showing me an adjustable queen-sized bed with rails and a pillow-top mattress. “If you were looking for something not so costly, there’s this one. It’s a full and the mattress isn’t a pillow-top, but it’ll still serve the purpose.”

“Why the queen instead of the full?” I ask.

“It’s easier for me to change her position in a queen,” she says. “She can roll all the way over without having to scoot. It’ll help prevent bed sores, and I expect for her to be in bed a lot… at least for the first few weeks or so, until she comes to grips with her situation. That’s why I suggested the pillow-top.”

“Get that one, then,” I say, looking at all the equipment my mother is going to need to keep from going to a nursing home—shower chairs and catheters and bowel assistance kits, a wheelchair… the house is going to have to be retrofitted for accessibility. We’ve already looked into purchasing a van and having it fitted with a lift. The list goes on and on and on, but I count it a blessing that Wendy is already familiar with all of this.

There’s going to be a huge outlay of money to get everything prepared for my mother in the time before she goes home. We’re expecting her to be headed to rehab in about a month when her broken bones heal, but we already know there’s not much they’ll be able to do with her legs. This will be to help her deal with the abilities that she has lost and to function without the full use of her legs.

I’ve already spoken to Christian about issuing a credit card to Wendy since we’re not going to be here, and that’s one hell of a step. In light of that, I let Wendy know that the spending will be monitored closely by our accountant, just in case there’s any temptation to spend on something frivolous or unnecessary.

“I don’t know how to say this in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m threatening you, so please don’t take it that way,” I say to Wendy. Her pupils constrict and I have her full attention.

“I think this was what my husband was trying to say to Abe, but it didn’t go well, so please let me get everything out.

“You already know that my relationship with my mother is estranged at best. I never intended to see or talk to her again until it was time to bury her. When my security informed me that her car went off an overpass, quite frankly, that’s what I was prepared to do—bury her. The only thing is that when I heard the news and I came face to face with possibly having to bury my mother, I didn’t know how to feel. At first, I just wanted to be near my children, but I was leaving them at the time to come here. Then, I was just numb. For hours, I was numb.

“When I got to the hospital, I saw myself lying in that bed, hopeless and helpless. I didn’t know that she had a support system. I thought it was just me. When all her friends started coming around, I started to feel like the intruder. I still do.

“I don’t know any of you people, but my mother does… and she trusts you, so I’m leaving her in your hands because I don’t have a choice short of moving down here or moving her to Seattle. Both of those options are impossible for me and at least one of them is impossible for her.

“What my husband was trying to tell Abe is that I can’t be worried if my mother is being taken care of or taken advantage of. I have way too much on my plate to add that stress to my life. It’s clear to see that you and Abe care for my mother, but with all the unknown variables, I cannot stand by and allow her to deliberately be misused or mistreated. I don’t have that in me. She may not be my favorite person, but I don’t wish her any harm. I never have.” I drop my gaze a bit.

“Having said that, I have to say that I’m expecting you to be my eyes and ears, and I will say without hesitation that if I discover that my mother is being misused, mistreated, or taken advantage of in any way, there will be hell to pay by whomever is doing that to her. I’ll admit that for my own reasons, she’s not my favorite person, but she is my responsibility, and I will not stand by and allow her to be deliberately hurt. That’s the very least I can do for any human being.”

I raise my gaze back to Wendy’s face, and she’s gazing at me—somewhat softly with a slight curl at the corners of her lips.

“Understood,” she replies, and that’s all she says. I raise my brow at her.

“May I ask why you’re smiling?” I question, a bit perturbed.

“Carla thinks you hate her,” she says. “She’s clearly not your favorite person. I don’t expect any open-armed reunions and neither does she, but it’s clear to see that you don’t hate her. Even those immature, unprofessional, uninformed, nosey nurses know that you don’t hate her.” My eyes widen when she brings up the nurses.

“Yes, I know,” she says. “So does Carla. She’s too busy wallowing in her sorrow to say anything about it, but she knows. I felt it wasn’t my place…”

“My husband took care of it,” I say. “He’s very sensitive when it comes to me.”

“I can tell,” Wendy replies. “I can’t convince you that we only have Carla’s best interest at heart. You’ll just have to see for yourself.”

“I never doubted it,” I admit, “either of you. It’s just, these days, you just can’t be too sure. I can tell that Abe loves her. I know love when I see it.”

“I imagine you do,” she says. “You and that young man have passion written all over you.”

I try not to blush when she says that, then turn my attention back to the task at hand.

CHRISTIAN

Butterfly spends the rest of the evening and all-day Thursday making sure that everything is prepared for Carla when she’s discharged from the hospital. We know everything there is to know about Wendy and Abramio all the way down to the color of the socks donned on this morning and the security detail is still going to keep a covert eye on everything down here until further notice.

Butterfly is giving Wendy the golden ticket in the form of a corporate Amex Black strictly for Carla’s care. I was against it at first, insistent that all purchases should go through us first. However, Butterfly illuminated a good point, that if all purchases needed to go through her that she would never get any peace and she might as well stay here. It’s pretty much going to be the same anyway, since every purchase on that card is going to be pinged to the accountant.

Our children were on the jet first thing Thursday morning along with all the extra staff and the equipment from the Romper Room suite. Gail has assured me that the staff will be able to arrange the play area so that Butterfly can still have some space for her yoga and dancing. It’s a pretty big room, after all. She was pleased to hear that.

She went to the hospital Thursday morning so that she and her mother could give Wendy whatever authority was needed when it’s time for Carla to be discharged. She’s very serious about not coming back to Vegas. Finally, with as many loose ends tied up as could be, Friday morning, March 6, the Greys and the rest of their staff leave Vegas once and for all. Good riddance.

My wife falls dramatically onto the marble floor in the grand entry, thanking Grey Crossing for being “home sweet home” and declaring that she’s not leaving the house for three days. I won’t argue with that. I have no plans whatsoever of going anywhere either. I won’t even call Grey House.

But Grey House is intent on calling me.

“Chris, is Jewel with you?”

“No, and if you were looking for her, why didn’t you call Jewel?” I scold.

“Well, wherever she is, you two might want to get in the same room so that I only have to say this once,” he says.

“Why don’t you call her and tell her, and she’ll tell me? I’m right in the middle of something.” I’m actually trying to plan a party for Jewel to celebrate the verdict and sentence and getting the hell out of Las Vegas and you’re holding up my line.

“Trust me, whatever it is, it can wait. Find Jewel.” Son of a bitch.

“Activate two-way communications,” I say between my teeth. When the system comes alive, “Locate Anastasia Grey.” After a beep or two…

“Ana… okay, I’m with my babies, so who is this?” she says, and she sounds irritated.

“Your presence is requested in my study,” I reply.

“What?” she protests. I don’t repeat myself. She heard me. “This better be good.”

“Trust me, I’m saying the same damn thing, End two-way communications.” The system deactivates.

“I didn’t say she had to come to your study. I said, ‘find her.’”

“And I did, now you deal with her attitude when she gets here,” I reply.

“Like I’m dealing with yours?” he inquires.

“Damn straight,” I confirm.

“I’ll be waiting for your apology before this call is over.”

“Don’t hold your breath.” I retort.

“You can really be a pain in the ass sometimes, Chris,” he says.

“And so can you, like right now. You’re holding up progress. So, like my wife said, this better be good.”

“Who are you fussing at?” Butterfly scolds when she enters my study.

“Your gay boyfriend,” I reply. “Okay, she’s here, Forsythe, and you’re on speaker. Out with it.”

“That’s Forsythe-Fleming…”

“Out with it!” Butterfly and I demand simultaneously.

“Jesus, alright! Don’t get your hair in a bun! You were in different rooms, so I know I didn’t interrupt you fucking! Why so uptight?”

“Forsythe-Fleming, I’m two seconds from disconnecting this call,” I threaten.

“And I’m leaving,” Butterfly cosigns.

“Alright, alright! You may want to sit down…”

“Goddammit, Allen!” Butterfly yells.

“Okay! Geez! Larson’s been blowing up my email all day! Plea requests are coming in faster than he can process them.” Butterfly’s brow furrows.  

“Pleas?” she says. “Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously!” Allen confirms. “Those people saw Sullivan’s verdict and they’re like, ’65 years? And he didn’t even get convicted of all seven charges? Fuck that!’  He’s getting people willing to turn state’s evidence on folks who haven’t even been charged yet. There hasn’t been a case this big since the Manson killings! You’re gonna make fucking history, Jewel.” She twists her lips.

“What a way to go into the history books,” she says, unenthusiastically.

“Yes, what a way!” he cheers. “You’ve set a precedent. You’re going to change bullying laws. What happened to you was horrible, but it’s going to be a catalyst for some serious reform. You just watch and see.”

“Well, I guess that’s something,” she says.

“I’m waiting for that apology, Chris,” he presses.

“Hold your breath,” I reply. “This is great news, but my wife still could have told me.” I can almost see him rolling his eyes through the phone.

“What’s more, this will give you ammo for your lawsuits.” I had forgotten about that. Butterfly visibly ponders the thought.

“Yeah… no.”  She says. My eyes widen.

“What?” Allen says

“No,” she repeats, “I want this to be over. This was enough. I don’t want anymore. Tell Larson that I’m fine with him taking whatever pleas he sees necessary. I’m not going back down there. And I’m not suing anybody.”

“Jewel, you’ve got a better case for compensatory and punitive damages than the Goldmans and the Browns and they won. Are you sure you want to do this?” Allen asks incredulously.

“And how long is it going to take?” she asks. “How long is this going to follow me around? I was in Vegas for over a month and it was one of the most miserable times of my life. I don’t want to go back there. I don’t want anything else to do with that place. Tell Larson to keep it quiet but to take whatever pleas he can get and shut this shit down. And yes, I’m sure. Karma will have to follow everyone else because yes, I’m done with this.” I hear him sigh.

“What about the cases that you have against George Sullivan, the Henderson Police Department, the Clark County District Attorney’s office, and the sitting DA in 2001? You want to squash those, too?” he asks.

“Especially those!” she declares. “Those are going to take longer than the others. I don’t have the strength for it, Al, I really don’t.” He pauses.

“Okay, if you’re sure that’s what you want,” he relents.

“Absolutely sure. Close this chapter as quickly and cleanly as you possibly can.”

“Okay, I’ll keep you posted on the pleas.”

“Can he please correlate that information with you?” she asks me. My brow rises.

“You really are done with this, aren’t you?” I ask.

“Completely,” she says. “I proved my point. They were wrong. They know it and now the world knows it. I don’t have anything else to prove. I’m washing my hands of this whole thing.”

“Okay, baby. I got you. Did you hear that Allen?”

“I heard it,” he says. “I’ll let you know information as soon as I do.”

“Thank you.” I end the call and turn to Butterfly.

“I think he’s disappointed that he won’t be able to go after the Green Valley gang,” she says, “but I’ve truly had enough of this, Christian. I don’t need their money and I don’t need to prove anything. I just want to get on with my life.”

“The only thing is—and I’m remiss to bring it up—is that you said that you were going to donate any proceeds from the lawsuit to Helping Hands. Now, they won’t get that donation,” I point out.

“Well, this is one time where Grace is just going to have to accept a donation directly from me to make amends… if you don’t mind,” she replies.

“Of course, I don’t mind,” I say, pulling her over to me with one arm and kissing her on the forehead. “Whatever you want, baby. This has really been a horrendous ordeal and I, like you, would definitely like for it to just be over.”

“Good,” she sighs. “I’m going back to be with my babies, and you can get back to… whatever you were doing.” I kiss her on the lips.

“I won’t be long,” I promise. She nods and leaves my study, and I get back to what I was doing before Allen called.

“Marilyn, did you have any luck?” I ask when I get my wife’s PA on the phone.

“I was able to get the Bennion Room next Friday from 5pm – 10pm. It was short notice and the best I could do, even with the name drop. You’ve got a live band and it seats 50. They can cater if you get them a menu by tomorrow noon. Otherwise, you’ll have to cater it yourself.”

“You are a fucking miracle worker,” I tell her. “No wonder my wife can’t live without you. I’ll put a menu together before I go to bed. Did they give you any options?”

“Check your email,” she says. I quickly open my email and see a list of the available options for a formal dinner at the Broadmoor Country Club.

“Fucking miracle worker,” I repeat. “Thank you, Marilyn.”

“Anytime,” she says and ends the call.

*-*

“I’ve just landed at SeaTac, sir. I really need to talk to you, and it needs to be face to face.”

Alex has called me on my cell phone Sunday morning just after I finish my workout. He’s got my antennae up since he’s calling me directly from the airport. I want to question, but I know he wouldn’t be calling me if it wasn’t important, and he definitely wouldn’t be requesting a face-to-face if it wasn’t imperative.

“I can meet you at Grey House if you’d rather not alarm Ana,” he adds.

“My going into Grey House on a Sunday would alarm her anyway. Let Jason know that you’re on your way. I need to shower.”

“Will do, sir.” I end the call and take the elevator to the main floor. As I suspected, my wife is at the breakfast bar drinking coffee and eating a bagel.

“It’s Sunday,” I say, kissing her on the cheek. “That’s not breakfast.” I fill a glass with ice and water from the dispenser.

“I just wanted something quick to keep from gnawing my arm off,” she says. “I plan to eat a real breakfast.”

“Speaking of eating… Marilyn,” I say, broaching the topic carefully. Butterfly sighs.

“I know. She’s not gaining any weight or looking much healthier at all. She nibbles, but she’s not eating. She hasn’t done anything recreational besides karaoke, which turned out to be a disaster. I still don’t think she’s sleeping, and when she does, she’s plagued by nightmares. I see her making emotional strides to try to get better, but as a professional, I’m afraid it’s not moving fast enough. It’s been a month and I would venture to say that she’s lost more weight rather than gained any.”

“You’re right, she has,” I say, finishing my water and filling my glass again. “This is not good at all and there needs to be some type of intervention or she’s going to do herself some serious damage.”

“She’s bordering on an eating disorder,” Butterfly says. “She’s been meditating and trying to find her center and get her mind back in the right place, but I don’t know that it’s doing any good. I don’t know that she can be committed or at least admitted like my mother was, but she really needs to be talking to someone, and something has to change soon.”

“What do you suggest?” I ask, taking another healthy sip of my water. She twists her lips.

“Let’s give it another week,” she says. “Let me do some gentle chiding and see if I can get some results. If not, I’m going to insist that she goes back to the doctor. I’m going with her, and I’m going to give it to her doctor straight about my fears.” I nod.

“I think that’s a good idea,” I reply. I unlock my phone and pull up a copy of the options that I chose for Friday’s dinner menu.

“What do you think of this?” I ask, sitting down on the stool next to her and showing her the menu.

“It looks like a gourmet feast,” she says, scrolling through the menu. “What’s it for?”

“It’s for Friday,” I say. “We’re having a gathering of friends at the country club—good food, drinks, and dancing—to celebrate the huge victory you had in Green Valley with the case. I was going to surprise you, but I kind of get the feeling that an ambush may not be the best thing.” She smiles and nods.

“I think you’re right, and I love you.” She kisses me quickly on the lips. “This is wonderful. Thank you.” She smiles at the menu again.

“Oh, so that you’re not stunned into thoughts of the Apocalypse, Alex is on his way over here to talk to me about something.” Her brow furrows.

“About what, may I ask?” she inquires, concerned.

“I don’t know,” I say, finishing my water. “He’s been in DC for the last couple of days. I’m assuming it’s something to do with that, especially since he’s coming straight from the airport.”

“The airport?” she says. “This doesn’t sound like good news, Christian.”

“Well, good or bad, I won’t know until he gets here, but I’m assuming that it’s pretty delicate.” She sighs.

“I hope it’s nothing else that we have to be concerned about,” she says. “It always appears that when it rains, it pours with us.” I nod.

“Hear, hear, but let’s keep positive thoughts about this until we know otherwise, okay? The only reason I mentioned it is because I’m going to get in the shower, and I didn’t want him to show up while I was still in there and you panic.” She nods.

