I wake to the sun streaming into the room and I’m alone in the bed. They say everything looks better in the morning, but I’m not so sure.
I glance over at the clock. Shit! 8:30 a.m. – I missed a feeding! How? I didn’t hear Teddy cry. I reach over for the monitor, it’s turned off. Shit!
Tossing off the covers, I bolt down the hall for the nursery. Reaching it, I find it empty. What? I refrain from running as I head down the stairs. Hearing a voice in the family room, I direct myself that way, and find Christian in pajama pants sitting cross-legged on the floor with Teddy sunk into the boppy, looking content.
Christian’s looks up at me and he smiles, “Good morning, Mrs. Grey.” How can he look so luscious with no sleep? Even with the crazy hair tamed, I know I look something like the bride of Frankenstein and he looks so…so Christian. I sigh audibly and Christian rises from the floor and walks over to me. He stops in front of me and holds steady for a moment. I assume he is waiting to see if I will grow three heads that launch into synchronized tirades, or if I will commence the needed conversation about the humongous cloud hanging over us. When neither happens, he leans in wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me to him. He kisses me tenderly on the forehead. “Did you get any rest, Mrs. Grey?”
“A little,” I guess I’d slept for maybe four hours. “Did you?”
Christian pulls me closer and runs his hand up and down my back slowly. “Enough. I’m glad you’ve taken a break from punishing me, Mrs. Grey.” Punishing? When did I punish him?
Leaning into him, I feel the tension leaving my body. It dawns on me that he stayed in pajamas on purpose. He could have put on sweats or jeans, but he knows I melt at the sight of him in pajama pants dangling off his hips, showing off the muscle line leading to his groin. I put my hands on his forearms and run them up his biceps to his shoulders then rest my head against his chest and exhale loudly. “I’m still mad, but this makes me feel better.”
“Oh, baby, it makes me feel better, too.” He kisses the top of my head and we stand that way for several minutes before he puts his hands on my shoulders and holds me at arm’s length. “You need breakfast, Mrs. Grey. Come, I’ll fix you something.”
Snapping out of my reverie, my original mission returns, “Why isn’t Teddy screaming and hungry?”
Christian beams proudly, “I fed him.” I frown in confusion, fed him what? Christian’s expression becomes concerned, “There was one bottle left from last night and I wanted you to sleep. You hadn’t slept.”
I’m completely baffled and taken aback, “You fed him?” He raises his eyebrows and nods vigorously, like a little boy who’d managed to tie his shoes by himself. I grin, “I didn’t know you knew how to give a bottle.”
A sheepish look crosses Christian’s face, “I had a bit of assistance.”
“Well, I asked her first, but apparently being woman does not axiomatically imply knowledge of babies.” I’m even more puzzled. “Taylor.” Oh, that makes sense. He has a daughter, and though she is older now he probably remembers enough.
Speaking of Taylor reminds me of the incident in the wee hours, “Is Taylor upset with me?”
Christian drops his hands from my shoulders, “Why ever would he be? Just because you had him awoken at four in the morning?” His mordant tone cools the atmosphere measurably. He takes a deep breath and continues, “Actually, no, Taylor is not upset. Well, not with you.” If not me, then whom is he mad at? “He agrees with you that we have a, um, process issue that needs addressing. But it may take some time for the team to accept that your authority will be without repercussions.”
Repercussions? Because they took direction from me? Why would they think there would be negative consequences from my authority?
Then it hits me. I know Christian sees the realization wash over me, so I say it aloud, “Prescott.” She did what I told her to do and she got fired for it. I return to my thoughts from the other day – we can make this right if we just hire her back.
“No, Ana,” Christian answers before I ask. “Even if my no-rehire philosophy was cast aside, Taylor would have other concerns.” I’m about to ask what these other concerns might be, but Christian has moved on, “About breakfast, what can I make for you?” The topic is closed. For now.
“You? Make?” Though it might be highly entertaining to watch Christian try to scramble an egg, I don’t consider it wise to permit him to cook with an open flame. “How about a Greek yogurt and some granola?” That seems safe. “And can you bring the baby swing into the kitchen?”
“Good choice, Mrs. Grey. And yes, I shall.” Christian retrieves the swing from the corner of the room while I scoop up Teddy.
In the kitchen, Christian sets up the swing; I get Teddy in and buckled, and set it for a nice leisurely pace. Sitting at the island, I watch Christian work his way around the kitchen. It is soooo not his territory. By the fourth cabinet he opened, he had located a bowl. A soup bowl, not a cereal bowl like I would use. But it will do. I watch him stare into the refrigerator for several minutes, then methodically review all items shelf by shelf until he locates the yogurt. He moves to the pantry and after four full minutes of looking up and down the shelves I decide to ease his pain.
“You’re cool.” He looks at me perplexed for a moment before he catches on and moves up one shelf. “Warmer.”
Christian starts grinning and migrates his hand one shelf higher. “Mr. Grey, you are very warm.” Skipping one shelf, he reaches to the top of the pantry. “Cooling off a bit.” Christian reaches one shelf down. “Oh, Mr. Grey you are hot.”
“Am I now, Mrs. Grey? And precisely how hot am I?”
