He’s never asked about his dad before! It’s a question that I’ve been dreading for the longest time and not one that I’ve ever managed to find a reply too, especially since I never thought that Christian would be in our lives.
Oh, what to do?
Did I even know that he thought about his dad? I give myself a mental smack on the forehead. He’s a little boy, of course he thinks about his dad!
I do and I don’t want him to know that Christian is his dad. I don’t even think that he really understands the implications of his question. If I can read his wide-eyed, awed expression correctly then he seems to have constructed some vague, mythical image in his mind of a father that no man can ever live up to.
If I tell him; then I increase Christian’s level of responsibility to Chris a hundred fold, I’m not sure Christian can live up to Chris’ expectations of a dad yet, though I can see that he clearly has potential. If I don’t, I might not get another perfect opportunity like this and I don’t want to get into a situation where he befriends Christian and then finds out that we withheld this vital piece of information from him. The last thing we want is for him to feel betrayed by Christian – by us. He might still be small but I feel strongly that he wouldn’t like to find out that I lied to him, no matter what the reason.
My ringing mobile halts my worried thoughts. Saved by the bell – or rather phone! Maybe Chris will forget about his question I think when I look at the caller ID flashing in blue and stopping my heart – it’s Christian.
“Hi,” I try to interject some laid-back sexy into my voice. I put my free hand in the back pocket of my jeans and stride away from Chris as I glace over my shoulder to check that he’s occupied enough not to mind me stealing away for a bit of privacy.
“Anastasia,” a thrill runs through me as he says my name in that slow gravely drone of his. “Thank you for taking my call.”
His dry sarcasm catapults me back to so many previous conversations that I unthinkingly slip into our old playful, bantering mode. “Why Mr Grey,” I flirt, “I thought you said that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit,” I’m sure that he can hear full, beaming smile in my teasing words.
I hear him draw a sudden short breath, the way I used to address him as well as the reference to a long-ago conversation jarring him. I realise that, for a moment, I was his wife again, phone sparring with the relaxed ease of a happily married couple.
My blush comes so fast, so hard that I fear he might hear the blood rushing to my face. How did that happen?! I dish out another mental smack for my forehead, casting my eyes heavenward in exasperation with my blunder. Honestly!
“Ana… I… I just called to see how you were getting along with Collins.” He’s already recovered but his slight falter gives him away. I can’t help the skip my pulse makes at the thought that I might have unnerved him.
I have to muster my full concentration to keep my mind on the conversation. “Thank you Christian, he seems very… efficient.” That’s the best I can do, I hate having someone else here, invading my space, but tolerance is all part of the get-Christian-back plan.
“That’s good to hear. Yes, uhm, how is Chris feeling?” I take in that he’s still rattled; it curls up the corners of my mouth, helping me to unwind a little.
“He’s better thank you, as long as he gets the medicine he’s quite happy but if it wears off,” I shrug even though he can’t see me, “his fever spikes and he gets lethargic. He’ll be fine.” I’m eager to reassure him, I remember how worried he can get. “Thank you so much for your thoughtful gifts for him – and me.” I feel like a schoolgirl; shy and uncertain, talking to her dream guy. If my phone had a cord I’d be twirling it around my finger.
“You are most welcome Anastasia. I hope it will be useful.” Ah, I sigh, reserved Fifty is back.
We both hang on the line, quiet but unwilling to end the conversation. A brewing silence settles between us while I picture our individual psyches reaching for each other, trying to re-tie the connection that we both need to be whole. I wonder if he’s experiencing it like I am – that ever present pull, a physical sensation of being drawn. My half is voicing the words I cannot, silently screaming; “I love you so much.”
The moment is shattered by a sudden, loud clatter on Christian’s side. I hear fumbling and then he’s back on the line, “I’m sorry, I…um, I dropped the phone.”
Holy shit, he did feel it! Take that Mr Control! I ball my fist and yank my bent arm down – Yes!
“Are you okay?” My mock concern is doing a poor job of hiding the massive grin on my face.