“I appreciate that,” she says. “I’ll keep my head on until we find out what’s going on.”

“Good girl,” I say, and head up to the bedroom to shower.

Once I’m all clean, shaved, and trimmed, I come back down to the dining room to find a full breakfast spread on the dining table along with all the usual suspects… and Alex.

“I’m so glad you were able to make yourself at home,” I say to Alex as I take my seat and fill my coffee cup.

“She insisted,” he says, gesturing to my wife who is feeding Minnie a spoonful of apple-cinnamon oatmeal. “Have you ever tried to say, ‘no’ to this woman?”

She turns a gaze to me, and I raise a brow.

“Pass the eggs,” I say.

“I was trying to get him to tell me what brought him here straight from the airport, but he insists that it’s not breakfast conversation. So, since he came here directly after he landed, I’m certain he hasn’t eaten,” Butterfly says.

“I’m curious as to why you flew out so early,” I ask. “To get to SeaTac by eight, that means that you had to leave the east coast by, what, six?”

“Five,” he says, loading his fork. “There was no reason to stay.”

“It had nothing to do with the news you’re going to give me… like Washington wants you to come back to work for them and you had to fly back here early so you’d have enough time to get back to punch in tomorrow?” I load my plate with sausage, toast, hash browns, eggs, and pancakes. I raise my gaze to see Alex twisting his lips at me.

“No offense, sir, but in my line of work, you’re always working for Washington. Nice tactic, but no, I’m not going back to DC.”  

“Well, in that case, somebody pass me the syrup.”

We spend breakfast talking about the case—only a little—and more about Carla’s condition and what’s going to be done now. Butterfly is planning to go into Helping Hands tomorrow to get back into the swing of things and to get caught up on what’s going on. I’m chomping at the bit to know why he had to come here straight from the airport, so once breakfast is done, I dismiss everyone from the table that doesn’t need to be present and get down to brass tacks. Butterfly doesn’t leave.

“If it’s about GEH, I deserve to know what’s going on. If it’s about us, I deserve to know what’s going on.” She’s got me there. I shrug. Alex nods.

“Well, obviously there’s something you need to know,” he begins.

“And that is?” I ask.

“Robin Myrick is dead.”

I have to let the words sink in for a moment before I react, then I twist my lips.

“He’s been dead before. Why should I believe he’s dead now?” I ask.

“Because that little trip I had to take to renew my ‘clearances’ was only partially to renew my clearances. They were still good until August, but I got a little tip earlier this week. That trip was mainly to identify the damn body. They didn’t need me to identify it, but I wanted to make sure that fucker was dead.” He drops a picture of a blue-faced Robin Myrick with what looks like ligature marks around his throat, eyes partially open and blank with the mask of death. “Trust me, I touched that cold dead body. He’s gone.”

“Still fucking Ginger Creepy Guy even in death,” Butterfly says, looking at the picture on the table. I forgot that’s what she called him.

“Another suicide?” I ask in disbelief, looking more closely at the picture.

“It looks like it,” Alex says.

“It seems so fucking easy for somebody to kill themselves in jail,” I point out. “I don’t buy it, though. He was too fucking cocky. He didn’t want to die.”

“Well, either he did it, or somebody did it for him, he’s dead. I touched that body—cold as ice. Robin Myrick/Louis Millfeld is now a memory. You may want to know that Myrick, Jr., was paying for his protection in the federal penitentiary with money that he had squirreled away that the authorities hasn’t attached while he’s awaiting his extortion trials. However, his well ran dry and he was starting to be treated badly in the pen. When you’ve got money and protection, you start throwing weight around that you don’t have, and you make a lot of enemies that way. He thinks that the feds have found his money when in truth, Anton Myrick drained his accounts and put the money in his personal stockpile.”

Anton. Fuck, there’s that name again.

“When Robin contacts his dear old Dad and tells him about his situation, Myrick informs him that he can’t send any money to Robin because Sunset will trace him and find him. He tells Robin that he has to tough it out in prison until the trial is over, and the trial date is coming up soon. It appears that young Robin is a pussy and he can’t take it, especially since he’s made quite a few enemies with his big mouth and now he can’t pay for protection. So, either he did himself or somebody did it for him. Either way, he’s dead.”

“When did this happen?”

“About a month ago,” he says. “Nobody’s claiming the body, not even his mother.”

“A month?” I say. “This man and his father orchestrated a hacking plan that could have wiped me out and nobody thought we should know?”

“Witness protection…” Alex begins.

“And yet his father is still moving money!” I accuse.

“We’re not sure of that, but that’s the theory.”

“So, if that’s the theory, why can’t we fucking put our hands on Anton Myrick? Myrick Jr’s trial was coming up soon, but they can’t put Sunset’s trials on a docket so that they can bring this fucker out and somebody can snipe his ass. What the fuck does he have to do, kill somebody himself?”

“I hate to tell you this, sir, but you know that Sunset is using you as bait, right?” Alex says.

“Do I look stupid?” I ask. “Of course, I know. Haven’t we had this conversation before?”

“I think we did,” Jason says. “I’m not sure if we all did.” Jason throws an inconspicuous glance at Butterfly. I thought I told him that she knows about Sunset… but it doesn’t matter.

“Well, you should also know that the Feds are most likely using Myrick as bait for Sunset,” he says. “Whatever Myrick has on him, it’s not going to change, and there’s no reason for them to wait to start the case against him. They want him to get antsy—to come out and find Myrick—and that’s when they plan to pinch him. What they don’t understand is that Sunset is patient. He’s got nothing but time and money. Just like you, he can wait ‘em out.

“We’ve got four players here, each with their own level of clout—you, Sunset, Myrick, and the Feds. Somebody’s going to slip. We’re all just waiting to see who.”

“So, basically, what you’re telling me is that I just have to wait until this sucker strikes again before I can get to him,” I lament.

“Pretty much, unless he screws up sometime before he strikes.” I sigh.

“I’m in the public eye,” I seethe. “He knows where I am. He can get to me. They know he’s after me, yet they won’t tell me where he is.”

“That’s not how it works, Christian,” he says. “The government feels that they have control over Myrick while they’re protecting him, so that if he does try to make a move on you, they’ll get him before he gets to do it.”

“Like they did with Myrick, Jr., right?” I say sarcastically. “I had to lead those fuckers right to him before they even had a clue what was going on! I fucking had to save myself and now, I’m fucking supposed to trust them with my life with this maniac? I don’t think so!” Alex just shakes his head.

“This is a real bang-up fucking guy,” I say in disgust. “He created this monster. Then when the monster presents himself in his image, he deserts him! He fills the kid’s head with lies and horror stories about who I am, making the kid come at me and then he leaves him to rot after the kid does exactly what he wanted him to do!”

I’ve never felt this way before in my life, let alone verbalized it inwardly or outwardly, but I’ll be glad when this motherfucker is dead.

“Well, in all honesty, Myrick is bound to have some kind of reaction to this,” Alex says. “If he’s as unstable as you say he is, he’s most likely blaming you for Robin’s death as we speak.”

“Then, he’s most likely blaming me because he’s as unstable as a two-legged chair,” I confirm.

“Should we increase security?” Jason asks. My wife’s head shoots up from the picture on the table. I ponder the idea for a moment.

“We actually have extra security in Sunset’s men,” I say. “They want his neck as much as I do and if he shows his face…” I do the beheading gesture with my hand.

“Yeah, they want his neck, which means they’ll take it at any cost, even if it means collateral damage. We’re here to protect you, they’re not. They just want the kill,” Jason points out.

“Well, isn’t this lovely after-breakfast conversation,” my wife says. I throw a glare at her. You were the one who decided to stay and listen—nobody forced you. Alex came straight from the airport saying that he had news. What did you expect him to say, that he’s getting married?

“I know, I know,” she replies, as if I just had the conversation with her aloud. I turn back to Jason and Alex.

“Covert,” I say. “Let’s not make it too obvious. The world doesn’t know what we know.”

We tie up some loose ends and Alex thanks us for breakfast before leaving to return to the city.

“Do you really think he would come after us?” Butterfly asks. “Wouldn’t it be better for him to just lay low since this Sunset guy is after him? Seriously, we’re right in the spotlight and that’s exactly the opposite of what he wants, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what he wants,” I tell my wife. “He convinced his son that I was Robin’s long, lost brother. That asshole knew he wasn’t my father. He knew I was a kid when the crack whore killed herself, but he convinced that man that I was the root of all his problems. So, here I am, a billionaire living in mansions and penthouses in the Pacific northwest while they’re toughing it out in the ghettos of Detroit… when they’re not hiding out in witness protection. I’d think I was the root of all evil, too, if I was in their shoes and didn’t know any better.”

“Thank you so much… I feel so much better,” she says sarcastically.

“I’m sorry, Butterfly, but this is not to make you feel better. This is a dose of reality.”

ANASTASIA

I’m beginning to look over my shoulders and in the rearview mirrors constantly as I’m heading in to Helping Hands on Monday morning. I almost expect for Myrick to swoop down from the sky on a rope like Batman and land on the hood of my damn car. I know that’s not likely and I’m being super paranoid, but I can’t help it after yesterday’s conversation with Christian.

This crazy ass fucker makes me nervous. He burned cigarette burns into the chest and back of a four-year-old for sport. He’s cocky enough to believe that he can outrun a gangster with a bounty on his head—which he has been doing for several years now, so I’m told. And now, his son is dead, and he likely blames my husband for that—the same four-year-old that he burned with cigarettes against whom he’s had a personal crusade for the last 25 years.

Yeah, this crazy ass fucker makes me nervous.

“Ana! Welcome back!” Ebony hugs me as soon as I hit the door.

“Thank you, Ebony,” I reply, trying to hide my anxiety.

We’re fine, everybody’s fine, I keep repeating to myself. Ebony and Keri get the twins situated and I head to my office.

Dear God, there’s a mountain of stuff that needs to be done. There’s no time to lament over or worry about Myrick because there’s too damn much to do. Requisition orders for books and supplies; the housekeeping and janitorial logs that need review; Grace has been knee-deep in the grant proposals and the compliance documentation since I’ve been gone, and the licensing board has been out here again, just to make sure that everything was running like it should be. She didn’t tell me that they had come out here.

“They didn’t send Liam Westwick again, did they?” I ask.

“As a matter of fact, they did,” she says. “He knows the lay of the land here, so to speak, so they sent him in the interest of saving time.” I twist my lips.

“How did things go?” I ask.

“It went well,” she says. “Everything went fine.”

“It’s a good thing I wasn’t here, then,” I remark, and I say nothing else about it.

It’s about 11:30 when I get a visitor to my office. I’m knee-deep in paperwork and it’s probably the last person that I expected to see. He knocks on my door to get my attention.

“Do you have a moment?” he asks as I raise my head.

“Fred! Sure, come on in,” I say, standing to welcome Fred Wilson into my office.

“I’m sure you heard what happened with my granddaughter,” he says as he enters my office. I sigh and gesture for him to take a seat.

“Yes, Fred, I have heard,” I reply after we take a seat. “The newsflash got to me all the way in Vegas.”

“I heard about that. Are you okay?” he asks. I shrug.

“I’m as well as can be expected,” I reply. “The whole ordeal took a lot out of me. I’m just glad to be home.” He nods.

“I’m sure you are,” he says. “You know, things happen that you really wished would have happened years ago and you have a hard time accepting that it finally happened.” I raise a brow at him.

“Are we talking about my trial or your granddaughter?” I ask.

“Both, I guess,” he says, entwining his fingers. “Addie tried for years to try to get that girl to see what she could become. She was conniving and sneaky and selfish. We gave her everything and it still wasn’t enough. By the time Addie had sent her back to her mother, she was at the end of her rope and heartbroken—totally disillusioned. I just didn’t want to see that happen to her again.”

“I understand,” I say. “I can even see why it’s hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. Trusting someone after they’ve broken your trust is an extremely hard thing to do—sometime impossible. However, I’m of the firm belief that if you can’t forgive someone, you should just move on. If you can’t contribute positively to their journey, you should just leave them alone.” Fred chuckles.

“This doesn’t sound like the same woman who was accosted by my granddaughter a year and a half ago,” he remarks. I smile.

“It’s the same woman,” I assure him. “It’s just not the same granddaughter. I gave up on her, too, Fred. I don’t know if she told you, but I pulled my gun on her once when she showed up asking for help.” His brow furrows.

“No, she didn’t,” he says. I nod.

“I was still pregnant with the twins, and she had threatened me. I didn’t feel safe and I didn’t trust her, so when she showed up, I was ready. She’s not that girl anymore. She’s found direction and focus… and love. She’s found a purpose now when she didn’t have one before. I know better than most people who she used to be, but everybody deserves at least one chance for redemption. I’d say she’s utilizing hers pretty well.”

“I’ll be honest,” Fred says. “I really didn’t think she could change. I thought this was another one of her tricks, but she obviously has… considerably!”

“Yes, Fred, she has,” I say, “and she’s already been ambushed once into an unexpected meeting with her grandmother. I won’t be a part of having that happen to her again.”

“Thank you, Ana. I appreciate that.”

I look to the door and see Courtney standing there. My immediate reaction is to apologize and explain, but she waves her hand to indicate that she knows what’s going on.

“What is it, Grandfather?” she says firmly, folding her arms. She’s a bit perturbed. “Grandmother won’t speak to you until we’ve patched things up? Tell her that we’ve patched things up. She can call me to confirm it if she wants. You can go home now.”

She’s take no prisoners this morning.

“You’d lie to your grandmother?” he says. She scoffs.

“Contrary to what you think of me, Grandfather, I have no desire to cause problems in your marriage. That’s why you’re here, right?” He raises a brow.

“No,” he says. “My marriage is just fine. I just… I came because I wanted to talk to you.” She sighs.

“You said quite enough when you tried to buy me out of your life. You got your wish—I’m out of your life, and it didn’t cost you a penny. I’m not ditching Grandmother unless she says that she doesn’t want to speak to me anymore. What else could you possibly have to say?”

“I just want to talk,” he says. “Let’s have lunch…”

“We tried that, remember?” she retorts. “You stared at me the entire time like I was a jungle cat ready to pounce on Grandmother’s jugular. I don’t need that. I don’t need your money, and quite frankly, I don’t need you if that’s how you think you’re going to treat me. I understand that you don’t trust me, and I know why. I’ll give you that, but I’m not that person anymore and I’m not going to let you treat me that way!”

I feel a twang listening to her and thinking about my mother… not that person anymore…

“I believe you, Courtney,” Fred says. “I really want to sit down and talk to you, just you and me… please.”

“I really don’t think…” I gently touch her arm and she looks at me. I mouth, “Give him a chance.” She sighs heavily and petulantly and rolls her eyes.

“Fiiine!” she nearly growls, stretching the word. “I need to get my coat.”

“Courtney, wait.” I turn to Fred. “Fred, can you give us a moment?” He examines me for a moment, then nods and leaves the room. I turn to Courtney.

“Breathe in,” I say. She looks at me incredulously. “Courtney. Wilson. Breathe in.” She rolls her eyes again and breathes in. “Hold it… now breathe out.”

We repeat the process a few times until I see that she’s not as combative.

“If you go to this lunch with your armor up, you’re wasting your time.” Her gaze softens. “Talk to him. Listen to him. Try to understand what he’s feeling and try to make him understand what you’re feeling. If it doesn’t work, you tried.” She stares at me for a moment, then closes her eyes, sighs—not so petulantly—and nods. I give her arm a squeeze, then send her out into the battlefield.

Since I’m playing a massive game of catch-up, I ask Marilyn to pick up some of those kabobs that I like from the Mediterranean restaurant. When she returns, she looks peaked as usual and even a little green in the face, and I already know.

“I can tell by your face you didn’t eat anything,” I confront. “Does the smell of food make you sick?”