A giggle escapes me, “keep moving and I’ll let you know.” Christian moves his fingers along the boxes on the shelf starting from left to right. His keeps his eyes on mine and not on the boxes. When he is halfway across the shelf I guide him, “Getting hotter.” His fingers have passed the row of boxed items and are now scanning plastic containers. When he gets to the fourth one I direct him, “you are steaming hot, Mr. Grey. Practically on fire.”
He turns his head to the pantry as he retrieves the container holding the granola, dishes some yogurt and granola into the bowl, and brings it to me.
“Mrs. Grey, your breakfast is served,” he smiles at me warmly. When I reach for the spoon, Christian shakes his head at me, “No, no, Mrs. Grey. Allow me.” It takes a moment before I understand his meaning. Christian picks up the spoon and scoops up a dollop of yogurt and granola. Is he serious? “Open wide, Mrs. Grey.” I do as commanded and Christian inserts the spoon into my mouth. I close my lips around the utensil and he withdraws it slowly. He waits for me to swallow, then scoops up more yogurt and repeats the process. His focus is completely concentrated on my mouth and his eyes are darkening. How can this be so erotic? Does this man, this husband of mine do everything so sensually? My eyes lock into his as he teases me, holding the spoon millimeters from my lip, daring me to take it. I lunge forward a little, and he pulls the spoon back. “Mrs. Grey, uh uh uh. Patience.” I have an ear to ear grin. God, I love playful Fifty. I lean back on my stool and wait. I’m rewarded for my forbearance with another taste of my breakfast.
“Anastasia, close your eyes,” Christian commands in a strong voice that I feel…well, everywhere. I close my eyes and wait. I feel the cold spoon tap my lip and I obey the silent order by opening my mouth to be fed. We continue this way in silence, Christian feeding me. It’s almost a metaphor for our relationship…he feeds me…body, soul, mind, heart. All nourished by him. My Fifty. My everything.
I’m so engrossed in the sensations, I don’t realize we are finished until warm lips are on mine instead of a cold spoon. Opening my eyes, I grin at my husband who is beaming back at me. “See, Mrs. Grey, I’ll be ready for Teddy to eat with a spoon, too.” I giggle. He is beyond irresistible when he’s like this.
“Mr. Grey, I believe you’ll be an expert,” I lean in and kiss him tenderly. Before I can deepen the kiss, Teddy makes a fussy noise. “But for now, Mr. Grey, I think I’ll take care of the feeding.” I slide off the stool and retrieve Teddy from the swing and head upstairs to change and feed him.
I’m settled with Teddy in the nursery glider when Christian enters with a glass of water. “You need to hydrate, Mrs. Grey.” I smile at him appreciatively as he sets the water down on the table beside me, nimbly sinks to the floor, and sits cross-legged on the rug. He is watching me expectantly, but expecting what? I’m not ready to embark on the events of last night and this morning. I want to have my thoughts organized and I want to be prepared. Christian is sitting immobile waiting; I furrow my brow at him in puzzlement and he responds with raised eyebrows as if to say ‘Well….’
Well what? Teddy releases my breast bringing my attention back to the task at hand and I shift him to the other side. Once he is latched and in place, my thoughts return to deciphering Christian’s meaning. I let my eyes roam the room to avoid his penetrating gaze. I look at the mural of the Grace, the mountain of stuffed animals that came as gifts, the changing table and diaper pail. Finally my eyes rest on the table next to me and I feel like smacking myself on the head. Ms. Snide subconscious is rolling her eyes at me – how obtuse can you be Ana? I retrieve the glass of water from the table and take a good, long drink. Really, it doesn’t take a high GPA or even a degree to realize if a man brought you water, he might like you to drink.
Christian looks relieved and has shifted his gaze from me. Now he is gazing around the room and seems reluctant. “Ana, I am in no way eager to rehash last evening’s events, but I feel like I’m navigating a minefield. The foreboding atmosphere is killing me. Is it your intent to discuss it, or are you going to torture me as I wait for a shoe to drop?”
It takes all my energy not to roll my eyes. “Christian, yes, we will discuss it. But not yet. I want to think for a while first.” I don’t want a fight and I believe the key is preparation, having my thoughts in order so emotions don’t take the forefront. “I’m endeavoring for us to work through this is a positive way, so I need to be calm and less emotional. I think it will be less tortuous on both of us that way.”
“Well, then Mrs. Grey. Tell me when you would like the confabulation to occur?” In classic Christian style, the mood pendulum has swung to the good side. It’s a good question, when indeed?
“After I feed Teddy, I need to pump milk, then shower. Then I’ll work through my feelings,” I unsuccessfully repress a yawn.
“May I suggest you also take a nap at some point? I daresay your sleep was quite inadequate.” He’s right about that. “Let us say late afternoon, after your respite. Four o’clock? Meet in my study?” Are we really making an appointment to have a fight, er, discussion? Well, why not.
“That sounds fine, Mr. Grey.” So, I have until four to figure it out. Christian starts to get up, but before he’s totally off the floor I stop him, “Can I ask some questions? About the legal stuff?”
“Certainly. What do you want to know?”
“Do I need an attorney?”
“Yes, you do. The firm handling the case will assign one to you.” Oh. Okay.
