TRIGGER WARNING: It still stands in this story and kicks off in this chapter so please be aware of that. This story goes further than the last did right from this very first chapter!
Thank you for rejoining me on this journey. Life is about to take an unexpected turn for our happy couple... strap yourselves in, it's going to be a bumpy ride :)
Ana sat on the brown cotton couch, her arm resting on the sofa's arm, her legs swung up on the seat beside her. She appeared relatively relaxed, but that was because her session hadn't started yet. Mary Griffith sat opposite her, partially angled in a navy Queen Anne armchair, legal pad on her lap and pen in hand.
This was Ana's third proper session with Mary, they'd started off well with Ana being able to discuss one of her earliest traumatic memories. First, she would visualise the scene, put herself back in the basement with Mister and Madam, then she would talk her way through the scene then she would go back and do it again with Mary often stopping her and making her focus on her feelings and the small details. It was tough and very emotionally draining.
But Mary made her feel safe. This small woman with her grey hair cut around her ears, and the kindest brows eyes Ana had ever seen could make her feel incredibly safe. The trust that had built between them in that very first session had allowed them to jump in feet first and start on this journey to deal with the complex PTSD that she suffered from.
"So how has this week been?" Mary asked softly, she always spoke with such a softness that if it wasn't for the fact the room was otherwise completely silent, it would be a struggle to hear her.
How has this week been? It sounded like a trivial question to an outsider but Ana knew it was more than that, it was asking how she had coped following on the discussion from the previous session. The idea was that by facing her trauma, over time, the anxiety and the fear would reduce and it did appear to be working for the most part, but very slowly. Ana could feel a small difference but it was often overshadowed by the nightmares and flashbacks she would suffer throughout the week.
"Christian and I got engaged." Ana said deciding she'd rather share her happy news first.
"Congratulations." Mary replied with a gentle smile. Ana twisted the ring on her left hand with her right and smiled, she was engaged. She had never believed she'd meet anyone who she cared for enough to commit the rest of her life to, yet here she was engaged to marry Christian Grey.
"Thank you." Ana replied. "This week has been ok." She moved on, Mary smiled softly, Ana was no different to many other patients she had in the sense that there had to be an element of control in the session. Ana had just taken control of the conversation by first sharing her happy news before deciding to move on to talk about the difficulties proceeding the last session.
"On a scale of one to ten, how would you see your anxiety is today?" Mary asked, Ana struggled not to roll her eyes, it was always about a scale with Mary, how she felt at the start, how she felt a the end and then how she felt before Mary would even let her leave the therapy session.
"About seven maybe eight." Ana replied honestly, it was an improvement, her first session she'd been at eleven, last week she'd felt it more like a nine but by today she felt just a little less anxious about bringing up the same memory yet again.
"And over the week?" Mary asked scribbling Ana's answer down on the pad in front of her.
"When I got home it was a five maybe… by Tuesday morning it was a nine… you know the pattern Mary I don't know why you're getting me to go over it again." Ana was impatient.
"Because you know as well as I do recognising that pattern helps healing Ana and Tuesday morning being a nine not an eleven shows huge improvement." Mary explained, she didn't bat an eyelid at Ana's reluctance, because she'd heard it all before, every patient got frustrated with this but it helped them see progress, it was all about progress.
"Fine Wednesday was an eight, Thursday was a seven, Friday was a six, Saturday was a five, Sunday was a seven and hello, here we are." Ana rushed quickly, she hated focusing on the number that was supposed to coincide with the level of her anxiety, but if Mary so desperately wanted it then she'd share.
"Again, improvement Ana, yesterday was a seven, you've always said nine before." Mary said and Ana rolled her eyes, she didn't really see a huge difference there but if Mary said there was she'd let the shrink have her moment. "Ok, so why don't you visualise the memory in the basement again." Mary said gently and Ana sighed and closed her eyes.
Mary would sit silently and watch at this stage. Right now, Ana was focusing in on her earliest memory of abuse. This was the third week running they'd be looking at this memory but until Ana could just speak about it without getting completely worked up and be on edge, they would have to remain on this particular memory. She hadn't even made it to the end of this particular memory because she would get to anxious and too upset. Mary hoped that as Ana seemed a lot less anxious today, that it would finally be the time she'd get to the end.
As Ana visualised Mary could see the rigidity appear in the young woman's body. He shoulders would hunch inward, her head would bow, just a little, but enough that Mary could see it. A shiver would run down Ana's spine and her legs would come closer to her, no longer was she relaxed but instead on edge, waiting for the assault.
