I haven't shaved or eaten. I've only been drinking. Pink champagne, but still. Sweat is currently dripping down my back, and it's all the bath I've had in these long two days. That, and half empty bottles of Bollinger spilled on the submissive bedroom sheets, splashing me as I writhe in nightmares. That's where I've slept, the room that was to be Ana's, just to feel close to her now that she's gone. If you could envision a man stranded in the desert without water or food, gasping for air as the sun blisters his back, and crawling on battered knees toward the Hail Mary promise of a distant oasis, that would not be me. That would be my lottery winning friend.
"I have a problem," I say, sitting on the couch in Flynn's office. I've been here hundreds of times, but somehow today feels like the first. I shake my head, even this is a first because of Ana. There's a piece of leather lifting from the arm that my fingers have found and are working to destroy.
"I can see that. Tell me," Flynn says, opening his notebook, and readying a pen inked with judgement.
"I met a girl," I whisper, my tongue knotting up over the four letter word that is girl.
"And, this is why you look like shit?"
"Frankly, yes," I say, not understanding what there is to not understand about it.
He leans back and places the top of that pen to his chin. He scans me, probably to make sure it's really me and not some homeless man who walked in off the street to steal prescription samples. He's perplexed. I've never seen him perplexed. He's always such a fucking know-it-all. Under the usual circumstances I would claim victory in his perplexion, but today I claim victory in nothing.
"Did you find a new submissive?"
"I thought so, but it wasn't for her." I gaze off, unable to see anything but that last image of her tear stained face as she walked into my elevator and it took her away. I shut my eyes, bowing my head to my hands in pained agony. "She left me." Those words weigh so final.
A moment of silence chills the room. I lift my head and peel my eyes open to find Flynn staring at me like I'm a two-headed calf at the county fair.
"I take it this wasn't one of your regular conquests."
"No, there's nothing regular about Miss Anastasia Steele." I smile to myself. Her name on my tongue sounds so sweet. Flynn must notice, because he jots something down.
"So, how did you meet this Anastasia?"
"She fell into my office and ever since then, she consumes me." My mouth lifts, remembering her on hands and knees, those blue eyes sparkling up at me. It's the first time anything's moved upward in days.
He looks quizzically at me. "Go on."
I tell him every detail of our first encounter. How I stalked her at Clayton's, and rescued her from the photographer's rapist mouth when she was drunk at that bar. Just telling him about that night she passed out and how I brought her to the Heathman and kissed her without paperwork in the elevator lifts my spirits. Thinking of her, I get lost in what was. What could've been. Christ, when did my nuts get chopped off and replaced with feelings? Oh yeah, when she fell on my floor.
"So, you care for her well being?"
"Of course." What a stupid question.
"Sounds like a first for you, Christian."
I snort. He has no idea.
"Oh, I've had many firsts with Anastasia." There it is. Her name again. Dripping like honey from my Ana parched tongue.
It is a lovely name, isn't it Christian?"
"Yes, it's beautiful..." Like her.
He writes some more.
"So, tell me of these firsts."
"We talk, for one. She has opinions, and I listen to them." I pull at the leather piece on the couch arm, clinging to its last threads for life. "I like when she looks at me and calls me by my first name." I lean into him and whisper, as if this is the most revelatory thing of all. "I slept with her."
"You had sex with her?"
"Not just that. Slept. And by slept, I mean sleep. Like, good night, in my bed, with closed eyes and parts connected" I lean in further, so do Flynn and his pen. "And not just the parts I usually connect."
"Parts?" Does he really need me to spell this out? Fucking parts!
"Our bodies touched." I lower my voice, in all seriousness. The piece of leather now ripped from the couch arm and twisting in my fingers. "Without restraints." Sitting forward, I perch my elbows on my knees and rub my face with my hands. "I mean, I still wouldn't let her really touch me, but I held her and it was..." I look up, reaching for the word. "Amazing," I say it as though I'm discovering it's meaning for the first time. I am.
"Well, that is truly a first."
"You look almost as surprised as my mother was when she saw her."
"She's met your mother?"
I nod. He writes so much I'm surprised his pen still has ink.