“Yes… er, fine. Thank you.” His stilted reply only highlights his embarrassment that he’s trying to veil, making my over exited mind wander over all sorts of possibilities.
I can’t dwell too long on the happy path my thoughts are exploring because Chris’ question pushes to the forefront. Christian said that I should discuss parenting matters with him; this could be an ideal starting point, especially as it involves him.
“Christian, there’s something I’d like to discuss with you. It’s a delicate matter and I would appreciate your input, especially as it pertains to you.” I pause to give him time to digest the information, hoping that I don’t scare him off.
“Anything Anastasia, you should know that.” His quiet reply comes as no surprise, his unmoving strength always a great comfort.
“When Chris got the gifts, the ones you sent,” I clarify, “he first thought it was from Santa,” I giggle because really, it was so cute.
“But in the light of your new relationship with him, I felt that it was important that he knew it was from you so, to redirect his train of thought, I said some things to help him think it through for himself. I felt that he would – you know – connect the dots and it would lead him to you.” I hesitate, unsure how Christian is going to react.
“Go on,” he gently prods, his timbre still warm and reassuring.
“His little face just lit up when he arrived at his conclusion, I assumed that he would ask if it was from you, as “my friend” Christian, but instead he asked if it was from his dad.” My voice turns to a low whisper; I hold my breath as my teeth rake nervously over my lip.
His hard gulp is audible over the phone. “Anastasia, what did you say? Do you think he knows that I’m his father?” Christian’s voice is quiet but undoubtedly marred with a heavy dose of anxiety and understandably surprised at the bombshell I just dropped in his unsuspecting lap.
“No, no I don’t think so,” I rush to set his mind at rest, “I just think that he thinks about his dad – you know – like all little boys, and he might be longing for that connection. I didn’t say anything….. I didn’t know what to say.”
My answer is met with a brooding silence and I feel a growing uneasiness gnawing at my stomach, tension building with each passing second. What is he thinking?
“Say something please!” No longer able to bear the distance I suddenly perceive between us I beg for a clue to his thoughts. I’m wringing my fingers together, clutching the phone between my ear and shoulder.
His reply is laced with uncertainty, “What do you think? I’d like him to know, sooner rather than later, I want to be part of his life Anastasia.”
I sigh, relief crashing over me, “I know. I want that too.” The respite doesn’t last long as I begin to fear for my little boy, how would he handle news like that? Again I’m reminded of the crushing repercussions that my rash decision is forcing on all of us. My emotions are constantly warring, vacillating between anger and devouring guilt.
“If you tell him, I’d like to be there to share that moment with him. He’s a good boy, strong and well balanced, I’m sure he’ll be fine.” All trace of uncertainty has gone and authoritative, decisive Christian is at the helm.
My jaw drops to the floor, he’s only just met Chris, how can he be so sure? My mind momentarily tangles with that until it shifts gear and cottons onto the fact that Christian wants to be present when I tell him. With that he presents me with the perfect opportunity to further my plan, unwittingly stoking my thoughts with endless, new possibilities. My inner goddess is positively joyous.
“We could tell him together,” I breathe, hope flaring like a sail in the wind.
“I’m tied up all week in negotiations with the Koreans so I could fly in on Saturday, maybe even Friday night. Do you think he could wait until then?”
Okay Ana, seize the day, be bold! “Or we could come to you?” I bite back my smile at the thought of Christian tied up……
“You would do that?” his voice is low, unmistakably incredulous with something else that I can’t place – maybe hope?
“This is important.” I shrug my shoulders to lend credibility to my words but deep down I know that my willingness to go has a lot to do with getting us closer to Christian. My grand plan, I might even get an opportunity to give him my contract…
“Okay.” For a beat he sounds uncertain leaving me wondering about what. “I’ll set it up but I don’t want Chris to travel while he’s sick. When did the doctor say that he could go back to school?”
My inner goddess stomps her foot, pouting childishly – why can’t we go today?
He really didn’t say so I lie just a little: “I think he said by Friday.” My subconscious is shaking her disapproving head and wagging a finger at me in warning: Anastasia Rose Steele are you lying?