"I'm in the basement." Ana stated before taking a deep and shuddering breath. "I'm alone. I've huddled in the corner and I can hear the voices upstairs. They're coming…" Ana's voice shook as she spoke. "I can hear them on the stairs and I'm scared. The door is opening but I don't want to look. Madam is here, she's talking to Mister. She says I need to be broken in but I don't know what that means. I want my Mommy…" Ana's voice lifted in pitch as the fear took over, despite knowing she was safe in the office with Mary, she wasn't there anymore, she was with Mister and Madam in that dirty basement. "Come with me little bitch." Ana hissed the words that Madam spoke to her. "She's got my hair…" Ana's hand went to the top of her head where she felt the burning pain of her hair being pulled as she was dragged out of the corner. "She's taken my shirt off and I try to run but Mister grabs me by the shoulders and Madam grabs my feet. I want to run and I try to fight them off but they're too strong, it hurts where their hands are on me. Madam pins me down on the table and Master does the buckles so tight it hurts to breathe…" Ana gasped for air, her chest heaved, she felt like she might be sick at any moment. Mary kept an incredibly close eye on Ana. They'd got a little further before Ana had become upset this time, which was progress but she knew his story and they had a long way to go.
"Madam slaps me, it makes my eyes open, the ceiling is black and my face hurts…" Ana continued and Mary noted down the ceiling colour, that was a new detail she hadn't said before, it wasn't unusual for someone to bounce between their feelings and descriptions in this type of therapy, so she wasn't concerned about that aspect, what she needed was to note these new details that Ana was remembering. "They've strapped my wrists down and my ankles and now they're putting a belt around my head and I can't move. I want to move but I can't… Madam is rubbing me now down there, it feels wet, like she's put something there. It doesn't feel right. "Do it now" Madam is telling Mister and I squeeze my eyes closed again because I know whatever they're going to do is going to hurt. The pain is intense…" Ana squeezed her legs together tight and her hand's which fell together on her lap squeezed until her knuckles turned white. "It hurts so bad I just want it to stop, they need to stop… they pull it out only to put it back in over and over again. I'm screaming and trying to move away but I can't, the leather of the belt is rubbing against me and it hurts almost as much as whatever they're putting inside me. Madam's laughing loudly and she comes round to my side. Look at me little bitch, look at me now! She slaps me again and I look at her but… but I can't see her…" Ana choked, this was a big part of her problem, she couldn't visualise Mister and Madam, it didn't matter how much she tried to remember them, they were just black holes where her memory was supposed to be. "This is what happens little bitch, this is what we want, you better get used to it little bitch. She's spitting at me as she talks, I can feel her spit landing on my face. I cry, I'm scared and I'm hurting and I just want it to stop! She shoves a ball into my mouth and I feel like I'm going to die when everything goes black."
All Ana's rigidness, all Ana's panic faded in that moment to nothing. Mary sat up a little straighter and watched. This happened every time they went over the memory, while Ana didn't actually pass out, her memory would seal itself off just for a moment, just as it had when she had been a mere five-year-old girl who had blacked out during the assault.
Ana gasped as her memory unsealed itself, she wanted to open her eyes but she knew better, because Mary wasn't done yet. Going over the memory itself was just a start, now she had to go over it again and again.
"Go back to the moment Madam and Mister stopped you escaping." Mary said encouraging Ana to go back to one of the memory hotspots she'd identified while she spoke. Last week, they'd had to go back to the moment they came downstairs, but Mary had realised Ana hadn't started to panic this time until her shirt was removed, that was progress, even if Ana didn't know it or see it.
"She takes my shirt off …"
By the time forty-five minutes had passed Ana had been made to tell the story, from the moment Madam removed her shirt off, five times. Her cheeks were streaked with tears, her eyes hurt and she was struggling to control her breathing. Mary was sitting with her, giving her time to catch her breath and calm down before they talked more because the session wasn't done. Mary couldn't let Ana leave in the state she was in, so the last half hour of their session was about bringing Ana down as close to neutral as possible.
Ana had remembered a lot more details this week, the ceiling being black was only one of them. On the second time telling the story she remembered that Mister was wearing a blue shirt, then on third time she remembered the blood-red of Madam's nails. Little details like this, while in the long term, meant nothing, they were all a part of facing the trauma. Technically she wasn't remembering in the traditional sense, she was instead simply unlocking more and more of the memory as she faced it, which in turn would allow her to stop fearing the memory altogether.