“I tried, Bosslady,” she excuses. “I got one of my favorite blueberry muffins from the coffee shop on Cherry St, and when I bit into it, it tasted like garbage.”

“You’ve been here for hours! What have you eaten?” She shrinks infinitesimally.

“Pedialyte,” she replies, her voice timid. I don’t let up. This has to stop.

“That’s not eating,” I say. “I know the doctor said that was okay as a meal replacement, but you can’t do that forever. You’re wasting away, Marilyn. Where are you now?” She drops her gaze.

“One-fourteen,” she says. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! You’re killing yourself here. I understand grieving, but this is becoming reckless.

“You’ve got five more pounds,” I say, and I’m being generous as hell. “Five more pounds, Marilyn, and I’m checking you in. You can go willingly, or I’ll call your parents, and I have no problems with an ambush.”

“Okay, okay,” she relents. Her eyes roll and I see the wheels turning. Could she really be progressing into an eating disorder and she just hasn’t recognized it yet? She’s giving herself an excuse not to eat because of her grief, but she’s really fucking hurting herself and this has to stop.

“You are going to the victory celebration on Friday, right?” I ask. If she doesn’t come, I’m taking her to the hospital kicking and screaming and I mean it. This hermit, starving herself shit ends right now! She looks at me as if I’ve just invited her on a lovely trip to the gallows.

“Who else is going to be there?” she asks, and I know what she’s asking, but she’s still going, whether he shows up or not.

“All my friends and family are invited, but to answer your unasked question, I don’t think Gary will be there. I haven’t heard from him in months.” Her expression is mixed with relief, regret, and a pinch of pain… well, maybe more than a pinch.

“Fine, I’ll go.” I would have done better to put her on punishment, but I can’t stand by anymore and watch this. We’ve tried it your way, Caldwell, and it didn’t work. Now, we’re doing it my way. It’s at this moment that I thank God that she decided to stay with me instead of getting her own apartment. I put my arm around her shoulder.

“You’re going to hate me, Caldwell,” I say, “because I’m your friend and I’m not going to let up on you. You had a social life before all of this and now, you don’t. You have other friends and I know that you haven’t spoken to them. If you have, you’ve done it in secret. This is not you. It never has been. Everything about you has changed, and I understand that grief can do that to you, but you can’t curl up and die, and it seems like that’s what you’re trying to do.” Her shoulders fall.

“That’s not what I want to do,” she admits, tears flowing freely from her eyes. Jesus, she can cry on a dime these days. Things are extremely hard for her, and I know it. That’s why I can’t let up. She’s gotten it down to an art to cry without sound or movement, just an unending flow of tears. I know that stifling sadness, so I just let her cry. 


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 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 22

PLOT EXPLANATION—In Carla and Wendy’s defense (OMG, she’s defending Carla? Yes, just this once), you can turn over a new leaf and become a better person. You just can’t go back and undo the things that you did. So, Carla has decided, “I’m a shit person, I need to change,” and she did… but that didn’t help Ana at all. When she could help Ana, she was that shit person, and she stayed that shit person for a long time and that’s all Ana knows. Since we see the story through Ana’s eyes, that’s all we know.

Wendy met Carla after she shed the shit person, so she doesn’t know the shit person. She knows the “wonderful” person that Carla is now, that everybody else knows. Think about it—how many people pre-Stephen Morton are still in Carla’s life? How many people really know what type of person she was?

Think about if you meet someone and they have a wonderful spirit and wonderful characteristics. You get to know them, you like them a lot, you become friends. Then they tell you, “I used to be a really bad person,” and they proceed to tell you all the horrible things they did before they changed including alienating a child. You may say, “Wow, you did all that?” But, if you’re human, you’ll then say, “It’s a good thing you turned your life around.” This is the view that everyone post-Stephen Morton has of Carla. Ana’s camp is pre-Stephen Morton (as are all of us) and that shit ain’t flying with us.

I’m only saying that to say this. Be angry at Carla—we all are, but don’t be angry with Wendy. Wendy doesn’t know the same Carla that we do. Carla told Wendy about her past and Wendy chose to gauge her on her present instead of judging her on her past. She only brought it up to Ana once and told her that Carla was sorry. Ana told Wendy that she wasn’t going to discuss it, and Wendy respected that and never brought it up again. However, Wendy still loves the friend that she knows, just like Ana (and we) despises the woman that she (and we) knows.

I hope this sheds a little light on the subject.

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 22

ANASTASIA

We decide to have dinner at a French restaurant called the Picasso in the Bellagio Hotel. As it turns out, they have a dress code and almost turned Sophie away because of her sandals. I wasn’t going to argue. Anyone who doesn’t want my green money, I can take it elsewhere, but Chuck sees the disappointment on Sophie’s face, and speaking of green money…

He leans in to the host and whispers, “C’mon man, she’s 13.” I see him discreetly slide something to the host and when he takes a closer look at it, his eyes sparkle.

“Well,” he says, “I guess we can make an exception just this once.”

I know that Christian doesn’t carry anything smaller than $100 bills in his pocket. I wonder if it’s the same with his security, because I know a twenty wouldn’t have elicited that kind a sparkle.

For kicks, I ask Sophia what she would like. She studies the menu for a moment and then announces that she would like the Menu Dégustation without the Sommelier’s wine pairing. I raise a brow at her.

“What’s on the Menu Dégustation?” I ask. She twists her lips.

“Aunt Ana are you testing me?” she asks.

“Kinda,” I admit. She looks at the menu.

“The Chef’s feature—Jamón de Bellota, Iberico, Cinco Jotas—is ham, like prosciutto. The first course, lobster salad, easy enough. The second—pan seared scallop with jus de veau, that’s veal broth. The third—Foie Gras—that’s liver, probably duck, but they’ll have to hold the honey caramel cognac from mine. And for the main course, we already had Wagyu at Once and the halibut seems plain, so I’ll be choosing the roasted tournedos loin of Colorado lamb.” She puts the menu down and awaits my response.

“Wow,” I say. “I’m equally impressed and appalled.” She frowns.

“Why are you appalled?” she asks.

“You’re 13,” she says. “I speak French—that’s why I knew what those things were. You know way more about international foods than I do, and I’ve been to France. That means you’ve had quite a bit of time on your hands.” She shrugs again.

“It happens,” she says, nonchalantly. “We all know about Mom and how I started watching cooking shows.”

“What about school and friends?” I ask.

“School’s fine, but boring. I catch on to everything kind of fast, so… And my friends, they’re cool. We talk on the phone and stuff, hang out at school, but some of the stuff they like I don’t like… and none of them are really interested in cooking.”

“Do you still feel left out?” I ask.

“Only when they start talking about boys they like,” she admits before dropping her head. “I don’t like any of the boys at my school. I’ll probably never have a boyfriend.”

That’s because you’re too busy pining over Marlow, but I don’t say that out loud.

“You never know what the future holds, Sophie,” I tell her. “You’re still so young. You’ve got your whole like ahead of you. Wonderful things could happen.” She fakes a faint smile.

“Yeah, I know,” she says dismissively, and that’s my cue to change the subject.

“Okay, enough of this depressing crap. What did you think of the show?”

And now, her eyes are alight with excitement. She can’t stop talking about “O” all the way through dinner. Even though we could see the changing of the stage from solid to pool, she was still mesmerized by the transformation of the floor to accommodate the different scenes. She pays so much attention to detail that she was the most astonished by the fact that whenever the performers went slowly in and out of the water, their facial expressions didn’t change. They didn’t take deep breaths to prepare for submersion; they didn’t close their eyes—they just came out and went back in like the water wasn’t even there.

And the Marlow crisis is averted.

As Sophie sleeps in the Romper Room suite with the twins and Keri, Gail and Jason take the suite that Daddy had for a little privacy for the evening. I check on my babies and kiss them Goodnight, then check in on Marilyn, who gives me a brief update of all things Helping Hands and Seattle before I head back to my husband and our suite.

“Did you get any rest?” I scold when I see him in the office portion of the suite.

“Yeah,” he replies, looking up from the computer and removing his glasses, “not a lot, but some. You know I can’t really sleep without you, but I was beat.” He walks over to me and kisses me quickly on the lips. “How was the show?”

“Phenomenal!” I tell him. “The performers were unbelievable. Their control and precision were outstanding. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life!”

“Not even Moulin Rouge?” he baits.

“Christian, not even Moulin Rouge. This show was a completely different setting and caliber. I wouldn’t even know how to compare it to Moulin Rouge, but on content alone—better, much better.”

“Wow,” he says, “I’m a little jealous that I didn’t go, but you were right. I was exhausted. As riveting as the show may have been, I most likely would have fallen asleep, and that wouldn’t have made you happy.” I chuckle.

“No, it wouldn’t. Anything new on the home front? How’s GEH?”

“Same old, same old,” he says going back to his computer. “The new initiatives we put in place are working like a charm. People are finally beginning to value their jobs again.”

“Good, because while I love the whole power couple thing, I don’t want to do it as a full-time job,” I say following him back to the office area. “I realize I can’t just drop the ball and run, but I do have Helping Hands to be concerned about. Mosele, however, has one more time to pull that sideways shit on me that he did and I’m going to bounce him out on his ass on GP!” He chuckles.

“I’m surprised you haven’t done it before now,” he says, “but giving him a day or two off was enough to scare him straight. In case he is bounced out on his ass, he knows he’s going to have a record of insubordination. That doesn’t fare well for him.”

“His mouth doesn’t fare well for him,” I respond, stretching my neck. “I take it Jason and Gail are still enjoying Vegas.”

“I think they are,” he says.

“They needed it,” I say with a yawn.

“And you need some rest,” he says. I stretch.

“Christian, my mother is exhausting me,” I admit. He stands from the chair again.

“That’s it—bath, then bed, and if you don’t go to sleep, I’ll eat you to sleep.” I sigh.

“Christian, I can’t possibly have sex tonight,” I protest.

“I didn’t say I’d fuck you to sleep, I said I’d eat you to sleep. Come on, let’s go…”

As much as I would have liked it, I didn’t need the cunnilingus. I fell asleep in the bathtub and had to be carried to the bed.

*-*

Wendy’s there when we get there. I have the sneaking suspicion that she never left, even though I don’t remember if she was wearing the same clothes. She tells me that my mother has had several visitors, but that it’s done very little for her spirits. Wendy pulls me out to the hallway to talk to me.

“She’s extremely depressed,” she says, “as I would expect her to be for finding out that she can’t walk. It’s going to take a lot of therapy to bring her out of this, and not just the physical kind. One of her greatest joys was being able to help the people at the rehab center. Now, she may very well be one of the people at the center.”

“Do you think she would want to do rehab at the place where she worked?” I ask.

“Honestly, I don’t know, I was speaking metaphorically,” she points out, “but, no, I don’t think she would want that…”

“Wendy!”

Wendy turns to the man who’s walking towards her with purpose.

“For the love of God, it took you long enough,” she says and embraces the man warmly. I’m assuming he’s a brother or something. The embrace was more familial than romantic.

“I’ll have you know that I’ve been here,” he scolds her. “I was out of town for the last two days, so don’t give me any of your lip.”

“Well, get in there,” she says, shoving him towards the door. He moves to go into my mother’s room, then looks at me and does a double take.

“You’re Anastasia,” he says, and now I examine him a bit. He’s an older, attractive gentleman, a little older than Chuck maybe… maybe Jason’s age.

“Yes?” I say, questioning.

“She hasn’t told you about me. That’s discouraging.” Who is this guy?

“She hasn’t had much time to tell me anything at all,” like key details of the accident, for instance. He extends his hand to me.

“I’m Abramio Cicci. You can call me Abe.” I cautiously take his proffered hand.

“Abe.” I’m still full of questions why I should know who this guy is.

“I’m—for lack of a better word—dating Carla.”

Dating Carla? He’s dating my mother?

“You know she’s my mother, right?” I ask. He laughs.

“Yes, Ana, your mother is seven years my senior,” he replies, answering my unasked questions.

“You also know that we don’t speak,” I continue. “I’m only here to make sure she’s squared away.” He nods sadly.

“Yes, I know the whole story,” he confesses. “I was hoping that this whole situation—the accident and the trial—would have changed some of that. I’m sure that she was hoping, too, though she won’t admit it.”

“It’s a bit too complicated to discuss with someone I barely know,” I say dismissively.

“I understand,” he says, sadly, then turns to Wendy, who just purses her lips. “I’m going to go in now.” Wendy nods and he goes in.

“Hm, my mother has a boyfriend,” I say.

“Of sorts,” Wendy says. I turn to her, but I say nothing. “She won’t let him get too close. He clearly adores her, but she handles him with a long-handled spoon.”

“Well, maybe that’ll change now,” I say. “She needs all the support she can get.” Wendy raises her brow at me, and her eyes say what I know her mouth won’t.

And yet, she doesn’t have yours.

I’m not moved by her internal judgment. I got past it the day I cried off the nurses talking about me at the nurses’ station. In fact, Christian was summoned to the administrative office to speak to someone about their behavior as soon as we got to the hospital this morning… and none of those nurses are on duty now. It could be that they’re not on shift anymore, but I don’t care.

“You really don’t know your mother that well,” she says, matter-of-factly. “She’ll probably push him away more now than she did before.” I raise my brow at her.

“Why?” I ask.

“She doesn’t want to lean on anyone. She’s only begrudgingly allowing me to help her. She thinks Gabe is only with her out of gratitude and when that wears off, he’ll be gone. My guess is that now, she’ll push with all her might to keep from getting hurt.”

She doesn’t stay to explain. She just walks away down the hall to parts unknown. I’m certain that she’s not leaving. She’s probably just giving my mother and Abe some privacy. I look in the window at them and Abe is sitting on the bed facing my mother, gently cupping her cheek.

I stand there for a moment and watch what appears to be a tender exchange between the two of them for about five minutes before I decide that I want to know more about this guy and their relationship. I open the door a bit to come inside and hear my mother doing exactly what Wendy said she would do.

“It’s no use, Abe. I’m already too old for you and now, I’m a paraplegic. This would be the sum-total of your life if you stayed with me. I can’t do that to you. You’re young, attractive, and you still have many good years ahead of you. It’s not fair. I can’t do that to you, Abe. I can’t…”

“Don’t you get it yet?” he asks, his voice beseeching. “I’m not going away, Carla. I’ll never leave you. I love you.”

“Abe… you’re a wonderful man. Don’t make me send you away. Will you just go willingly, please?” Her voice is cracking. He sighs and stands.

“I’ll leave right now, Carla,” he says. “I’ll give you a little time and a little space, but not much. You’re not getting rid of me that easily, no matter what you say.” He leans over and kisses her gently on the cheek and then the hand before he throws a longing gaze at her and heads towards the door. He nearly bumps into me as he’s leaving, his eyes glassy and reddening with unshed tears. He says nothing as he scurries past me out the door and down the hall.

My mother apparently doesn’t know I’m standing in the door just as her suitor leaves.

“Oh, Steve. We’ve fucked up everything,” she sobs. “Why can’t I just let you go?”

She weeps bitterly into her hands and when I see that she’s just not going to stop, I enter her room. When she looks up and sees me, she reaches for a tissue to clean her face. She’s so waterlogged that the tissue does nothing more than turn to wet balls of cotton on her cheeks. I go to her en suite and wet a clean washcloth with cold water. When I return to her bedside, she’s still unsuccessfully trying to wipe her face with the tissue. I hand her the cloth and she buries her face in it, her sobbing continuing.

“Would you please give me a minute?” she asks, her voice muffled under the cloth.

“Why?” I question. They’re just tears.

“Just… please? Can I have a minute?” Now, you don’t want to show any weakness around me? Cut the crap.

“Why won’t you let that man love you?” I ask candidly. She raises puffy, bloodshot eyes to me. Boy, she looks like shit when she cries. Do I look this bad?

“You’ve never lost the man you love, Dr. Grey,” she says, her voice pained. “Yes, he was shit. He was shit all the way around. He was a horrible person—he was selfish and self-centered, self-serving, any ‘self’ word you could think of, that was Steve. But he was never unkind to me, and I loved him. I still do.” I shake my head.