I brush off her remark, justifying my actions: it’s for our greater good! Glad that Christian can’t see the rosy tinge the teeny lie pinched my cheeks with.
“Just to be safe, let’s give it an extra day. I’ll arrange for the Jet to be ready for take-off on Saturday morning, say 9:00am? Collins will liaise with Taylor and get you to the airport, he will organise a man to watch your apartment while you’re away.”
Details, details, I don’t care; we’re going to Seattle, on Saturday! Yay!
“Thank you Christian, I’ll try my best to distract him until then.” Surely my wide smile must bleed through my words, consciously I bite my lip to stop my ridiculously breathy reaction from giving away my over eagerness.
After we say our good-byes, I wander back to Chris but the doorbell chimes. I hope it’s my mom – I don’t know if I can stand any more surprises today. It must be later than I thought which means I should be getting ready for work.
This time I remember the new protocol and let Collins do his security thing. After my mom is cleared for visiting he disappears again.
She looks a bit shell shocked at being put through a rigorous check at her own daughter’s front door. “Don’t ask!” I roll my eyes and she snorts, correctly surmising that Mr Grey is to blame.
She wraps me in a bear hug and I feel my tension ease a little. “Hello darling,” pushing back she lets her hands rest on my shoulders as she scans my expression, looking for clues – like only a mother can – to judge my current emotional state.
I give her a warm, reassuring smile, “I’m good mom, we’re good. Thank you.” I hope she sees the good news reflected in my brighter eyes.
When we start down the passage Chris comes barrelling through and jumps into his grandma’s arms, always eager to spend time with the person who likes nothing more than to play endless, patient games with him. Thank goodness she’s strong and fit enough to indulge his energy levels.
“Gran, come and see what I have!” He slips from her arms again and drags her to the lounge. “I’m sick, and the doctor came and I got lots of presents! Look! Look gran!” I always marvel at his capacity for enjoying things so much, seizing the moment with every ounce of strength he has. We get so jaded as adults.
My mom dutifully ooh’s and ah’s at everything and I wince good naturedly at the busy afternoon ahead of her, playing with her now invigorated grandson. Four year olds can be exhausting but she easily takes it in her stride.
When Chris goes to his room to fetch something I quickly fill my mom in on the latest developments, telling her about his loaded “real father” question and that, at least for the moment, he mercifully seemed to have forgotten about it.
She grimaces in response and squeezes my hand, I guess fielding difficult questions is just part and parcel of parenting so unable to offer advice she distracts me instead, “wow, he got a pead to come and check in on Chris? He always did know how to take care of his loved ones.” Her dry reply is teamed with a pointed look in my direction, undoubtedly designed to remind me of what I let slip through my fingers.
The heat of the thrill I felt moments ago about traveling to Seattle turns cool, recriminations pushing all happy thoughts away. I sigh, deflated; will I ever be able to move past the stupid road I chose?
After cuddling my precious boy and hugging my mother I leave for my shift at the restaurant but not before Collins reminds me that yet another Taylor clone will be keeping a watchful eye on me tonight.
With a small show of stubbornness I dodge being driven to work by Carl, my security detail for the evening. I much prefer to walk the two blocks to work, especially after being cooped up in the apartment all day. With the stern slant of my mouth and the rigid set of my shoulders I think it quickly became clear to Collins that he wasn’t going to win that particular battle thus relenting to me this rare one time.
The Savannah weather is a little milder this time of year and I enjoy the refreshing walk, stretching my disused limbs. I unbridle my thoughts, letting them wander freely over all the delicious possibilities our trip may bring. Maybe, if I’m really lucky, I’ll be in Christian’s arms by this time next week… possibly even his bed. I luxuriate in that delectable fantasy for a minute before I come to an abrupt halt, my subconscious giving me a metal slap behind my head – birth control!
The person behind me has to swerve to avoid bumping into me as I stand immobilised and lost in shocked thought on the curb. She frowns over her shoulder muttering about stopping in front of people then strides away quickly, shaking her head in annoyance.
