I eagerly drag a deep, cleansing breath into my lungs as I step into the sunshine. Wow, that was intense. My inner goddess and my subconscious are nodding their heads in agreement, for once not arguing with each other. I hail a cab and dive in, more than ready for a few moments by myself. I guess that it will take me about twenty minutes or so to get back to my hotel, so I text my mom, just to let her know that I survived.
*Am OK, on my way*
As I gaze out the window trying to process today’s unexpected turn, I become aware of the song playing on the cabbie’s radio. It’s Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” How apt, I think: “We could have had it all…”
A slowly brewing awareness focuses my attention on a new anxiety looming in front of me. Inwardly I cringe. I’m going to have to tell my mom and Ray what I did, that I lied about why I left Christian. The whole ugly truth is going to come out. I shake my head at myself. What an unbelievably unpleasant prospect. Not only did I screw myself out of a husband, but I also withheld a father from my son. I gasp as fresh tears spring to my eyes, my hand clamping over my mouth. Stupid, stupid girl! It seems he wanted me after all.
When I arrive at the hotel, I walk through the lobby dragging my heavy heart behind me. I turn when I hear my name being called and watch one of the uniformed staff members scuttling toward me, her arm waving in the air to draw my attention.
“Ms. Steele, I’m glad I caught you. Your room has been upgraded. The rest of your party has already been moved.” She’s slightly breathless from chasing after me and her name tag announces her as Tiffany.
“Uh, I haven’t requested an upgrade. I’m sure there’s been a mistake,” I say, frowning as I shake my head. In fact, I was lucky to find the off-season special allowing me to book here; otherwise I could never afford a place like this. It’s not quite Christian’s standard, but it’s pretty nice.
I’m about to move on, dismissing Tiffany, when realization focuses my scattered thoughts. Christian! Of course! How could I possibly forget about Mr. I-can-move-the-earth and his undue influence? But it’s only been — what, half an hour since I left his hotel? I rationalize. Surely it’s a coincidence. I let out a relieved sigh, comforted by my conclusion, but Tiffany is quick to dash my calm.
“No mistake, Ms. Steele,” she’s shaking her bouncy curls in earnest. “This comes straight from our national manager. Upgrade to our best suite for Ms. Anastasia Steele and company, all charges to be billed to uhm…. Grey Enterprises,” Tiffany states firmly as she consults her clipboard, lifting the top page. She gives me a beaming smile. Clearly she thinks that I’m one lucky girl.
So it’s not a mistake.
“Okay then.” No point in arguing with her; she is only doing her job. “What floor?” My tone is weary, accepting my fate along with the new key card.
As I walk, I probe my feelings. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Mostly annoyed that he’s done this without consulting me, but at the same time I feel a smidgen of hope. But, ever the pessimistic harpy, my subconscious is ready to cut me down to size. It’s probably only because of his son, she snarks.
Sadly, I have to concede her point. I’ve little doubt that Christian would want what’s best for Chris. At least that’s something we have in common now, I muse as I try to put myself in his shoes. But, as always, I’m baffled by the way his mind works.
I fumble a little with the slot-and-card system, but eventually I manage and the door swings open. A second later my mom comes bounding up to me. “Are you all right, honey?” Her voice is raspy with concern as she takes me in, her hands on either side of my face.
Such a motherly gesture, I think, and I suffer an unwelcome pang of fear. How will she react to the news I have to share? “I think so.” I aim for reassurance, but there isn’t much I can hide from her under such close scrutiny. She nods but the concern remains, marring her usually friendly face. She moves to the side and lets me in, giving me a moment to take in the new suite.
Wow, I would be thrilled under different circumstances, but everything is so uncertain right now.
She mistakes my look for wonder and grins shyly in response. “It’s pretty awesome, right?” She grabs my hand, pulling me further into the spacious living area.
I allow myself to get excited for her as I look around. The first thing I see is an open-plan kitchen with what seems like every conceivable gadget, then a modern living room area with a contemporary rug, and overstuffed couches that look super inviting. There’s also a lovely dining area overlooking the hotel garden and the city beyond, the vibrant night lights already winking in the dark through the wall of glass. It’s stunning.
Briefly I move through to the bedrooms, each boasting its own luxurious bathroom. I find Chris sleeping peacefully in the third and I can’t resist stroking his hair — my precious boy. I’m mindful of the guilt nipping at my heart as I look at him. What have I done?