“How could you love someone like that and hate Daddy?” The question is rhetorical; I don’t think I really want the answer.

“Something wrong in the belfry, I guess,” she says, gesturing to her head, “and I never hated Ray. I resented that he couldn’t give me what I thought I should have had, and I thought Steve would, but I never hated Ray. He was a good man. He always has been. He just… wasn’t meant for me.” I’ll say.

“He’s happy now,” I tell her. “He’s happier than I think I’ve ever seen him, except when you two were together in the beginning.” I fold my arms and examine my mother. “You have no one, Carla,” I say. “As far as you know, I’m walking out of this room one day with no intentions of coming back. Why won’t you let that man love you?”

That’s exactly what I plan to do. I’m going to make sure that she has all the medical care that she needs and then I’m leaving. I’m not staying here trying to reconcile with her. I don’t hate her anymore, but I still don’t want to be around her. I still can’t see her as part of my life.

“You have this man that genuinely loves you, who genuinely wants to be with you and care for you, even now, and you’re pushing him away. Why?”

“Because it’s not fair to him!” she wails. “I still love Steve!”

“And you’ll probably love him until the day you die, but he’s not coming back! Why not find happiness with the living…?”

Then it hits me.

Shit.

Shit! Shit! Shit!

This is the second husband my mother has lost to death. Even though she expected Stephen to die, she still wasn’t ready for him to go. She’s a professional fucking widow. Now, she’s tried to kill herself, and she’ll most likely do it again. She’s finally accepted the horror of what she did to me, and her life really isn’t worth anything to her anymore.

“Do I need to have you committed?” I ask. “Do you really want to die?”

The scary part about that is that she didn’t even flinch.

“I’m useless,” she says with no malice or emotion. “I’m hopelessly in love with a man that I’ll never see again because I don’t believe in that whole I’ll see you in heaven thing. If anything, I’ll see him in hell and it won’t be a loving and tender reunion, so there’s that. I found some kind of comfort and redemption in my miserable existence in taking care of other people—in being a health aide and helping those who couldn’t care for themselves. Now, I can’t even do that. I can’t walk. I can’t even do any of my volunteer work. You saw it long before now—the legs have nothing to do with it. I’m worthless.”

At one time, I really believed that. I don’t know what changed. I haven’t had this great epiphany like she’s suddenly a wonderful human being and we’ll live happily ever after, but something has definitely changed. I sigh.

“I’m going to make some arrangements for you to go to an inpatient program,” I tell her. “You’re a danger to yourself right now, so you’re going to need intense therapy. You’re going to need physical rehabilitation, too.” She doesn’t raise her eyes to me.

“Why bother?” she says, just above a whisper, and I don’t think it was meant for me to hear.

“Because I’m your last surviving relative and you’re my responsibility, and this is what I say you’re going to do.” She doesn’t respond. “I have to ask you this because I can’t wrap my mind around the answer that you gave me three years ago and I still can’t wrap my head around it now.” She raises her gaze to me.

“You once told me that Daddy was too small for you,” I say, “that you left him because you wanted more, yet the life that you lived with Daddy had more substance than the life that you lived with Stephen. I was there for three years—I saw it. You had the house and the furniture, but you couldn’t afford it. You couldn’t afford to live the way that the people around you lived; they didn’t like you; they talked bad about you; they wanted nothing to do with you.

“With Daddy, I was happy, we had friends, we both fit in as much as we could. Even now, you maintain that Daddy was too small and you don’t regret it. You don’t regret ripping our lives apart—repeatedly—and you never got this big life that you expected to get. Stephen Morton died, leaving you in worse shape than you ever would have been with Daddy! You had his medical bills; he couldn’t work; he left you nothing. How can you still contend that Daddy was too small for you? That he wasn’t for you?” She shakes her head.

“You may never get this, Anastasia,” she begins, “but I loved Ray as a result of marrying him. I married Steve as a result of loving him. Many of my decisions were butt-ass stupid and selfish and I get that. I accept that. I’ve paid for them more times than you’ll ever know, and it appears that I’m still paying for them now. Don’t misunderstand, Anastasia, I don’t feel sorry for myself and I don’t expect you to, either. In fact, I’m surprised that you’re even here. But if you want the real answer to that question, Stephen. Was. My. More! Alcoholic, lying, scheming, gambling, money-sucking, debt-ridden parasite that he was, he was my more!

44d93a91ce7ee24f9811205ef30e6425“I loved him more than I can ever explain to you. Maybe that’s my penance for the horrible person that I am and the horrible things I did—the way I treated you, the way I treated Ray, the whole kit and caboodle! I fell for the ‘donkey,’ hook, line, and sinker. And I still love him now. And maybe you can’t understand that—hell, I can’t understand it sometimes, but it’s the truth. I would have followed him anywhere. I would have done anything he told me to do—and did! And no matter what you or anybody thinks of me, I’d sell my soul to the non-existent devil today to have him back!”

As odd as it sounds, I do understand how she feels. I’d live with Christian in a cardboard box…

But no way in hell would I sacrifice my children.

I don’t respond. I just leave the room and go to the nurses’ station.

“Yes, ma’am?” the young nurse says to me.

“Is Dr. Lee still on duty?” I ask.

“I’m not sure, but I can page him and see,” she replies.

“Please?” I request and she nods. She dials some numbers on the phone and sends the page. “Can I tell him what it’s concerning when can responds?”

“Yes. Please tell him that there’s been a development with Carla Morton.”

*-*

“Dr. Grey, this is a very serious accusation, as I’m sure you know. Are you certain about this?” he asks.

“I’m about as certain as a psychiatrist who is this closely related to the patient can be,” I reply.

“But you said yourself that you haven’t had much contact with your mother,” he retorts. “No offense to you, doctor, but I have to be certain that we’re doing what’s in the best interest of the patient.” I nod.

“I see,” I say, “and notwithstanding the fact that before she was even conscious, I put my Amex Black down—which is still on file—and told you to give her the best care possible, you’re thinking that I’m not wanting what’s in the best interest of the patient because I’ve been estranged from her for several years and I’m not all warm and fuzzy right now? Is that it, Dr. Lee?”

I can tell by his expression that’s exactly what he thinks even before he opens his mouth to say my name.

“I’ll tell you what, Dr. Lee,” I say, interrupting him. “You’re obviously not going to listen to me, my suggestions, or what I feel is best for my mother. So, she’s in your care now. You do what you feel needs to be done for her since you’re convinced that I don’t care, but while you’re sitting on that ‘God’ horse, consider this.

“I just told you that I think that woman is suicidal; that she drove her car off that bridge and it was not an accident; that she feels that she is no use to anyone anywhere especially since she’s paralyzed and even in that condition, I think she’s a danger to herself. I have given you my professional opinion as a doctor sworn under the same oath you took, and I have made a personal request as her daughter and next of kin. You can get her the psychiatric evaluation that she needs to determine if she’s in any imminent mental or emotional danger, or don’t, if you choose not to do so. Either way, if she hurts herself, it’s on you. And if she really drove her car off that overpass, you can believe that she’s going to hurt herself. Trust me, I’m a professional,” I add sarcastically.

“Let me know what you decide.” I turn and walk away down the hall towards the elevators without another word.


CHRISTIAN

“I understand your concern, Mr. Grey.”

I’m sitting at the side of a conference table with members of the hospital board as well as a patient advocate—more like a patient’s family advocate. She’s here on my behalf. The gentleman speaking right now is Milton Banks, CEO. I’ve explained the behavior of the nurses and the doctor in the ICU and many of them are appalled by their behavior. One or two sit silent and stoic.

“I agree that no one should be treated that way while seeing to the care of a family member,” he continues.

“It’s deplorable, Mr. Banks,” the advocate points out. “Whatever Dr. Grey’s relationship may be with her mother, no one can say that she hasn’t acted in Carla Morton’s best interest since she entered this hospital. Since when are family members required to behave in a manner that’s acceptable to staff in order to be treated with respect?”

“They aren’t, Mrs. Riddick,” he replies.

“Well, someone clearly forgot to tell the nurses on the second floor!” she retorts. “I’m not sure you know who the Greys are, but they are very powerful people…”

“With all due respect, Mrs. Riddick, the fact that they’re powerful doesn’t entitle them to any extra privileges.” This statement comes from one of the stoic, silent women at the end of the table.

“You didn’t let me finish,” Mrs. Riddick says, throwing a pointed glare at the woman before continuing. “As I was saying, the Greys are very powerful people, but they’re not asking for any special treatment. They’re only asking for the respect that you would give any other family member of a patient in this hospital. Are they entitled to that?

She asks the last question so firmly that the bitch at the end of the table shuts her mouth and doesn’t say another word.

“Mr. and Dr. Grey were already in Nevada dealing with a horridly taxing situation only to discover that Dr. Grey’s mother had been involved in a near-fatal accident in the midst of it, one that left her paralyzed and comatose, thereby requiring constant attention from Dr. Grey while she’s still dealing with this original issue. She’s already dealing with that wretched trial—of which, by the way, she was the victim and the defendant was found guilty, for anyone who might be concerned—and then she had to come to the hospital and deal with the scrutiny of a bunch of supposed professionals who should already know a thing or two about bedside manner and family treatment.

“Now, after informing this room that he has to listen to his emotionally fragile wife come home and cry nearly every day, Mr. Grey has to sit here and listen to the powers that be tell him that his family isn’t entitled to any special privileges when your staff didn’t even extend them the general respect that they were entitled to!

“She’s been in this hospital nearly every day seeing to the care and condition of her mother, and they’re putting her in judgment because she’s not crawling on the floor in concern and contrition? They have no idea what that relationship is like or, evidently, what Dr. Grey is going through and quite frankly, it’s none of their business! Their only concern is to provide quality care to Mrs. Morton and to show respect and professionalism to Dr. Grey, who is the next of kin and decision-maker in this case. Are you suggesting that because they’re powerful, they’re not entitled to that?”

Go, Mrs. Riddick!

She glares at the sow that made the statement, who still sits mute at the end of the table.

“Of course, that’s not what we’re saying, Mrs. Riddick,” Mr. Banks says, glaring at the same woman before turning back to the patient and family advocate. “I assure you that we will look into this matter and the staff members involved will be thoroughly reprimanded. I guarantee you that this behavior is completely contrary to the goals and mission of this hospital. Mr. Grey, you have my sincerest apologies for how your wife was mistreated. I’m deeply sorry about all this.”

“Thank you,” I reply with sincerity. “I truly appreciate it, but I want more than that,” I say.

“Here it comes,” the other silent, stoic bitch says. I ignore her… for now.

“I think there needs to be some kind of sensitivity training for situations like this,” I continue. “My wife’s mother could’ve died and that would have released a whole other can of worms, believe me. No one knows the turmoil my wife is going through inside. Her sanity and grace are balancing on the head of a pin and you have nurses on the floor that are caring for her mother and coming in contact with my wife every day that think it’s okay to treat her this way. Nobody should be treated that way—nobody! Not a bum off the street who comes in for back pain or a billionaire who can buy this hospital right out from under your asses!” I fix my glare on the two bitches at the end of the table.

“And once your organization has developed this sensitivity training that will help your staff to treat people like real live human beings, especially those who may be experiencing some kind of mourning, stress, or trauma of which you have no idea, you two should be required to take it, too!” I point at them both to emphasize the statement. The entire room has turned and is staring at them as they sit cowering under the uncomfortable gazes of their colleagues.

“That’s actually a very good idea, Mr. Grey,” Banks says soberly, still staring at the Stoic Sisters before turning back to me. “We’ll implement a training class and we’ll all take it. Some of us may not need it, but others clearly do!” He glares at the Stoic Sisters again before turning back to me.

“That’s all I ask,” I say standing to my feet and Banks stands with me. “I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m usually a heads will roll type of guy, but all I want is for the patients’ families to be treated with respect and for no one to have to go through the ordeal that my wife went through for simply trying to care for her mother.”

“Understood, Mr. Grey,” he says, proffering his hand to me. I accept his hand and shake firmly.

“I trust that you’ll keep Mrs. Riddick up-to-date on the progress and completion of the training?” I ask, so that she can keep me up to date.

“We will,” he says. I turn to Mrs. Riddick, who stands and walks out with me. I don’t even look at the Stoic Sisters on my way out.

When we clear the door, I see my wife sitting on a bench down the hall a bit. Before Mrs. Riddick starts talking, I guide her to my wife.

“Are you okay?” I ask, noting her appearance.

“Tired,” she says, “you know this place drains me.” I take her hand and turn to Mrs. Riddick.

“This is my wife, Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey,” I say. Mrs. Riddick proffers her hand.

“Riana Riddick,” she says. “I’m the family and patient advocate here. It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Grey.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Riddick. Likewise,” Butterfly says, accepting her hand.

“You have my card,” she says to me. “I’ll be in touch. Mr. Grey, Dr. Grey,” she says with a nod.

“Thank you,” I say before she leaves.

“Why will she be in touch?” Butterfly asks.

“Because there’s going to be some sensitivity training for the staff as well as disciplinary action for the harpies that treated you like shit, and I want the hospital to stay on top of it and make sure that it gets done. Riddick will be my eyes and ears. She’s good at this—I think she likes her job. She’s almost as good a debater as Allen.”

“Mmm,” she replies disinterested.

“Okay, what happened?” I ask.

“Not here,” she says, worrying her scar. “I’ll tell you on the way home.”

Home. Yeah, we need to hurry up and get you out of here if you’re calling this place home.

*-*

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, this just keeps getting better and better!” I bark while we’re driving home. “It’s a good thing I demanded sensitivity training. It looks like this asshole Lee needs it, too!”

“Don’t even get your undies in a wad, Christian. I’ve told him to make his decision and call me once he does. I’m not going back to the hospital until he does and when I do, I’m going to start signing responsibility over to someone else. I can’t take this anymore.”

“We’ll still be financing it?” I ask.

“Yeah, I still want to make sure she gets the best care. I just don’t want to make the decisions anymore.”

“You got it,” I say. “Just tell me what you need.”

“Right now, fuzzy pajamas, chocolate, and old movies…”

I get my wife set up with pajamas, old movies, and every chocolate thing I can order from room service. At the moment, she’s happily lost in a Cary Grant marathon, and I’m busy putting some things into motion.

She already knew that she would soon be sharing her yoga room with the children as a playroom. I’m making arrangements for everything that was purchased for the Romper Room Suite to be shipped back to Seattle when we return, with the exception of the cribs and bedding and the highchairs. We have those things at home, and we won’t be needing more any time soon. My Amex decked that suite out, and I want that stuff to return with us, especially since the children have become accustomed to playing with those things.

I send an email to Audrey Law, my travel agent, and cc Jason that we are planning our trip to Italy sometime this summer and to begin to prepare for an extended trip. I also contact the real estate agent that sold me the Villa to get me detailed blueprints and current pictures of the property with precise measurements so that my wife can begin thinking about how she wants to decorate it. Unless World War III breaks out and Europe sinks into the ground before we get onto that plane, we’re going to Italy this year.

Jason will have to make sure that the weapons for the security team are properly registered as well as each member properly certified with the authorities. I also ran the idea by him of Gail and Sophia coming out for a couple of weeks like Butterfly suggested. After hearing the truth about Sophie’s burn scar, he’d pull the moon down and give it to her if he could. So, I think he’s already on the ball about getting her passport.

I remember my trip to Rome with my family. I think it was our first… no, our second trip to Italy as a family. Although being abroad always appealed to me, I wasn’t very interested in the things that interested my family—the Altar of the Fatherland, the Villa Borghese… No, I was more interested in the Colosseum and the Pantheon; only slightly interested in the Trevi Fountain, but I tossed a coin in there anyway. I knew I would be back.

