My brain has misfired its message to my mouth leaving me to gape mindlessly at him, unbecomingly mimicking a glassy-eyed fish out of water. It’s only when Collins skid to my side in an annoyed huff that my faculties rearrange themselves into working order and I can manage to form a sentence but Collins’ angry scowl halts my words. Instead I blush – spectacularly, like fireworks exploding across my features.
“Ms Steele, I am under strict instructions not to risk your personal safely in any way and I would appreciate it if you would afford me the opportunity to do my job properly!” He’s mustering every inch of his willpower not to yell at me, a manically pulsing vein has popped up on his temple and his lips are pressed together in a tight, disapproving line.
After the day I’ve had with Christian’s overbearingness, the security measure’s unreasonable invasion of my privacy and being chastened like a child in front of the hot doc, I suddenly feel very unreasonable and uncompliant.
Grrhhh! I grit my teeth, “May I remind you,” I stab my finger into his unyielding chest, my ears still tipped with red, “that this is my home and considering how I feel about you presence, you should be grateful that I tolerate you being here at all!” Ah, it feels good to let it out; I garner all my anger, releasing it through a glare that would shrivel even the hardiest of men.
Collins eyes nearly pop out on stalks. If I wasn’t so mad it would be comical to watch as he grapples with Christian’s orders and my oh-so-female outburst. “But I.. I…”
Before he can formulate his reply Dr Shawn steps in between us, taking charge with his back turned to me, using his body as a barrier between Collins and me.
Mmmhhh, I muse, looking at the bulges padding out his shirt, not sure who I’ll back in a fight.
“Anastasia, do you want to explain to me what’s going on?” he asks, glancing at me over his substantial shoulder.
“This,” I shift so I can look around his side to Collins, jabbing an irritated finger in his direction, “is our close personal protection. Compliments of Christian Grey!” In an uncharacteristically childish gesture I fold my arms across my chest barely resisting the urge to stomp my foot.
“Ah. I see.” He turns his attention to Collins, holding out a friendly hand, “Dr Shawn O’Reily, paediatrician. Here to make a house call on Chris,” he pauses for a beat, “also compliments of Mr Grey.” There’s a teasing note in his tone that I wonder if Collins is going to pick up on. Surprisingly his words prick at my self-esteem. Of course he’s only here to see Chris.
Collins has the wherewithal to return the shake then slips back into his security persona. “Yes. Thank you. I am aware of who you are, you’re on the list,” he bristles. “I just wasn’t expecting you today.” His ruddy cheeks making it clear that he’s not happy at being caught off guard.
“Well then, that’s all sorted.” With Collins dismissed Dr Shawn rubs his hands together – satisfied then turns to me, “How is the patient?” His smiling green eyes are twinkling with mischief that sprouts a seed of suspicion in my mind.
Chris chooses that moment to barge in, curious to investigate the source of the commotion. He grins at Dr Shawn and they do a complicated handshake that leaves them both giggling. When did he teach Chris to do that?
Dr Shawn sees my frown, “It’s a Bulldogs thing,” he explains shrugging his bulky shoulders and treating me to another lopsided smile.
Oh boy, he looks good enough to eat.
I follow them into the lounge where Chris has already monopolised him, no doubt to share some more boy stuff.
When I offer them something to drink I get a distracted yes, their heads bent over something far more riveting than refreshments.
I pour some homemade lemonade into tall glasses and take the extra time to garnish it with fresh mint sprigs. Alone in my kitchen I have a moment to reflect and I realise that I’m more than a little anxious, I’m counting the seconds to the inevitable irate call from Christian.
Crap, damn! Why did I think I could do this accommodating, compliant thing?
Guilt! Is the simultaneous, sing-song replies I get from my head.
Dr Shawn takes a long pull of the refreshing drink and regards me intently. The emerald pools of his eyes feel like they see far more than I’m willing to share.
The gentle Irish lilt he speaks with has a calming effect on me in spite of the possible risk the owner represents. “Anastasia, I want to apologize for yesterday; I realize I may have come on a little strong.” The self-depreciating curve on his mouth is both surprising and adorable but I play it cool, careful to keep my expression neutral.
