E. L James owns this amazing trilogy
Chapter 6: Europe
"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us" – E.M Foster
My efforts to hide and to rush my siblings into finishing our little dinner in record time are futile – fucking useless. She still saw me, or rather; she knows that I was in that restaurant and I paid for their bill despite the Gift to the Kavanagh media pretense that Taylor specifically told the servers to offer if asked. The point is – she knows. It is obvious judging by the stunned look on her face when her eyes see the all too familiar SUV, and of course Taylor, who is in the driver's seat. Her eyes then looked around the car, not caring whether or not she could see through the tinted glass, and for a moment it's as if the tinted glass didn't exist at all. Those eyes, blue and full of emotion stare right through me, deep within me and like every time she stared at me, I feel… exposed. It is both unsettling and mesmerizing, but the feeling is quickly replaced by dread once I really look at her beautiful face. Even with the impeccable make-up she's wearing, the sad look in her eyes betrays her emotions. She's trying to laugh and be cheerful at whatever her friend is telling her, but her smile doesn't touch her eyes. Eyes too big on her seemingly gaunt face, she has obviously lost weight 'all because of you Grey'
"Wow. Maybe she is a model" I heard my baby sister observe
"Huh?" I said distractedly
"The girl in the blue dress" Mia answered rolling her eyes
"The one beside the blonde" Elliot piped still eye fucking Ms. Kavanagh. I glanced over casually, pretending to be bored and noticed what she's wearing for the first time. The type of clothing that I like to peel her out of; a fitted dress that accentuate every bit of curve, her beautiful brown hair cascading around her like a halo, those legs – long, endless with those black pumps. She looks so fucking delicious that my cock stood at attention. I nearly growled and ripped open the metal door separating us when I noticed that most of the male population was drooling over her. 'Grey, relax'
"Why the fuck are we still here?" I growled
"Traffic Mr. Grey" Taylor shrugged
"Christ" I said completely exasperated
"If you keep pulling your hair like that you'll go bald Christian" Mia said. I ignore her beauty advice
"I don't mind sitting in traffic as long as… damn. I think I want to marry her" Elliot said still drooling over the Kavanagh girl
"Ugh you say that all the time Elliot" Mia said rolling her eyes as finally the car moved and we are finally out of the place and away from the woman who's been haunting me in my dreams with those sad blue eyes
"Well, I figured since I don't have a job I might as well do something fun" I said reciting the line for about the fifth time now. Everyone seem surprised by my sudden decision to go 'back-packing in Europe' Kate nearly spat her tea when I told her during breakfast, she didn't take it well. As soon as I went back to my room, she dialed her brother Ethan's number, as well as Jose, for another friendly intervention. Even after explaining to them that I just need space to clear my cluttered head and that it's the perfect time to explore the world, experience new places, foods and people, especially since I am jobless and have enough money to travel, so might as well… right? Of course, they know me well and saw what I've been through and they all know better. 'That and the fact that they can read you like a book' my subconscious taunted. I roll my eyes, she's right of course, though I don't have to tell people, even my friends, everything all the time, I get sick of it
"When are you leaving?" I heard my dad say after a brief pause
"In two days" I said looking to the door to find Kate hovering, food in hand
"Does your mom know?" he said
"Of course" I answered. My mom is a different story. I planned for her to be the second person to find out, but Ethan and Jose took her spot due to the friendly intervention. After I drained all my energy explaining my decision to my friends, I finally called her to break the news. Like Kate, she didn't get why of all places to go to, I had to choose Europe. Of course, she pointed out that it was over a thousand miles away and on a different continent. That's the idea; go far away, put as much distance as I can between him and me. Needless to say, I had to repeat my explanation to my emotional mother and in the end, a promise that I will visit her in Georgia after my trip; making her completely happy and supportive of my decision
"Well, as long as you take good care of yourself Annie" he said gruffly
"Of course dad" I said, touched by his support
"Alright have fun in Europe and call me, okay?" he said sternly
"Scouts honor, I'll call you every day if you want" I said elated
"Take care and have fun sweetie" he said as we hang up. I didn't want to look at my best friend. I know I might have offended her in making my decision without consulting her. She's helped me through this ordeal and all I did to repay her is buy myself a one-way ticket to France, which leaves in less than two days. She's tried to convince me not to leave, or at the very least, give her a few days to request that her boss (which is her dad) approve her vacation leave so she can go with me. I'd love for her to go, but I feel like this trip is one that I should do on my own. I sighed and look up at my best friend who is eyeing my little suitcase in the middle of the floor half empty
"That's too big to qualify as backpacking" she said lowly, a first. Frankly, I'm expecting her to come up with another 100 reasons to not go on a trip alone and the movie 'taken' by Liam Neason comes to mind