My most memorable moment in Rome was just outside of Circus Maximus. Being very sensitive to touch, I knew the moment someone was trying to “feel me up.” So, I turned around just in time for some bastard to try to make off with my phone. I confronted him and told him to give my phone back, but he handed it off to some other guy and thought I didn’t see him. I snatched the other guy by his jacket just as he was trying to make off with my phone. Elliot grabbed the first guy.

Mom and Dad were having a fit the entire time and Mia was just stunned as I’m fighting to pry my phone from the guy’s fingers. I ended up actually having to break his hand to get my phone back from him, then showed my parents that it was indeed my phone. The first guy tried to knee Elliot in the balls to get away. Elliot clocked him square in the jaw and the guy dropped right where he stood, unconscious.

We asked Dad what we should do. Once Dad saw that we were right and only trying to get my phone back, he told us to do nothing. The guys were pickpockets, and even if we called the police, they would only get a summons to appear which would most likely result in a small fine and no jail time. So, we left them there for all to see—one guy with a broken hand and the other guy out cold on the concrete. I’d say their tag team pick pocketing was done for the day… at least six weeks for one of them. He’ll have to depend on his fellow criminals for financial support for a while.

I’ll have to caution Butterfly against taking a purse or backpack while we’re wandering various cities, and I’ll have to remember to bring my money belt. I hate using that thing, but in certain areas, it’s utterly necessary.

Andrea has sent me some information that I asked her to gather about caring for a paraplegic. I’m completely in the dark here and I don’t want to depend on Butterfly for all the answers. I want to be of some help to her if she asks my opinion and I want us to be able to make some solid decisions about her mother’s care. Wendy’s right—there are several resources available to help her. She just has to be willing to put in the legwork—for lack of a better word—to apply for the resources and follow-up on the application process until she gets approved. She can even apply for disability since she’s unable to do the work she’s trained to do.

I go through as much of the information as I can until I’m suffering from MEGO, then I go to the bedroom to join my wife.

She’s sobbing.

“What’s the matter?” I say, climbing into the bed behind her. She sniffles and points at the television. She’s watching An Affair to Remember, and Cary Grant has just found out that Deborah Kerr is the lady in the wheelchair who wanted his painting. They’re both crying on screen and my wife is blubbering right along with them.

“You’re such a sap,” I say, pulling her into my arms and spooning her. “How many times have you seen this movie?”

“I don’t… know,” she sniffle-stutters, “a… couple… hundred… I think…”

“Yeah, you and every other sappy female,” I say. I roll her onto her back as the credits roll and begin to dry her cheeks with my handkerchief. She has used an entire box of the hotel tissues. She looks so sweet and vulnerable, looking up at me with her glassy eyes and blotchy cheeks. I kiss her eyelids and her cheeks to make her stop crying, then her lips… then again.

God, her lips are so soft when she’s been crying.

I kiss her over and over, so many times that I lose count. Her breath quickens and she moves my hand from her face to her breast.

“Make love to me,” she whispers, “please…”

So much for the fuzzy pajamas.

I squeeze the breast that she guided my hand to, then quickly unbutton her pajama shirt revealing her beautiful tits. God, she’s gorgeous. Her breath quickens as I take one nipple in my mouth and suck gently, grazing it with my teeth to make it taut. She whimpers and thrusts her hands into my hair. I move over her and pinch her other nipple between my fingers, causing her to cry out. She’s getting very hot very fast.

“Sit up,” I instruct her, moving away just enough to allow her to rise. She sits up and I push her pajama shirt off her shoulders and toss it onto the floor. I quickly pull my T-shirt over my head, tossing it aside before I lean in and kiss her again. She runs her hands up my arms to my shoulders and then my face as I push her back down onto the bed.

My mouth and hands travel down her body once more, to her breasts and then her navel as I push my hands into the elastic. She raises her hips for me, and I pull her pajama pants down her legs and off her feet. I open my fly and pull my boxer briefs down just enough to free my cock, and her pussy is wet and staring at me.

Fuck!

I crawl back onto the bed, still in my bottoms, and settle into the sweet core. She gasps and arches into me when I lick her outer lips, forcing them apart with my mouth so that I can taste the sweet meat inside.

“Christian…” she mewls, thrusting her hand into my hair again and her pelvis rhythmically into my mouth. She tastes so fucking good, and I groan as I devour her juices. I try not to eat until I get my fill because I know she’ll come if I do, but I can’t help it. She’s so hot and she smells so good and tastes so sweet…

“Christian!” she squeaks as her body starts to stiffen.

Fuck! Not yet… not yet, beautiful.

I pull back and allow her orgasm to wane, but I can’t wait any longer to be inside of her. I kiss her belly as I make my way back up her body, using the bed to push my pants and boxer briefs off as my cock is so damn hard, it’s zeroing in to her core like a fucking homing beacon.

Slow the fuck down, Grey. She asked you to make love to her…

Make love. Shit, this is going to be hard.

I’m holding one leg up with one hand on her side still kissing her stomach and kicking off my damn pants when she starts to beg…

Please…
Please…

I crawl up her body and as my mouth reaches hers, my cock finds its counterpart without any guidance, which wasn’t a difficult task with her legs on my shoulder. I try not to gasp in her mouth, but she gasps into mine and I’m completely blinded by the pleasure when I sink into her.

I try to keep still and let us both enjoy the moment of the initial entry, but I can’t. She’s kissing me hungrily and my dick wants more of her.

I allow her legs to fall down to my hips and I continue to thrust into her, deep and steady—not too fast and not too slow. I hold the back of her neck and her nape in my hands as I kiss her lips hungrily and nip at her neck, shoulders, and chest. Her sex sounds are maddening—like she hasn’t eaten in weeks and she’s starving and gobbling up every morsel I’m giving her. It’s making me fucking primal and I thrust deeper into her, both our bodies moving steadily against the bed.

She’s keening again, and I hold her neck up and thrust deep so that I can look at her, admire her beauty while I have her captured in passion, my shaft burning inside her as she gets tighter… and hotter…

“Open your mouth,” I breathe, “and give me your tongue.”

I know that she’s going to come soon, so I press my body against her so that each long and deep thrust ends with a grind. Then I hold her neck steady so that her head isn’t as mobile, and I suck her tongue and lathe it passionately with my own while it’s hanging helplessly out of her mouth. When she shrieks with her first orgasm, I fight to keep the rhythm of my hips and tongue until she rides it out. The sound of her cries alone is enough to push me over the edge, let alone that pussy tightening insanely on my cock.

I have to breathe through her aftershocks as I sit back on my calves, still thrusting deeply into her as I caress her breasts. She’s sweating a bit now. That pre-orgasmic sheen has given way to full-on perspiration, and our intermingling sweat is beginning to fuck with the Neanderthal in me.

I thrust into her again and again, her legs rising on my hips with each thrust, still clutching her breasts as I do. Her eyes are closed, and her hair is splayed wildly on the bed. Her mouth is open like she’s trying to say something, but she’s keening again, her hands grasping my thighs as I fuck her…

Make love to her…

NO, now, I’m fucking her!

My cock is burning, digging, pushing deep into that body, and it wants to come. I kiss her with abandon, and when she roughly grasps a handful of my hair, I can’t take it anymore.

“Oh, fuck, baby!” I groan. I cover her body with mine and plunge deep inside her, over and over. We’re pouring in sweat, and she holds her legs up and steady, thighs open as I stroke deeper and harder until I fucking see stars.

“Baby, shit, fuck!” I cry as my cock thumps and explodes inside of her. Oh, shit, it feels so fucking good. So fucking good, I can’t fucking see. Goddammit, that was so hard that my cock fucking hurts, but I can still feel her walls thumping against me. She was on her way to number two.

Your wish is my command.

I slide out of her and kiss her softly on the lips, giving my cock a few moments to cool.

“Turn over, baby,” I say.

She turns over and proceeds to get in the doggie-style position, but I push her gently back down onto the bed. Straddling her, I turn her head to the side and arrange her hair so that it’s completely away from her face, off her shoulders, and off her back. When she’s comfortable, I kiss her shoulders softly, then her back, allowing my dick to rub against her glorious ass just a bit, enough to ignite it again for me. I kiss down her back and the moment I get to the Garden, she ignites again. The unquenchable fire shoots right through her body and into mine, and Greystone is ready for action once more.

I pull my hips back and my shaft falls right to the bottom of her ass cheeks, the head nestled right below her anus. I gently push my rigid member just past her perineum and I feel moisture on the head. I know I’ve hit paydirt when I hear her gasp and her ass rises a bit, her fists gripping the bedsheets. I push into her core and sink into her warmth and tightness once more. For the love of God, this woman is going to be the death of me.

She’s got that pretty, round ass at the perfect angle and I’ve got yet another perfect rhythm into the pussy while I’m gently gripping those cheeks and hips. I’m looking down at this round ass and my thick, straining, shiny cock stroking between her legs, feeling the heat and the friction and it’s making my fucking mouth water. This site is so fucking beautiful that I can’t stop staring. My dick is impressive, but to see it disappear repeatedly beneath this beautiful, soft, round ass… I could watch this shit all day. Since I’m just getting started, the arousal and the burn isn’t too deep, and I’ve got this pleasant friction feeling on the skin. So, I never change my stroke…

And I watch…

And watch…

And watch…

“Oh, dear God, what are you doing to me?”

I didn’t even think about the fact that the continuous rhythm was going to bring her to another orgasm until she’s shrieking again and her ass is rising hard against my pelvis, her hands gripping the sheets like she’s going to tear them off.

Hot damn! There’s a picture for the memory banks!

“Baby, you are so fucking beautiful,” I say, and I continue my rhythm and enjoy the view.

A few minutes later, I’ve gotten my fill of the show and my balls are aching to come again. This is going to be the swan song.

My beautiful wife has had a chance to rest and now I want her to ride me a bit. So, I roll us both over so that she’s sitting on my dick.

“Come on, baby, ride it.”

What the fuck did I say that for?

My wife opens her legs around mine, leans back with both hands flat on my abs, and pumps my dick viciously, and I mean viciously.

“Fuck-ing hell!” I gasp, and that only fuels her fire. I swear to God, my cock feels like it’s getting buried in her goddamn uterus and she just keeps pumping and pumping, so deep that I feel her lips every time they slap my balls.

“God… damn… baby…” I gasp again, now holding onto fistfuls of the sheet myself. This woman is literally fucking the ever-loving life out of me. I thought after two shrieking orgasms, she would be a bit tuckered out and I would have to help her out with this, but she doesn’t need my help at all. Dear God in heaven, the fire and friction and depth.

“Baby… shit!” It’s at this point that I realized that I can’t do or say anything else but lay here and be fucked. I want to touch her, but she’s fucking me so thoroughly that if I let go of the sheets, we might both fucking take flight! I close my eyes and open my mouth so that I can get some air. My dick is on fucking fire—delicious, burning, aching, agonizing, searing fire! Fucking hell, my balls are about to pop like grapes. A few more minutes of this maddening pace and…

She stops.

Her body’s trembling, she’s grunting, and her arms give way behind her. She’s coming again… and hard.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, don’t stop now!

I release the sheets and grab those tits for all they’re worth. I’m pumping hard and deep into that pussy like I’m digging for gold, just like she was pumping me.

Don’t leave me now, don’t fucking leave me now!

I thrust and thrust and thrust, looking for that rhythm, and on the third thrust, I find it. I fucking find it.

“Yes!” I grit through my teeth, and only a few thrusts later, I heard the pop. Not sure what happened, but a stream of searing hot cum goes flowing through my shaft and bursting out the head.

“Oooohh!” I cry out in agonized surprise.

Still holding onto those tits, I thrust through this orgasm. At least, I think I’m thrusting. Cum is pumping so hard through my cock that I know I still feel the sides burning. I can’t even feel my balls, just hot, deep, crippling pain and pleasure searing through my fucking loins.

I can’t even breathe. I’m burying my dick deep in that pussy. The head is sandwiched in hot, wet, meat and still beating a mean tattoo inside of her. I can still feel her squeezing me, still feel the cum pulsing out of my shaft and filling her so much that it’s running down my shaft and to my ass.

She’s whimpering against my body now, and I’m still coming… and coming…

I keep pushing my dick into that core waiting for it to stop throbbing. She fucked me until my body begged to come and now that it is, it’s giving her all that it has left. I thrust into her hot core, her legs spread wide as I grip her luscious tits, my cock pulsing and thumping painfully as my balls empty inside her.

We both fall back onto the bed, breathless. Neither of us says anything as there really isn’t anything to say. I roll her over onto her side, spooning her and kissing her gently on her back until she falls asleep. Then, I locate the remote and turn the television off.

That was so hot, I forgot the damn thing was on.

*-*

I awake in bed alone. That doesn’t happen often. I almost always wake before Butterfly does. Is she alright?

I try not to leap out of bed in a frenzied rush to find my wife. She’s fine, I tell myself. She just got up before me and she’s probably having coffee or in the shower. When I go to the en suite to relieve myself and she’s not in the shower, I’m only slightly panicked, not frantic. I slide into my slacks from yesterday and go out into the living room.

“Well, I don’t know what to expect, Daddy,” I hear her say. See? I told you she was fine, I scold myself. “I’m 99% certain that my mother tried to kill herself, but her doctor is giving me a hard time about a three-day evaluation.”

I lean over and kiss her on the cheek and she quietly blows me a kiss as I head over to the coffee maker. She’s curled up in one of the dining chairs with a cup of coffee in front of her and a notepad that she’s been scribbling something on.

“I told him that she was in his care now, and that when he decided what he was going to do with her that he could call me and let me know… None of them thinks I want to take care of her. So, since everybody is so in love with her and I’m the big bad wolf and they know what’s best for her, then let them do it. Believe me, I would have done fine not to have this disrupt my life at all.”

I pour a cup of coffee. Once again, I think about Grace and how I could never feel this way towards her, but how I truly feel that Carla deserves every bit of what Butterfly is dishing out.

“That was yesterday,” she says to Ray. “I haven’t been back to the hospital and I’m not going back unless I’m summoned. And they had better make a decision before sentencing on Wednesday because if they don’t, I’m outta here.”

Well, that makes me happy to hear, that she doesn’t plan on hanging around to find out what Dr. Lee plans to do. I say if she wants to do herself, she’ll find a way. And when she does, they’ll see how wrong they were for how they treated my wife.

“I’m fine, Daddy, don’t worry about me,” she says. “I already have a game plan in motion.”

Oh? What game plan is that? I take a sip of the black coffee. I’m transported all the way back to the first cup of coffee my wife made for me at her condo in Seattle. I look down into the cup and smile…

“Black… a man after my own heart.” 

Those were her words when she found out that I prefer my coffee black. As it turns out, I was—am—in fact a man after her heart.

“What’s got you smiling like the cat who caught the canary?” she asks as she refreshes her coffee. I was so lost in my own world I didn’t even hear her finish her conversation with Ray.

“Remembering the first cup of coffee I ever had with you,” I say, putting my arm around her waist and pulling her to me. “You had me at ‘Grey,’” I say, pressing a tender kiss on her lips.

“You were insufferable,” she says, putting her hands on my chest, “fucking insufferable.”

“Some people would say that I still am,” I reply.

“Yes, they would,” she concurs, “but they don’t know you like I do.”

“Oh, you still think I’m insufferable too… sometimes.”

“Sometimes,” she says, pecking me on my lips again.

“How’s Ray?” I ask, releasing her and taking another sip of my coffee.

“He’s fine,” she says. “He called to check up on me. Says he regretted having to leave me here, but he had to get back to be with his family. I already know that.”

“What’s this game plan you were talking about?”

“I’m going to have someone here be responsible for my mother so that I don’t have to come back,” she says. “I’ve already got Alex doing background checks on her boyfriend Abe and her beloved Window.” I frown.

“Window?” I say. “Who the hell is that?”

