I haven't shaved. It's probably a good thing. A blade so close to my throat might give me ideas about my future, or rather lack thereof, now that I don't have my Ana anymore. I haven't eaten, either. I've only been drinking. Pink champagne, but still. It's the stuff that reminds me of her and brings numb to the ache of her being 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.
Glue sticks to my fingers as I place the intricate parts of the glider- Ana's glider- together. I've been in the same position for hours, trying to finish her gift to me. Her note said it reminded her of a happy time. It reminds me of her, and nothing has been happy since she's been gone.
My phone buzzes. Each new call I get, I jump. In those precious seconds before I answer, I have hope that it's her. Maybe she's coming back. Maybe she's forgiven me. Maybe it was all just a nightmare that the ring is waking me from, and she's really naked, next to me in my bed. Those few seconds are all I have now, and like her, they leave fast.
I look at the caller ID. Ana's not naked. It's Elena. Fuck.
"I don't want to talk," I answer sharply, but I notice my voice sounds weak and cracked.
"Well, that's a warm greeting for a dear friend. What's wrong? Why haven't you returned my calls? I've been worried about you. You never told me how your trip went."
Georgia... I touch the glider, gently.
"The trip was everything I wanted it to be... And More." More... That word.
"Oh," she says, and then pauses for a long moment, as if she's working out a thought. "So, that's why you didn't call?"
"I haven't been well, I say, lining the remaining glider pieces along my desk, arranging them in order of their future placement.
"Are you sick? Do you want me to bring you something? Let me take care of you, Christian."
Take care of me? Yes, take me out back with a revolver and put me out of my misery Old Yeller style.
"No. I'm not sick for Christ's sake. Just... Please, leave me alone."
"What are you doing right now?"
"Just gluing things together."
I watch the rain pouring outside my window. It's been non-stop. Maybe if I stand outside and just look up for awhile, like those turkeys do, it will drown me.
"You don't sound like yourself."
"I'm not." And, I won't be again. I watch a tree being blown by storm winds. It's pulled back and forth as vicious howls sound and its leaves are ripped from its branches. Although the tree tree stays rooted, it's shaken violently by the sheer force around it. How can it survive such a thing? Why would it even want to?
"Is she making you this way?" The way Elena says 'she' irritates me.
"Her name is Anastasia. And, she's... gone." Gone... The word weighs so final.
My chest heavies, as I choke back a sob. I drop a piece of the glider I'm holding to the floor and scramble to get it before it's lost and loses its place in the line.
"Oh, Christian, it's for the best." She sighs, with what sounds like relief, which really pisses me off.
"The best?! I'm shit here!"
"She would never understand our lifestyle. She's just different."
"You're right," I shoot back. She's sweet and kind and innocent, and I'm a monster." A branch snaps from the tree. The wind carries it a stretch, and then it crashes into a parked cab.
"Oh, Christian. Don't be so hard on yourself. You made an error in judgement. That's why you're hurting. You allowed her to take your control. You must never do that again, do you hear me?"
Her shaking voice steals my attention from the storm. She sounds on the verge of control loss, herself.
"It was foolish. Pursuing some regular girl-"
"There is nothing regular about her!" Anastasia is the sun and the moon. Without her I have no light. She is everything, and- Fuck, when did I become a god damn poet? I sound like Shakespeare's angst ridden, pimple popping teenage brother. My thoughts drift. Shakespeare... British... Literature... Ana! All roads lead back to her.
"I knew when you went sneaking off on your own, no good would come of it."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" She makes it sound like I'm a kid, sneaking out my bedroom window to shoplift nudie magazines and vodka from the all-night liquor mart. Funny thing, she collared me when I did that, and introduced me to her cat.
"Pursuing a girl outside of the lifestyle. One you just happened to meet and turned your head."
"You mean actually liking someone and taking them for a coffee date instead of having an interview at my office and a punishment fuck audition in my playroom."
"You sound angry, Christian. Like you were before. That scares me that she could make you lose so much of your hard earned self control. Make you feel this way..."
"I like the way she makes me feel. I'm angry because I'll never feel that way again!" The only more I've ever wanted belongs to the girl who walked out on me. She's taken my heart with her. But, she hasn't stolen it. It belongs to her.
"You'll get over it."
"What if I don't want to?"
"Why don't I come over. We can talk. Have some wine. Spend time together."
"No, Elena. I don't want to see you. I'm tired. I haven't been sleeping well."
"Well, that's nothing new."
I stare out the window. The rain falling harder now. I can't see the branch anymore. I think it slid into the sewer and that was its end. But, the tree still stands. I look out over the city, knowing she's somewhere amongst the buildings, listening to the same rain falling. I wonder if she's okay. Is she warm? Dry? Safe? God, I hope she's safe. It would kill me if anything happened to her. I hope the photographer isn't with her, playing rainy day games with her like 'head's up seven up', pawing all over what's mine. Was mine. Christ! What I wouldn't give to wrap her in my arms and spend the day in bed playing rainy day games of our own.
"I slept well when she was beside me. The nightmares left. Now, they've returned. Worse than ever."
Dead silence on the line.
"You slept in her room? In her bed?" She sounds angry, punishing. If I was still her sub a caning would be in store.
"She also slept in mine." The most restful night's sleep I've ever had was wrapped around her.
"Christian!" She says sharply, in reprimand. "That's completely against the rules. You're a dominant. Why would you let your submissive get away with that?!"
"She was never my submissive. I didn't want her to be."
I've dropped it, the two ton truth that neither of us thought could be possible.