"How do you feel?" Mary asked once she was sure Ana wouldn't attack her if she spoke.
"I just don't get how talking about this over and over is going to help." Ana said taking a tissue from the coffee table that stood between her and Mary, so that she could dab her cheeks.
"I've explained it to you Ana, it's a form of facing your fears so it no longer scares you." Mary replied and Ana nodded, she'd been told all of this at their very first session which had just been an introduction and not an actual therapy session. She'd also asked at every session since too, it was like she needed that reassurance that this was going to work.
"You're doing incredible Ana, I know you don't feel it yet and it will take time, but you're progressing through this memory. I think three maybe four more sessions and we should be able to move on to the next one."
"See that scares me, I remember what it was like when I left here after that first session, is it going to be like that again?" Ana questioned; she'd been almost violent with Christian after the first session because he'd tried to hug her. He'd ended up calling his friend John Flynn for advice on the way Ana was behaving, only for him to tell Christian to give Ana space. It was tough going and she knew she was affecting Christian and that he was having to see Dr Flynn for himself, to help him cope with Ana's behaviour and moods.
"It might be, it might not be. As we progress through the memories the anxiety at facing new ones should be reduced to a degree but that might take time." Mary explained gently, it was practically the same conversation every week. Ana was terrified of facing her past, but the hope was the more they faced it the easier facing the rest of it would become.
Ana shifted in her seat, her skin was crawling again and she felt sick to her stomach. Her memories of Madam and Mister were so much more vivid now than they were before therapy started. But despite that, she still couldn't remember them at all.
"What are you thinking?" Mary asked realising Ana was withdrawing, she didn't want Ana revisiting that memory now while she was trying to get the anxiety down before she left.
"That I still don't remember Mister and Madam. They tortured me for three years and I don't have a clue what they look like." Ana explained shakily, looking at her fumbling hands.
"I think it will come Ana, when you least expect it even, the memories are there we just need to find the key to unlock it. Give this time first don't try and force it." Mary explained softly, looking at Ana so that if she looked up for any reassurance it would be immediately given.
"It's just frustrating." Ana sighed. "I mean I guess a part of me doesn't want to remember them either." Ana explained and Mary gave a small sympathetic laugh. "That's part of the problem isn't it." Ana said meeting Mary's gaze, Mary simply nodded.
"It will come." She said. "So what are your plans for this week?" She asked realising Ana was now on the way down from her anxious state and it was a good time to move the conversation on.
"Work." Ana chuckled. "I should find out this week if I've had the promotion."
"That's fantastic." Mary smiled, it was clear work was a go-to safe topic for Ana and that was ok, that's what this part of the session was about. "What about relaxing?"
"I'll probably have a hot bath and play the violin." Ana replied. "It's what helps me relax."
"Good, how are you communicating with Christian after our sessions?" Mary pushed because having Christian's support was vital to the success of the therapy, Ana wouldn't be able to cope with this alone, there was just too much trauma to face.
"I usually tell him after a nightmare." Ana explained. "He knows the memory we're working on, I've told him about it, I tell him the new details."
"Good." Mary smiled. "Now on a scale of one to ten how anxious are you feeling?"
"Four maybe five." Ana shrugged, the hard bit was over, she was allowed to put this behind her for another week now.
"Good, listen if things get hard again this week, consider putting the anti-depressant up ok, you don't need to struggle through this alone." Mary said as Ana swung her legs down from the side of the couch, the session was coming to an end and she was now anxious to get home.
"Thanks Mary." Ana smiled. Mary took Ana to the door and Ana gave Mary a nervous nod, it was her way of saying seeing you next time without actually having to say the words, because the last thing she wanted to do at the end of a session was think about the next one.
Mary watched as Ana left and got into the car with the security guard, she'd heard some horrifying stories in her time, but what Ana had experienced was nothing like she'd ever faced before. It was becoming increasingly obvious that Ana had been kidnapped in order to be trafficked for sex, she'd been just five years old. Mary had never treated a sex-trafficking victim before, nor had she treated someone who had been abused so young. It was why after these sessions, Mary went home and had a good old cry too, for Ana and all the victims like her out in the world.