“When do I meet with them?”
“Sooner is probably better. I’ll have it set up for tomorrow.”
“Do they already know I was served?”
“Yes.” I wonder how. I’m guessing Christian must have notified them.
“Is there anything else I need to know to meet with them?” I don’t want to go into the meeting looking like the naïve wife kept in the dark. Which of course, I am.
“No, Ana, you’ll be fine. Try not to get worked up about it.” I narrow my eyes at him…exactly what am I not supposed to get worked up about? “Ana, I meant don’t stress about meeting the attorneys. I didn’t intend to imply anything else.”
Taking a deep breath, I regain my composure. Focus on one step at a time, Ana. “Okay.”
“Okay, Christian. I won’t stress about meeting with the attorneys.” I need to turn this conversation around before it deteriorates. “Can you watch Teddy while I pump and shower?”
“I believe I can. When will he be finished eating?”
“About fifteen minutes.”
“Very well, Mrs. Grey. I shall take a quick shower and return shortly,” and with that he gracefully rises from the floor, leans over, kisses my forehead, and bends over to kiss Teddy’s head. “Young man, you’ll do well to remember what is mine,” he whispers with a smile.
True to his word, Christian returns fifteen minutes later freshly showered, dressed in jeans and a white linen shirt, and just so sexy bare feet. I will never understand how his feet can possibly affect me so. I’ve just gotten Teddy dressed in his twentieth new outfit for his twentieth day. I muse that there really is no need for Mrs. Taylor to do Teddy’s laundry. He received so many outfits as gifts, he’ll be on to the next size before he’s worn them all.
I actually have been having Mrs. Taylor set the packages aside after the first week and a half. Add opening the gifts to the list of things I’ll attend to this week. It’s not as if I am ignoring gifts from friends. These are all from business associates and wanna be business associates of Christian’s. Which reminds me I still have a few thank you notes to write to friends of Grace and Carrick. At Christian’s insistence, I let Andrea write the notes to all the corporate executives trying to curry Christian’s favor. Thank goodness.
“Mr. Grey, Teddy is all yours.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Grey. Now go attend to what is necessary so you can accomplish your thinking for the day,” he teases, and then swats me on the bottom as I turn to leave, eliciting a yelp and giggle.
Back in the master bedroom, I get the pump out and ready. My Macbook catches my eye. I grab it and plug in the stick drive Taylor gave me last night…well, this morning. Positioning the computer on a table, I start the pump, and start to read.
I am floored. The document that opens up is over 200 pages long. We have 200 pages of security protocols. How do I not know these things? Well, I don’t know because no one ever told me.
The table of contents is difficult to decipher…it seems all over the place and is at least six pages long. It doesn’t have any recognizable structure or hierarchy. As if when they thought of a new thing to add, it was just tacked onto the back. There are sections on the house, the CCTV system, gate operation and protocol, vehicles, vehicle maintenance, coordination with Grey House/GEH security team, patrolling the grounds, storage of keys and cataloguing keys to locks. There is even a section on boat protocol for boats docking here. When has a boat ever docked here? We’ve talked about bringing the Grace over, but the docks need upgrading, and the maintenance services at the marina are convenient.
As someone who edits books for a living, this chaos is disconcerting to say the least. I decide to wade through each item in the table of contents to see if any are worth delving into. This may be a wild goose chase. At least I appear to be having a successful pumping, though that is mostly from the skipped feeding. The books say I should build up at least a week’s supply in the freezer before going back to work. How many bottles is that? I stop myself from getting distracted, back to the long list of seemingly disparate topics.
I’m just about done pumping, and on the fifth page of the document contents when I spot something promising. ‘Personal Protection.’
Before I can read more, I am finished pumping. I take the pumped milk and the washable components down to the kitchen quickly and stow the milk in the freezer. I drop the parts to be washed in the sink…I’ll get to it later. I want to find out if there is interesting reading buried in the security protocols.
Returning to the bedroom and my Macbook, I am deeply disappointed. There are several pages on vehicles, driving, door opening, and the like. The detail on the various entrances to Grey House and Grey Publishing, and appropriate parking at each is quite dry. There is a lot of content on etiquette in various social situations, handling of guests in the house, even protocols for when we are at Christian’s parents. Other than learning that Grace always provides dinner in the kitchen, this isn’t proving fruitful. My God, it even goes into how to wait for us at a public restroom. Seriously.
A different approach is required. I scroll back to the top of the Personal Protection section and decide to search. For what? I try ‘Anastasia Grey’. No hits. “Ana Grey’. No hits. Then I try ‘Mrs.’ Bingo. Well, not exactly bingo.
‘Mrs. Grey’ seems to appear quite frequently, so I glance at each occurrence quickly before clicking for the next one. Such mundane information, such as how I take my tea, what deli near the office has sandwiches I like. I’m almost at the end of the section and mentally giving up, ready to shower when something interesting pops up. Interesting isn’t the right work. Surprising? Shocking? Appalling? I have to read it twice to be sure I understood. But unfortunately, I have accurately comprehended. Two subsections on me that need to be altered immediately.