Of course, I want desperately to believe that I wasn’t going to undertake this visit without giving that aspect a second thought if Miss Prim didn’t happen to remind me. My single minded inner goddess is only too happy we’re going; I know she wouldn’t be of any help in that regard.
I paw at my bag to dig out my phone, an unshakable urgency driving me to make an appointment this very instant. I step out of the flow of pedestrians clutching the phone to my ear, impatiently counting the rings before I can let my mind rest.
While waiting I catch Carl marching up to me, grim concern carved into his oh-so-serious face, “Ms Steele, is everything all right?” I notice that his one hand is behind his back, under his jacket.
Oh dear, it’s resting on his side arm!
“I’m fine, perfectly fine, thank you.” I say holding my hand over the mouthpiece of the phone. “I just forgot to confirm an appointment and I don’t want to lose it.” I’m quick to reassure him glaring pointedly at his hidden hand. Thankfully he flicks his jacket back in place with a practiced manoeuvre so typical of his profession; he nods backing away to blends into the crowd once more.
Talk about overprotective!
Blowing out a liberating breath I feel a mammoth sense of relief, I’ve secured an appointment for tomorrow morning. I have a great GP, not only is she’s a woman but she’s trained to do all sorts of minor gynaecological procedures, like a mini gaynae, perfect for what I have in mind.
Dropping my phone into my bag, thoroughly pleased; I turn to hurry before I’m late for work. The high I’m on is very short lived as it occurs to me that in the past, birth control always took a while to take effect. Oh no, I groan inwardly, I don’t have weeks to wait and Christian hates condoms! I can only hope that birth control technology has advanced along with the times.
I don’t mind the restaurant, it keeps me busy and with tips, it pays quite well but the greatest benefit has been the hours. I get to spend some precious, quality time with Chris that a normal job would never allow, not to mention the extra time to write. It’s not as glamorous as publishing but at least I still get my fix of books from the local public library where I sometimes temp.
The restaurant is busy enough to make the time fly and all too soon we’re stacking chairs. I managed to wrangle myself some more time off – again. Secretly I hope that this time, it will be for good.
As I leave, Carl materialises from the shadows that he lurks in and insists on driving me home and I happily accept. Being rushed off my feet and the possibility of Collins grumbling to Christian about my noncompliance is as good a motivator as any. Then again, I think dreamily, maybe I should risk it. He might come in person and spank me….
I hop into the back seat commending myself for being so amenable but the thought of Christian’s hands caressing my naked behind and sensually smacking me lingers tantalisingly in my mind’s eye sending a slow shiver down my spine.
In the short ride home I manage to daydream unabashedly about all the rude things we could be doing to each other. My heart quickens and my nipples pucker as I think about taking him into my mouth. His distinct smell, the sexy and surprising combination of rock hard and velvety softness, the look of sheer ecstasy on his face, coming undone with the pleasure I can give him….
Carl clears his throat, unwittingly dragging me away from my naughty thoughts. Damn, we’re home! I didn’t even notice him waiting ever so patiently for me to climb out of the car as he holds the door for me.
Reluctantly I leave my erotic notions behind and trudge up the stairs with Carl tailing behind – the protocol is for him to hand me over to Collins face-to-face. I sigh again finding the whole security thing just a tad too much. As usual Christian has gone overboard, as arguing the point has become moot I can only grudgingly resign myself to my chaperoned state.
Once I wished my mom a good night I steal into Chris’ room for a peek at my sleeping angel-boy. I can never go to sleep without checking in on him first, lingering to watch him sleep my heart warms, arranging my features in a glow of adoration while I gently stroke his hair. I adjust his cover to keep him snug and drop a barely-there kiss on his plump cheek. After a quick shower my exhausted body flops into bed and slips effortlessly into a deep sleep.
Dreamless night behind I wake up feeling refreshed and not just a little eager to get going with my day, to tick off another step that will inch me closer to complete my big, bold plan. My neighbour Jo-Anne will be watching Chris while I go to the doctor’s today, she’s always eager to take him knowing that her son Joshua along with Chris will keep each other busy and out of her hair.