Christian heard the elevator and walked to meet Ana at the entryway. As always she gave him a timid smile, tugged her heels off and put down her bag. On Monday's, she did not want to be touched when she came home from work and despite that being difficult for him to accept, he respected it and kept his distance.
"How was work?" She asked, leading the conversation.
"Busy, should get through this china deal though." He said and Ana smiled, the China deal had been meaning he'd been out the apartment at 4am some mornings and she was looking forward to it being over. "Are you ready for dinner?"
"Sure." Ana nodded and she followed him through to the kitchen where Mrs Jones immediately started serving up their meal.
They ate in silence, Ana reflecting on her session with Mary while Christian just let her be in control. As always, Ana barely touched her dinner. According to John Flynn, this was Ana's way of exercising control of herself after re-living her trauma, he'd explained it was common in victims of trauma to have issues with food and body image, it was only concerning if it continued, but Ana would usually improve as the week progressed and then made up for it on the weekend.
"Why don't you go have a shower and play your violin?" Christian suggested when it became obvious Ana was done. She sighed and put her fork down on the plate before turning to Christian.
"I just want to shower and go to bed if I'm honest." Ana said and Christian nodded and turned towards Ana. "But I can't go on my own."
"Ok, go shower, I'll meet you in the bedroom and we can have an early night." He said understanding exactly what she was saying. She wouldn't sleep without him and she needed him there when the nightmares would come.
She stood and gently kissed his head, he sighed deeply. That small act of love meant everything to him, because he understood right now she was in a dark place, struggling with her trauma. It broke his heart to know she was having to face this, despite the fact he knew it was for her own good and in the long term it would help her. Living in the initial aftermath of therapy though, was something else entirely. Every Monday she was having to be raped over and over again and then have to face a week knowing she would happen again the following Monday.
Christian dropped his chin onto his hand and sighed. It was tough going. Over the weekend he'd asked Ana when she would like to get married and she had told him not like this. In other words, she wanted to deal with her past before she faced her future. It made sense, but he knew she had a long way to go. He loved her so much and seeing her in such pain caused his heart to clench in his chest.
Once done with his dinner he made his way to the bedroom where he could get everything ready for Ana for when she came out of the shower. He'd barely stepped foot across the threshold before he heard the harsh sobs echoing from behind the door. His head bowed and his shoulder stooped as he listened to the pain Ana emitted through every cry. He squeezed his own eyes shut, took a deep breath as he fought the urge to go in there to try and comfort her, because it would bring her no comfort right now. This was her facing it, her dealing with it and no amount of comfort offered by him at this moment would help her, he had to wait until she was ready.
He got her pajamas out and changed into his own just in time for her to come out of the bathroom wrapped tight in her towel. He could tell by the lack of heat from the residual steam that usually accompanied a shower that the water had been stone cold. Her skin was bright red, like sunburn, proof she'd scrubbed herself until she couldn't scrub anymore. Her eyes, red-rimmed with black bags beneath them, met his sorrowful gaze.
"I'll change in the wardrobe…"
"Use the bedroom, I'll get us both a drink." He said knowing she wanted privacy. She nodded shyly and waited until he left before she got herself sorted for bed.
By the time Christian returned she was dressed in her pyjamas and blow-drying her hair. Her mind wasn't in the bedroom though. The glazed look that appeared in her eyes when she was miles away always gave him chills. He popped a glass of water on her bedside cabinet and climbed into the bed, ready for her when she was ready to join him. She liked being held in bed, that was the only time he could touch her after therapy. When her hair was dry Ana returned the dryer into the holster and shook herself out as though trying to rid her mind of the memories she'd discussed that day.
She smiled at Christian though Christian could see it didn't quite reach her eyes. She tried so hard though. He knew she took his thoughts and feelings into account and that's why she was so withdrawn. Ana didn't want hurt him by letting him in too much so her memories and her past could hurt him.
"Come on." He said encouraging her into bed, she hurried over and climbed in beside him and he pulled her back into his chest so he could spoon her. A soft sigh emanated from her lips and Christian pecked her head, he couldn't begin to imagine what she was going through. Hearing her telling his Mom about the abuse had been excruciating and the few times she'd opened up since made his blood boil and his skin crawl. He really couldn't imagine what she was now having to go through, though John had made it clear that this was a necessary part of the healing process for Ana.
Her breaths slowly evened out and Christian felt her body relax beneath him, he was always glad when she drifted off to sleep because he knew the amount of sleep she had was limited. He closed his own eyes and willed himself off to sleep knowing that at some point, she would wake and she would need him to be strong for her.