My composure is obviously not what he expected making his smile turn wry, “I’ve come with a peace offering – to make it up to you.” I feel the full weight of his penetrating gaze resting on me as he tilts his head, watching my reaction.
“Oh.” I flush, my equanimity suddenly gone, “No need, nothing to apologise for.” I bat playfully at him and shake my head. “You don’t have to…”
“I want to,” he interrupts, “it’ll make me feel better. Please, don’t make me beg.” Seeing that I’m about to cave he turns on the full puppy-dog charm.
Again I get the sensation that his intentions are anything but pure, he literally oozes sex appeal – even in apology but he does seem sincere.
From his shirt pocket he produces three tickets of some sort. “These are Bulldogs tickets! They’re for this afternoon’s game, right here in Savannah.”
Make it up to me? Ha! He looks smug, like he knows something I don’t, like he’s got something up his sleeve. I put my hands on my hips narrowing my eyes at him as I try to make my distrust clear.
I shake my head, opening my mouth to voice my protest but before I can say a single thing, Chris has the tickets in his hand, whooping and jumping around like a demented monkey. “That’s so cool, yippee! Mommy, my first time at a real game! I must get my cap!”
He races from the room not giving me even half a second to object, then suddenly the doctor’s game is clear as day. My little boy is beside himself with excitement. What type of mother would I be if I deny him this rare treat? Dr Shawn used Chris to his full advantage – bastard! He’s put me in an impossible situation. How can I say no and break his little-boy heart? The doc planned this, knowing what Chris’ reaction will be and leaving me with only one option – to go along!
“That’s really not fair you know – using him like that.” Irritation is simmering just below the surface of my poise, ready to bubble forth at the slightest provocation.
His eyes crinkle along with his blossoming, full-blown grin, proving that he’s gotten precisely what he wanted. “What do you mean Anastasia? Can’t I do something nice for my favourite patient?” His cocked head and quirked brow coming into play to support his innocent claim.
Gah! Favourite patient my ass! I’m not convinced but I’m not brave enough to voice my thoughts. What happened between Christian and me has taught me that I might not be the best judge of other people’s feelings; I’d be mortified if I got it wrong.
My inner goddess is batting her lashes at him, pleased with his attention regardless. I on the other hand, don’t trust him one bit.
After some serious negotiations with Collins, we set off on our unplanned outing with Collins and Carl shadowing us, Dr Shawn managing to pull two more tickets from his proverbial hat for them.
At the stadium we file out of the Doc’s silver Tahoe SUV, the two man security team flanking us. Never one to enjoy the lime light, their constant presence makes me feel conspicuous and I blush furiously every time someone gawks at us.
Chris is completely at ease, chatting non-stop and I must admit that the Doc seems genuinely interested in him, the conversation flowing freely and happily between them. Chris has had very little opportunities for male bonding with Ray taking him fishing and Bob ensuring his love for football but generally, he’s not had a lot of male figures to identify with.
Only your own fault! My subconscious’ biting words makes me flinch.
We settle into what looks like good seats to me, all the while my boy is radiating excitement. I can’t help worrying that he’s not well enough to be here, “Are you sure it’s a good idea to be out like this, with his sore throat?”
“Aaaahhhh mooooom!” Chris’ annoyed whine at my overprotectiveness has Dr Shawn laughing.
“Doctor’s orders!” grinning he winks at me and playfully pulls Chris’ Bulldogs cap down, over his eyes.
It’s hard not to pick-up on the flirtatious vibes from him, his whole demeanour drips with intimacy. It’s evident in the frisky winks but more so in the hungry glint that he doesn’t even try to hide. It’s a look I know well, of all his kinky fuckery, that look was by far the most erotic thing Christian ever did to me, the thing that called to the secret part of my soul. Seeing it in another man’s eyes doesn’t quite feel like it fits.
I’m relieved that the security detail is out of sight. Even though football isn’t really my thing, being here, in the stadium and watching it live with the roar and enthusiasm of the crowd is surprisingly exhilarating. I’m drawn to my little boy as I watch him – fascinated. He’s in his element cheering and boo-ing along with the rest of the Bulldog supporters and despite myself I begin to relax.
It doesn’t really matter why I’m here, I reason. It’s great to see him enjoy himself and I suddenly feel grateful to Dr Shawn. Moments like these are gifts to little boys, memories that they can treasure forever.