Mrs. Grey Schedule Deviations:
Any deviation from the daily published schedule should be reported to Mr. Grey via Jason Taylor immediately. If Jason Taylor is not covering Mr. Grey on a particular day, report to whoever is attending Mr. Grey or to Mr. Grey directly.
- Attending to any location not on the published schedule.
- Meeting with anyone not on the published schedule. This includes all conversations, regardless of length. Exception for employees of Grey Publishing.
Mrs. Grey Communications
The Grey House communication department will provide a daily file with Mrs. Grey’s emails and texts. The file is to be reviewed and any previously unknown senders or recipients shall be reported to Mr. Grey via Jason Taylor. The daily file will contain:
- Emails from Mrs. Grey’s Grey Publishing account
- Emails from Mrs. Grey’s personal email account utilized for her blackberry and personal email
- Text messages from Mrs. Grey’s blackberry
I want to find Christian and scream at him. The gross invasion of privacy is incomprehensible. Reporting everywhere I go? Everyone I talk to? Scanning all my email and texts contacts? This is over the top control freak. Why does he need this? What does it achieve? How is this helpful to him?
I quickly finish my search of the document and decide these two sections are the only ones that are deeply contemptuous. I print the offending pages in my study, then close my Macbook. How do I even start to address this? Which transgression is larger? Spying on my whereabouts? Hacking my emails and texts? Not trusting me? Seriously, what does this mean?
My head is spinning again. I will myself to breathe deeply. Combating the compulsion to run and confront Christian right now takes every ounce of energy I have. Channeling my inner Flynn, I opt for the shower instead. Entering the sleek marble bathroom, a quick check in the mirror shows my outer appearance and inner appearance are in sync. Frazzled, weary, agitated…I wouldn’t want to have an altercation with me just now. Inner goddess has deserted me, madam subconscious might actually be cowering from me for once. I need to channel another part of myself, the strong fighter. My private warrior self.
I turn on the bank of shower heads and wait for the warm water. The whole house has eco-friendly on demand hot water. It’s terrific, because you never run out of hot water. Which is good, because this may be a looooong shower. Stepping in, I close my eyes and let the water wash over me, washing away last night, washing away the man in the rental tuxedo, washing away the words from the security protocol. I set the shower heads for a massage pattern, turn and let them pound on my back. It feels awesome, though it isn’t quite as effective as Christian’s magical fingers. God those hands can give a massage. Mmmm, magical fingers.
I shake my head to stop my thoughts. Do not get distracted my private warrior scowls at me. Focus, Ana. Which transgression do I commence with? How do I start the discussion without starting a fight? I almost wish I could draft an email. Christian is right, I communicate much better that way. Even after a year together, I still squirm with face to face challenging discussions.
Then it dawns on me. Why not write an email? Not necessarily to send, but to figure out my thoughts and feelings. Figure out how best to express myself. Yes, this is the answer. I raise my fist in the air, YES. I have a plan. Between the six pulsating shower heads and my strategy, my mood is measurably improved. I quickly shampoo my hair, rinse off, exit the shower, and rap myself in a fluffy Turkish towel.
After drying myself and my hair, the reflection in the mirror emulates my upgraded attitude. Fresh, determined, confident. Well, moderately confident. I throw on a pair of jeans and a pale green t-shirt. A quick check of the clock shows it is about an hour before Teddy’s next meal. Grabbing my Macbook, I head to my study. After crossing the house to the other side of the living room, I run into Gail in the hall. She’s in casual weekend attire, and she looks quite tired. That would be my fault.
“Gail, I’m glad I found you. I’m so sorry about waking you and Jason this morning.” What can I say? I was overtired, overwhelmed, and possibly a little nutso? “I just didn’t think before I acted on an impulse.”
She smiles at me warmly and sighs. “Mrs. Grey, it really wasn’t your fault.” It’s nice of her to say that, but my lapse in judgment really is to blame. “Don’t worry, we’ll all be back to normal by tomorrow,” she reassures me. God, I hope so.
“Thank you for understanding,” I mumble. I truly feel terrible about it.
In my study I retrieve the document excerpt from the printer and sit down at my desk. My chair is an antique with the round back and seat covered in a silk floral pattern. The desk is a French antique, with delicate legs and ornate carving. I fell in love with it at first sight and despite Kate’s very practical objections, I bought it anyway. No, it isn’t sensible, it has only one drawer, no place for a keyboard, doesn’t accommodate power cords, and it is lovely and mine.
Time to focus, Grey. I spend half an hour typing, deleting, typing, deleting again, unsure what I want to say and how to say it. Finally I get a good start and the words just flow. It isn’t very long, but says what it needs to, and if I falter in talking, I can fall back on what I wrote. Satisfied, I save the draft email. I have no idea where Christian and Teddy are and it is just about lunch time. Rather than traipse all over the house searching, I send a quick email.
To: Christian Grey
From: Anastasia Grey
Date: June 3, 2012 11:53 am
Mr. Grey and Mr. Grey,
I note from the clock that the lunch hour approaches. Please discuss amongst yourselves who would like to eat first.
If Mr. Grey Sr. will be first, then we can meet in the kitchen. If Mr. Grey Jr. will be eating first, please let me know where I can find you.
xo Ana, Grey Food Services.