"That's all I have" I said
"Why didn't you tell me? I have the perfect size" she said running back to her room and just like last time, she came back with two matching travel suitcase; purple colored trolley and a matching duffel bag
"Kate" I said
"Shh Steele; since you won't listen to my pleading and you can't wait to escape, at least let me help you. Oh by the way, these are on loan, all right? If you…she said pausing to control her emotions "I will hunt you down in Europe if you don't return in time" she said threateningly
"Kate, this isn't goodbye" I said which even to me sounded like a lie
"It feels like it" she cried
"Ugh! Even if it is, wherever I go you're still my sister, my best-friend, Kate. Besides, I promise you, my dad and my mom to call you every day starting the moment I touch down and I'm sure if I don't, you'll call me anyways" I chuckle
"Yeah" she said laughing as she wipes her tears away
"Now stop that, you'll set me off" I said
She helped me finish packing and I spent more time cooking and listening to the Kavanagh Travel To-do List in France & Italy which I must say, I found completely useful. She helped me pick the best and most convenient hotels and itineraries. I spent what they called my last meal in Seattle, with my friends and before I knew it I was having an emotional farewell with Kate in the Airport, as well as saying farewell to the city that I called home and mostly, to the man I love, as I set off to the unknown… all by myself, all alone.
Sixteen hours later I've landed, boarded a cab, checked in and settled into the superior single bedroom inside the hotel Warwick Champs-Elysees, in the heart of Paris, France – the city of blinding lights. I sit in the bed and my thoughts drift. I really am in Paris… Paris and then it hit me like a bullet to the head, as the memory of our conversation over coffee hit me. Paris. I feel myself sink in the floor as I feel the tears pool in my eyes and then fall. 'No, no, no Ana! So what? The important part is you're away from him! There's no way in hell you'll see him here!' my subconscious roared, which surprisingly worked. I fumbled and produced the tablet Kate and I bought to replace my laptop, and then I grabbed my phone, dialing Kate's number; remembering her insistence that I call her whenever I want. I sit on the floor rocking myself as I waited for her to answer
"Kate I'm here, where are you? Are you busy? Do you have Skype?" I said frantically wiping the tears away
"Chill, Steele! I'm here, I'm at home. Hold on, I'm opening my laptop and logging into Skype. Do the same and I'll call you" she said and I do as I'm told, opening the tablet and logging into my account and before I know it I'm video chatting with my friend. Her tone - and her endless questions about my flight, how the traffic was to the hotel I'm staying to the places I should go, to not trusting anyone and to make sure I go to the places she's listed for me using the sightseeing company her parents always use - is enough to distract me from the memory.
Paris is the most fascinating place I've ever been to – so far. Overall, a perennial city. It is romantic and elegant, grandiose and impressive, stylish and remarkable and above all, the busy streets, lights and attraction are the perfect distraction. There is no bad word to describe it. In just six days, I got to visit most of the museums like the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay and l'Orangerie. I've tried the food everywhere from the Montmartre Walk to a simple café down the street – coffee & pasties and dined at the same place Kate recommended Le Fumoir. Arc de Trimphe at the center of Place de l'Etoile which is close to the hotel I'm staying. Like other tourists, I've climbed the Arc's panoramic viewing terrace and gazed down each avenue in the city. I've watched the sunset while dining inside the Eiffel tower, visited the Palace of Versailles, Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame, Opera houses like Palais Garnier. One of the highlights of my visit is when I walked into the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. It is a library, publisher and boarding house for aspiring writers and was opened by an American, Sylvia Beach and was featured in Ernest Hemingway's memoir, a moveable feast. I made a mental note to myself to learn the French Language ASAP as I knew I would want to come back one day
The activities didn't give much time to think, as most of the time I just listened to the sounds of the city or took in the beauty of the real Mona Lisa painting, marveled at the architectural details of a building or groaned at the delicious food served and at the end of each day, even when I found myself alone in a city that seems to never sleep even the pain of missing him or the fact that I'm a lonely traveler doesn't matter anymore. For at the end of the day, I'm way too exhausted to think. By the sixth night, I am reminded that all good things must end and continue the journey to my next destination – Italy. Unlike the night before I left Seattle, when I barely slept because of all the thinking and worrying about whether leaving or traveling is the best solution for me. Tonight however, I feel nothing but sheer excitement. I realized that leaving Seattle is quickly becoming the best decision I ever made. Leaving erased the feeling of loneliness, I still feel it, but it's not as painful. The new unfamiliar places, endless activities and things to do allowed me to enjoy every waking hour of the day and look forward to what's next on my list. It is both refreshing and exhilarating to be free from the pain and I am determined to keep it that way.