After peanuts, hotdogs and lukewarm sodas my new-found football appreciation is interrupted by Collins who’s materialised by my side. He places a large paw on my shoulder, “Ms Steele, I apologize for the interruption but we have to leave – immediately!”
I look up into his face, ready to tell him to go jump but something in his manner makes me stop. He’s worried – really worried. “What’s the problem Collins?”
“I can’t say Ms Steele, I know what I’m asking but we have to go. Now!”
His grim expression speaks volumes, it’s clear that he’s not to be argued with. The game is in the last quarter so at least Chris got to watch most of it. I nod at Collins and lean over to Dr Shawn. “Something’s up, we have to go.”
“The game is almost done, just ten more minutes or so.” He’s distracted, only half listening, his eyes glued still on the field below.
I shake my head, “No, now”. My tone gets his attention and as he turns, he clocks Collins by my side.
“Okay,” he looks at me, uncertain. This security thing is obviously new to him and I guess he’s not entirely sure of the level of the perceived threat.
He whispers something into Chris’ ear and I’m relieved to see them stand up. Wow, I wonder what he said to Chris. No tears, no whining?
We shuffle through the narrow space in front of the seats and follow Collins to the exit. Carl brings up the rear and I can see that they’re both on high alert. Something must’ve happened.
As we walk Dr Shawn curls his fingers around the top of my arm, “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know but I trust Collins to make a call like this.” Christian and Taylor are nothing if not fastidious in choosing well-trained men.
Because everyone’s still seated we quickly make it to the SUV and head home. I can sense the tension filling the small space but I know better than to ask. I’ll have to get the news from Christian himself – that’s if he’ll tell me.
That reminds me that the irate call I was expecting from him never came; in fact I haven’t heard anything from him at all, not since this morning. I check my phone for messages and e-mails, just to be sure, but there’s nothing new. Maybe Collins has more empathy than his surly demeanour suggests and he didn’t tell Christian about my security faux pas. Wouldn’t that make for a pleasant change? I think sarcastically.
When we get home Collins leaves Carl to watch us while he does a sweep of my apartment. “Why is he going to sweep our house mommy?” Chris’ innocent blue eyes look into mine, oblivious to any danger. “Maybe I don’t want to be a policeman if I have to clean houses.” He shakes his head in disgust.
Dr Shawn and I share a smile, kids are so literal, it’s adorable. “No honey, it’s not that kind of sweeping. He’ll just go through the house to see that it’s all safe.”
“Ah, like under the bed and inside the closet?” Understanding sparks in his eyes.
“That’s right buddy, just like we do when we check that we don’t have any hiding monsters before bedtime.” It’s surreal discussing this with him, things about the world that he’s way too young to deal with and I resent exposing him to it. I pull him to me and wrap my arms around him. As much as I hate the security, if anything ever happened to Chris…. Christian may be overzealous but his instincts are usually spot-on. I just sometimes forget how much baggage comes along with him.
Once we get the all clear I allow the knot in my stomach to untie. Dr Shawn sees us in while he and Chris review the highlights of the game. Their easy banter supports my sense that this “father-son” interaction is what he craves – what he needs in his life. Dr Shawn’s intentions may not be entirely honourable but he’s given Chris that, even if it’s just for today.
I walk Dr Shawn to the door, “Chris won’t be able to see you for his follow up appointment, we’re going to Seattle on Saturday, I’m not sure how long we’ll stay.”
He stops and turns to me, “Going to see Christian Grey? What’s the deal with you two?”
Oh dear, what to say? I settle on a very short version of the truth. “He’s Chris dad.” I look down; I want to hide the shame that may lurk in my eyes. I lace my hands together to give myself something to stare at.
“Seattle huh? Well, that might not be a problem. I’ve just been invited to give a lecture there, at one of the hospitals.” He tips my chin up to look into my eyes. “Interns trying to make it into paediatrics,” he clarifies and shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly, “I can always do the house call then.” He breaks our eye contact and I get the feeling that my answer is more important to him that he’s letting on.
“Uhm, let me know, I’m not sure what Christian’s plans are.” I don’t want to commit to anything, who knows how he’ll react to Dr Mc Hottie.