While I await my answer, I print my draft email and gather it with the security protocol page. I fold the papers and stuff them in my back pocket for later. The Macbook pings with a new email.
To: Anastasia Grey
From: Christian Grey
Date: June 3, 2012 11:55 am
Subject: Starving Men
Mr. Grey Jr. is not yet demanding his lunch, so I shall step up and humbly request mine. Perhaps we can discuss what this world is coming to when a man’s wife emails him from within the same residence. We can email about it.
Hungry CEO, Grey Enterprise Holdings
Hungry CEO, Grey Enterprise Holdings
To: Christian Grey
From: Anastasia Grey
Date: June 3, 2012 11:56 am
I am en route to the kitchen. And if you really are starving, I can locate you much quicker this way. Scouring the house for your whereabouts could take quite a while, unless I send out the security team on a search mission.
Or I could have you tagged with one a tracker device? (This is a joke, do NOT get any ideas).
Part of me is a little nervous about that last email. I was joking, but based on the enlightenment from this morning, I wouldn’t put it past Fifty. Something to talk about during or after our tête-á-tête this afternoon.
Closing the Macbook and heading to the kitchen, I pause by Christian’s study. I’m struck with a sudden flash of insight. He wants home turf advantage! That’s why he wants to meet in his study. I don’t even know if he did this intentionally or if it was just instinct with him, but I’m irked at myself for not realizing it. HE taught me this. When you have the upper hand in negotiation, go to them so you can make it quick and make your exit. When you are at a disadvantage, make them come to you, to where you are most comfortable and have all your resources around you. And he is right – I’ve tried it. Usually when trying to sign authors or work with colleagues. Not with my spouse. Sighing aloud, I’m cognizant I cannot let this discussion happen here. I’ll need to introduce a change of venue.
I rendezvous with Christian in the kitchen as he is placing Teddy in the swing. I inspect the refrigerator contents. “We have a choice, chicken salad or, ah, subs?” I blush slightly and I have to repress a giggle. You would think that after a year the word sub wouldn’t make me blush or snigger. I have to shake my head at myself.
Christian smirks at me, “Chicken salad sounds delightful, Mrs. Grey.”
I lay out two plates, cover them in romaine from the salad spinner, slice tomatoes and fan them out across the plates. Topping each plate with a scoop of Mrs. Taylor’s chicken salad, lunch is ready. I really should be cooking more, since I am home. On the other hand, Mrs. Taylor’s chicken salad is terribly good. She uses white raisins, water chestnuts, and celery seed.
We sit at the island, eating in awkward silence, with just the sound of the baby swing squeaking back and forth. We’ve eaten in silence before, but that was contented ‘we’re so comfortable we don’t need to speak’ tranquility. This is ‘tension so thick you could cut it with a knife’ dead silence.
I can’t stand it and break first. “Um, are you still okay with inviting Ray next weekend?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
I just shrug my shoulders. “No reason. I just wanted to double check before I called him,” I answer.
After a few more moments, he speaks again, “Let me know if he’s coming for sure. The Mariners are in town next weekend, we could go. It shouldn’t be difficult to get good tickets, they aren’t having a terrific season.”
Ray would like that, “That would be great. I’ll talk to him today.”
With that, our conversation is exhausted for the time being and we sit next to each other absorbed in our own thoughts. I’m grateful when we finish and I take the dishes to the sink. Teddy is starting to fuss for his lunch, so I leave the dishes for later. I take Teddy from the swing back to the nursery, stopping in our room to grab my Blackberry from my purse. After a diaper change, I grab the nursing pillow, sit in the glider, and get Teddy started. Once he is set, I dial Ray.
“Hi Dad, it’s me.”
“Annie, how are you and that baby doing?”
“Oh, we’re good Dad. He already looks so much bigger.”
“Does he? Well, I’ll have to come see him before he starts driving,” Ray chuckles.
“Well, Dad, I thought maybe you would like to come next weekend? Kind of an early father’s day?”
Ray hesitates for a second and I’m worried he doesn’t want to come. He’s only been to the new house once and he’s slightly uncomfortable here. Each time he walks into a room, he looks around the whole space and shakes his head. Though he would never verbalize any criticism, it makes me feel somewhat ostentatious. My mother is just the opposite, absolutely at home here.
“Well, Annie, I’m still not supposed to drive long distances.”
“We could send a car, Dad,” is the drive really the problem? “Christian could get Mariners tickets,” I hope that baseball will sweeten the offer a little.
“Baseball tickets, hmmm. They aren’t having a great year, but I haven’t seen them play in years,” I think it is working. “Why don’t I see if José wants to drive me and we’ll all have a good visit?”
Oh, I’m not so sure about that. “Okay, Dad. Seeing José sounds great, but it isn’t a problem to send a car,” maybe he’ll rethink this.
“Annie, I just…I don’t really like riding for three hours with a stranger. You feel like you have to talk with them the whole time. A friend doesn’t expect that.” I have to laugh at myself. Here I am thinking Ray doesn’t want to visit, when he really doesn’t want to be forced to make conversation. I should have known.
“Dad, see if José can come. We’ll all have a great weekend together, and we’ll take José out to dinner to celebrate his graduation.”
