Chapter 29: Big Pictures
I was initially going to take my time with this because I've got heaps of homework to do… But since you all asked so nicely… Anyway, read this one carefully please. Please restrain yourselves from sending me death threats, thank you. Just know that we've got a lil way to go from here (: Enjoy.
You are fu**ing kidding me, my inner goddess was the first to react.
My heart clenched tightly, barely breathing from its current mauled state. Hands clammy, I took an involuntary step back. Deja vu. I had retreated in the exact same manner on that very night. Right on cue, that shiver scratched its way up my spine. I shuddered.
Christian had been behind his luxurious desk, leaning back in his leather chair with his hands tucked behind his head, gripping his hair tightly. I could not help to compare him with most recently. Just like the position he was in when I had treated him to a blow job when he got back.
His eyes were squeezed shut in what... Frustration? Pleasure? I shuddered once more. He had not been facing me head on, but rather, had his side to me. But the very thing that had taken my breath away was the tiniest of details. I could have missed it, but my cursed sharp eyes just had to point it out. A set of gorgeous and endlessly long legs peeking out from the side of his desk. Joined to them were strappy heels.
Thankfully, the wood of the desk was too high for me to even see what was happening. I was not that dumb, I knew exactly what they were doing. Christian was angled towards her, goddammit. The moment the food had crashed against the floor, Christian had whipped his head towards me the same time his eyes flew open.
"Ana?" Came his shocked response, clearly not expecting me.
Who is that?! My inner goddess put on her highest of heels and tried to peer over the desk. Andrea? Elena? Someone new?
The betrayal stung hard within me. Again. Fu**. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears, the pounding so strong that I could have lurched forward to vomit but resisted because I had to see. I had to know who I had lost to this time, how my inadequacy had faired. Her luscious brunette hair popped up first and as she turned, I gaped.
"Anastasia." Christian's growl was loud and clear, reprimanding in a way. He seemed to be trying to distract me from the idea forming in my head.
No. No. No. I shook my head inwardly because my entire body was not responding right. Not again. My heart was now in my mouth and I could taste the blood. I felt myself break out into cold sweat. Timidly, I braved the tears, "Sorry about the mess."
My inner goddess did not approve.
"Anastasia..." Christian cautioned. What? He was not possibly thinking about explaining himself this time was he? What could be possibly say?! Nothing would change this.
I did not want to hear it. Any of it. My world was crumbling apart by the second. I was not going to give him a chance, not another. The fuc*tard did not deserve it. Before he could stand, something that would take him some time to do, I gathered all the energy within me and sprinted out of his office and towards the lifts.
"ANASTASIA!" I heard him holler, growing distant as I put more distance between us.
As if I was being chased by a serial killer, I kept on running, my head turning back a few times to calculate the remaining time I had left before getting caught. Unfortunately, my distraction slammed me face first into the steel doors. I had no time to lick my wounds and my fingers pressed the button violently to call the lift.
I could hear him coming. He was closing in and I was not armed for another confrontation. Or worse, another confession. The 'ding' of the lift saved me once more and I hurried in, fingers raiding the lobby button quickly and alternating to harass the close door button.
Just as the doors were about to shut, a flustered and red Christian Grey came into view. "WAIT ANA!" He begged, rushing to the door but not in time to stop me. I fell back into the handles and pushed myself up against the mirrors. Panting, I reassessed the situation.
Who was I fuc*ing kidding? I had nothing to reassess. The bastard was having a jolly good time with her. He said she was out of state, he promised. But here he was, sitting in his office chair getting pleasured by her. The bloody idiot has been lying!
I caught the tear before it could hit my cheekbones. No more tears. Gritting my teeth, I faced the mirror to pep talk myself. "No. More. Bloody. Tears." My weakness had given Christian the opportunity to walk all over me the first time. There was no way in heaven or hell that I was going to give him a fast pass this time round. It was his roadblock. This was the end.
The quiet pain in my system was replaced by a bloodthirsty anger, searing through out my body that I could spit. The violence brimming my system fueled the fire within me. I was going to be a strong, independent and brave woman. With or without Christian.
Without, My inner goddess corrected, putting on her army paint to enter battle.
I began to wonder. How long? Was she the reason behind all his 'overseas' trips? Maybe he had been in Seattle all that time, right under my nose, just finding an excuse to have some time to cheat on me. It made sense. Why on earth had I been so trusting?