Dr Shawn leaves and I have to admit that he’s been much more hands-off with me today even though I’ve caught glimpses of the smoulder under his smile and in his eyes but, for now, I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Chris gets a dose of his medicine and I put him to bed. It was another big day for him and he’s exhausted. Finally I have time to sit down and e-mail Christian.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Security threat
Date: 19 October 2016 18:40
To: Christian Grey
I hope you’ve had a good day. Thank you for arranging the health insurance however I would feel more comfortable if you took me off it. You have no obligation toward me and as always your largesse makes me feel uncomfortable. I also saw the extent of your lump sum alimony payment today and it is way more than I expected. I understand and respect your need to provide for Chris but it’s all just too much.
I also want to know what the sudden security threat is. If my son is in danger I have a right to know and I refuse to be kept in the dark. Please don’t withhold information from me for any reason whatsoever; no matter how appropriate you deem it.
On a lighter note, Chris had a good day and Dr Shawn invited us to a Bulldogs football game (Chris’ favourite team) this afternoon. I was hesitant to take Chris but the doc assured me that he would be fine. It was his first time watching a live game and as you can imagine, he was over the moon.
I have FedExed the rest of my manuscripts to you, you should receive them tomorrow.
Good luck with your negotiations with the Koreans.
I hit the send button with more force than I intend to but I feel so wound up and tense, my laptop bearing the brunt of my frustration. I hope Christian’s response will be reasonable.
My ringing phone makes me jump. I clutch my palpitating heart as I answer the unknown number.
“Anastasia.” He says my name in greeting and I know instantly that he’s pissed off.
“Christian, hello.” Keep calm, I caution myself.
“I felt that your latest e-mail warranted a phone call.” I hear the wary note in his voice but I’m weary too. We’ve been here before.
“Firstly, as far as the health insurance is concerned, I’m sure you recall my personal desire to keep you healthy but this is not for me as much as it is for Chris. Hopefully, if you’d make the effort to think about it for just a moment, you would see that a healthy mother is the best thing for any child. Surely you can put Chris’ needs above your own?”
Gulp! I go pale. Put like that, I sound so selfish.
He continues, arguing his points systematically, “Secondly, you should have a clear idea about my recourses by now and if you look at the alimony payment as a percentage value of my income, it’s a laughable amount.”
I’m sufficiently cut down to size to feel small. Oh! “I see your point.” I mumble feebly. “I’m sorry… I didn’t see it that way.” I stare down at my fiddling hands, the hot, embarrassed tears rolling quietly down my flaming cheeks.
“Ana.” I hear him sigh. “What are we going to do with you?” His tone is at once exasperated and affectionate and the floodgates open as silent tears turn into full blown sobs. I despise myself for breaking down and crying. I bite my lip to try and stem the tide.
“Ana, I don’t want to upset you. I thought that we were on the same page.” His soft words are unexpected and they soothe my damaged soul.
“We are. I’m sorry. Whatever is best for Chris.” I shake my head even though I know he can’t see me and again I resolve to try to look at things from his perspective. I’m annoyed at myself, it didn’t take me long to forget the commitment I made when I started on this journey.
“Okay.” He thankfully drops it and takes a deep breath, as if steeling himself. “As far as the security threat is concerned – just for the record – I wasn’t going to keep you in the dark. Taylor is still gathering the intel and so far, I don’t have much to tell you but I have received a threat. There’s been some vandalism at Grey House, in my office that I can’t ignore. It’s not the usual, low level disgruntled employee or sour competitor nonsense.”
It’s clear to me that if he’s taking it this seriously it must be something big. “In your office?” I whisper. Straight past all his security measures?
“Yes, whoever did this is either stir fucking crazy or has very big balls.” The bitterness is evident as he spits the words out – answering my unspoken question.
What did they do?
“There was a message, spray painted over one of my office walls.” I picture him at his desk, steeped over the array of papers littering it, running his hands through his hair.
I sense how hard it is to share this with me; he’s still hesitant, withholding the details. Why? I ask myself and feel the panic slowly seep into my mind. An image of Chris and then Christian flashes through my head, the thought of either of them hurt in some way is more than I can take. I’m stunned that just the notion of it has pain lashing through me. “Please talk to me,” I plead with him, mentally urging him on. I need to know what it said.