"So, you didn't make her sign the contract after Georgia." It's less of a question, and more of an accusation.
"No. She wanted more."
"I wanted more, too."
She's quiet. I know this silence well.
"You don't honestly think she was your girlfriend, do you?"
The way she asks that, I know my answer should be no. She's right, I'd be a fool to think it could be anything else for someone like me. But, I look at the glider, and then to her note, and they somehow gives me strength to believe it could be more. She gave this to me after everything. I touch the words written by her hand, and her name signed in her pen. I run my finger along the loop of her A...
"Yes." It's a whisper, but it's there.
She laughs, and suddenly I feel so small and embarresed that I could ever believe such a thing.
"Oh Christian. This doesn't even sound like you speaking. We need to find you another girl. Someone who is willing to obey you. That girl could never give you what you want or need."
"Call her Anastasia!" The power and protectiveness I say her name with startles us both. "You're wrong, she gave me everything I need and want. I just couldn't do the same for her. This is my fault, because I'm so god damn fucked up. And now, she's gone. I just want to be left alone!"
I terminate the call, returning to the last pieces of my- our- glider. Once finished, hours later and deep into the night, I put it in a place of pride on my desk, remembering a happier time, and knowing without her I will never feel happy again. So, there, in the cold, dark silence of my office, I do what I have never done before,... I weep.
"Sir, the Germans are wondering where you are," Andrea says in a conspiratorial whisper, after I finally answer her call number twenty.
"Who the fuck are the Germans?" Germans make me think of Europe, which makes me think of England and Twining's Tea, which makes me think of Ana dunking her little bag in her little cup of water, so cute and fast. Right now, I hate the Germans, whoever the fuck they are.
"That's their name?"
"No! The energy saving light switches! The businessmen who you were to be seated with at the gala tonight. You've been after me to be after them for months."
Fuck. The gala. The one I was supposed to take Ana to. My first real date. I sigh.
"Tell them I'm busy. Plans came up."
"Plans came up?!" Andrea squeaks her shocked disapproval. And, Andrea's not a squeaker, so she's got serious disapproval issues with me. "They flew all the way from Hamburg and they're very tired! Plus, they're not happy with the menu tonight-"
"They don't like seafood."
The fucking menu? That's their concern? If shellfish is your big heartache, you don't know shit about life.
"Tell them I don't fucking care about them, or their long flights, or their boo hoo fucking jet lag, or their god damn dinner selections! And, make sure to send over a bucket of king crab from me, along with a note that says I'm not fucking coming and they can stuff their switches up their asses and light themselves!"
"Uh... I don't think I can tell them all that, sir."
"Fine, tell them I'm dead."
I hang up.
"Fuck the Germans," I mutter, as I lie sprawled out on my back on the floor of my office, staring at a German light switch.
I don't eat, again. I drink, again. Two bottles of Bollinger this time. Every sip reminds me of her. Drinking from those teacups. God, why am I doing this? I'm punishing myself like I would a sub. But, it feels so much worse than a beating or a flogging. I am no good for her. I know that, and now she knows that, too. I should just come to terms with this and move on. It's what's best for her. Me? I don't deserve her. I need to accept that.
She broke the rules, I rationalize as well as a man drunk on pink champagne can. We agreed once she left that was it. She knew it. I knew it. But, God if she walked through the front door right now the last thing I would do is turn her away. I'd run to her and rip her clothes off. Maybe spank her, for pleasure not pain, and then I'd make love to her on the piano. Like I should have done the other night. I sigh, as I pour the last of the last bottle, at least I won't have to worry about her touching me. That offers me little consolation now.
I stumble toward my bedroom, then abruptly detour up the stairs. Up to her room. The one that was to be hers. The one she cried in days before as I held her. The one she told me she loved me in. She can't love me, it's wrong. She said she does. But, she doesn't know who I really am. I sigh, she has an idea now.
I open her closet and look at her clothes. Silks and satins. That's what Miss Anastasia Steele should wear. With or without me she should always have the best. I should send them to her. But, she would never accept them. I concoct a drunken plan to gift her things. I'll have Taylor secretly deliver them. Just so I know she's taken care of. She'll never know it's from me. The wine is talking, clearly. Who else would send her $3000 Louboutins and Prada bags? She's so stubborn. And headstrong. Nothing like a submissive. She doesn't have a submissive bone in her body. It would never work. I need control. But, God do I miss that smart mouth. I wish she was here defying me.
I crawl drunkenly into the bed. I can still smell her on the pillow. It's heavenly and comforting.
Christ, Grey! When did you turn into such a sap? I fall asleep in the submissive bedroom clinging to the pillow that smells like her, only to wake in a nightmare.
"Christian, I haven't seen you for awhile. What made you call this emergency session on a Sunday?"
"I have a problem," I say, sitting on the couch in Flynn's office in a rain drenched jogging suit and third day beard growth. 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 couch 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?"
He leans back and places the top of that pen to his chin. They both scan 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. Because, all has been lost.
"Did you find a new submissive? I know you've been idle for a little while."
"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."
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 an obscene science project on the wonders of new life, or the 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." 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 and vomiting 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, 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 mean, I don't beat her for them."
"Well, that's new." He chuckles.
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 its 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.
"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...
"You're mother's never come by when you're 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. How I wanted my mother to see me with her.
"Ana's someone to be proud of. She's like no one I've ever known.
He crosses his legs. "How is she different from your other sexual partners?"
I snort. "She was a virgin, for one thing."
His mouth falls open so wide I can 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 an 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 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? Am I mad?!"
"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."
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.