I just hope that Chris is well enough for a play date this morning, he obviously had a good sleep; never waking from any discomfort so he should be well rested.
I shuffle into the kitchen for some tea to help me wake up but the fright I get bumping into Collins does the task instead. I really must try to remember that he’s here! He looks fresh and ready for action, his crisp, clean shirt straining over his substantial biceps leading me to wonder if and how he slept.
“Ma’am” comes his clipped, unemotional greeting. Concise and economical, just like the man himself.
“Hi Collins, would you like some coffee?” I ask as I flick on the kettle.
“No thank you ma’am, we just need to go over your schedule for the day.” He’s all business; his enquiring brown eyes missing nothing as they follow me making tea.
“Uhm, yes, I have a doctor’s appointment at 8:50 and then I’d like to go for a quick shop, Chris and I need some warm things for Seattle.” I drag my laptop closer, across the table and switch it on, looking forward to the constancy of my morning ritual, tea and e-mail.
“Will Chris be accompanying you?” He’s making notes on his space age smart phone, tapping briskly as he queries about my plans.
My barely awake mind struggles to stay on the conversation and I tune out, mind wandering back to his unrumpled freshness. He must’ve shaved this morning, his face and head is smooth, so smooth that his bald head is shiny under the glare of the harsh kitchen lights. It’s a mystery my morning brain is grappling with, I only have one bathroom and it’s en-suite to my bedroom.
He raises a terse brow and coughs in response to the length of time he has to wait before I reply but it’s the disapproving down turn of his mouth that finally drags me back to the moment, away from the secret grooming habits of close personal security.
I flush horribly, cursing the slow start of my head. “Uhm, no. Chris will be spending the morning with my next door neighbour, Jo-Anne and her son Joshua; they play together all the time.” For some reason I feel the need to vet them but before I can, Collins interrupts me.
“That is Mrs Jo-Anne Sharp?” He flicks through what looks like a list on his clever phone. “That won’t be a problem ma’am; she and her son have both been cleared by Mr Grey.”
I roll my eyes, enjoying the freedom to indulge in the irritating habbit. Oh boy, I have a prescribed list again! Doesn’t anything ever change?
“Okay then.” I hide behind the screen of my laptop, muttering my annoyance in a sarcastic tone that Collins pays no heed.
“Carl will be accompanying you today. I will be on duty with Chris. Please make the arrangements with Mrs Sharp. It will be better if she’s briefed by you.”
I nod and mumble “yes sir” to his retreating back, my mock salute insolent. Maybe compliant is going to be harder that I thought…
I wriggle in my seat getting comfortable and curl my fingers around the reassuring warmth of the steaming mug as I scan through the list of mails until I see the one I want to read first – Christian’s.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Seattle visit
Date: 19 October 2016 01:02
To: Anastasia Steele
I trust you had a good night at work and that Chris is on the mend. The arrangements for your trip on Saturday have all been made. Please ensure that Chris is fit for travel.
I have read your manuscript and must admit that I’m pleasantly surprised by our effort. I should know by now not to underestimate you. The offers for publication are well deserved. Congratulations on an exceptional book. We will discuss your options over the course of the following days but you were right not to rush into anything. Please forward the rest of your works to me, I would like to see the extent of the collection and the way they follow onto each other.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
For some reason his sign-off, more than the fact that he likes my book, sends a sharp thrill through my sensitised system. It’s not exactly his customary “laters baby” and I hope I’m not reading too much into it but it sure beats his formal tone of late. Maybe I’m wearing him down.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Thank you
Date: 19 October 2016 05:57
To: Christian Grey
Thank you for arranging our trip. Chris hasn’t mentioned the dad-thing again and I’m hoping that he’ll be distracted further by the prospect of seeing you soon. He’s had a good night but is still sleeping. I will let you know how he’s doing this morning. Chris has a follow-up appointment with Dr Shawn in a few days’ time but we will still be with you. We might need to find someone else for him to see when we’re there.
Thank you for taking the time to read my manuscript. It’s a very private and deeply personal thing. Initially I was very hesitant to send it into the world and lay it bare to the close scrutiny that comes with publishing it. I’m feeling a bit more confident about it now and it helps when other people say they enjoy it.