"My whole family. They love her. There was a dinner."
"Well, this is surprising."
"There's a simple explanation. My mother came over right in the middle of... Well, I had just tied her to my bedpost and...
"Your mother's never come by when your submissive has been there?"
"Of course, but they're locked up. This is different."
"I wanted my mother to meet her."
I shrug and look off, thinking of how beautiful Ana was that morning.
"I wanted my mother to see me with her. I felt—I don't know—proud."
"Ana's someone to be proud of."
He crosses his legs. "I see." He gives me a long, thoughtful look. When he's thoughtful, it's dangerous. "How is she different from your other sexual partners?"
"She was a virgin, for one thing."
His mouth falls open so wide I can practically see his lunch.
"Did that shock you?"
"Hell the fuck yes! I just showed her my playroom. We were discussing the contract and hard limits, and she sprung it on me. I was so angry!"
"For exposing an innocent to my fucked up life."
"So, you were concerned about how this affected her in that moment?"
"Well, I'm not the devil. Close, but... I couldn't let her first time be shackled up and whipped."
Low blow. There's a long pause. I hate it, but he's right.
"So what did you do after her revelation?" He asks.
"I took her to my bed and made love to her as best I knew how. It wasn't all hearts and flowers, but it was a helluva lot different than my norm. I'd never had vanilla sex. Hell, I'd never had sex in my bed. I figured she had to know what sex was about and then maybe she'd agree to be mine. I hoped. And, she did agree for awhile. But, now she's gone."
I run my fingers through my hair in exasperation. I think I lost the piece of leather somewhere in my greasy bangs.
"You've never pursued a girl out of the lifestyle before. I don't even remember you actively pursuing one in the lifestyle. And, in all our time together you've never requested a session over your emotional anguish involving the termination of a contract between you and a sexual partner."
"She never signed the contract."
He sits back, stunned. I've really got him on his toes today.
"But, you continued the relationship anyway?"
"Yes. I considered her my..." Gulp. Dare I say it? "Girlfriend." It's a peep, but it's out there.
"That's a big word for you, Christian."
Why does he seem so damned delighted in my anguish?
"Well, now she's a ex." The two letters so bitter.
"Did she go in your playroom?"
"Yes, a few times."
"She didn't like it?"
"She liked the kinky fun stuff. She didn't like the extreme aspects. The punishments. And, I'm afraid I'll need that."
"More than you need her?"
That hit me like a brick in my face. It takes a moment for me to digest.
"No, I don't think so. I don't know. I just know nothing has ever hurt as bad as when she left."
His eyes widen, seemingly astonished.
I know what he's asking.
"No, nothing." Even I surprise myself with the raw truth of that statement, considering my past.
He closes his notebook and leans forward, mouth in a grim line.
"Well, after careful analysis and consideration of the extreme symptoms you are experiencing, I can say with utmost certainty that you are suffering from a serious affliction."
What the fuck is he saying? He's speaking Freudian gibberish again. If he didn't have a British accent, no one would listen to him.
"What's wrong with me?"
"I've never seen it hit someone so hard and fast."
"Christ, tell me! What the fuck is it?!"
He smirks. "You, my friend are in love."
I sink into my seat. The wind knocked out of me. Yes, maybe I am. If it's possible I'm able to love at all. But, what the fuck do I do about it?
The stray piece of leather falls from my head and hits the floor.
Maybe Flynn is a charlatan, I mutter to myself as I jog away from his office and head towards Escala. Back to the hell that I am currently living. I have to laugh thinking of Ana's snarky assessment of the good doctor. It's the first laugh I've had in days and of course it belongs to her. Another first, Miss Steele. I smile. God, I miss her smart mouth. I miss it on mine. What I wouldn't give to bite that lip.
"I've fallen in love with you..." Her words still haunt. It's the best and worst thing I've ever heard.
She can't love me. It's wrong. But, she says she does, and now I've been formally diagnosed with the same affliction.
"I will never leave you..." She promised as I lay watching her sleep in Georgia. But, still she left and I am utterly broken. I would move heaven and earth to not feel that pain again. I don't think I could survive it.
I run faster.