I should have agreed to go along for one of his 'business trips'. He must have known that I would put my job before anything else, that was why he had so confidently invited me to join him. It must have all been just an act. A stupid act.
The bastard. I was going to fight him all the way. The lift doors opened and I stomped out angrily, thunder striking every thing in the lobby. The people entering the lift knew better than to get in my way. My eyes glanced towards the remaining lifts and I noticed that one of them had just reached Christian's level. It would not be long now.
"Ana?" Luke's concerned voice interrupted my thoughts and I glanced towards it. He was sitting with Taylor enjoying the sushi. At least someone was grateful for my sushi.
Right on cue, Taylor raised his chopsticks. "Thank you, Ana."
I gave him a curt nod and thundered past them. "What is it, Ana?" Luke followed, reluctantly leaving his salmon belly sashimi.
Spinning around so fast that I almost lost my balance, I managed to stop by slamming my fists into Luke's chest. "Tell your fu**ing boss that we are fu**ing over." I told him, furious. Luke's eyes widened with shock and incomprehension.
"What happened, Anastasia?" He pressed, his hands softly caressing mine as he drew them from his chest.
It then occurred to me that if Christian had been cheating on me all this time, Taylor would have known about it. Instinctively, I ripped out the ring around my finger and flung it at an equally stunned Taylor. It made a sharp clanging noise against the marble floor when Taylor failed to catch it in time.
Heck, maybe even Luke knew about it. He must have known. That was why he had been so supportive of Christian, persuading me constantly to trust Christian and to believe in him. I had even been swayed into being a faithful wife, going to my husband when he needed me.
"F*** you, Luke." I spat at the man. My words catching him off guard, I ripped my hands from his and shoved him backwards. He stumbled.
Before Christian could come down or either men could react, I mustered the remaining energy I had within me and sprinted out of the place once more. The sea of people began to maneuver around me, creating space for my tantrum to be thrown. I ran in the direction of my office, the only place I knew to go now.
Suddenly, there was a bolt of lightning and the Seattle sky cracked. The Lord must have witnessed today's display, as the resounding tears that poured from above was intense. Trying to get out of the rain, I ducked into the first shop I could.
It was a Chanel outlet and the gentleman at the door paid me no attention, I presumed because I was drenched from head to toe and clearly not a prospect customer. These damn boutiques were such judgmental assholes. Even so, I walked right in and pretended to be checking out handbags and clothes. Never in my life would I have thought about spending cash on these useless items.
I stared at a gorgeous baby pink wallet and thought about how Christian and I would have lived a happy life together. He would have bought me items like these saying that I deserved them and that I deserved better. Thinking about it now, I did deserve better but not in the aspect of luxury items, but in the aspect of husbands.
My taste in men was evidently atrocious. I had managed to land myself a twisted dark man who had the emotional complex of a five year old and could not keep faithful to me. I was done listening to his excuses. He should have just married Leila instead, why had he even bothered to propose to me?
Chanel had one of those full-length mirrors and I could see why even the door man paid me little attention. I was plain-looking, barely stunning or worth the fidelity. Leila on the other hand had been dressed to kill, her shoes were to die for, Christian-worthy if you will. If dating Christian had its benefits, it would be that I now knew how to hold onto a man. My mind was made up.
"Um, hello." Said a petite sales assistant who had no choice but to attend to me. "Can I help you with something?" By the tone of her voice, I knew full well that she thought I was in here for the toilet.
Thankfully, my handbag housed my wallet. In addition, my blackberry was still sitting in Christian's office, buried somewhere under the pile of raw food and Japanese rice. There was a slim chance he would find me here. "Yes, could you acquaint me with the latest line?"
The lady looked at me suspiciously, deliberating if I was a waste of time. If I had my ring, she would not doubt me now. But from now on, I had no ring and I had no Christian. I was going to have to support myself. As if in proof of my capital, I pointed at the pink wallet I had been eyeing. "I'd like that, thank you." And handed her my Amex.
Christian had dropped me a large sum of cash to handle Mrs Collins. Since there would be no more wedding, no more Mrs Collins or the need to arrange anything anymore. I was going to use his money, as a parting gift to him, and transform myself into someone appealing and attractive to mankind. Maybe that way I would be able to keep my men.