I look forward to seeing you soon.
As I sign off apprehension and excitement fuse into a heady cocktail of fizzing emotion making my intellect see-saw between the different possible outcomes of the next few days. My heart is hoping for one and my mind is rationally trying to steer my thoughts with a heavy dose of realism. I’ve never been overly bothered about what the future holds but I find myself desperate for a glimpse of what’s to come.
Chris’ appearance interrupts my reverie and I’m relieved that there’s a rosy glow to his cheeks, a healthy glint in his brighter eyes.
“Mommy, I want pancakes for breakfast.” He hugs me around my waist as I sit, resting his head on my lap.
I laugh and tickle him under his arms, “hello to you too buddy! I’m glad that you’re feeling better.”
He squirms to get away from my tormenting fingers but I just tickle harder. The sound of his happy giggle bringing a blissful contentment to my fretting mother’s-heart.
“No, mommy, stop! Stop mommy!” He snorts through his giggle fit, when I finally relent I crush him to me, holding him and wishing that there was some way I could show him just how much I love him.
After our slightly naughty breakfast of pancakes and fruit we both get ready. Chris can’t wait to tell Joshua about his trip to the zoo and his private adventure so he’s done way before I am. He runs around impatiently and nags me to hurry up: “are you ready yet? You’re taking too long mommy!”
Jo-Anne’s eyes widen in surprise when she opens the door to find me plus burly security guard waiting. Chris mumbles a brief hello then dashes straight into the apartment to find Joshua, moments later we hear their little-boy chatter.
“Hi Jo!” I say, genuinely delighted to see her as we hug, “thank you so much for watching him today.”
“No problem, anytime,” she says mildly, plainly distracted by Collins’ presence as she gapes at him curiously.
“Uhm… This is Collins, he’s our uh… security guy.” I stretch my eyes, making them wide and tilt my head slightly in the direction of her kitchen, trying to convey that we need to talk alone.
Thankfully she gets my subtle message. “Hello Collins, please come in, have a seat.” She indicates to the lounge then grabs me by the upper arm, dragging me into the kitchen with an interested hurry.
“What the hell Ana? Security? What’s going on? Are you okay?” Her whispered questions all spill out at once while she grips me by the shoulders, not even aware that she’s shaking me.
I raise both hands, open palms to show her to calm down but she quirks a questioning brow at me, too eager for answers to settle down.
“Please don’t be concerned, it’s nothing, it’s just precautionary.” I try to be dismissive, reassuring.
“Precaution for what?” She squeaks still distressed and I resign myself to spilling some beans, she’s clearly on high alert.
I fill her in on Christian’s reappearance in our lives and his safety concerns, heavily editing around the facts that will only upset her more. My words are met with her stunned silence as she tries valiantly to take in all this new information about us.
I comfort her further, willing her to relax, “he won’t be in the way, I know it’s weird but please don’t let it bother you.”
“Okay,” she says unconvincingly. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” There’s no missing the wounded note in her lilt.
That’s so hard to answer. Because I couldn’t bear to think of him, because I still love him, because I lied about why I left, because I didn’t want him to find out that he had a son, because I was so scared? I don’t have the time to go through all of that with her right now, not to mention the fact that there’s a lot I’m simply not allowed to talk about.
Because you’re an idiot? My inner goddess isn’t usually that mean; I give her a berating scowl.
Jo is quick to catch the bewilderment clouding my features and she backs right down, “it’s okay; you don’t have to tell me.”
“It’s a long story, I’ll tell you someday.” I take her hands giving them a grateful squeeze. “We’ll need lots of wine.” I joke to lighten the mood and to sweep away the last of her nervous reservations.
“Right then, that’s cool, Collins will be watching us today.” She nods her head as if to convince herself, still not quite believing that she has a beefy guard for the day.
I’m so relieved; she’s a good friend, one of the very few I have. “Thank you Jo, I mean it.” She grasps my sincerity and pulls me into another hug, rubbing a motherly hand over my back.
