Oh, she may be waiting just anticipating
Things she may never possess
And while she’s without them
Try a little tenderness
Try A Little Tenderness – Michael Buble
The next day I spend more time packing, working on my speech and shopping for holiday clothes. Alright, most of the time is spent shopping and when I arrive home in the afternoon I am greeted by the rare sight of Ana in sweats, heading out for a run. Her casual wave as she jogs past causes me to do a ‘what the fuck’ moment and I drop shopping bags all over the pavement. As far as I know, Ana and exercise only get together on a biannual basis. I mean she is no sloth and she walks a lot since Wanda is usually in the shop but sweat-inducing, heart-pumping exercise is a rare and quite frankly, not so beautiful thing. I love her but when it comes to the natural coordination, Ana was swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool. Once in a while, Jose and I might manage to coerce her into playing a team sport for the student social club but she has a stuffed zucchini approach to making up the numbers so we don’t ask all that often. So you can imagine my surprise when I see her running off into the sunset as if this is the most natural activity in the world. Either she is going through some kind of pseudo-grown-up-lifestyle-change thang or she’s working off nervous energy. I’m guessing that since she became Greysessed it may be a little of both. I’d ask her but she’s a block and a half away now, so it will have to wait. I head inside.
When Ana finally returns to the apartment I get ‘her sweatiness’ to give me an opinion on my new outfits. Of course, this is all a game. The clothes aren’t all for me and this sneak attack masking as a does-my-ass-look-big-in-this ego stroking, is about me trying to gauge which pieces she likes the best so I can ‘lend’ them to her. Ana doesn’t have disposable income. Nor does she have a mother who is an international clothes designer. I do. Every penny gets saved for her contributions to the apartment expenses, or to pay off her student loans. Her frugality when it comes to spending money on herself is kinda legendary so she doesn’t drink, she doesn’t have technology and the denim and converse have become a uniform designed to say ‘I don’t care’ when in reality it’s a case of ‘I can’t afford to care’. Our friends all think the no-tech thing is quaintly ironic, a statement against capitalism. It is but it’s not.
There’s not much I can do about it. I mean, it would be humiliating to have your rich friend shoving your relative poverty down your throat and Ana does have her pride. I get that. However, every now and then I can get her to take one or two of my cast-offs. What she doesn’t know is that I buy stuff with her in mind, even though I can never give it to her directly. Ana takes offended to a whole new level. Hence the game. The one where I pretend I bought it for me but I don’t wear it any more. Or, the clothes are end of season from one of my mother’s shows. In fact, I have two dresses with matching pairs of shoes, all from mom’s next spring line, in my closet that I am ‘throwing’ her way for graduation. Hopefully she will just take both without question because she has a rocking bod and will look hot in both of them. Plus Mom designed them specifically for her.
The part that I resent the most lately, is having to go through all of this subterfuge when bloody Christian Grey can just swan up and shower her with all manner of expensive gifts. I mean, what is it with the state of the art laptop computer (so much for the ironic statements against capitalism) and the set of first edition Hardy books? And he just expects that she will accept them without question. Maybe this is what irks me about him. He is so obviously buying her and for what? It’s not like the guy is about to go down on one knee. So to anyone watching it all looks like payment for services rendered and frankly that just sucks. They’re not having a relationship, they’re bartering for services.
Later, we’re in the midst of packing our bedrooms when there is a knock at the door. Mysurprise visit from Elliot but when I open the door it’s only to the disappointing sight of Christian standing there. From the look on his face I guess my ‘piss off’ sign must be flashing.
“Good evening, Katherine. Disappointed to see me?” To say the least. The smirk on his face has my palms twitching. Arrogant fuck.
“Christian, how decidedly average to see you.” Let’s start as we mean to go on – with disapproval. Just keeping you on your toes, asshole. “Have you come to harass my flatmate? Or is this just the run of the mill Christian Grey intimidation and abduction session?” His eyes harden.
“What does my brother see in you?” The mutual admiration society meeting is now in session. Quietly fuming, I try to tell myself that he’s only looking after his brother’s interests. The same protective streak that I have for Ana. Perhaps I should make an effort to back off. After all, he engaged on my blog like he gave a damn about something other than himself. There is a small possibility the guy might actually be human. Maybe I should give him a chance…for Ana’s sake. And perhaps, because he’s Elliot’s brother. Adopted brother. Well, by the look on his face he only has one gear and that’s disdain. It’s up to me to be the bigger person.