“Now you’re talking, Annie. I’ll call you back and let you know.”
We hang up, but I don’t get to relax for long. My Blackberry starts broadcasting Don Henley’s Dirty laundry – Kate’s ring tone. She hates it, but I tease her with it because of the bubble-headed bleach blonde reference, which she is so not…bubble-headed or bleached.
“Hi,” I answer.
“Don’t ‘hi’ me, what happened last night?” How did she know? I didn’t say anything when we said goodnight. “Mia called me and said Grace and Carrick were talking over breakfast about some legal thing happening at the party, what gives Steele?”
Ugh, the Kavanaugh inquisition, “It’s no big deal, Kate.”
“What is no big deal? Spill or I’ll come over there and make you.”
I know she means it, I know I have to give her something, “Christian is being sued and they want to depose me. It isn’t a big deal, I was just really shocked that they served me at the party. It didn’t seem,” what do I say? For some reason, I don’t want to tell her Christian didn’t confide in me. Though it is typical Christian, its…embarrassing. “It didn’t seem in good taste.” With all the wedding planning, what is and is not in good taste is on the forefront of Kate’s mind these days.
“I should say not! It’s actually rather tacky. And at his parents’ home!” Yes, it seems I hit the right angle for her. At least for a minute it does, then the reporter kicks in, “What is the suit about?”
I really don’t want to go into specifics, plus I don’t yet have all the details. “Kate, it is a personal lawsuit. Can I tell you about it another time? I really don’t want to think about it,” which is the truth, even though it is all I can think about.
“Ok, Ana. I’ll let you off the hook, for now. Are we still on for lunch Wednesday?”
“Absolutely. I’ll see you then.”
We hang up, and Teddy is asleep in my arms. I make my way to the crib and gently lay him down, then head back to our room for my own very necessary nap.
Two hours later I wake to the sound of the baby monitor. I’m still tired, but less so. I use the bathroom, quickly brush my teeth, grab my Blackberry, and return to the nursery. Teddy seems a little pissed that I dared to take so long, so I offer him a sincere apology, but explain that sometimes Mommy needs to pee.
The clock on the wall shows it is 3:30, and Teddy won’t be done for about forty minutes.
To: Christian Grey
From: Anastasia Grey
Date: June 3, 2012 3:31 pm
Subject: Delay of game
Teddy is insisting in being fed before our ‘confabulation’. Need to postpone to 4:15-ish. Hope this is acceptable.
I hit send and get comfortable in the glider. A few minutes later my Blackberry pings.
To: Anastasia Grey
From: Christian Grey
Date: June 3, 2012 3:33 pm
Subject: Schedule change accepted
Since it is in my son’s best interest, I consent to the amended appointment and shall be waiting for you in my study whenever you are ‘ready-ish’.
I hope you had a good nap. I was tempted to join you, but I did not want to disturb you.
Patient CEO, Grey Enterprise Holdings
Patient CEO, Grey Enterprise Holdings
PS: ish is not a grammatically acceptable way to make an adjective. An editor should know this.
My private warrior is waking from her own nap…patient, my you know what. And you won’t be in your study long. I hope I can hold onto her for the rest of the afternoon and she doesn’t desert me when hit with a Christian Grey glare.
To: Christian Grey
From: Anastasia Grey
Date: June 3, 2012 3:34 pm
Subject: Stuck up-ish
Language is a tool for expression. If the message is successfully conveyed, the language used has served its intended purpose – whether grammatically correct or not.
See you soon.
x-ish o-ish Ana
Forty minutes later, Teddy is nursed and burped. I go to the linen closet and grab a blanket on our way downstairs. Before heading to Christian’s study, I grab the Bugaboo stroller and strap Teddy into place. Taking a deep breath, I stride towards where Christian waits for me.
Pushing the stroller into his study, with the blanket over the handles, Christian looks up bewildered. He is seated behind his desk, looking every bit the efficient executive. I’m satisfied I made the right call.
“I thought we might get some fresh air. Maybe sit down by the water?” I smile at him so he won’t think I’m being manipulative. Which I am, but just a little.
He cocks his head to one side and smirks a little, “Very well, Mrs. Grey. I’ll carry that.” He stands, comes out behind the desk, takes the blanket from me, and it is very obvious he knows what I am doing. I actually think he’s a little proud of me for it. Plus, it isn’t as if I am trying to get him on my turf, I’m aiming for neutral.
We walk through the foyer and out the patio doors. Christian lifts the bottom of the stroller down the steps. We walk about three quarters of the way to the water, lay out the blanket, position Teddy in the stroller and sit down.
My heart is actually racing, I am so nervous. Christian doesn’t look much better. He is sitting cross-legged watching me intently. I move to directly opposite him and mirror him, our knees touching. I take his hands in mine and I’m shocked. He’s actually shaking! I wouldn’t have noticed, but I can feel it. I start to lose all resolve and just want to take him in my arms and tell him everything is okay.
But mistress warrior won’t have that. Nothing will change if you don’t do this, Ana! I take a really deep breath and look into his stunning gray eyes.
“Christian, I want to know why you didn’t share this with me.” A good start, I think.