The moment her eyes fell upon the name encrypted on the plastic, she scurried to get her job done. "Right away, maam." Needless did she know that Ms Anastasia Steele, fiancé of Christian Grey, was no more. That thought made my knees shake a little, weakening at the thought of losing someone so dear to me.
I then realized that his life and mine have become so intertwined. Kate was with his brother, Ethan with his sister, Luke was practically a good friend of mine and Gail and Taylor my role models. Not to mention his sweet mother that so resembled mine, just more responsible and successful and his father that stood in for mine when he was not around. I had been contented marrying in to a perfect family, but now I was making a decision to walk away.
My bottom lip quivered and quickly, I took in a deep breath to steady myself. Taylor, Luke and possibly Gail had proven to be traitors. They would, after all, always be loyal to their employer. I must not be weak this time, just as I had been the first time round. Christian needs to see that I am independent and even without him, I could be strong. I did not need to rely on him. I could not let him walk all over me again, he had to know that I was going to let him go.
A man of his fidelity standards was not one worth keeping.
After trying on a million pencil skirts and office blouses, blazers and beautiful dresses, I was set. "Could you get me these," I told the salesgirl as I pointed at my stack, "in different colours." I observed as her jaw hung in surprise.
My inner goddess hi-fived me.
"And I'll wear this purple dress now." I instructed her, fishing the fabric out from my pile and striding to the changing room.
I was sick and tired of always crying and always leaning on others for support. This was all my doing. I had trusted the bastard once more even though I knew that I should never have. I gave him permission to wrangle my heart once more. That was it. I was going to have to take responsibility for my own actions.
My mind wrapped around the solutions to this math problem. I could either drag this out painfully, clarify and question and everything with him, or I could leave him once and for all. I could cut out all things Christian from my life and move on. Eventually, I would get better. Eventually.
With no doubts, the first few months would be painful without him. I knew my mind would torture me repeatedly with 'What ifs', but I had to bear with this. I could not and will not let Christian get his way again.
I thought about Christian's vulnerability, his nightmares eating away at him while I was gone. I felt a tinge of remorse and guilt, sympathy in the mix as well, because I knew he needed me. But clearly, if he had issues with committing to me, I did not mean that much to him after all. That added gasoline to my fire.
I know we were turning each other on via text messaging, but it did not give him the license to get a blowjob from Leila while I was away. No way in hell did it give him a green light to do so. Bastard.
How could he have betrayed my trust again? How could he have done this once more? It's as if he didn't have a conscience. Or maybe it reflects his love for me. Evidently I was of little value to him. This time it was not my fault, it was all on his head.
"Thank you, Mrs Grey." The cashier and the sales assistant nodded at me with huge plastic smiles. I flinched. Alright, this was the first and last time anybody would refer to me as that. I swallowed my tears once more.
I retrieved my plastic and hooked on the many bags. "It's been a pleasure."
As I strutted down towards my office, I turned quite a few heads. Who wouldn't look? I was dressed in a short, body-hugging purple fabric that flaunted my cleavage. Not to mention the flashy Chanel shades I purchased that matched my sky-high black stiletto heels. My ego and confidence were steadily building. Christian Grey had nothing on me.
Just as I entered my office, I received a sassy fox whistle from a businessman. Flushing, I lifted my shades and hung them at my cleavage dip. Smiling a bright one, I was intent on Christian realizing that I was not going to be hung up by his ridiculous infidelity.
"Wow, Ana." Hannah breathed, rising from her desk. "Jack gives you an early break and you come back dressed like... Wow."
"Thanks, Hannah." I blushed and looked away, my eyes falling upon the clock. I was still early. Thank goodness. I would not want my streak with Jack to stumble now, especially with my soured relationship with my boss' boss' boss. Jack could make my life a little sweeter than it already was.
"Oh yes, Christian called a few times."
My heart stopped short.
Breathe, Ana! My inner goddess instructed. You've got to get over that douchebag.
"Well, if any of his people or himself calls, please do let them know I never returned to the office." I told her with a straight face, suppressing the sadness that was overhead.
Hannah seemed taken aback. " Um. Okay. Anything the matter?"
I bit my lip nervously, pressing the button to call the lift. "Nothing, I just need some space from them all." Looking to her for sympathy, I raised my arm candy. "You know... That mid life crisis?"
"Yes, yes." Hannah fell for it. "Keep them away, got it."