"Are you willing to give up the lifestyle? The punishments? Being the dominant if that's what she needs?" Flynn's questions linger.
The sky darkens above me. Another storm brewing. I know better than to stay out when the clouds turn, but all my long measured reasoning fails me as I find myself running off course and toward Pike Place Market. Toward Ana. As I round the bend, I jog slowly down her street, so as not to miss anything. So slowly, I'm bested by an old lady and a cotton ball posing as a dog.
I just want to pass by her apartment once. Okay, maybe twice, or if need be ten times. However many times it takes to see that she's safe and okay, and not with the photographer. Who knows, maybe I'll run into her. She'll yell at me. We'll have a good fight that will get me so hard and her so wet I'll have to carry her back to her apartment over my shoulder, throw her on the bed and fuck her till she screams my name in sweet release. There is no better sound then when she comes with my name wrapped around her tongue. Only for me.
I stop running when I reach her place. Her windows are dark. Shades down. I know I'm being a stalker, but I also know she would expect nothing less from me. Dark windows could mean so many things, none of which I like. Is she asleep? If she is, it probably means she hasn't eaten, which makes my palm twitch. Is she sadly sitting in darkness like I've been doing? I hate that I've brought her pain. Or maybe she's not in pain at all. My eyes bulge at this prospect. Maybe she's out! Galavanting! Fraternizing with men! Drinking! Throwing up in bushes with no one to hold her hair. Fear of her safety consumes me.
I look for her parking spot. I know which one it is, because I know. Empty. Either she hasn't used the money I gave her to buy a new car, or she's out driving God knows where in the threat of lightning strike. Probably in some second or fourth hand jalopy that the photographer's mother's mother's mother owned, putting herself at risk. Christ, what if the photographer is driving her around himself in his own fourth hand jalopy, groping her and trying to have his way with her, and I'm not there to stop him from claiming what's mine? I run my fingers through my hair, pulling in frustration.
"Fuck!" I yell out.
"Are you all right?" The old woman with the pom-pom dog asks as she passes me again.
I'm snapped back in reality as the dog barks incessantly, threatening my ankles. There's so much fluff, I can't see his face. Only shaking cotton. I look at the lady for a long, hard moment. Am I okay?
"No," I finally say.
She eyes me warily as she makes her way quickly up the walk and into her apartment. I think I hear her deadbolt lock.
The sky has opened up and it's starting to pour, but I don't move. My eyes stay fixed on Ana's darkened window and her empty parking spot as the water moves to drown me. Without a doubt, I know I will take her any way she'll let me have her. I can't live without her, because I never lived before her.
"Mr. Grey, you're soaking wet," Gail says, rushing to greet me as I make my way from the elevator. I say nothing as I drench the entry way. "I was getting worried. Are you okay? Do you need a towel?"
I stand there for a moment saying nothing; doing nothing. Just remembering how Ana looked that last time I saw her crossing this very spot. Leaving me.
"Why don't you have a shower and I'll warm your dinner." She watches me. She probably thinks I've lost my mind. She'd be right.
"No. I'm not hungry."
"You've hardly been eating." She sounds worried. Such a mother hen.
"I'm not hungry, I said." Now, I sound like Ana. God, I hope she's eating. The dream of her consuming carbohydrates is the only thing that brings me comfort right now.
She watches me as I drag myself up the stairs. Sloshing on each step, my Nikes squeak on the freshly polished floors. I'm sure it bothers her that I'm dripping all over, but fuck it. It's my damn place! I make my way up to the submissive bedroom. Oddly, the very room I wanted to keep Ana locked away from me in is where I go to feel close to her. I am horrified when I turn the knob and witness the carnage in front of me.
"Mrs. Jones!" I yell at the top of my lungs. "Mrs. Jones! What the hell-"
The room has been cleaned. The closet bared. Ana's hairbrush—it's gone from the vanity! The bedding changed. Everything's been vacuumed and scrubbed and emptied of any evidence that Ana was ever here.
"What's the matter, Mr. Grey?" she says, running in. "Is something wrong?"
"What the hell did you do in here?!" I peel the bedspread back and smell the sheets. Her scent dead and buried under some floral fresh nightmare.