While contemplating my burning question I quietly close the door, leaving my son to rest in peace. Across the hallway I catch my mom’s eye, and it’s clear that she’s finding it very hard to contain her glee. I know she isn’t used to this kind of opulence and I find her joy is infectious. A grin spreads across my face when she stifles a giggle with her hand. It sets me off and we giggle together like silly schoolgirls.
I feel slightly more buoyant when our laughing fit subsides, and my heart swells with love. I close the distance between us to give her a tight hug. I’m so grateful she’s here with me, someone to support me through this drama. I just hope that she won’t stay mad at me for too long. I hate disappointing her.
“How did he go down?” I ask, referring to Chris and his occasional nighttime shenanigans when it comes to his bedtime routine.
“He fell asleep in our other room straight after his bath. I think he was exhausted, the little tiger,” she smiles fondly. “Half an hour after that I had the hotel manager at the door telling me about the upgrade, and I worried about waking and moving him, but the staff was great.” She pauses only to take a breath. “They packed and moved everything, and then one of the young guys picked him up and carried him all the way here and put him down in his new bed. I don’t even think he knows that he’s been moved.” Her eyes twinkle with excitement. “He’s going to get a big surprise tomorrow morning!” And I can tell that she’s already looking forward to that moment. “All in all, it only took about fifteen minutes. They were very efficient.”
“Only the best for Mr. Grey.” The sarcastic note in my voice spoils her fun and her kind eyes dim with unease.
“Oh, honey, please tell me what’s going on! I feel so confused.” She wrings her hands nervously in front of her chest. “I love you so much and I only want what’s best for you but you’ve been so unhappy — for so long. I don’t know if I should be relieved or upset.” Her eyes bore into mine, searching for answers. She takes my hand in hers and squeezes gently. “After what he did to you, to Chris, I don’t know what to think of him. He always seemed like such a solid man, but…..” her words trail off, swallowed by the sad memory of me, pregnant and heartbroken.
“Mom, I have to tell you some things.” I watch her carefully, gauging her reaction and suppressing the urge to burst into sobs again. “Some things that I need to get off my chest.” I push my fingers through hers, lacing them as her expression turns anxious. “But, first things first. Please let me check my e-mail and confirm my appointment for Monday, and then I would love a quick bath. I just need to relax and get my head on straight. Will that be okay?”
“That’s fine, sweetheart.” She’s guarded now. “Can I make you a little something to eat? We have a whole basket of goodies here.” She points to a magnificent fruit, cheese, chocolate, and wine basket on the low-slung coffee table that I haven’t noticed until now. No doubt, also with the compliments of Mr. Grey.
“That would be great, Mom, just something light.” I doubt my sensitive belly could stand anything heavy right now. “Why don’t you open the wine for us?” I give her a smile, hoping to put her at ease. I know she’ll feel better if she has something to do.
I leave the living area in search of my laptop and call to her over my shoulder, “Which room is mine?”
“The big one, darling. You know me, I don’t need much,” she replies from the state-of-the-art kitchen as she uncorks the wine, leaving it to breathe.
So sweet, my mom, I think as I open the door to the master suite. I find my laptop on a small desk in the study nook. I slip into the designer ergonomic chair and flip the top. Instantly the hotel logo appears on the screen, advising me of a complimentary Wi-Fi connection. Oohh, yay! Thank you, Christian. Lately I try to find joy in the little things.
My subconscious snorts at my weak attempt to navigate my way out of the depression that’s been a constant companion since I left Christian. She, like my mother, is not pleased with my five-year emotional slump.
I ignore her and click on my e-mail icon. For the first time today my drumming heart is due to excitement rather than anxiety. This possible meeting could change my world forever, and I’m keen to see whether the arrangements have been confirmed.
Oh-uh! Just like that my nerves are back and my Monday meeting is temporarily forgotten. I have an e-mail from Christian! How did he get…?
As I start to speculate I’m stopped short, interrupted by the harpy. Of course he has your e-mail! He has your number AND he knows which hotel you’re staying in!
“Stalker.” I mutter to myself before I skim the contents.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Your suite
Date: 15 October 2016 19:20
To: Anastasia Steele
I have taken the liberty to upgrade your suite and I recall your previous reservations concerning these gestures. As you are now the mother of my son I shall not entertain any arguments regarding these matters.