“That’s what she calls Wendy,” she replies. “She appears to be ready to turn her entire life upside down for my mother and she obviously adores her Window, so she’s the most obvious choice. And then there’s this Abe character, who just showed up out of nowhere and is so in love with my mother. If they’re genuine in their affection and there’s no ulterior motive, it’s the perfect set-up. If not, then she’ll be in the hospital until they release her, and then she’ll go to a nursing home or assisted living.”

“And if the good doctor decides that she doesn’t need a psych eval?” I ask.

“Then she’ll be in the hospital until they release her, and then she’ll go to a nursing home or assisted living,” she repeats. “I meant what I said. I’m not going back to the hospital until I’m summoned and when I do, it’ll be to make whatever final decisions need to be made before I leave this place.”

And that’s that. The queen has spoken, and I have a feeling that no matter what, we only have one week left in Nevada.


A/N: “I fell for the ‘donkey,’ hook, line, and sinker. When Carla said this, she was referring to a part of the Shakespearean play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Without retelling the entire story and for those who don’t know of it, Puck is retrieving a flower that contains a powerful love potion. While at his task, Nick Bottom says something adverse to him and Puck turns Bottoms head into that of a donkey. The king and queen of the fairies—Oberon and Tatania—are fighting, and Oberon uses the love potion on Tatania while she’s sleeping, intent that she would fall in love with the first thing she sees when she wakes. What’s the first thing that she sees? Bottom as the donkey. She’s so in love with him that she actually marries him in the story.

A little useless factoid that I think I mentioned earlier during one of the weddings. Mendelssohn’s Wedding March—the song traditionally played when the bride and groom exit the wedding after the vows—was written for this play. So, when choosing your exit song, just remember if you choose this one, you chose the song where a woman was married to a donkey.

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 21

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 21

CHRISTIAN

I’m about six years old. Lelliot is nine. I’m barely talking and he’s trying to see what makes me tick. I’m playing with my Legos in the family room and Lelliot is playing with his Gameboy. I‘m trying to build a replica of the treehouse, but it’s not going very well. My six-year-old mind can’t comprehend why the treehouse platform—which looks nothing like a treehouse platform, by the way—won’t balance on my Lego tree trunk.

We’re playing in relative harmony until Lelliot tells me that my treehouse is never going to work because the trunk is too skinny to hold it up. I ignore him. If the tree in the backyard can hold up the treehouse, then my tree trunk should be able to hold up this treehouse. So, I just keep building, and just when I start building the platform…

Crash!

Multi-colored Legos scatter all over the floor and under some of the furniture. Frustrated, I gather all the Legos I can find and start over, and just like before, as soon as I start building the platform…

Crash!

Becoming angrier, I gather the scattered Legos again and try a different way. I build the tree trunk first, and then I build the platform separately. There! That should do it. I put together a badly constructed house on one side of the platform, and what I think a picnic table made of Legos should look like on the other side of the platform. I stand back and look at my creation, very pleased with the finished product… well, almost finished.

I take my finished platform, house, and picnic table, and attach it to my tree. A few seconds later…

Crash!

I’m furious now and Lelliot is still laughing.

“God, you’re such a dork,” he teases. “I told you, the tree isn’t going to hold up the house. You’re doing it all wrong.” He shakes his head and goes back to his Gameboy.

Still angry, but determined to make the treehouse work, I build the tree again, and then the platform, house, and table. Then I put them together.

Crash!

I build them again…

Crash!

And again…

Crash!

And again…

Crash!
Crash!
Crash!

Defeated, I fold my arms and pout really hard. Lelliot just laughs at me and keeps playing with his Legos. I want to push him really hard like I did before and he bumped his head on the wall. Then, he’ll stop laughing at me.

“What’s going on in here?”

Angel Lady, Momma Grace, comes in with the baby in her arms.

Meelo…

If the man with the boots ever comes back, I’m taking Baby Meelo and we’re running away forever.

“Christian, what are you doing?” she asks. I look at the Legos all over the floor, then point out the window to where the treehouse is.

“You’re trying to make a tree?” she asks, and I nod.

“He’s trying to make the treehouse,” Lelliot says, still laughing, “but he’s doing it all wrong.”

“Well, did you try to help him?” Momma Grace says. Lelliot shrugs.

“I told him he was doing it wrong,” he says, “that the tree was too skinny.”

“Did you show him what he was doing wrong?” Momma Grace says.

“No,” Lelliot replies. “I don’t wanna play with Legos. Besides, he might hit me.”

“Hold your sister while I try to help him,” she says. Lelliot’s face frowns.

“I don’t wanna play with babies, either, Mom,” he says, and leaves the room with his Gameboy. Momma Grace rolls her eyes like she does when Lelliot makes her mad, then she puts Baby Meelo on the sofa. She puts a bunch of pillows around her, like a fort, then she gets on the floor with me.

“So,” she says, “let’s see how you build your treehouse.”

Momma Grace watches as I build the tree, then the platform, then the house, then the picnic table.

“Hmm,” she says, looking at the pieces. “Why don’t we do a platform for the tree, too?” she says. I frown and shake my head. The tree isn’t on a platform. The house and the table are on the platform.

“Well,” she says, “we’ll make it green… like the grass.”

I twist my lips. The tree is on the green grass. Okay, I nod. Momma Grace plays with my Legos with me and we find a lot of green ones and make grass.

“Okay, now, let’s put the tree on the grass.”

I put the tree on the grass, and I like it.

“Now, let’s look at the tree.” Momma Grace puts her hand on her chin and looks like she’s thinking.

“Christian, I want you to close your eyes and think about the treehouse.” I close my eyes like she tells me to.

“Think about the big brown part at the bottom of the treehouse.” I think about the big brown part. It’s a tree trunk, Momma Grace, I think to myself. It’s rough and it looks like it would hurt if you tried to slide down it.

“Now, open your eyes and look at your tree.”

I open my eyes and frown.

“Does that look like the tree from the treehouse?” No, it doesn’t. It’s skinny and tall, and the tree trunk on the treehouse is fat and short. Lelliot was right. I hate it when Lelliot is right. I shake my head.

“What do you think we need to do to fix it?” she asks. I take half of the Legos off the top of the tree and put them next to the tree to make it fatter.

Still not fat enough.

I build another tower next to the two.

Still not fat enough.

Just as I’m about to build another tower, Momma Grace speaks.

“Can I show you something, Christian?” she says, and I turn to look at her. She puts her fingers on top of one of my towers and wiggles it.

“You see that?” she says, and I nod. “That’s why the treehouse falls down. The trunk isn’t strong enough.” She puts her fingers on top of two of my towers and wiggles them both.

“Two won’t be strong enough either because they both wiggle. Three will wiggle, too. Can I show you something else?” I twist my lips and look at her, then nod.

She takes down my towers, but leaves them intact so that I’m not too traumatized by their destruction. Then she starts building a base for the tree trunk—something like a circle, but not. She puts some Legos in the middle of the circle, and then she puts another layer of Legos on top, and another…

“Do you see what I’m doing, Christian?” she asks, and I nod. She’s building them up—not separate towers, but kinda like bricks on a house.

“When you do them like this, it makes the trunk stronger, so that maybe it won’t fall. Now you try.”

I build and build and build, just like Momma Grace showed me, until I have a fat, round, rough tree trunk just like the one outside. I smile. I’m happy with the tree trunk.

“Very good, Christian. Now, let’s look at the treehouse.” She puts her hand on her chin like she’s thinking again, and I do the same thing.

Hmmm…

“The platform looks a little big for the tree trunk,” she says. “Maybe you should make it smaller…”

I can’t make it smaller! If I do, the house and the picnic table won’t fit!

“Let’s move the picnic table closer to the house. Then we can make the platform smaller and it will fit on the tree trunk.”

I twist my lips. They are kinda far away. I take the Legos off the platform that I used to build the picnic table, then put it together close to the house. That means that we have to take the platform apart a little bit to make it smaller…

There! The platform is smaller now.

“Okay, now put the platform on the trunk.”

I test the platform like Momma Grace did my towers, and it doesn’t wiggle at all! I connect the platform to the tree trunk and…

No crash.
It doesn’t fall.
It’s fixed!

“You did it, Christian!” Momma Grace says happily. I smile wide and clap my hands. She goes over to the fireplace and gets the camera.

“Look at me and smile, Christian,” she says. “I want to get a picture of you and your treehouse.”

I look at her and smile wide while she takes the picture. My treehouse looks great! And it didn’t crash. I look over at the fort on the sofa and the baby sleeping inside it.

I did it, Baby Meelo…

It’s morning now, and I’ve been sitting on the sofa all night thinking of my mother and all the things she did to help me along while I was growing up. I didn’t speak for years, but she knew how to communicate with me. She taught me to play the piano until I began to take professional lessons. She was as patient as she could be through my troubled teenage years. Even when she turned me over to the hands of the Pedophile, she was at the end of her rope and thought that she was getting help from a trusted and treasured friend.

When I dropped out of school and Dad essentially disowned me, Mom quietly supported me no matter what. She would still encourage me and give me that Mom smile that no one else had. When I completed my first successful venture and started making some real money, she boasted to Dad about how well I was doing. He still didn’t warm to the idea, though. He needed more proof.

It wasn’t until I was a certified millionaire two years later that Dad admitted that he may have been wrong about me and Harvard.

May have been…

I didn’t speak to him for a while after that. It served him right because he barely spoke to me for those two years after I dropped out of college, but we later buried the hatchet. I understood why he felt the way he did about me dropping out. I just thought he would never have any faith in me, and that hurt.

Mom, though, she never gave up on me. Even when she wasn’t sure about my decisions or I was driving her crazy with my behavior, she always did her best to understand, and even though I didn’t know how to properly express it, I’ve always loved her for that.

“Christian! Hello, son. How is everyone doing?” Mom asks.

“As well as can be expected, Mom,” I reply. “How are you? How are things back there?”

“Thankfully, very quiet,” she replies. “Things are running smoothly at the Center and for the most part, we’re all doing just fine. How’s Ana? Any change in her mother’s condition?”

“As a matter of fact, there is,” I say. “Carla regained consciousness yesterday.”

“She did?” I can tell that my mother doesn’t quite know how to respond to this news. “How does Ana feel about that? I know their relationship is… strained, for lack of a more appropriate word.”

“I don’t really know, Mom,” I tell her. “It’s a roller coaster ride to say the least. One minute, she’s stoic and strictly professional, only concerned with making sure that Carla gets the appropriate care. The next minute, she’s weeping and hurt that she didn’t get the consideration that Carla is getting, and the next minute, she’s livid about the entire situation. Sometimes, I think she doesn’t know how to feel.”

“Well, it’s obviously a confusing and frustrating time for her. She’s in a place she obviously hates, she already has to deal with that horrible trial and all the emotional turmoil it no doubt brings about, and then this thing with her mother. I’m certain that her emotions are just a big ball of mess right now.”

“Yes, but…” I thrust my hands into my hair. “I’m no psychiatrist, we know this, but I believe my wife’s confusion is much more than that. It’s like she wants to feel compassion for her mom’s condition, but she can’t because of all this anger and hatred. There’s this deep-seated betrayal that she feels and justifiably so, but it’s compounded by the fact that her mother has a huge support system down here.”

“She does?” my mother asks, surprised. “I was under the impression that she wasn’t particularly liked in that circle.”

“She’s not in that circle anymore,” I reply. “She moved out of that community; she changed jobs; she’s a completely different woman from the person I knew. This should be a good thing, but it’s causing Butterfly grief because Carla has the support system that Butterfly wished she had when she was in this situation. To be honest, Butterfly would have even been happy to have just her mom without the additional support system, but she didn’t even have that. Now, she’s feeling resentful that Carla has an entire tribe, so to speak.”

“Oh, that’s bad,” my mother says.

“Oh, it’s worse,” I tell her. “Either the staff there doesn’t know about my wife’s past with her mother or they don’t care about it, and they’ve been treating her badly.”

“What do you mean, treating her badly?” Mom asks. “Unless Carla is incapacitated and Ana has been abusing her, they have no right to treat her with anything else but respect! In fact, they’re obligated!”

“Well, let’s begin by saying that Carla is incapacitated,” I tell her. “She’s paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the accident.”

“Oh, dear God,” my mother says.

“Yeah. Anytime Butterfly has spoken to any of the staff, she has only been professional—not compassionate, but professional.”

“I get it, but that’s not abuse,” my mother points out.

“You know that, and I know that, but apparently, the staff—particularly the nurses from what I’ve seen—feels that she should be licking the feces straight from her mother’s ass, if you’ll forgive the expression.”

“Ew… oh, gosh, Christian,” my mother replies disgusted. “Well, she should report them to their superiors. They shouldn’t be treating anybody that way.”

“It wouldn’t help,” I tell her. “I imagine that the doctors don’t treat her much better. They’re not rude to her, Mom, they’re just cold and callous and when they think her back is turned, they’re very judgmental. And what’s worse, we don’t know if this was an accident or if Carla really threw her car off the overpass. We can’t get a straight answer out of her.” There’s a pause.

“Well, what does she say when you ask?” my mother says.

“She evades,” I say. “She talked about how my conspiracy theories have me paranoid and that there was no secret plot to kill her—it was just her and the car on that bridge.”

“How old is she?” my mother asks.

“Late forties,” I say. “She was a young military wife and mother when she had Anastasia.”

“Well, it’s not impossible,” she says. “She could be going through the same thing I am, Christian…”

Or she could’ve just thrown her damn car off that bridge.

“I’ll tell Butterfly,” I reply.

“You don’t think so,” she calls me out.

“I don’t know what to think, Mom,” I admit. “She was so calculating when I first met her. She and her pickled husband showed up in Seattle when Butterfly was in the hospital after the kidnapping. It was a disaster. You already know about the payoff that they took to keep Butterfly quiet after the beating. Then, when her husband dies, we come to Vegas for last rites. Butterfly dropped her purse and the woman tried to steal it! She took advantage of camera time when our engagement was announced to call my then-fiancée out for living in the lap of luxury while she struggled on a CNA’s salary. My wife brings her to Seattle for the final showdown at which time she tells my wife that she only ripped Butterfly from Ray in the first place because she was a tax deduction.”

“Oh, my,” my mother says.

“Yes!” I respond. “I gave her a piece of my mind and she came back and tried to make amends with Butterfly, but Butterfly wasn’t having it by that time. So, now she shows up at the trial, purging and pouring her heart out and I don’t trust her. I went to her house with another check and told her to go away and she didn’t take the check. She kicked me off her property—check and all—and a week later, she goes over an overpass.

“Could this be perimenopause? Could be. Did she try to kill herself? I don’t know. Are there bats in the belfry? I’d bet my fortune on it. What does all of this mean? I’m clueless. With all the friends that it appears that she has now, it would seem that she’s turned over a new leaf and she has a lot to live for. So, what gives?”

“Well, it still is a possibility, Christian, but of course only the professionals can say for sure. Impress upon your wife the importance of a possible evaluation in that direction. If this is the case, she’ll only hurt herself further without the proper care… and if she really did try to kill herself either way…” She trails off.

“I know, Mom,” I say, running my hands through my hair again. “And Mom?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you,” I say. “Thank you for rescuing me… for having enough love in your heart to take in a troubled child and try to make him whole. Thank you for seeing the best in me even when I couldn’t see it in myself… when everybody else was pointing out all of my faults.” I drop my head.

“Thanks for never giving up on me. Thanks for sticking up for me, for fighting for me. Thanks for letting me know that I was never alone, even when I felt like nobody cared. I was a horrible kid…”

“Christian, you weren’t…”

“Let me finish, Mom, please,” I interrupt her. “I know it wasn’t my fault. I’m still fighting with some things, but I was a horrible kid. I couldn’t let anybody touch me; I wouldn’t let anybody in; I wasn’t receptive to anything but the inappropriate behavior that crazy witch exposed me to. Do you remember that last real fight I had in high school?”

“You’ll have to refresh my memory,” she admits.

“I came home beat all to hell and you immediately tore into me. I had recorded the fight, but my phone was destroyed in the process, but I saved my SIM card and gave it to you. You called the police because you saw that the boys had beaten me trying to get me to fight back like I normally did, but that time I didn’t.”