I sit exhausted but never the less relaxed as I lay in bed chatting with Kate, who's been constantly calling and checking on me, even more than my parents. We talked, well she talked excitedly about my next destination: Milan, the first of the many cities in Italy that I'm scheduled to visit via the train. My train is scheduled to leave before noon tomorrow and I am scheduled to arrive in Milan in the late afternoon. She helped me pick the schedule so I can see the French, Swiss and Italian countryside and I look forward to it
"So what's next after Milan?" Kate said. I rolled my eyes as she already knows the answer
"Florence, Then a day trip to Venice, then a few days in Rome, then another few days in Naples and then I'm thinking Cannes & Monaco after" I said smacking myself in the head as I haven't told her about the last bit
"Steele! Why didn't you tell me that" she said alarmed
"Hold your horses Kavanagh, It's not concrete yet" I mutter
"Now that you're saying that why didn't I recommend it to you?"
"Because you were way too busy convincing me not to go" I smirked
"That's because I wanted to go with you"
"Now what are your concerns? Don't tell me you don't have enough funds?"
"Nope. I have enough, I didn't go here planning to squander my funds on a shopping spree unlike someone I know" I said as Kate giggles "I'm not sure whether I should take the train or rent a car and drive nine hours or take the plane"
"Train is the cheapest way, Steele. Go back to Florence and take to train to Cannes from there. If you take the train from Naples that will be one boring hell of a train ride" she winked
"Good idea" I smiled back
"I love you" she said truthfully, though I could see the fear, pain and anguish in those eyes as she said those words
"I told you to count!" is my only response as I whipped the belt up in the air and savored the look of pain and fear in those eyes as she struggled through the tight hold of the metal cuffs holding her still in position. Her cries are getting louder, breathing erratic, tears spilling from those eyes as she starts to scream
"No, no, no, no!" someone screamed. My eyes opened and I felt my body automatically jolt upward. Another fucking nightmare. I'm soaked in my own sweat, my heart pounding outside my chest and my eyes in pain from being clenched tightly, as I'm taken back to reality from the dreams that had haunted me since childhood, along with the new nightmare that is now turning out to be the worst of them all. I realized belatedly that the scream came from me. Christ! When is this going to fucking end? I sat in an empty room trying to control my breathing, my eyes still searching around the still empty room and I realized that I have been sleeping in the room that had once belonged to the woman who has been starring in my dreams, the woman who had been on my mind every fucking hour of every day for months now: the woman that I carelessly threw away like a rag doll. What the fuck is happening to me? It had been weeks, more than a month since that night and days since I last saw her –her beautiful face but with misery in her eyes. Yes, it's probably because of that close encounter. It all falls down to guilt: my fucked-up self caused misery to someone so precious; so innocent because of my fucked-up past and the fucked-up lifestyle. I still don't get why; why of all people of all women why her? Then I realized that of all those women, she's the only one brave enough to even say those words out loud
Deciding to drown myself with music, I got up and walked towards the great room, all the while contemplating possible alternatives on how to put an end to this… madness. Option one is to get clarification, preferably from someone with more insight to my fucked up nature. There are only a number of people who know my secrets: Elena, John Flynn, Taylor and Mrs. Jones. Elena because she knew me better than anyone, John Flynn because I pay him to shut up and listen if I'm in the mood to talk, while the last two simply because they're staff and they work for me. I sat on the piano bench, opened the lid and let my fingers to the keys absentmindedly all the while contemplating on whether or not I should even consider telling anyone about this. The last two are out – its none of their business, John would listen and knowing him, he will probably smirk and say something smart and then there's Elena; knowing her, she would only shrug this off and recommend that I get a new sub. I stopped as I felt that hallow thing in my chest at the thought of replacing Ana. No. It's not what I need. 'What do you need, Grey?' her name comes to mind at that question. I shook my head. Wuss. But then again, it's the only option that makes sense
"We're not running today Taylor" I said as I see him on my periphery and I realized that I stopped playing and resolved on starring at the keys once again
"Sir" he said briskly. I got up and reached for my phone and dialed a number not caring whether or not its dawn thinking that I'll leave her a message or send her an email if she doesn't answer but then I hear
"I'm sorry but the number you dialed is no longer active"
What the fuck?