The elevator arrived and I waved at her. "Thanks babe." I said as the doors shut.
I hated these damn elevators. Something about the metal walls seemed to draw the deepest of my emotions out. Christian had just walked all over me. I hate him. I hate him. And with Leila?! He knows how she makes me feel. That bitch got to sleep with Christian while we were together. The crazy asshole had held a gun to my head. The very fact that Christian had been hooking up with her behind me was sufficient to eradicate all sympathy I had for him.
I had none. In a sudden rush of anger, I slammed my clenched fist against the metal. My knuckles clicked at the pain, but it was a brilliant sensation, a cathartic release that I desperately needed.
Ignoring everything around me, I charged to my work area and plunked myself down. "Ana, you're back on time!" I heard Jack cheer happily from his office without even seeing me physically. "You can take the papers home with you, Ana. Everyone else has left for the day."
Everyone else? "Why did everyone leave?" I holler back at him.
Jack laughed, "Not many to begin with anyway. There's a bug going around, why don't you go home early too? No point sticking around."
I faced the short stack of workload Jack had placed on my desk. It was either I stayed here and finished this or wander about the streets with nowhere in particular to go. I would go back to the apartment, but this time, I wanted Kate to be there to prevent Christian from getting to me. Kate had been right all along about Christian.
I should have let her defend me and let her vaporize him, but I had chosen to take his side once more. Not this time. I sighed. I looked at the clock, she would be home from work in an hour or so, until then, I would stay here. After getting the first manuscript done, I headed for the toilet to freshen up. I would not give Kate any opportunity to sniff out my remorse and guilt over this matter, she would Torture it out of me.
Staring at the mirror in the toilet, I sighed out loud once more. Even with my newly done make-up, fancy dress and gorgeous hair, I still could not conceal the hurt Christian had inflicted upon me. Slowly, my lips slipped into a frown and I blinked away the budding tears. It may seem that I needed Kate earlier than I thought. Quickly, I washed my hands and was about to leave the toilet when I heard a shout. I froze in my footsteps.
"What do you mean?!" Jack's angry voice flowed into the toilet. He was standing directly outside the female toilet, probably just leaving the male toilet. "I held up my end of the bargain!"
What bargain? There was no need for me to press myself up against the door because he was shouting at the top of his lungs, unaware of my presence. I contemplated leaving now, but that would put me in the direct line of fire. "I created enough of a distraction by shaking his business deals in Asia." He sounded exasperated.
Business deals in Asia? I gasped and covered my mouth at the exact same moment, my brain beginning to click the pieces together. Jack was on the phone with someone. But who?
"It's not my fault he's so knowledgeable and skilled, we barely did any damage on his business." He sounded annoyed. "As you've already said, they're broken up already. So why can't we just stop here?"
Broken up? What was this? My heart pounded against my ribs and I was suddenly conscious of everything I was doing. Anything I was doing could alert Jack to my presence, I could not move until his conversation was over. He was lingering right outside the toilet door.
"I only agreed to this to protect Anastasia."
My head began to spin. Anastasia? WASN'T I ANASTASIA? What had Jack Hyde agreed to in order to protect me? What did I need protecting from? And who the fuc* had he agreed to?
"No, she's just gone home." I heard him report through his teeth. "HOW WOULD I KNOW WHERE SHE'S GONE EXACTLY?!" He growled. "No, you figure that one out. DON'T. YOU. DARE. TOUCH. HER."
Despite the twisted situation, I could not help but feel slightly touched. Jack seemed to be genuinely protecting me. I made a short mental list of the man the two of them could be talking about.
"GO SCREW AROUND WITH CHRISTIAN GREY YOURSELF, YOU SICKO." Jack hollered once more, effectively narrowing it down.
Christian was involved in this. "IF YOU WANT HIS LIFE SO MUCH, TAKE IT ON YOUR OWN." I heard his footsteps grow further and further away.
My eyes grew wide as I realized that my stumbling upon Christian and Leila must have been a set-up. There were two possibilities. It could have been to reveal that Christian was cheating on me or it could have been to... My breath hitched as I came to see the bigger picture. Somebody was out to get Christian, somebody with the power to threaten his business and draw him out. Christian was a target and his life was the goal.
None of this was a coincidence.
Shattered ; OAR
Goodbye ; Kristinia DeBarge