Heart beating fast in her chest, Ana huddled in the corner, desperately hoping that this wasn't going to be another one of those times where they hurt her. They always hurt her though, that was the problem. Madam and Mister came into the room and she wished they would disappear and leave her alone but they wouldn't.
"Come on little bitch, open your mouth." Madam said but when Ana failed to comply her hand wrapped around her jaw and she pried her open. "In it goes." She chuckled before Ana's mouth would be filled with that bit of Mister. Ana would choke, cry and scream but they wouldn't stop, if anything the more she fought the better it was for Madam. Hot, salty liquid would fill Ana's mouth and Madam would force her to swallow it even though her throat hurt too much for her to be able to.
It didn't end there though. Madam and Mister carried her over to the table, strapped her down on her belly so her behind would be up in the air. The crack of the whip always made her jump just before searing hot pain would flood her.. She'd scream but Madam wouldn't stop.
"No… stop please that hurts…" Ana choked as she thrashed around in the bed. Christian sat bolt upright, waking up at the sound of Ana's distressed voice. He looked down to see Ana's face was fixed in a frown, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. She was dripping with sweat too but was shivering as though cold.
Christian couldn't wake her, the one time he had she'd lashed out at him violently so, despite the ache in his chest, he had to watch as Ana battled the daemons in her head.
She screamed, her hands clutching at the blanket with her knuckles turning white, whatever it was that Ana was seeing was hurting her. Her head thrashed from side to side as though she was possessed and Christian bit back the sob that threatened to spill. How could anyone terrorise her like this?
"Let me go please… no more… no more…" Ans begged. "Not there… no Madam please… ARGH!" Ana bolted upright, a high-pitched ear-splitting scream emanating from her throat. Christian froze, waiting for her next move but the scream went on and on until he grabbed her. She dove from the bed, head first until she fell to the ground. He watched in horror as she crawled to the furthest corner of the room and wrapped her arms around her legs, rocking backward and forwards, her eyes once again squeezed shut.
"Ana…" He climbed from the bed and slowly made his way towards her. "Ana baby it's Christian and you're safe." He said hoping that she was with him again, in the present, and not locked in her memories.
"Christian…" She whimpered her eyes opening just as he collapsed to his knees before her. She reached forward and grabbed his hand. "It hurt so bad." She said as he leaned forward and brushed her hair out of her face, it had stuck to her sweat filled brow.
"What hurt Ana?" He asked softly, knowing this was the only time she'd speak about her ordeals.
"When they whipped me." Ana shivered involuntarily and Christian managed not to gasp as he so badly wanted to. His stomach churned. "The first time he put it inside my behind…" Ana explained. "I've never felt pain like it." Tears prickled at Christian's eyes but he batted the back, now was not the time to show weakness.
Ana looked wild, like she was about ready to run and leave. Every so often she'd glance at the door but Christian would gently squeeze her hand, a silent way of reassuring her she was safe.
"I don't understand why they did that to me." She said her voice hoarse. She snatched at the air, trying desperately to fill her lungs as she felt they were being denied the oxygen they needed to survive. "Why would anyone do that to a child?" She asked choking some more.
"I don't know Ana, but they'll never do it again, you're so safe here with me I promise." He told her and she nodded hurriedly, she knew that, she knew she was safe but it didn't stop the nightmares, she didn't feel safe when the nightmares came.
"I need another shower." Ana said and Christian nodded, she was saturated with sweat from the nightmare and he understood that she would feel incredibly dirty too. "Will you stay with me?"
"Of course, always." He replied helping her to her feet.
She led him through to the bathroom and he sat outside the cubicle as she got in with the temperature on low. He fought his tears as he listened to her scrubbing. How she had any skin left flitted through Christian's mind as he fought the urge to go in there and to turn the water off, this was a coping mechanism and hopefully, as things improved with Mary then this behaviour would too. Until then, as long as she wasn't hurting herself or anyone else, he had to let her get on with it.
When she stepped out, he wrapped her up in a big fluffy towel and led her back into the bedroom. She dried off silently as he fetched her clean pyjamas, not that she'd sleep anymore tonight.
"I'm going to go do some work." She said once she was dressed. Christian nodded, he wanted to persuade her back into bed but he knew it wouldn't work. He climbed back into bed alone while Ana went to work in the library, where she would bat away the daemons alone for the rest of the night.