He exhales a long breath and then simply says: “You’re going to pay.”
What? That’s what’s got him in a spin like this? I don’t understand. Surely that can’t be it. “What are you not telling me?” I hold my breath.
“Ana I…” he falters. “I don’t want you to read anything into this; we don’t have enough information yet.”
“Tell me dammit!” I lose the frail grip on my patience as I hold the phone in a vice grip.
With a final resigned sigh he tells me. “It was all across the photos of you – the ones I bought from Jose.”
Suddenly my body is playing pinball with my heart. Flicking it to my toes, then to my throat and back to my stomach. It’s manic bounce mirroring my opposing emotions exactly. Are they after him or me? He still has my photos in his office? How did they get into his office? Are they after both of us? Who can it be? Why?
I feel the nausea roll through my gut. Pull yourself together! I give myself a pep talk and wonder where my subconscious is when I need her? “I see,” I breathe but really I don’t – what else can I say?
“Anastasia, please don’t worry. Everything will be fine; Taylor and Welch have their best men on it, working 24/7. We will find this person. I won’t allow anything to happen to Chris or to you.” As ever, he’s right on the money, cutting to the heart of my greatest concern. CEO Christian is commanding and convincing and because I’m so frightened, I allow his words to comfort me.
“Okay,” I exhale a measured, shaky breath.
“You understand that security will be tight?” It’s like he’s talking to a wounded animal, careful not to scare it off.
“Yes, I understand.” I nod solemnly; my knuckles shaking with the hold I have on the phone.
“I’ll take care of it Ana, trust me.” His voice is filled with sincerity and I want nothing more than to believe him but not everything is under his control, no matter how much he wants it to be.
I dream of Chris and Christian, of unseeing danger and smoky green eyes wanting things that I’m not prepared to give. I wake up often, not really sleeping but hovering between sleep and wakefulness. Every sound of the night is amplified, making me start as panic’s grip keeps me from rest.
When dawn finally lights my curtains I feel relieved. I can get up and find something tho occupy my restless mind, to keep it from aimlessly wondering about the possibilities of this new, dark twist in our lives.
I have a few things to take care of today. Shopping for one – because I skipped it yesterday, we still need some warm things for Seattle and I have a shift at work tonight.
In the kitchen I find Collins reading the newspaper. It’s comforting to know that he’s here. I should give him a break; he’s only doing his job.
“Morning Collins, would you like some tea or coffee?”
“Ma’am,” he nods his head in acknowledgement. “Tea if you’re making, thank you.”
I pull the teabags closer and flick on the kettle. “Thank you for yesterday, for letting us go and getting us back home.”
“Only doing my job ma’am.” He puts the paper down, regarding me with narrowed eyes, probably surprised by the change in my attitude.
“I spoke to Christian last night; I understand the situation warrants some changes, I just want to let you know that you have my full cooperation. My son’s welfare is everything to me.” I hand him a steaming mug and place the sugar and milk in front of him.
“That’s good to know,” he answers passively. Boy, he’s not much of a conversationalist and I’m left feeling a little self-conscious. I rub my palms up and down, along the front of my thighs.
“Right then, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to go do that shopping I was supposed to do yesterday, Jo-Anne will bring Joshua over and keep an eye on the boys and tonight I have a shift at the restaurant. My mom will be in to look after Chris.” Even to my own ears I sound on edge, skittish even.
“That shouldn’t be a problem provided you let Carl do his job.” He looks pointedly at me, daring me to argue.
Okay, okay, I get the message! Jeez! “I’ll be as good as gold!” I smile back sweetly.
With that; he starts to tap furiously at his phone, presumably to make all the arrangements for today. I grab my lovely new iPad and head for the lounge, somehow I feel like an intruder in my own kitchen.
When I swipe cross the mail icon I find a waiting e-mail from Christian.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: security and extended stay
Date: 19 October 2016 21:59
To: Anastasia Steele
I want to reiterate that as long as you follow the security teams orders both you and Chris will be safe. Please trust me on this and let them do what they’re trained to do.
