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
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.”
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…
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.
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.”
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/
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