“You’re sure you’re fine?” She whispers next to my ear.
“I am, and hopefully soon, more than fine.” I return her embrace, grateful for her trust and help.
After giving Chris and Josh a cuddle I start my day. Carl drives me to the doctor and I’m immeasurably relieved when he opts to wait in the car for my return. I flick through a woman’s magazine, skimming a very explicit but enlightening article about improving your oral arts in the bedroom to kill time.
Looking at the glossy ads in the mag it reminds me of the paparazzi shots of Christian and me in Miami. For the first time it crosses my mind that maybe, in the light of that; Christian isn’t just being paranoid with the tight security he’s allocated to us.
If the world thinks that we’re reuniting then that certainly puts Chris and me at risk. I’ve seen firsthand the people out there who’d like to hurt him for whatever reason. I think back to when he realised that Charlie Tango was sabotaged and on our honeymoon; the arson at Grey House – attempted revenge from that crazed maniac Jack Hyde. Yes, by association our risk has undoubtedly increased. I shudder at the thought, suddenly grateful that the preposterous article never mentioned Chris. I must remember to ask Christian whatever happened to that slime ball.
My inner goddess and subconscious are both staring at me, clearly willing me to come to some sort of illusive conclusion that they’ve already managed to draw. What? I look at them, shrugging my shoulders, still baffled.
After a breath realisation hits me like a bolt of lightning: Christian’s actions show that he cares! Sometimes it’s so clear but other times, I can only see his controlled detachment but it’s more often than not one and the same thing. I must learn to look at his actions through his intentions, not with the glasses of annoyance I’ve gotten used to employing. My inner girls are congratulating each other, taking the credit for opening my blinded eyes.
The revelation reminds me that I promised Christian an update on Chris. I tap out a quick text, feeling guilty for forgetting.
*Just to let you know that our little man is better today and definitely on the mend*
My turn arrives to see the doctor and – deep joy – she offers me the perfect contraceptive method. It’s instant and she can insert it today, here in her rooms and, best of all, I don’t have to remember to do or take anything! It’s an intra-uterine device or IUD as she calls it. The insertion part is extremely uncomfortable and I’m thankful that it’s over with so quickly.
After the procedure I make my way to reception to pay. I hand over my bank card and try to ignore the nagging worry about the interest this current overdraft this will bare while the efficient receptionist taps away at her keyboard to finalise my invoice – blissfully unaware of my inner financial turmoil.
Her heavily kohl-lined eyes, a little bored meet mine, “nothing due today.” She hands me back my card with a mechanical smile then drops her eyes to her keyboard, effectively letting me know that I’m dismissed.
“Um, I’m sorry…, excuse me, I don’t understand?” That can’t be right!
She looks up with barley veiled annoyance for being interrupted, “you don’t need to make a payment; your health insurance covered the full amount.” She talks slowly, measured – like I’m an encumbered invalid.
“But I don’t have health insurance,” I mutter turning the card over in my hands as if it holds the answer; my brow is creased in confusion.
Her fingers fly deftly over the keys as she confirms my details: “Ms Anastasia Steele, 438 Jasmine Place?”
“Yes, that’s right,” I agree, my pulse edging up as a single possibility flits through my consciousness.
“Well then, you have the platinum cover. It covers, well – everything.” I’ve got her full attention now, she’s looking at me like I’ve two heads, probably thinking how I could possibly forget that I have premium health insurance.
“Thanks,” I mumble and turn on my heel stunned, my suspicion confirmed – Christian! Does that man have no boundaries? I recall him mentioning health cover in one of his e-mails but this? I shake my head; you’d think that by now I would’ve learnt that Mr Control Freak never does anything in half measures.
Well, if that’s the way it is and I was going to spend the money anyway, I might as well make good use of it and buy myself something slinky for the Seattle trip. Holding on to that thought I find the nearest ATM to draw some newly liberated funds.
But another shock awaits me, some sort of bank error where the system must’ve added a few zeros by mistake. I’m squinting and blinking at my ATM receipt because I don’t trust my eyes this very moment. I push into the bank and join the line, all the while staring at the little piece of paper in my hand as the hope of a bank error fades faster by the passing minute.