I’m not sure Christian agrees, because his expression has gone from worried to stern, “Ana, I’ve told you this before. I don’t ever want my past to touch you. Why should you have to be tainted with any of that shit?”
Not as great a start as I had hoped. “Christian, this isn’t the past, this is the present. This lawsuit is the present. All the staff working to hide things from me is the present.”
“It wasn’t all the staff.” I raise an eyebrow at him to ask if this is really the detail on which he wants to dwell. He backs down and tries another angle, “and you just had a baby. You have enough to worry about.” It is a decent argument, but it won’t fly.
“So you thought it would be better for me to find out from a stranger in the middle of a crowded event?”
“No, I…I really didn’t think they would go that far,” he sighs as if he is resolved to his fate. “I thought I could settle it before…”
His voice trails off, so I finish his sentence, “before I found out?” He nods. “But I shouldn’t have to find out, I should have been told. You should have shared it with me, even if they didn’t want to talk to me.” I’m starting to get emotional. Damned hormones. “Christian, I’m your wife. Anything that touches you, touches me. You shouldn’t have to carry this or any burden alone.” The tears have started.
“Ana, I’ll do better. Please don’t cry. I just want you to stop punishing me.”
“Christian, I haven’t punished you. What are you talking about?”
“Last night, at the fireworks, you wouldn’t let me hold you. Then in bed, you turned away from me. You wouldn’t let me touch you.” My subconscious is back, tsking at me and shaking a finger. He’s right, I was punishing him. I didn’t want to let him hold me because it would comfort him.
“Just don’t push me away, anymore. Please.”
The fight is returning to me a little. I just apologized…and first. But he hasn’t conceding anything. “Christian, don’t you realize it was YOU who pushed me away?” He looks perplexed, and I give up fighting the tears. “When you don’t share your life with me, when you let others get between us, you push me away. You let them bifurcate us.”
I watch Christian silently mouth the word and I let what I’ve said sink in. “You think I’ve pushed you away?” I nod. He reaches his hand up to my cheek, brushing my tears away with his thumb, “I’m only trying to protect you. To shield you.”
Fighting sobs, I struggle to get words out, “You’re k-keeping me in a b-bubble. Y-you’re not protecting me. Y-you’re i-isolating me. It’s n-not the s-same.”
The calm, prepared communication plan is out the window. I know Christian is only seeing the tears and is desperate to stop them, but that means he isn’t really absorbing my words. I let go of his hand and reach into my back pocket and hand the papers to him.
He unfolds them, then looks at me confused, “You wrote me an email?” I nod at him again. He looks at the paper, then at me, and then reads. I watch his face. His brow is furrowed as he contemplates the words before him. At one point his eyes widen and he glances up at me, searching my eyes for a moment. He flips to the security document page, but seems to recognize it and flips back to the email. After a few minutes, I can tell he’s returned to the top to reread.
From: Anastasia Grey
Subject: Talk to me
I really want to understand why you don’t feel you could trust me with what is going on in your life. I need to understand. But that is for you to tell me. What I want to tell you is how it makes me feel.
When I realized that you had been keeping things from me, but that you had trusted others, I felt…I felt on the periphery. As if I was just one of many satellites around you, and not even the closest one. I felt apart from you. I cannot even begin to tell you what an empty feeling it was - it is.
Reading the security document, knowing that you feel the need to monitor my every move and every communication, I felt disbelief, shock, and worry. What are you looking for? What are you afraid of? I am also angry, not so much at the stalking itself, but what it means. It means you have lied to me, over and over. It means that before I could share things with you, tell you about things, you already knew. But you pretended you didn’t. I think this is the most painful part of everything.
Help me understand why you did this. Help me see your perspective. But more important, help me see the path forward.
I love you, Christian Grey.
I want, no need, to be your partner. I need to stand with you, a united front for any and all challenges and triumphs. I cannot just be a protectorate, an asset.
While he reads, I manage to calm myself a bit. The tears have subsided and my breathing is steady. Watching his eyes, I’m pretty sure he is re-reading for a third time, so I wait silently.
Finally, Christian’s eyes look up to meet mine. He is searching for something, but I don’t know what. I will myself to be patient, to let him speak.
Eventually he does, “You felt apart from me?” Again, I nod. He starts shaking his head, “No, Ana, no. I never want that. You are my universe. Don’t you see? You are the center of everything. Everything in my world orbits around you. Me, Teddy, the house, the company are all here for you. Not the other way round.”
“But no one should be the center, don’t you see. It only works if we are together. You, me, and Teddy need to be…” I search for the right word, “…together we make up the core of our universe, the nucleus. But if you separate the nucleus...”
Christian mouth curls up at the end a little as he finishes my thought for me, “an atom bomb?” I nod slowly in agreement. “Aside from likening our relationship to nuclear fission, I see your point.” He sighs deeply, then straightens his legs out on either side, straddling me. He reaches for my legs, uncrosses them and wraps them around his torso, pulling me closer in the process. Reaching for me, he clasps my face in his hands, “Ana, it’s hard for me. The compulsion to safeguard you, and to keep you to myself, is so deep. It isn’t totally tied to my abandonment issues.” I know these issues well, in the mind of four year old Christian, his mother deserted him. I have rejection issues of my own, too. “Flynn likens it to a child getting the one ideal toy they’ve always wanted. Then hiding it away so no one else can play with it.”
