3 Months Later

Three months have passed since I send Christian packing to Escala. It's been difficult to live in the same house without Christian. But, somehow I endured it. And now, I feel calm, peaceful. I try to remind myself that everything happens for a reason and that its my destiny. Perhaps my experience will teach me a lesson, perhaps it will make me stronger, and sure it will definitely pave way to face my future without fumbling.

Today is a Saturday. My divorce was settled yesterday. It was also my last day at Grey Publishing, for I resigned the job. I never wanted to be a CEO. Christian put me on that pedestal and since he is out of my life, I no longer have any desire to remain at the helm.

I lie in my bed looking out through the window. Its early morning and since Christian has the kids for the weekend, I am alone in this large house and I have no idea how to utilize my newly found freedom.

I have no desire to get up; I have no appetite, no hope. I find myself without a job, without a husband but with two children and heaps of money. My phone rings and its my mother.

I hesitate for a moment, but pick up anyway. Talking to friends and family has been difficult although I know that they rallied behind me through the trauma.

"Hi, mom"

"Hi, sweet heart, how are you feeling?"

"Better, mom."

"Good. I've been worried about you. You are in the papers you know."

Shit, the papers will have a field day with this. I am glad that Christian managed to rein in the rumor mills in the past months. We issued a press release yesterday stating the divorce and it was a shock to many.

"I am not going to read the papers, mom. I don't have the strength."

"I was going to warn you. There are so many speculations in them regarding your break up. Ana, are you sure you don't want to tell me what happened?"

"Mom, please, I don't want to talk about it."

"Ana, whatever the reason, I know its not your fault and it pains me to see that the papers are calling you…" She drifts off.

"I can imagine mom. But, no, I can't reveal what happened and you certainly will not understand it. It's a long story and it goes a long way back."

"Alright sweetie, if you say so. So, what are your future plans, if I may ask?"

"I don't know mom. I've had this vision of growing old with Christian and seeing our children grow up." A sob escapes my throat. "Now, I have nothing left."

"Ana, listen to me. Let this not deter you from enjoying your life. Take every experience in a positive light. You are still very young and have your entire life in front of you. So, go out there, have fun and show him what he's lost."

The conversation with my mom was very fruitful. I know she is an eternal romantic but for once in my life, I decide to pay heed to her advice.

I walk downstairs and into the kitchen. The house seems too large without the kids. Mom was right, just a change of perception makes ton of difference in what I feel. Instead of feeling lonely, I tried to think that I have all the time and space to myself. I've been a busy wife, mother and CEO for the past five years. I could use some quality time to pamper myself before I decide what to do.

I make myself a hearty breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs. I feel very hungry and it makes me happy. I take it as a sign that things are falling back to normal.

I sit at the breakfast bar and enjoy the first full meal after long days. I have eaten a lot of chocolates and ice creams to pacify my aching heart but that does not count. But they kept my weight in check I guess. I look down at myself. Perhaps I have put on some weight.

I place empty plates in the sink and leisurely walk back to the room. I take a look at myself at the mirror. I am the usual pale myself with probably a little more flesh on the body thanks to the sweet treats I let myself have on sleepless nights. I need a haircut! My hair has grown too much and its unkempt. Damn! Have I been walking around Seattle looking like this?

My phone rings again. Its Kate! When did she return from Egypt?

"Hi Kate" I pick up instantly.

"Hi Ana, how are you?" Kate's sympathetic voice rushes through.

"The crying's been stopped. So I should say I am better." My reply is honest.

"Oh, girl. I feel really bad for not being here with you." Her voice is apologetic and I can tell that she is genuinely sorry.

"Don't be Kate. It was biggest project of your career. I would do the same if I were you. And its all over. I sailed through it and I am still alive and kicking. So, please don't torture yourself"

"Wow, Ana, you do sound better."

"When did you return?"

"Yesterday night. Elliot picked me up at the airport."

I am tempted to ask about Christian but I hold back. I don't want to go there.

"Have you met Christian lately?" Kate asks and I can read that she is hesitating. Ha! There is no escape from him.

"I met him only once since the confrontation. He bombarded me with emails and texts saying sorry, but stopped when he knew that I have made my decision. He sat out of the settlement meetings so I haven't seen him in a month. "

"I heard you let go of Gail and Taylor."

"I did. They were employed by Christian and their loyalties will always remain with him. I mean, I do not hold any grudge against them. I just didn't want them here. There's too much history with them that I will not be able to handle."

'So, you have any one new to help you at home?"

"I have a new house keeper and a nanny. Both of them are off this weekend. The kids are at Christian's."

"So who's there for security?"

"A new guy, Darren Hodge. Christian wouldn't budge on it. I told him I don't want Taylor or Sawyer, he suggested I take in a new guy. I had to. You know Christian."