I will be available for a meeting with you tomorrow. Please let me know what time would suit. We can meet at my hotel again and I will send a car for you.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Oh. My. Holy. Cow! I’ve no idea what to think of the tone of his e-mail. As always, it’s formal, but that he wants to see me on my own surprises me. In his room or some public place? I wonder, my imagination getting the better of me. The mother-of-my-son bit is another telling little clue, though I’ve no idea how to take it. I can’t decide if it’s about Chris, or me, or both of us. I rest my elbows on the desk, propping my head in my hands. Here we go again. Rollercoaster! My confused feelings only highlight how much I still care about him. I need to formulate a reply, something to lighten the mood but maintain the decorum.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: The suite
Date: 15 October 2016 19:41
To: Christian Grey
Thank you for your largesse; your son will appreciate it when he wakes up. I can meet you any time from 10 a.m. tomorrow. I will make my own way there and I shall not entertain any interference from you regarding this matter.
I do hope that you enjoy your social engagement.
I hit send, feeling satisfied with the pitch of my reply. My subconscious nods her agreement in a rare moment of amicability, but my inner goddess has a scowl on her face. No doubt that she wanted me to be honest about the love and desire I feel bubbling up in me like champagne, but I snort at her. She’s nuts.
Having dealt with Christian’s note, I scroll down looking for the mail that I was hoping to see when I first opened the program.
Ah-ha! “Yessss,” I hiss when I spot it. Excitedly I click on the subject line.
From: Julie Logan
Date: 15 October 2016 08:57
To: Anastasia Steele
Thank you for your reply. We are thrilled that you are considering our offer. I look forward to meeting you on Monday the 17th of October at 9:45 at our company headquarters. Please see directions attached.
Commissioning Editor, Buy the Book Publishing Company
I jump up and fist-pump the air. “Yay, yay!” I do a little victory dance around my room, but stop abruptly, blushing beet red as I catch my mom looking quizzically around my door. Thankfully amused.
“Ah… I uhm… I’m just happy that the meeting has been confirmed.” I feel goofy.
“That’s so great, honey!” She beams at me, sharing my joy. “This will be so good for you, do so much for your self-esteem.”
I groan inwardly as she raises the battered subject. It never fails to make me want to duck under the nearest bed when she brings it up. Self-esteem, schmelf-esteem! But I can’t stay annoyed. This is good news, I think, when I hear another ping alerting me to a new e-mail. Mom gives me a loving look before leaving again and I turn back to my laptop. A feeling of apprehension tightens the knot in my belly as I spy Christian’s name.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Your suite
Date: 15 October 2016 20:07
To: Anastasia Steele
You are frustrating as ever. You are welcome; it’s the least I can do. I will see you at 10 a.m. sharp. I will meet you at The Bar at Level 25.
My social engagement is still ongoing.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.
Okay then! If I thought I was going to glean some insight into what he’s thinking, I was sorely mistaken. The least he can do? What’s that supposed to mean? A bar, at 10 in the morning? The silver lining is that his social engagement is still ongoing, and I don’t think that he’d be e-mailing me if he were with another woman in a romantic setting.
What do you want from him, Ana? My subconscious dares ask the question that I am trying oh-so hard to sidestep in my mind.
For a moment I allow myself to think of the possibilities. What would I do if he drops to a knee and declares his undying love, or if he tells me that we should remain friendly for Chris’s sake because he wants to be part of Chris’s life? Can I be just friends with Christian Grey? Or worse: what if he tells me that he wants nothing to do with me, that I wrecked our lives and that he never wants to lay eyes on me again?
The blast of pain from the latter option has me reeling. I obviously still love him — very, very much. Can I dare to hope that we will get back together? Do I want to foster hope when there’s a good possibility of being let down again? No, I shake my head — vehemently — it’s much better to guard my expectations. My heart couldn’t stand any more breaking.
With a snap I shut the laptop and head for the bathroom, ready to forget about the current shit storm in my life for a while. As the water fills the tub I pour the bubble bath, some swanky designer brand that I don’t know. It smells divine. This is going to be such a treat, but I’m definitely going to need a glass of wine to get ready for “the talk” with Mom. I head to the living area for some liquid courage, leaving the bubbles to grow.