“Look, we seem to have got off on the wrong foot.” I smile and step back to usher him inside. “I apologize, I just want Ana to be happy.”
“And you think I won’t make her happy?” No, I don’t think you would know happy if it leaped up and smacked you in the head. He steps past me and walks into the empty living room. Luckily Ana is still in her bedroom, oblivious to the fact that the sex god has landed. He walks through our small living space with a condescending look that I would love to slap off his face. His whole stance shouts Master of the Universe and there is this hint of frustration as if he is pissed that Ana hasn’t come flying out of her bedroom to fall at his feet. God help me, I wish I could shake the feeling that he wants to tie her up and spank her into submission. If Ana is hoping for a big romance I think she is going to be disappointed, he just doesn’t come across like the hearts and flowers kind of guy.
“Just be careful with her heart, Christian. She doesn’t have much experience with relationships and she’s likely to bruise easily.” His eyes widen a fraction as he takes in my words. He obviously doesn’t like or expect to discuss his personal life with anyone. Well, I don’t want to feel defensive on Ana’s behalf, but he is one scary shit. I’m sure she doesn’t know what she’s getting into with him. Ana’s experience with guys in the last four years has been nada. Now, she’s finally getting some action and of all the people who could attract her attention, she chooses Mr Dominant. The girl has a death wish.
“Whatever happens between Ana and myself is our business. I hope you can understand and respect that.” And he’s all business again. Just negotiating another freaking contract. It’s unnerving and kind of creepy. I bet he’s one of those megalomaniacs who wreaks devastation during mergers and acquisitions and doesn’t give a shit about the collateral damage. Maybe he could use a timely reminder.
“Perhaps, but when you break her, and I have no doubt that you will break her, I will be the one having to pick up the pieces and put her back together.” I have to tilt my head to look up at him. His height is imposing and he has moved closer, I guess to intimidate me. The stand over tactics won’t work. This is not my first time around the block with an overbearing asshole. I keep my voice calmly threatening. “Just don’t break her too much.”
His body is still, his eyes focused on mine. He’s trying to make me blink first. I won’t.
“I’ll take that under advisement. Now will you show me where she is?” I pause for a moment then against my better judgement, I move past and lead him down to her room.
Half an hour later, I’m packing plates in the dining room when he steps out into the lounge area. I look up waiting for Ana to follow him out but she doesn’t appear. What? Have you tied her to the bed Grey?
“Katherine, do you have any wine?” he asks, without a trace of self consciousness. What am I, your waitress, now?
“Is this your MO, Grey? Get her drunk and take advantage of her? That’s a little juvenile don’t you think? A little frat boy chic?” My voice is heavily laced with accusation. I want him to know my trust has up and left the building. Hell, I’m not even sure I like him. He’s nothing like Elliot for a start. Time to hit him in his male ego. “Gosh, you can’t have much to offer her.”
He laughs. “Katherine, you have no idea. The wine please.” We stare each other down for a moment while he holds out his palm and does that thing with the flicky fingers. Like that is going to get me to jump. Oh alright. I stomp off to the kitchen to find glasses and some wine but I swear this helpfulness on my part is purely about good breeding. In a moment of pure vindictiveness I decide that he can have the warm stuff that has never made it to the refrigerator. It will serve him right and Ana doesn’t drink enough wine to care. Handing him the glass I keep my face deliberately bland waiting for him to register the warm glass in his hand.
He smiles then walks straight past me to the ice box and puts an ice cube in the glass. He swirls it around with one long manicured finger and then pops it in his mouth to suck off the residue liquid. Yuck! There is a glint in his eye, as I stare at him with my mouth hanging open and he moves back past me to head to the bedroom again. Okay, I’ll admit it. The guy is unreasonably hot but I still don’t like him. Once he’s gone I notice that he only took one of the glasses I poured so I walk over to the bench and skull it down. Oh boy, these Grey men are something else.