"Hmm… Elliot met Christian a month ago. He said that Christian was a disaster. Drinking and stuff…" Kate sighs. "He got what he deserved. What was he thinking going behind your back…. Anyways, what's your plan for today? How about a little girl time? Just you and me?"

"Great. I could use your company. You should tell me all about Egypt. I need something to distract myself from all this drama."

"Cool. Should I come over or meet someplace else?"

"Kate, I was actually thinking about getting my hair cut and styled. I'll also need a new wardrobe. So why can't we make it a ladies date and go to that salon that you mentioned a while back. Whats its name?"

"Its Panache. Great idea! I am desperately in need of grooming too. I was working like a dog for two months. God, I look horrible"

I actually laugh. I can't imagine Kate ever looking horrible. She would look smoldering hot even in the middle of Sahara.

So, we decide to meet up at the Panache at 11 am. I am wearing a blue jeans and pale blue tank top. I carelessly throw a jacket over and don't bother with makeup. My wayward hair is tamed by a hair tie.

The Panache is a wonderful place. It is luxurious and relaxing with plush furnishing and eager–to-please staff. I lean back on my chair and close my eyes. The stylist Rita washes my hair and cut it according to Kate's suggestions. Of course, I know nothing about hair styles or make-up. I am also getting a crash course on how to use make up which is a little embarrassing for a woman of my age.

An hour and half later I am looking at myself in the mirror. My jaw is about to hit the floor. Wow! What a change a haircut could do to your appearance! My long, brown tresses have been cut shorter. It now falls just below my shoulders in soft layers. It surrounds my face like a halo. I sway my head left and right and feel the silky strands caressing my cheeks.

Kate watches me from behind.

"You. Look. Absolutely. Gorgeous. Better than ever. If you haven't planned on getting another job, I would suggest Hollywood"

I smile at Kate's compliment.

"I should have done this before" I tell myself rather than to Kate.

"Totally" Kate agrees.

Rita proceeds to lecture me on various styles I could incorporate with this cut.

"You know, you could part them in the middle and let it hang around to have a plain simple look. If you are attending parties, you could use a curling iron to have wavy soft strands that could bounce around. You can also tie it in the back and let the loose strands in the front fall out for a careless look. You could do so much with it. You have such a very beautiful face, you could knock out any man with one flick of that hair."

I've never felt so happy after a haircut before.

After eating a late lunch we head towards the glossy, high end shops that Kate suggested. I spend a fortune on buying all kinds of outfits, jeans, sundresses, skirts, gowns and what not. I can't stop looking at my reflection at the trial room. I keep caressing my soft tresses.

I am trying on a yellow sundress. This looks very good on me. It is simple, and elegant. With my shorter hair, I look much younger in the dress which reaches just above my knees. Before, I met Christian I used to wear mostly jeans. And then I found myself wearing only office attire. Yes, I had some ridiculously priced party gowns too.

As I touch my hair, an image slowly makes an appearance in my mind's eye; Leila, with a knock out figure and long brown hair swaying behind her perfectly round ass. I compare my old self with her. I realize that I had not been taking care of myself. I took Christian for granted. I thought that he will only have the hots for me. I believed he will like me the way I am. I still don't know the reason for Christian's infidelity, but now strongly suspect that he was simply bored with me.

I finish selecting the dresses. Kate also has purchased some outfits.

Kate looks at large number shopping bags coming my way. "Way to go Ana and why not? You own half of GEH now!"

I hate thinking about it. "It was thrust upon me Kate. I never wanted it. But it was delaying the settlement process. I am planning to give it to my children."

Kate nods. She knows that I never had any real interest in making too much money.

"Kate, are you going for the brunch at Bellevue tomorrow?"

"Yes. Are you?"

"I kind of gave it a miss for 3 months. Grace keeps calling me and insists that I go. Do you know if Christian comes?"

"I am not sure. Elliot says he never attended after your separation. Wait a moment. Ana, this is why you are doing this whole makeover thing, right? Please tell me you are not trying to woo him back" Kate looks surprised and annoyed at the same time.

"I am not trying to woo him. I am trying to show him what he lost" I say sternly.

"Wow! Ana! When did you become so feisty?" Kate smiles, appreciating my newly found attitude.

"Haven't you heard? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"

"Strong Steele. I like that. You know, if you want to expose his lifestyle, I could do that."

Kate! I look at her in horror.

"No way! Think about Teddy and Phoebe. And, no matter how much he hurt me I will never do anything to ruin him. Also it would kill Grace. I've had my revenge when I made him leave. I don't want our families to suffer."

Suddenly we are approached by a sales girl. She looks at me and asks.

"Ma'am, are you interested in buying any lingerie?"

I feel a pang hitting my heart.