While I hunt for a wineglass, I bring up my unexpected plans for the following day. “Mom, Christian wants to meet me tomorrow morning, to talk some more. Will you please take care of Chris for me?”
“Whatever you need, Ana.” She hesitates for a moment, holding my gaze while I pour the wine, but I can tell there’s something else on her mind. I cock my head, encouraging her to say her peace.
“Doesn’t he want to meet Chris?” Her question is a tentative whisper. As Chris’s doting grandmother, I sense that, for her, Christian’s indifference would be the worst sin — if he decided not to keep in contact now that he’s seen his beautiful son.
“I don’t know, Mom. We still have so much to discuss.” I must keep reminding myself that she doesn’t know that he only just found out he has a son. She nods and looks unseeing down to the magazine on her lap, lost in another world. I leave her to her thoughts and steal into the bathroom.
The bath is glorious, but all too soon it’s time to get out. I have to face my mom and the consequences of my thoughtless stupidity. I dry off with the warm, fluffy towel before I wrap up in the sumptuous robe. I stop by the kitchen for a refill before forcing myself to face my rash decision.
My mom is still in the same place on the couch and smiles encouragingly at me when I join her. I make myself comfortable on the sofa. “Hmm, comfy couch, huh?” I’m stalling with small talk, but her look is too expectant to ignore. If only she knew….
She’ll know soon enough — it’s ol’ snarky stating the obvious.
Better to start with some background I think nervously. Perhaps it will be easier to come to grips with it all if I provide her with some context. With a shaky breath I start, “Mom, remember when I first met Christian and I was reluctant to start a relationship with him? I found him so closed off, like I couldn’t read him.” I swing my gaze to her, reassured that she’s following me so far. “Everything about him was intimidating and he was so stunningly gorgeous. Women threw themselves at him wherever we went. He was rich, generous, and I didn’t know how to handle any of it.” My mom is listening attentively, oblivious to how dark my confession will be.
“I was so young, and apart from what I’d read about romance, I knew nothing about it or real life. I came from a broken home.” I don’t want her to feel bad but it’s the truth. “My world view on love was skewed, at best.” I draw a long breath to give my thoughts time to fall into place.
My mom’s eyes are warm, willing me to continue, so I do. “And you, more than most, are aware of my insecurities and that I overthink everything to death.” She nods her agreement, choosing to remain quietly supportive of my unburdening.
“And as you got to know Christian before we got married, I recall from what you’ve told me that you picked up on a couple of things. You mentioned how controlling he could be and how very charming and persuasive.” I give her a crooked smile as I look into her warm regard. “I’m sure you can grasp how very hard he was to resist.”
Again she nods, still blissfully in the dark. “What you don’t know is how many changes he made to himself for me, to accommodate me. And I never felt that I deserved it — any of it — that I was good enough.” My eyes glaze over as I stare into the past, fingers toying absentmindedly with the fringe on a throw pillow.
I sigh. “Oh, Mom, I was completely overwhelmed by him, sometimes even frightened of him. I got swept up in the heady ride that was my very first romance. And on top of that, it all happened so fast.” I drop my eyes when I feel the heat of a flush creep up my neck. “But I could never believe any of it. It was like I was in an amazing dream, all the while fully expecting to wake up one day and return to my regular life.”
“Oh, honey, I never knew.” She reaches over and strokes my hair, taking a tress and pushing it back over my shoulder.
The kind, motherly gesture is almost my undoing. I hold my breath for a beat, hoping that maybe she will put two and two together and I won’t have to say it out loud. Come on, Mom, I will her, but she’s waiting patiently for me to continue.
I sigh once more, resigned to plow on. “When I got pregnant,” my voice turns low with the emotion choking me, “I was too scared to tell Christian. I knew it was way too soon and I knew that he feared being a parent because of his past.” I’m whispering now; perhaps if I say it softly it won’t come as such a blow.
I see her flinch and I quickly continue, before she interrupts. “Please remember, Mom, that I wasn’t capable of believing that I deserved this princess life with him, this fairy tale.” My voice has taken on a whining quality. What can I say to make her understand how inexperienced and confused I was?
Do it! My subconscious hisses at me through clenched teeth, and in that moment I hate her for it.
“I never told him,” I finish simply, unable to meet her eyes as I wear the shame.