As far as your visit to Seattle is concerned, I feel that given the current circumstances it would be best for you to extend your stay with me until this threat is resolved. You and Chris would be much safer with me, here at Escala, where I can keep your defiant nature in check. This would also create an ideal opportunity for us to negotiate the details of your publication deal.
I trust that you’ve given the health insurance and alimony payment some thorough thought and are now willing to accept these graciously.
Dr Shawn O’Reily has been in contact with me and is happy to make his follow-up house call in Seattle as he will be here on business himself. However I’m not sure that taking Chris to a football game is entirely appropriate, no matter how well they get along. I think you should steer him clear of blurring the lines between professionalism and friendship.
I look forward to seeing you on Saturday and please, stay safe.
This is not a request.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Defiant nature! What? Me? Never! The cheek!
He wants us to stay with him until the threat is resolved? I can’t help but hope if this is like the last time I had to go and stay with him. When Leila obtained a concealed weapons licence, he insisted I come to stay with him so that he could ‘keep me safe’ and then, before I could say ‘deranged ex-sub’, I was a permanent resident at Escala.
I hate this dark cloud hanging over us but if it brings us closer together then at least it’s one good thing that may come from it. Then there’s Dr Shawn. I can’t believe he went to Christian behind my back! What’s more, Christian clearly has no idea that the doc’s designs are not so much on Chris but on me. Christian may be reticent when it comes to a romantic relationship with me but his reaction to the flowers I secretly sent myself, proved that his jealousy still burns as bright as ever.
Maybe it’s the stress of the situation that prompts me into some action but as I tap out my reply, I can’t supress the need to speed things along between us. I’m so tired of unforthcoming, formal Christian.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: gracious is my middle name
Date: 20 October 2016 07:05
To: Christian Grey
I will endeavour to give the security team the space they need to perform their duties. Chris’ safety is not something I wish to take for granted. Neither is yours, for that matter Mr Grey, I hope I can ask the same of you – please be careful.
I graciously accept your offer of health insurance, back-paid alimony as well as residing with you at Escala until the situation is resolved. (See, I can be amenable)
Case in point: I have already cleared my plans with Collins today and will be dragging Carl around with me. I hope this puts your worried mind at rest.
I do hope you have a good day sir!
I quickly hit send before I can change my mind. My inner goddess is pleased as punch but my subconscious is gaping at me, her shocked face flushed with a blush. Quite frankly I’m a little stunned myself. What a cheeky e-mail! I would love to be a fly on the wall when Christian reads it to see his reaction. I picture him spraying his morning coffee over his keyboard – yes – that would be fantastic! I think gleefully.
After Chris wakes up and we have breakfast, I call Jo next door to let her know that I’m ready to head out. She’s still a little freaked out about the security so I decide not to give her any details of the latest developments, it will only spook her more.
On Carl’s advice we drive to a local mall. He felt it would be safer than street front stores and today I’m on my best behaviour. I hate shopping but with a few extra dollars from the generous Mr Grey, it might not be so bad.
I have list of things I need and swiftly make my way through it, ticking them off as I go along with Carl trailing dutifully behind me. As I pass the lingerie section in one of the department stores I remember the promise I made to take better care of myself, also my seduction plan suddenly seems a bit incomplete without the aid of Agent Provacateur…
I recall vividly the way his eyes would turn from grey to tropical storm, his lips would part as he drags more breath into his lungs, the way he would rub his fingertips together as his desire to touch me would overcome him. The plain carnal appreciation so evident as he pushed his erection against my lacy clad behind. His arms would come around to my nipples, already aching for his touch, caressing and teasing then yanking my bra cups down to truss up my eager breasts.
Flat palms skimming my pert nipples, making me moan and squeeze my thighs together in a bid for some satisfying friction. Lazy fingers trailing over the sensitive skin of my abdomen and finding a way into wet panties. Mmmhhhhh…… Yes, I recall Mr Grey being partial to lingerie…..
“Is there anything I can help you with today ma’am?” A squeaky voice with a broad southern accent drags me rudely back to reality and I know I must’ve been looking at the bra in my hand like it was the last meal on earth. I feel the steal of the blush creep up from my collar.
“Uhm, no, thanks, I’m fine!” I smile brightly at the sales lady and wander to another stand to give myself a moment to get my hormones back in line. Thankfully Carl is some distance away, trying hard to look everywhere but me.