I sigh, “I’m not a toy.”
“I know. And I don’t want you to feel locked up. And I most certainly don’t want you to feel separated from me in any way.”
“Then talk to me. When you share with me, confide in me, you pull me closer. I want you to pull me closer.”
“I want that, too.” We are nose to nose now. Just breathing together, holding on to each other. Christian pulls his head back, dropping his hands to my legs. “What did you mean that I lied to you?”
Yes, we need to discuss this. “Did you know I had made a friend at Neiman’s before I told you?”
“Well, not the details. I knew you had spoken with someone.” He looks uncomfortable. Caught, even.
“Did you know I had made plans with her?”
He hesitates for a moment, then quietly answers, “Yes. I knew.”
“But you let me tell you and you acted like you didn’t know?” He nods. “Christian! That’s lying to me. You let me go on as if I was sharing something, but you already knew. You had known for a few days.”
“I only knew so I could keep you safe. I still want you to share things with me yourself.”
Argh! Ok, warrior, let him have it. “I want to share with you. But if you know everything ahead of time it just…just sucks the joy out of it!”
Christian’s eyes are wide, and he has a slight smirk. “Sucks the joy out of it?”
“How very eloquently put, Mrs. Grey.”
“Don’t ‘Mrs. Grey’ me. You know what I mean.”
Christian is studying my face, I make an effort to maintain a furrowed brow. It is so hard to do when he looks so sincere. My private warrior redoubles her efforts – hold on, Ana!
At last, Christian speaks, “I don’t want to take joy from you. I only want to bring you pleasure, delight, and ecstasy.” Oh. Ecstasy. “But I need to know you are safe. And I need to know you’re not…” his voice trails off to a whisper “running.”
And there we have the crux of the problem. “Christian, there has to be a middle ground, one that leaves you confident of my wellbeing and my intentions. I feel an impasse coming, but I am not willing to let this go. I cannot exist in this sterile controlled environment you have established.”
We sit quietly, limbs intertwined, trying to will the issue away. How do I reassure him while maintaining privacy and discretion? If there was some way of taking all the information he wants and putting it in a vault, for emergency use only. But there is no such vault.
Then it hits me. We absolutely have a vault. A very discrete, stoic, trustworthy vault.
“Christian, what if I let you gather the information on my whereabouts and my communication, but you can’t know it?”
“Ana, what good is that? I won’t have any reassurances of your safety.”
“Hear me out. Instead of reporting to you, a neutral party will review and report only risks. If something is deemed not a risk, the third party won’t pass along the detail to you.”
I can see the wheels in Christian’s mind turning. This is a lot of control for him to cede. He’ll need to trust another’s judgment. “Who would the third party be?”
“So, Taylor gets to know where you are and who you’re with, but I don’t?”
“No, you get to know. But I have the privilege of telling you. You don’t get to spy on me.” In all honesty, I don’t like the information even being compiled or shared with Taylor, but I’m considering this a first step subject to renegotiation at a later date.
“And if I say no?”
“Then I would be very uncomfortable having people around me who spy on me for my husband.” I am being quite defiant. I have given him two choices. Let Taylor be the vault, or I won’t adhere to security protocol.
“If I agree, Mrs. Grey, you won’t fight Taylor and Sawyer when they give you direction for your safety?” Oh my God. I think I’ve won. I nod in concurrence. “And you will take security with you.” Again, I indicate agreement. “And you won’t keep secrets?”
“That is a two way street, Mr. Grey. Do you promise to share with me? To confide in me? To pull me closer?”
“As close as I can get you, baby. I promise.” And I believe him.
I sigh with deep relief, take his face in my hands and bring my lips to his. Sealing the deal, if you will.
“After Taylor updates the security protocol document, tell him to give me a fresh copy.”
“Because it is a mess and needs to be organized and cleaned up. Taylor has many strong suits, writing is not one of them.”
Christian chuckles at me, “Ever the editor, Mrs. Grey.” I suppose he is right.
We eat dinner, both relieved to have the stress of the day behind us. After, we relax in the family room. Well, Christian works on his laptop and I lay on the floor with Teddy. I even get Teddy on his stomach on the boppy for thirty full seconds.
Subsequent to getting Teddy and I ready for bed and nursing Teddy one last time, I return to our room where Christian is waiting for me. Following the night and day we just had, I can barely stay on my feet.
“Mrs. Grey, may I trouble you for one dance before bed?” Dance?
“Only if you promise to hold me up, Mr. Grey.”
“Always, Mrs. Grey.” Christian sets his iPod in the docking station that is linked to speakers hidden behind the walls. I recognize the song as a well known oldie, though I don’t know who sings it. But it doesn’t matter, because tonight my Fifty is singing it to me as we sway to the music. Each time the chorus hits, he swings me while crooning, ending with me in a dip.”
Each night before you go to bed my baby
Whisper a little prayer for me my baby
And tell all the stars above
This is dedicated to the one I love
Whisper a little prayer for me my baby
And tell all the stars above
This is dedicated to the one I love