My mom sucks in a hard breath. “You never told Christian that you were expecting his child?” The incredulous bite in her tone is unmistakable. “But you told me… you said that he kicked you out because of the baby, that he wanted nothing to do with you.” She’s still holding on to the hope that somehow she misunderstood me.
I can only shake my head and confirm the worst. What’s there to say? Not one word can fix this. I keep fidgeting with my fingers in my lap.
“Ana!” Her voice is sharper than I’ve ever heard it. “I saw the two of you together. I’ve never seen a man more in love, besotted even! How could you not have seen it? I know that he told you that he loved you — I heard him myself. And I sure as hell know the ways he showed you! Ana,” she snaps, “those wedding vows he wrote for you were just…. they left me speechless!” She jumps to her feet, looking down at my cringing form, gesticulating like the angry woman she is.
“Why would you do that, why did you lie to me? I can maybe,” she glares at me, “maybe understand why you lied to him — if you really were that scared of him — but why lie to me and Ray and good heavens! What about poor José?” She throws her hands up in the air while her fuming words rush at me, each one a new blade that cuts my tattered heart. The full extent of possible consequences begins to bleed through the very flimsy pretense I’ve held onto over the last few years.
She draws a breath only to relaunch her attack. “How could you have been scared of him anyway? He adored you, Ana! Even I know that he would never hurt you! What were you thinking?”
My throat feels like sandpaper and my breath, short. I honestly don’t know what to say. I look up at her, to show her the contrition in my eyes, but something else registers on her face first and I know that she’s grasped the worst of it. “You kept a father from your son!” She spits out the words with disdain, almost growling as she points an accusing finger at me, her usually smiling mouth pressed into a hard, scowling slash.
Fuck, fuck, shit, fuck! I begin to panic. I can’t even defend myself. I know what I did was inexcusable. “What I did…. it was beyond horrific, completely unforgivable. I see that now,” I manage to squeak weakly. Exhaustion and utter desolation settle over me as my psyche finally assimilates the full magnitude of my actions.
“Oh, Ana!” She falls back into the couch, seemingly drained and tearful as she takes it all in. “Why did you lie to us?” Her red-rimmed eyes are pleading for an answer.
I owe her a full explanation and I’ve come this far. “Christian would have found me and changed my mind. If you would have given him any information about me, he and his security team would have found me, and I believed I was doing the right thing. I couldn’t let that happen. If I told you the truth you would have told me to talk to him, to work it out, to give it time.” With the benefit of hindsight, those words sound like good advice, but now it’s much too late.
I’m eager to give her a glimpse into what I was thinking. I know I can’t expect sympathy, but it would be so good for someone to understand what I was going through. “I couldn’t invest any further in something that would blow up in my face and leave me as broken as he was when I met him.”
Please, please understand, Mom, I beg again in my head. “I felt like I had forced him into being something that he wasn’t and that he would eventually resent me for it.” A fractured sob escapes me, finally releasing this horrid secret, but in the back of my mind, I’m very aware that I’m treading awfully close to information that I couldn’t ever divulge. There’s still so much about Christian that she doesn’t know, though the irony is that it would explain a lot if I could share it with her.
“Oh, my stupid, reckless, baby girl!” Mercifully her motherly instincts take over when she sees my utter misery and she moves to comfort me. I feel immensely grateful when I sense her heart softening. She takes me in her arms and we sit there embracing and sniffling together.
Once we’ve stilled, she lifts my head in both her hands, staring deep into my swollen eyes. With her thumbs she wipes the wetness off my cheeks. “You really fucked this up, Ana. You need to make it right.” The epithet shocks me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her swear. She’s so serious, burning with the intensity of her statement.
“I know,” I agree quietly. I don’t know how I’m going to make it right but I know that I have to.
She lets out a long, shuddering breath. “I’m going to bed now. Get some rest and we’ll think of something in the morning.” She pats my back and shuffles off to her room. I hate that the curve of her shoulders seems to bear the weight of her disappointment in me.
Holy hell, that was rough! I exhale an extended, shaky breath. I don’t know how much more of this emotional torture I can handle. My nerves are grated and ragged — beyond raw. I suppose I should try to get some sleep, but I doubt the incessant mental chatter in my head and the large knot in my stomach will allow me the luxury.
Be kind and review, please.