“Yes!” she says. “Yes, I remember that. You didn’t have any fights after that.”

“Right. Well… it wasn’t because of you that I did that. It was because of her.” That’s a painful thing to admit. “She punished me when I had the last fight before that. She beat me and she wouldn’t see me. I could take her beating me but I couldn’t take her not seeing me… so, I made up in my mind that the next time a fight happened, I would just let it happen, because apparently, I was damned if I fought back and I was damned if I didn’t. I didn’t expect for it to be that bad, though.” I sigh.

“I didn’t expect to get the support from you—or her—that I did. I just knew that I couldn’t go back to school if my only option was to allow them to beat me that way. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I wasn’t going back to school. When the police showed up, I thought they were coming to get me and all I thought was, ‘Great. I don’t have to go back to school.’ When they convinced me to go to the hospital, I didn’t want them to see my back because they would have seen where she beat me, and the gig would have been up.

“I never thought I would ever tell you that story, but through everything I am and everything I was, you stood by me. Right or wrong, you always stood by me, even when you were chewing my ass out… and I’m grateful for that, Mom. From the moment you first saw me, you never left me to float in this crazy and cruel world on my own. You loved me through it all. And even though Butterfly opened the door for me to give love back, you were my first love, Mom. You were the one that showed me what true love meant from the very beginning, even though I couldn’t understand it.

“Even though I feel horrible for my wife and what she’s going through with her mother, I’m shamefully and selfishly glad that it’s not me. I’m glad that I got you instead of a woman like Carla. Even with the hard start with the crack wh… with my birth mother, it all brought me to you… and I thank you… and I love you.”

“Oh, Christian,” my mother weeps into the phone. “I love you, too, baby.” I allow her to cry for a few more moments.

“Don’t cry, Angel Lady,” I say softly. “I don’t want Dad flying to Las Vegas to give me what-for for reducing his beautiful wife to tears.” She chuckles through her sobs.

“You know I’ve always loved you,” she weeps softly.

“And I’ve always loved you… even before I could express it properly. Now, buck up. No more crying.”

“Okay,” she says, “but these are happy tears. Christian. And Cary wouldn’t come after you right now because I’m at the Center and he can’t see me.” We both laugh softly.

“I gotta go now, Mom,” I say, trying to hide the crack in my voice. “I love you.”

“And I love you, son.”

When we end the call, I drop my head and allow the tears to fall quietly down my cheeks. I hate that Butterfly has to go through this. It’s cruel. I want to get her out of this place as soon as possible. The thought of her spending night after night after night singing Disney songs and nursery rhymes just to get through the miserable years of her childhood. Jesus, her life must have been agony. It’s almost too much to bear.

I feel soft hands on my shoulders that slide down to my chest to comfort me. How much did she hear? Did she hear me compare myself to her? Of course, she did. That was one of the last things I said.

“My Mom <sniff> said that…”

“Ssshh,” she says, moving one of her hands to my hair. “Not now.”

My shoulders drop in relief and anguish, but luckily, I don’t collapse in sobs. I may not be able to stop. She pulls me closer to her and I cover her hand on my chest with my own, finally able to compose myself after a while.

“My mom says that Carla could be perimenopausal,” I finally tell her. “That she could have done this to herself because of that.”

“She does seem a bit angry,” Butterfly admits, still caressing my hair, “but she seems a bit too angry at the situation for her to have done this to herself. I’ll keep it in mind, though. Until we know exactly what happened, anything is possible.”

She’s still caressing my hair. I haven’t gotten any sleep and if she keeps this up, I’m going to fall asleep… on her stomach… sitting up.

“Emotions are very powerful… and draining,” I admit.

“Yes,” she concurs. “They can be quite the challenge. They drive some people insane.”

“I can see how,” I say, lamenting everything that she has been through in the past weeks. I clear my throat. “What’s the plan for the day? Are you going to the hospital?”

“Only briefly,” she says. “I want to get an update on my mother and find out what’s next. She did throw me out yesterday. Even though she never had any consideration for my feelings during this time, I’ll still respect her wishes if she doesn’t want me there. I’m going to call her best friend if she hasn’t already. I’ll let Wendy make the call to arms for the rest of her support system. I’ll let them take care of her for a day because I’m giving Gail and Jason a day in Vegas and I’m taking Sophie to see ‘O.’”

Still thinking of others throughout this entire ordeal. Dear God, give me strength to possess half the goodness that my wife does.

“I’ll shower and get dressed. You want the en suite in the main bathroom?” I ask.

“Christian, I know you didn’t come to bed. You haven’t had any rest,” she protests.

“I’ll be fine,” I assure her. “I’ll get some rest later, but you’re not going to the hospital alone anymore unless something at GEH needs my dire and immediate attention. Now, which bathroom do you want to use?”

*-*

I can see the hidden sneer on the nurse’s face the moment we exit the elevator—you know, that look like she’s smelling something bad, but she doesn’t want to change her expression. The three nurses that we’re at the station when we left yesterday are all there today along with three others, and the head nurse—or at least she looks like the head nurse—is the one sneering at my wife.

“How is my mother?” Butterfly says, getting straight to the point. The nurse raises a brow at her as if to say, “Oh, are you really concerned?” My wife cocks her head and glares at the woman until she finally decides to speak.

“Not very well,” the nurse says, matter-of-factly, “emotionally, that is. She won’t eat, she won’t say anything beyond what’s utterly necessary, and she’s staring out the window. Medically, her condition hasn’t changed. It’s no better and no worse. However, I would say that she’s in desperate need of some moral support right now.”

Her tone is professional—not rude, but cold as fuck. Butterfly picks up on it.

“Is Dr. Lee on duty today?” Butterfly asks.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey,” the nurse says. Mrs?

“Please page him for me,” my wife says.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey,” she replies coolly and picks up the phone. My wife turns and begins to walk towards Carla’s room, and the nurse’s sneer becomes visible and disdainful as she walks away. The other nurses do a little chuckle like they’re sharing an inside joke.

What am I, chopped liver? Don’t they see me standing here looking at them?

“Excuse me,” I say to the nurse at the desk, breaking her sarcastic glare at my wife’s retreating back.

“Yes, sir?” she smiles at me.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Lindsay,” she says, sweetly, “McCallan.”

“Well, Nurse McGillicutty…” I begin.

“McCallan,” she corrects, with no malice.

“McCollough?” I say.

“McCallan,” she says, a little more perturbed.

“McCauley?” I continue.

“Mick-Allen… McCallan,” she says, now very angry.

“McCallan…”

“Yes! McCallan,” she declares.

“Nurse McCallan… you didn’t like that, did you?”

“No!” she answers immediately, before she could catch herself, “but… it’s fine. It’s not a common name.”

“Well, Nurse McCallan, Doctor is,” I reply. Her brows furrow and she looks at me nonplussed.

“Yes,” I continue, “you use the term every day, several times a day, so I’m certain that you have no problem formulating the word in your mouth. So that I’m clear…” I lean on the counter closer to her. “Her name. Is Doctor Grey. Not. Mrs. Grey!” McCallan clears her throat.

Dr. Grey never corrected us on her title…” she begins.

“Does any other doctor in the hospital have to correct you on that?” I ask. “You know she’s a doctor, I’m certain of it, so she shouldn’t have to. Did she give you her express permission to drop her proper title?”

McCallan looks to my left and I don’t have to look over to know that Butterfly has returned to the nurses’ station.

“No, she did not,” McCallan says, chastised but reluctant.

“Good. I’m glad we established that,” I reply, standing up straight. “She attended college two to four times longer than any of you did and she passed state board exams that none of you took to earn that title, and you will give her the respect that she deserves by addressing her properly! She may not correct you on her proper title, but I sure as hell will!”

I lean on the counter once more when I don’t get a response from any of them.

“And by the way, you and your catty little colleagues can take your snotty little judgmental attitudes and shove ‘em back in your scrubs, or I can take this to your superiors. Are we clear?”

“Sir!” I turn to my right to the voice that is apparently trying to get my attention. I stand to my full height to face the gentleman walking towards me. “Can you tell me why you’re standing here harassing my nurses?”

Oh-ho-ho, wrong move, doc. I turn to my wife.

“Do you know him?” I ask. She shakes her head. I turn to the doctor who now has his hands on his hips over his scrubs but under his lab coat like he’s about to put me in my place.

“I was just giving your nurses a refresher course on the proper etiquette when they’re addressing a doctor! They seem to have forgotten that particular piece of protocol for the last 11 days that my wife has been coming to this hospital to see to the care of her mother!I point my thumb behind me to my wife and the doctor’s face falls just a bit.

“Nurse McCallahaster here gets her clipboard all in a wad when I butcher her name, yet she can’t form the word doctor when she sees my wife! What’s more, we’re not even from this God-forsaken place! We’re here on very delicate business notwithstanding the condition of her mother, and more times than I care to recount, my wife has come back to our hotel room sobbing and reduced to tears over the behavior of this supercilious coven of banshees!”

The nurses gasp and the doctor is now gape-mouthed staring at me as I apprise him of the behavior of his nurses.

“My wife’s mother just awoke from a coma yesterday,” I continue. “I come to the hospital to find out the prognosis and I find my wife standing in the hallway weeping and barely able to talk. I come to find out that she was reduced to that state because of some cruel comments these women made when they didn’t know that she was listening, and she was on duty at the time!”

I point to one of the nurses near the back of the nurses’ station that I remember from yesterday.

“Sir… I’m… I…” The doctor is tripping over his tongue now.

“Mr. Grey,” I say firmly before pulling my wife next to me and putting my arm protectively around her. “And this is Dr. Grey. My wife said she didn’t want to pursue this issue—she would rather just let it die. However, once I noticed them refer to her as Mrs. Grey once more and this toddler…” I point to McCallan, “… giving her a disdainful look as she was walking away, I realized that it’s not going to die.

“This place is full of the most judgmental people I’ve ever seen on earth—and that says a lot, because I’ve been a lot of places—but the hospital?? This is how you treat the family members of your patients simply because they’re not contrite enough for your taste? Are you serious? We have the Paparazzi following us around and begging for a story. Should we give them this one?”

“No! Mr. Grey, no, I assure you, we will take care of this matter!” the doctor kowtows, and I still don’t know who he is, nor do I need to. “I apologize to you and to your wife—Dr. Grey—for any inconvenience or discomfort you’ve felt during your encounter with us…”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I think I may need to speak to the members of the board about this.”

“I think we should,” I hear my wife say, and I turn to her. “You said that this one gave me a disdainful look?” she asks, and I nod. “Her, that one, and that one were at the nurses’ station yesterday. Right before you walked up and interrupted their little confab, one of them declared that I was in a loveless marriage and I looked like I was miserable. They also called me the perfect example of ‘money can’t buy happiness.’ You’re right—they do know that I’m a doctor because one of them said that I must not be a real doctor since I didn’t correct them on skipping my title. And the most flattering thing they had to say about me was that one of them called me a cold broad and suggested that they contact a patient advocate since I’m clearly incapable of making sure that my mother has the proper care.” My eyes narrow.

“You didn’t tell me all that,” I tell her.

“I told you, I didn’t want to pursue it, but then you told me that Broomhilda here gave me the evil eye and I realize that you’re right… it’s not going to die.”

“Dr. Greer, we weren’t serious when we said those things…” one of the nurses protests and the doctor raises his hand to silence her. I just shake my head.

“You ever heard of movers and shakers?” I ask. “Believe me when I tell you that I’m both, but I’m not looking for special treatment. I’m looking for the same common courtesy that you would give anybody else in this position! And if these women can’t do it, then you need to hire some people who can!”

The doctor begins sniveling again, but I ignore him, put my hand in the small of my wife’s back, and lead her to her mother’s room. I’ll admit that sometimes, I’m looking for special treatment. I’m looking for someone to treat me like a king.

This is not one of those times.

I can deal with the usual disdainful, catty, jealous women that see my wife and hate her immediately just because of who she is, how she looks, what she has, and who she’s with—and I can only deal with that marginally. However, this behavior is completely unacceptable, and I will not let it slide.


ANASTASIA

I’m not sure, but I think my mother rolled her eyes when I entered the room. Her bed is in the upright position and she’s looking out the window now.

I don’t need this either, Mother.

“I won’t stay long,” I say when I enter. “I know you don’t want me here and I just want to get some information on your condition and your progress.”

“I never said that I didn’t want you here, Anastasia,” my mother corrects me. “I’m very emotional about this, and I would think that’s something that you would understand.”

“Oh, I understand perfectly, Mother. Trust me,” I reply flatly. My mother sighs and looks out the window. Christian takes a seat and I pull out my phone.

“Hello?” the voice answers uncertainly.

“Hi, Wendy?”

“Yes?”

“This is Anastasia Grey.” There’s a pause.

“Is she…?” Everybody asks that partial question first. I guess it’s to be expected.

“No, I’m calling to tell you that she’s awake,” I say quickly. I see my mother look over at me and I’m sure she doesn’t want to face Wendy at this time for whatever reason. Tough.

“She is?” Wendy says, gleefully. “Oh, dear God, she is? I’m on my way! Can I come now?”

“Yes, please,” I tell her. She ends the call without even saying goodbye. I can tell that she doesn’t want to waste a moment getting here.

“I really wish you hadn’t done that,” she says.

“Well, Mother, you need your friend,” I reply. “She cares deeply for you and she’s been here reading to you nearly every day.”

“I know,” she replies, turning back to the window. “I heard her… sometimes.”

“Why wouldn’t you want her here now?” I ask. “She clearly cares for you and she’s suffering not knowing what’s going to happen to you!” She sighs.

“Yes,” she says without looking at me, “I guess it’s good that she’s coming.”

I shake my head. I don’t know what’s going through this woman’s mind. Why wouldn’t you want people around you who care about you when you really don’t want me here and I don’t really feel that way about you?

For them to love her so much, I see that they haven’t tended to some of the older plants in the room. I move the dying plants closer to the door to be removed, then retrieve her pitcher from her tray table.

Empty.

I go to the en suite and fill it with water. When I return to the room, Christian is typing away on his phone. I press the call button, then proceed to water the plants that are still thriving. A few moments later, one of the nurses enter that I’m not familiar with.

“Hello, Mrs. Morton. What can I do for you?” she asks.

“She called you,” my mother says, pointing to me.

“Yes, ma’am?” she says, turning to me. She obviously doesn’t know who I am… or she’s been briefed.

“Can we please have a fresh pitcher of ice water?” I ask. She nods.

“Anything else for you?” I look over at my mother who is still not responding.

“Some ice cream or some pudding,” I say. “I’m told she hasn’t been eating.”

“I’ll bring some Ensure,” the nurse says. “That’s a good meal replacement.”

“Thank you,” I say, and she leaves.

“Are you going to force feed me?” she says softly.

“I’m not going to force you to do anything, Mother,” I say. “Your recovery is going to depend on you. I’m going to make sure that you have the things in place to facilitate that recovery, but you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.” She sighs again but says nothing.

“I need to go to the administrative office to… take care of some things,” Christian says, standing to his feet. “You’ll be okay?” I nod, and he kisses me gently on the forehead and cups my cheek.

“Text me if you need me,” he says. “I’m only a few floors away and I’ll be right back.” I smile and nod, and he leaves the room.

“He loves you very much,” my mother says. I turn back to her and she’s still looking out the window.

“Not according to the nurses,” I say, watering another plant.

“I don’t think I want to know why you say that,” she says.

“No, you don’t,” I reply without looking at her. “Let’s just say that Vegas is your town, not mine.” I finish watering her plants and begin to clean away the dead leaves from the counter and window sill. “It never has been.”

“Vegas isn’t my town,” she corrects me.

“Green Valley Henderson Vegas Summerlin it’s all the same to me,” I say in one breath as I dispose of the leaves. She takes another tissue from the box, dabs her eyes and blows her nose.