The next day came and went. I woke up the next morning feeling like a kid about to visit Disneyland for the very first time. For five hours I sat on my seat in the train looking at the view from my window in wonder. The French, Swiss and Italian countryside is beautiful and picturesque. By nightfall I've arrived in the fashion capital of Italy, Milan. Like Paris, I've spent my first three days in the city visiting and tasting every bit the city has to offer from Michelangelo's masterpiece the last supper, to walking around its famous canal's to trying their best coffee (yes coffee) and food. I even went window shopping in the Quadriletero d'Oro, something that I detest doing but the place is in the itinerary and a must according to the locals. They were right of course: the stores, window displays and watching the most stylish and probably richest men and women walk around carrying bags filled with expensive purchases from brands like Armani, Prada and Valentino is an interesting enough pass time. This is the part where I wished Kate was with me. I scoffed and sighed at the realization that I at one point owned some piece of these brands 'oh well, moving on' my subconscious said, appearing for the first time, and as usual she is right.
By the fourth day, I've boarded the next train, spent the next six hours sleeping and for the most part admiring the Tuscan countryside going to my next destination, the City of Florence, where I will be spending next couple of days exploring the art museums like the Uffizi Gallery, eating the best gelato, trying the wine and pasta, gaping at cathedral's like the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, seeing the statue of David, admiring the 14th century Ponte Vecchio bridge from a distance during sunset, viewing the city from Piazzale Michelangelo and of course, the day trip to the beautiful city of Venice.
I spent the same amount of days in the city of Rome, where like any tourist, I spent my first day in the city sightseeing in an area the locals call the Roman forum. It is a jumble of marble fragments like the Arch of Constantine, temples of Venus & Rome, the Colosseum. I ended the night dining and sampling more savory Italian dishes at a restaurant by the Pantheon. The next part of my tour in is both a religious and delicious experience once again. I was taken into the heart of the Vatican City to admire the Michelangelo's stunning frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. An audience with the Pope in the Saint Peter's square, I must say, is a highlight of my tour. The delicious part of the tour is more Gelato in the Il Gelato di San Crispano and tasting (more like devouring) authentic Italian pizza which I must say rivaled both the Sistine Chapel and the audience with the Pope.
I already know what to expect by the time I head to the last league on my trip, Naples. There would be pizza and gelato for my belly, more duomos or cathedral's, more art and more architecture. Like France, I made a promise to myself to study the complicated Italian language, as I plan on coming back, hopefully with Kate next time. By the end of my tour, in the last Italian city in my itinerary, and with the last pizza margherita I've consumed, I lay comfortably on the bed in my hotel room contemplating whether or not I should change my flight back to Seattle or continue with what I now call my personal odyssey (after I've taken a day trip to the Amalfi Coast where Odysseus was seduced by mermaids). Without thinking, I have picked up the phone and called the airline requesting a change of flight to either Monaco or Cannes, thinking that if it isn't possible, then maybe it is a sign that the voyage, my voyage ends in Naples. I very much hope that is not the case. And by some miracle, the ridiculously long call to my airline ended in relief rather than dread, as I have successfully delayed my flight back to Seattle and prolonged my journey by adding a trip to Cannes. I smiled excitedly at the thought.
Missy's note: Thank you for all your follows, favorites & of course your reviews. Each person has his or her own coping mechanisms when dealing with such adversity. Traveling is one way of coping, at least for some people I know and I find it really interesting. I find it really helpful to forget things as you immerse yourself in the many activities a new or foreign place has to offer. It's a breath of fresh air even for just a few days. This is based on how I saw Ana in the original books and obviously, I've added my twist to it. The first thing Ana in the books did when she felt confused was to leave Seattle and visit her mom in Georgia to think (we all know what C did after). In this story she is heartbroken, confused and is desperately trying to run away from Christian and everything else that happened to her back in Seattle. Ana enjoyed the trip simply because of the liberty it provided; she found it liberating to no think about the depression and heartbreak. Anyone would chose to just enjoy life in a foreign place instead of thinking and groveling over the man or person who pushed you away, right? I hope you enjoy this chapter and please forgive my errors