Wow. I was so utterly floored. Must have sat there for 20 minutes just staring at the letter. Then my mind finally shifted into gear. I read it again, suspicious, trying to reconcile the words with the man who hit me. Did Elliot write this? I don't think so but I'm just not sure. But Christian apologizing like this seems even more unbelievable. Why? What is he hoping to accomplish? He told me that I make him lose control, and it ends up with me being hurt. He's lost without me? What does that mean?
Setting the letter aside, I opened the box holding the iPad. Wow, what a sweet piece of tech! Once I got it turned on, I saw the screensaver was the picture of us from graduation. I looked so nervous in that picture – how little I knew of him then. Had I known, would I have run away sooner? Gee, he's put a lot of apps on here. The British Library? Holy cow! A recipe app. Nutrition app. Hm, no surprise there. A couple of e-book sites, an exercise diary app, planner, calendar, camera. This thing is loaded!
Fumbling along, I finally found my way to his playlist and am shocked again: they're all love songs! Scanning the titles, the words from his letter again flow through my mind: "very special playlist for you… hoping that the songs can tell you what my own words have failed to say." No. He can't be trying to say he's in love with me. He told me he doesn't do love, doesn't do girlfriends. I must be missing the point here. Oh! Maybe he's wishing I can find love in my life with someone else. That must be it. I remember I'd asked if he'd consider a different kind of relationship, and he said no, that his lifestyle was all he knew and was interested in.
The titles blur as my tears build. Why? He knows I can't be what he needs. Why is he doing this? I set the iPad aside and collapse on the bed, sobbing. Why couldn't he be normal? Why did I have to fall for a guy whose head is so messed up? It hurts so bad. I can't help the sorrow, and wallow in my grief, thinking of Kate's many breakups. A couple of days of fuzzy pajamas and ice cream, and she was back to the Kate I knew and loved. It's been weeks and I still can't get that beautiful bastard out of my mind. What is wrong with me?
Twenty minutes later I can't stand myself anymore. I head into the bathroom for a hot shower. Anything to stop this crying jag and get my head back on straight. Working the shampoo through my hair, I begin to take a cold hard look at the facts.
Fact one: Christian Grey told me right from the start that he 'doesn't do the girlfriend thing'. That means just subs and contracts, not girlfriend/boyfriend, and certainly nothing more. He has to have his precious, stupid, control and isn't willing to even try any other kind of relationship. His playlist is just an apology; I can't be reading any more than that into it.
Fact two: He… abused me. I should have stopped him, but I stupidly forgot about those damned safewords. We're both at fault for that one. Kinda surprised he never pointed that out in his letter. Nevertheless, that ain't happening again. Ever!
Fact three: He said he'd stay away from me unless I tell him otherwise. Why would he bother coming here? What more is there to say to each other?
Fact four: I have a life here, a good job, new friends. Yeah, they're talking about maybe moving me west eventually, but who knows how long that might take. Even if it happens, doesn't mean I'll be based in Washington. Might be Oregon, California… who knows? Even if there was the possibility of having a relationship with him, I just don't see that working over a long distance.
The hot water soothes my body and my racing thoughts. Sadly, the only conclusion I can see is that he's sorry for what happened. End of. There really isn't anything else to hash out. No reason to see him again, no matter how much a part of me longs for just that. He has his world in Seattle, and I have mine here.
By the time my hair is blown dry, I'm calmer. Maybe I just needed to cry out those last few tears for the fantasy that wasn't meant to be. Kate always managed to find another boyfriend after her breakups, so I can too. Kelly's told me that first loves have a high failure rate because they're like experiments; us figuring out our way through the minefield of love as well as figuring out ourselves as well. I believe her. Doesn't make it hurt any less though.
The next day, Friday, after work I decline going out with the team for a drink – just not up for it – and go home, rereading his letter yet again. It's time I send him a reply. It takes me almost an hour, but I've finally managed to write what I need to say to him. Hard to keep the teardrops off the paper, but I managed. I think.
Before I lose my courage, I address the envelope, enclose the letter and pester mom for a stamp. Needing to clear my head, I decide to go for a drive and mail it along the way.
"Mr. Grey? This arrived in the morning mail for you," Taylor states, handing me an envelope.
"Thanks. Oh, and I'll be working from home today. I won't need you until around 6pm for the Coping Together gala."
"I'll have the team ready, sir."
He makes his way out of my study, as I glance at the envelope. A thrill sizzles through me as I recognize the handwriting as well as the return address. Ana. Slicing it open, I pull out a single folded sheet, cautiously opening it to reveal her words:
My Dearest Christian,
Your package and letter arrived on Wednesday. I read your letter several times, and knew that I needed to reply.
Christian, I forgive you for what happened, for hurting me. What I'm struggling with is forgiving myself for being so stupid, forgetting the safewords. I guess I never imagined finding myself in a situation where I'd ever need them. The fault then is mine.
Thank you for the iPad, but please: NO MORE GIFTS! I don't like feeling 'bought', and that's exactly how your expensive gifts make me feel. In case you didn't know, I sold the car before I moved. You wouldn't take it back, and I didn't feel right just abandoning it. It's probably hard for you to understand why I feel this way about gifts, so let me explain that my mother's many boyfriends/husbands would often try to buy my affection, or perhaps buy themselves some private time with her. In any case, gifts – especially pricey ones – dredge up all of those discomfiting feelings for me.
I looked at the playlist you included and appreciate you wishing me well in the future. Though it still hurts to say this, I too hope that you can find the right person to be what you need, to be special enough to deserve you. For myself, I am convinced that your lifestyle is not for me; I cannot be what you need. You said yourself that that was the only kind of relationship you were interested in, and I appreciate your honesty. I know now that you can't be what I want, either.
Thank you too for sending Elliot. It helped a lot for me to talk with him. He said the NDA I signed was void, but let me reassure you that I won't speak about any of this to anyone else anyway. Your secrets are safe with me.
Whaaat? "Wishing her well in the future"? How the hell did she get that out of that playlist? I was trying to tell her that I have feelings for her, feelings that Flynn thinks might be love. "Wishing her well"? No, no, no! She doesn't understand. I don't want to find someone else, and dammit, I don't want her to either.
I drop the letter on my desk, my hands flying to my hair. How could she not understand? Fuck! Do I call Flynn or Elliot?