“Wendy must’ve brought this gown,” she says, looking down at her garb. “She knew it was the only way she’d get me in it. She probably put it on me so that I could wake up and tell her to get it the hell off of me,” she adds with a chuckle. I raise my brow, but I don’t respond. “I’d text her to tell her to bring me something else… but I don’t have my phone anymore.”

Note to self… get her another phone. I’d be lost without mine.

The nurse comes back in with ice water and Ensure and smiles at my mother.

“Here you are, Mrs. Morton,” she says, situating the tray table over her and placing the picture and bottle on top of it.

“I totally understand that you don’t feel like eating right now,” the nurse says, “but please, drink the Ensure. It’s going to be good for you.”

“Thank you, dear,” my mother says, putting a straw in the bottle and drinking some of the supplement.

“Anything else for you?” the nurse says, looking from me to my mother. Mother shakes her head.

“Can you see if Dr. Lee has been paged?” I ask. She nods.

“I think he has, but I’ll double-check,” she says before leaving the room. Just as she leaves, Wendy comes barreling into the room. What did she do, fly?

“Carla!” she says, her voice breathy.

“Window! What the hell is with this gown!” Window?

Wendy crosses the room in a few steps and embraces my mother warmly, tears quietly falling down her cheeks.

“I thought I lost you,” Wendy whispers.

“The fates said otherwise,” my mother replies softly. Wendy releases her and sits on the edge of the bed. I quietly slide into the chair that Christian vacated.

“How long have you been awake?” she asks.

“Since yesterday,” my mother replies.

“You sow, why didn’t you call me,” Wendy chastises.

“I… wasn’t ready,” my mother says. “Besides, there was this funny thing that happened with the car and… well, I don’t have a phone anymore.” Wendy shakes her head.

“Not funny, Carla,” she says. “You could’ve died.”

“Yeah, well, I lived,” my mother says, “I just can’t walk,” her voice cracks. Wendy rubs her arm.

“Who did you have? T-Mobile? Quest?” she asks.

“Sprint,” my mother says, pulling herself together a bit.

“We’ll get you another phone,” Wendy says, “something better than that old dinosaur you’ve been carrying around since the stone age.”

“I like my dinosaur,” my mother replies. “It’s easy to use and it does what I need it to do.”

“Well… my friend,” Wendy says with a heavy sigh, “you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. You’re going to learn to use a new phone.” Mother drops her head and purses her lips, fighting what is most likely the millionth wave of tears today. Wendy covers my mother’s hands with her own.

“You know I’ve never been one to mince words, old girl,” Wendy says, sympathetically. “You’ve got me, you know,” she says. “I’ll move in if you need me to.”

“You just want to get out of that crappy apartment you live in,” my mother says with melancholy.

“That would be a bonus, yes,” Wendy laughs, then becomes serious again, “but you’re going to need me. You know you are.”

“Window…” Mother protests.

“Carla, you’re my best friend. This is going to be a long road with a lot of obstacles. Your daughter’s life is in Seattle, and you’re going to need someone around the clock. That’s going to be me. I’m going to make sure you get the hands-on care that you need and that no one is taking advantage of you.”

“You have your own life,” my mother says, “your job…”

“And this is what I’m trained to do, so I’ll just do it for you,” Wendy says.

“So, then we both won’t be working,” my mother says, lowering her voice to just above a whisper. “Money doesn’t grow on trees, Wen.”

“You’ve got savings and I’ve got savings, and there are many programs that help people like you—programs that will replace my income for being your full-time caregiver. We’ll exhaust every resource and we’ll manage,” Wendy says.

“Window, this is insane,” my mother says softly.

“Give it up, Morton,” Wendy says, squeezing her hand. “You’re stuck with me. I’m not going anywhere.” My mother breaks down in sobs again.

“So, when do they say you’re getting out of here?” Wendy asks. Just as the words are out of her mouth, Dr. Lee enters the room.

“I won’t ask how you’re feeling,” he says to my mother, “and I won’t try to minimize the seriousness of the situation by telling you how lucky you are, but Mrs. Morton, you’re very lucky.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she says, waving him off.

“I thought Dr. Grey was here,” he says.

“I am,” I say, finally speaking up from my perch near the door.

“Oh! Anastasia! I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were there,” Wendy apologizes.

“It’s okay, Wendy,” I reply. “Thank you for getting here so quickly.” Dr. Lee takes a position where he can look at all of us. Luckily, Christian comes back into the room before he starts talking and stands next to me.

“Is it okay to discuss the situation with all parties present?” Dr. Lee says.

“Yes, it’s fine,” Carla says.

“Then, we’ll start from the beginning and go down the line. Hopefully, your breathing is easier than it was yesterday. Like I told you, that discomfort is going to be gone really soon if it isn’t already.

“The totality of your broken bones are your pelvis, your legs, your skull, and your neck. Your neck should be healed in about a month, but we’ll keep an eye on that. The bones in the legs should heal in a few weeks, but the pelvis is going to take longer. It could take up to three months to heal and we won’t be able to begin physical therapy until it’s healed. Your skull fracture will have to be monitored constantly because even though you’re not feeling any pain, it’s going to take the longest.

“And now for the elephant in the room,” he says solemnly. “You need to prepare for your paralysis to be permanent. I have personally never seen anyone recover the use of the bottom half of their body from this type of injury. It’s not impossible—anything is possible—but I’ve never seen or heard of it personally. The chances of gaining your ability to walk from this type of injury are exponentially miniscule. Though I’m not trying to be cruel, I’d rather give it to you straight than to fill you with false hope.”

“I appreciate your candor, Dr. Lee,” my mother says softly. “May I ask a question?”

“Anything,” Dr. Lee replies.

“Why go through physical therapy if I’m not going to be able to use my legs?” she asks. “And if it’s necessary, why wait until the very end if I can’t feel anything anyway?”

“You’re going to need physical therapy to get your life back to as close to normal as possible. Your upper body is going to have to compensate for some of the things that your legs can’t do anymore. Your entire life is going to change, not just your mobility, but also your recreational activities, how you think, even how you eat and defecate. There’s going to be a lot of work in your future, Mrs. Morton, and physical therapy is going to be vital.

“The reason we can’t begin too soon is because you can’t feel any pain, so you can’t tell us about your limits. We’re going to have to gauge your progress and limits sheerly through outside stimuli. That means that your bones must be completely healed before we begin.” My mother purses her lips and nods.

“Still think you don’t need me, old girl?” Wendy says. Dr. Lee looks at me, then back at my mother and Wendy.

“You’re going to be with us for a while,” he says, “so that we can monitor your progress and get you set up on specific schedules as needed. We’ll start getting some literature together so that you can begin to prepare for the changes that are going to take place in your life and your home, transportation, how you work…”

“I won’t be working anymore,” she interrupts. “I’m a caregiver. I can’t take care of anybody anymore, not even myself!”

“And for all of those people that you’ve taken care of, now it’s your turn,” Wendy says. Dr. Lee sighs.

“I know how hard this can be to digest,” he says. “I’m going to leave you now, but I’ll be back to discuss the next steps.” My mother nods without speaking and the doctor leaves the room.

“Dr. Lee,” I say after following him out of the room. “Some of the things you were talking about—transportation, using the restroom…”

“Everything she knows is going to change,” he says. “If she has even the slightest hope of regaining the use of her lower regions, there’s immeasurable work that she has to do, and like I said, I’ve never seen it happen. Her home is going to have to be fitted with all kinds of equipment to accommodate her disability, and she’s going to have to learn to use it. Everything that she has ever learned is most likely going to be relearned to fit her new lifestyle.”

“Her home will have to be fitted for her disability,” I say. “We’re not just talking about shower chairs here.” He folds his arms.

“Medical lifts, hospital beds, furniture created to accommodate her disability… depending on her home, she may have to do some serious construction or she may even have to move.”

She and Wendy can only possibly have a couple of hundred thousand saved between them. That won’t be nearly enough for everything she’s most likely going to need.

“Thank you, Dr. Lee,” I say. “If you could, I’d like to get as much information as you can put your hands on for what kind of changes are going to need to be made in her home. I’m sure she’d be more comfortable in her own home, having to recuperate and reacclimate as opposed to having to move to somewhere more accessible. I would like to weigh all of our options and see what needs to be done.” Dr. Lee nods and leaves.

I drop my head back and take a deep breath, filling my lungs to full capacity. I release the breath and let my shoulders fall, trying to release some of the tension that this short day has already dumped on me. When I open my eyes, the three nurses at the nurses’ station are examining me, but divert their gaze quickly when they see me looking at them. I pop my neck and go back into the room.

“It’s not going to happen, Window!” my mother says forcefully as I’m entering the room. “I won’t have you using your life savings for me. I’ll figure something else out.”

“You don’t have a choice,” Wendy says. “I don’t have any children and you’re my dearest friend, so this must be what I was saving for.”

“You were saving for your retirement!” my mother protests. “To relax and see the world, remember that? I’ll give in on your moving in with me, but I will not take your life savings. Like you said, there are programs and resources—we’ll figure it out, but I won’t take your money and that’s final!”

Oh, Jesus Christ, give me strength.

“You won’t have to,” I say, interrupting the exchange and looking at Christian. “Dr. Lee is going to give me information on what you’re going to need and how the house will need to be retrofitted. We’ll take care of it.”

I look at my husband, willing him to understand that this is not a request. He nods to me infinitesimally. When I turn to my mother, she’s completely pale.

“I…” she’s stumbling over her words. “I… you…” she closes her eyes and takes a breath, grimacing when she feels the pain in her chest and letting the breath out.

“I appreciate your help, but I am not asking for it,” she says, firmly. “I’m not even expecting it. Whatever you do, it’ll be because you want to. You heard Wendy. We will manage somehow if we have to. There are resources available that will get me what I need. We’ll exhaust them all. I’m not asking for anything…”

“Carla,” Christian interrupts, “we understand.”

All of her resolve leaves her when Christian speaks and she falls back onto the bed, sobbing. Neither Christian nor I know what to do for her right now, and neither of us really wants to comfort her. I gesture to Wendy that we’re leaving and she nods. We quietly leave the room and head for the elevators.

*-*

Not wanting to discuss this day or its implications any further at all, Chuck and I drop Christian back at the hotel to get some sleep and retrieve an excited Sophie to go and catch the Cirque de Soleil show, “O” at the Bellagio. Al said it was spectacular and I’ve wanted to see it ever since. We quickly get to our seats and the music begins.

The lights rise to give a view of the large circular stage with the big orange curtain surrounding it. Characters come from the stairs in the stand—men dressed in French costumes and powdered wigs, a scantily-clad organ grinder playing a street organ, and a ballerina. The ballerina has a “trainer” behind her cracking a whip and forcing her to walk down the stairs in the audience.

As she works her way through, an aerialist doing her twists and turns from a steel contraption that’s slowly being lowered from the ceiling captivates the audience, but not all of us. Some of us are following the spotlight on the ballerina, certain that she’s the real show and the aerialist may just be a distraction.

As the French men in costume scurry up and down the stairs to their various positions and the organ grinder keeps grinding, the ballerina finds one audience member who is entranced by the aerialist doing the spins—a plain-looking guy in a polo, jeans, and a baseball cap. She claps her hands to get his attention and, startled, he turns around and smiles at her.

She bows to him and he nods. She gestures for him to stand, and he declines. She impresses on him to stand again and he finally does, and off they go into the stands. They all congregate beneath the spinning aerialist who completes her act, then kisses and drops a large red scarf, which the guy catches. I’m immediately reminded of that show on the cruise in the — lounge where the actors all chose someone from the audience—myself included—to participate in the show.

During this time, we’re all looking at the characters and the aerialist in the stands and none of us notice that there’s a hand sticking out of the big orange curtain, pointing at the aerial contraption. The contraption begins to rise, and Baseball Cap Guy is silently directed to walk back down the stairs towards the cage. The closer he gets to the stage, the pushier the French guys become. They shove him up the stairs to the stage and scurry off, and it’s now that I begin to suspect that he’s part of the act.

The hand in the curtain beckons him—several times—to come closer. The entire time, he’s sporting this big, goofy grin, slowly approaching the beckoning hand. He offers the hand the scarf that he’s still carrying, and the hand swats it away. Instead, the hand points up, Baseball Cap Guy looks up, and the hand grabs his nose and drags him behind the curtain.

Yeah, he’s part of the show.

Next, some lanky Lurch-looking fellow in mime-face creepily spider-walks out of the curtains and examines the crowd. You can tell by his suit that he was the arm behind the curtain. He opens a small portion of the curtain and Baseball Cap Guy comes back out, holding his tweaked nose. He gestures to the edge of the stage, asking if he can leave now. Lurch-Mime instead hands him a piece of paper and puts a mic to his mouth—upside down.

Baseball Cap Guy begins to read, but of course you can’t hear him because the mic is upside down. Lurch-Mime—we shall call him our Master of Ceremonies—turns it around, and Baseball Cap Guy taps it three times to make sure that it’s on. Lurch-Mime MC taps the mic on Baseball Cap Guy’s head three times, eliciting a laugh from the audience.

Baseball Cap Guy reads the paper—with a heavy French accent—which basically says there will be harmless smoke effects, but no smoking is allowed, no flash pictures, and turn off your cell phones, after which he is snatched into the air up and into the curtains. The curtains are then drawn into the back of the stage somehow. Another set of the same curtains are drawn back from the floor to reveal the large pool that is the stage, and the show begins.

A beautiful combination of silent character acting, music, ballet, and synchronized swimming ensues, and then Baseball Cap Guy is back… hanging from a ladder over the pool. As he tries to climb, he falls into the water and disappears as the synchronized swimming continues.

The ballerina and the Frenchmen return as Baseball Cap Guy emerges in some sort of peasant-style jester-like outfit and watches the beautiful and amazing aerial and water aerobics before him. Although there’s a lot going on, the two women on the trapeze are stealing the show because their stunts are graceful and amazing!

The characters move effortlessly in and out of the water. I can only imagine the kind of breath control you must have to perform these dances and contortions, but to do this in the water, too? And showing no signs of breathlessness? It’s incredible!

The performers center stage are on a platform. They perform various contortions, dances, and flips, then they have to leap into the water, leap while they’re in there, and then leap back out. One of them just leapt out of the pool over the head of another performer and back into the water like a trick dolphin!

Next, there’s a cute skit where two dorks are floating on a house and trying to keep it from sinking, all in the name of trying to fall asleep while our MC hovers in the background.

Another beautiful aerial and water ballet ensues guided by our MC, the aerial acrobatic ballet taking place on what looks like the frame of a large ship. The acrobats force the ship to swing back and forth while they continue to perform amazing feats in the air as Baseball Cap Guy/Peasant Boy looks on…

And Sophie is mesmerized.

Probably to facilitate a wardrobe change, and maybe to give the other performers a chance to breathe, a male fan-dancer comes out and does a short solo skit as a platform closes over the pool, allowing for a fire dance. We watch as a hobo sits in a chair reading a newspaper, and the fire dancer systematically sets him on fire…

And he just sits there… until it’s his turn to perform.

Fire and all, he does a little skit, then carries his chair offstage while the fire show continues. He’s still on fire the entire time, as is his chair.

I thought I would die laughing when the two goofy sailors come back and pick people out of the audience to dance with and they both pick guys—not part of the show this time. They pull people out of the audience a lot. Some of them are planted and some are not. How do you know if they’re planted? If they get strapped to something or they end up in the water, you know they’re planted.

The pool returns for a portion of the fire show and the only person who appears to be showing any exertion getting out of the pool is Peasant Boy—and that appears to be deliberate. He and the MC keep popping up in various parts of the show as if to say, “don’t forget us!” However, whatever the scene, the MC always appears to get the girl. The ballerina from the beginning occasionally attempts to get the attention of the Peasant Boy and vice versa, and for an hour and a half, I watch the most amazing dancing, swinging, and aerial and water acrobatics show I’ve ever seen.


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/

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~~love and handcuffs