"Did I say you could do that?!"
"It's my job."
I move to the closet. Lines of empty hangers stare back at me. Shoe racks barren.
"You did more than clean! Where are her clothes?"
"I packed them away. I thought you would want me to."
"Why the hell would I want that?!"
"It's what you've always told me to do."
Of course. Each time a sub leaves she's been give direct orders to clear out the room and not bother me with the details. Erase the former's existence, until a new one takes her place.
"She's not one of them. She never was." I sit on the bed and drop my head into my hands.
"I'm sorry, sir."
I know she's not just apologizing for the cleaned room. I look up. I've upset her. She's been through so much lately, with the Leila situation and all.
"No, I'm sorry. I know you were just doing your job."
She looks surprised by my apology. I guess I don't apologize much. But, I'm feeling sorry for a lot now.
I stand up, still dripping with the afternoon.
"Please put everything back the way it was," I say as a directive to her and a subtle plea to whoever in the heavens might be listening.
Freshly showered, I sit on the bed opening and closing the signature Cartier box that holds the diamond earrings I was going to give her last Saturday for the gala. She would've been my first real date—ever. Open. Close. Open. Close. Open. Close. The repetitive action is almost meditative. Should I send these to her? Write her a note asking for a second chance? Second chance earrings... I smile. No, she'd never accept them. Not right now. One thing about Ana, she does not love me for my money. She loves me... She loves me. The thought still pains me.
Her laptop and blackberry are sitting on the dresser. Mrs. Jones must have brought them up with the rest of her things. I walk over and pick up the blackberry. It's dead, like my heart. I decide I should charge it, hoping that she might need it again. I plug it into the wall and leave it on the nightstand. After a few minutes it lights up. I notice her background picture is of me. She took it in Georgia in front of the glider. My hair is so floppy and I'm grinning like a loon. I've never smiled in a picture before. Another first... And I look... Happy. I close my eyes, remembering how happy we were up in the sky, defying gravity. And, for the second night in a row, I weep.
"Ana, stop! "I won't hurt you!"
I run, chasing after her into a long, dim tunnel.
"Let me go! You're a monster!"
"Ana please, I love you. I will never hurt you again!"
I reach to grab her shoulder. She turns and suddenly the belt is in my hand. I don't know how it got there, but as hard as I try, I can't let it go.
She takes off fast toward the light.
Suddenly, I see a small child. A dirty copper haired boy that looks just like me. He's crying. Burns all over his chest. Dirt on his face. He's alone. No one cares that he's crying. I'm paralyzed to move to him, But Ana isn't. She scoops him up, cradling him and hushing his cries.
"I won't let you hurt him, either!"
She runs with him in her arms, protecting him from the monster I am as he bawls. I try to reach for them, but I trip and fall into a mire of thick mud. I can't move. I watch, powerless, as they reach the light and disappear. My world goes black.
"Ana!" I scream out, waking in a cold sweat, just ahead of the sun. I'm sprawled out on the bed, still wearing a damp towel and nothing else. After a minute, I realize it's Monday and I have to face a new week in the very place her beautiful blue eyes first looked into mine.
"Work!" I jump up, remembering it's her first day at SIP. I panic. How will she get there? Will she be safe? Fuck, that bastard Jack Hyde is her boss. He better not try anything! I feel completely powerless and she hasn't even had her breakfast yet which, I grimace, she probably won't.
I pick up my phone and dial.
"Taylor. Did you find out if Miss Steele cashed the check?"
"No sir, she hasn't."
Fuck. I hope she's not being headstrong about accepting the money. What am I thinking, of course she is! Well, that means she definitely doesn't have a car yet. How is she getting around? Dark thoughts of hailed cabs and photographers with family jalopies swim in my psyche.
"Taylor. I want you to follow Miss Steele to work. Discretely. Just make sure she gets there safely and report back."
"Any news on Leila?"
I hang up. Fuck! What the hell is she doing out there? I'm worried about her well being, but I can't think of Leila and her psychotic break right now, I've got one of my own. All my thoughts are consumed with Anastasia. It's her first day of work and it should be properly congratulated. So, I decide to give the girl who wanted hearts and flowers just that.