I hand my bank card to the teller and ask her to check for an error on my account. I watch her click her computer mouse, navigating the bank’s software, “no, no unusual activity as far as I can see. It all looks in order.” She flashes me a cool, professional smile.
“But there must be,” I stammer, “the balance should be $250.00 not $250 000.00!” My incredulous voice edging up, no longer able to stay in the reasonable range.
She turns the screen, applying a practical solution to show me the last transaction in an effort to keep me calm. She taps her long nail onto the screen, pointing out the last transaction. It’s a whopping deposit, courtesy of Mr Christian Grey.
My breath catches and I guess I go pale because now she looks worried. “Ms Steele, are you okay? Can I get you a glass of water?”
“No, I mean yes. I’m fine. I don’t need water. I just didn’t expect …..” I shake my head and blush bright red. Her how-can-you-not-know-that-someone-paid-you-a-quarter-of-a-million-dollars look does nothing to ease my embarrassment. I stuff my wallet back into my bag, fleeing the bank in a rush to draw a steadying breath outside.
When Christian said that he would be paying me a lump sum to compensate for the years he missed as Chris’ father I was expecting maybe five or six thousand dollars. This, this is way too much. Fifty shades and then some! I don’t know why I’m so annoyed, maybe because he never tells or asks me – always straying so far from what I deem reasonable. My head is reeling, all desire to shop drains away, my mind fuzzy with the strain of dealing with his relentless overbearingness.
I head home feeling utterly despondent, when will he learn? For that matter, I can ask myself the same question – when will I learn? But the issue that occupies my mind the most is how to decide what to accept and what to fight, how do I decide when it’s appropriate and when not? I’m having serious doubts about my ability to reconcile our views on the acceptability of his largesse.
I swing by Jo-Anne’s to collect Chris where he’s quick to argue about leaving his favourite friend but it’s clear to me that he’s exhausted, not yet well enough to spend a whole day playing, I know that a rest would do him good. After a lot of cajoling he reluctantly follows me home, grumpy.
Because I’m feeling so low and overwhelmed I cuddle with him on his bed, drawing comfort from his innocence and uncomplicated love as we read his favourite story, mostly for my sake as he falls asleep almost right away.
I lay with him for a while to watch him sleep, just being close to him grounds me again. Once I have my fill of my baby boy fix, I tip-toe out and close his door. Maybe I should see if I can get some work done.
I don’t feel like working on “the contract” at the moment so I start to go through the agreement that Julie Logan left with me.
Chris gets up about an hour later and he settles himself in the lounge to play with his new toys. I make us some lunch and then bury myself in the depths of the complicated contract.
Eventually my numb backside forces me up for a long stretch. Not feeling like working anymore I find small, inconsequential things to occupy my time, pottering about aimlessly to avoid the thick ream taunting me with legal terms I don’t understand.
I’m delighted when I notice my house plants drooping; watering them is the ideal excuse to avoid my looming task. I even go as far as shaking some plant food into their pots to extend my stalling tactics as I wallow in blind denial about my lack of enthusiasm for the agreement. The last plant adorns an occasional table right next to my front door. I tend it carefully, deeply aware that I’m almost out of excuses. I wipe the glossy green leaves when my doorbell jolts me out of my lost thoughts, chiming loudly right next to my ear.
Because I’m right there and without giving protocol or Collins a second thought, I open the door only to find myself short of breath and staring.
His right arm is above his head and bent at the elbow, resting against the door pane. In his hand is a pair of aviator sunglasses, dangling casually. His dark jeans a relaxed fit, but still moulded to him to perfectly, showing off his muscular physique. His grey, slightly wrinkled polo shirt has green trim around the collar that picks out the colour of his smiling, smouldering eyes. The waves in his dirty blond hair are expertly tousled, giving the impression that he just rolled out of bed.
He winks at me, beaming that lopsided smile that lights his emerald eyes with a knowing gleam, “hello gorgeous.”
Oh my! What is hot Dr Shawn doing here…..