With my delicate shopping done I have just one more stop to make – the beauty salon. I choose a pampering package and go for broke with a full Brazilian wax. I leave Carl behind in the pretty, girlish waiting area with only a glossy magazine for company. He looks so out of place it makes me smile.
I haven’t had a full Brazilian before and I can’t help buzzing with nerves. How bad can it be? All too soon I have my answer as the first strip gets ripped off. I bite down on my lower lip to stop myself from screaming out in agony. I’m desperate not to yell, the last thing I want is for Carl to come charging in here, gun drawn in my defence! That image is enough to guarantee only the quietest whimpering from me for the rest of the torturous treatment.
Holy cow that was harsh, I think to myself as I walk around afterward. I have forgotten how sensitive you feel once it’s all off, how you become hyperaware of the tiny patch of flesh between your legs. Christian sure as hell is going to have to show his appreciation!
Back home I check and re-check my e-mail. Why hasn’t Christian responded to my sassy mail? Man, I hope he’s not mad at me! With every passing hour I feel my unease build as I envision horrible conversations where he puts me back in my place.
In the early afternoon Chris and I unpack his LEGO pirate boat and begin to build it. By the time my mom arrives we’re done and Chris eagerly shows her our handiwork. I feel a warm surge of love for my little boy, always so eager to share and learn and play.
When he’s out of earshot I fill my mom in on the new security measures. I want her to be extra careful when she’s watching Chris at night when I’m at work.
“Do you think it’s wise to go to Seattle? If this incident took place over there, doesn’t it make sense to stay here, away from this mad man?” Her eyes are round and serious, worried for us.
“I thought about that and you have a point but, the truth is, I feel vulnerable here. Even with Collins, I don’t think my apartment is the epitome of safe.” I give her a rueful smile and rub gently on her upper arm.
“You can come and stay with us!” There’s a pleading edge in her voice, the one you never lose as a mother even if your kids are grown.
“No mom, I don’t want you exposed to this as well, besides Bob would hate having the security around.”
She nods reluctantly and she snakes an arm around my shoulder. We sit there sharing a moment, not saying anything. Mom and daughter, knowing each other so well, not needing words to express the obvious concerns in our collective, familiar hearts.
Before I leave for work I say goodbye to Chris, going down on my knees to be at his level and gently take him in my arms. I pour every ounce of love I feel for him into my hug. “I love you so much Muppet. So very much!” My chest constricts but I breathe through the threatening tears as I whisper to him. I don’t want to frighten him, I’m just being silly and emotional.
My mom gazes down at us, as we lock eyes I know that she understands just how precious he is to me, just like I am to her. The comforting thought spreads through me, filling me, strengthening me. Unconditional love, it’s beautiful.
I pass Collins on my way out, for a moment I consider calling in sick. “Please look after them.” I touch his arm to stress my point.
He looks down at my hand and then back up to me. “I’ve got it covered ma’am.” He sounds so sure. It goes some way to get me out the door and off to work. I’m still reluctant to leave tonight.
All night long as I run between the kitchen and the restaurant floor I itch to call to check on their safety but I refrain and try to keep my mind on my tables. No news is good news right?
I’m relieved when we start stacking chairs an hour before our regular closing time; mercifully it’s been a quiet night and I’m only too happy to jump in the car with Carl for the drive home.
As we pull into the parking lot I notice two police cars parked on the curb. I look around but I don’t see anything out of place. Carl and I trudge up the stairs. He takes them two at a time to check every landing before I get there. When he gets to the fourth floor landing he stops dead in his tracks. His hand reflexively moves behind him as he places his hand on the butt of his sidearm.
He catches my eye, “Ms Steele, there seems to be a situation, please try to stay calm. The police are here.” His voice is cool and composed but he’s ready to react to any situation, his body poised for action.
I feel my heart start a frantic pound, instantly by palms are coated with sweat. I step onto the landing only to see two police officers standing outside my front door with Collins and my mom. My mom looks distraught and Collins is deep in conversation with the officers. All breath disappears from my lungs and a surge of adrenaline spikes through my body. I start running to them, hearing my own strangled voice shouting out to them as my mind leaps to a thousand conclusions: “Noooo! Chris! Where is my boy?”
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