Deciding I cannot possibly stay here and listen to what’s happening in that room, I insert my earbuds and continue packing. An hour or so later he emerges, looking so completely satisfied with himself that he could have ‘stud’ tattooed on his forehead. With barely a nod to acknowledge my continued existence, he lets himself out of the apartment. Ana doesn’t immediately come out of her room and I start to worry. What if he has knocked her off and here I am dancing around to Michael Buble in complete ignorance? I approach her door with more than a little trepidation and hear her sobbing on the other side. After a moment’s hesitation, I knock.
“Ana?” I whisper. After a moment she opens the door and I can see devastation and confusion written all over her face. She steps into my arms and I wrap her up in a big old Kate hug. “What’s wrong? What did that creepy bastard do?”
She’s my friend. I don’t want to put him down. Any idiot knows that putting down the new boyfriend will only end badly, but he does creep me out and I can’t sugarcoat that shit. I just wish that she and Elliot could see how weird he is and stop defending him. He might as well be wearing a t-shirt with ‘pure predator’ emblazoned all over it. The guy uses his sensuality like a weapon. No wonder he never has a girlfriend! He must eat them alive! What if he really is some sort of sexual serial killer?
Shaking off my negative thoughts about him, I sit on the edge of her bed waiting for her to unravel. In true Ana form, the walls go up as she pulls herself together, holding back whatever is troubling her the most. What sort of hold does he have over her? We usually tell each other everything. Correction, I tell her everything and she listens, not judging. I wish I could take a leaf out of her book. Then I think of all things I am not telling her now, about Elliot and me, and I wonder if perhaps the Grey men use some sort of voodoo magic to shut up their women. My feminist persona starts pushing back at this idea. If Elliot was having that sort of hold over me I wouldn’t want to be with him, would I?
Studying Ana in her silence, I notice the terrible sex hair and I brush it out for her with my fingers as she begins to talk.
“I just don’t think our relationship is going to go anywhere.” She looks so sad. I wonder if there is something that Elliot can do to help them out. Maybe Christian just needs a big brother pep talk on how to treat women. I mean, I don’t particularly care for Christian but if Ana can see something redeeming in him then I should at least support her to try and make this relationship work.
“I thought you said you were going to see him on Wednesday.” Then she confesses that she sent a joke email that backfired and he thought she was breaking up with him. Oh my, so he turned up here for revenge sex? Maybe he really does want her. He wouldn’t have dropped everything to drive over here if he didn’t like her. When I try to tell her so I hear Ana Steele use language that is not usually in her repertoire.
“He came here to fuck me, that’s all.” Shocked doesn’t begin to explain what I feel right now.
“Who said romance was dead?” I’m trying to make light of it all but I almost can’t believe that I’ve said that out loud. She shrugs at me.
“He uses sex as a weapon.” Yeah, you sucked those words right out of my mouth, Steele.
“Fuck you into submission?” I ask almost as a joke but some shadow of recognition seeps across her face that sends a shiver down my spine. There is something really ‘off’ about all of this but it’s pretty clear that she isn’t going to say any more. The phrase ‘gag order’ springs to mind. She seems to be weighing up her words, checking herself on every phrase she utters. Once again I wonder about the power this man is wielding. It just isn’t normal.
I let her change the subject to Elliot and we talk a little more but I ‘m guarding myself as well. Only I’m better with diverting her from the truth. What can I say, it’s a Kavanagh skill. I remember to pass on the message that her mother won’t be coming to graduation tomorrow because her stepfather (no. 3) has sustained an injury. Sometimes I think Carla likes the drama. At least Ray, Ana’s step dad from Carla’s second marriage and the man Ana calls Dad, is a little more stable in her life. There is some comfort in knowing that Ray would shoot Christian’s knee caps and use his penis for fish bait if he ever hurt his little girl.
The next night I try to give her my best unbiased support before she goes out on her date with Christian. She’s really nervous. More nervous than I would have expected for someone who is doing the wild thing with a man who seems to want to devour her. I wish she had a little more self confidence because then I would know that she could handle him. She could knock Christian on his ass instead of being so intimidated by him. After seeing her off I’m restless. I want to wait up for her to arrive home but I don’t really expect her to make it home tonight. I’m considering calling the guys up to go out for a drink when I hear a knock on the door.
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