Chapter 07

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When I make it back to the house from turning in my Race in Post War Fiction final, Kate is waiting impatiently in the living room, pacing across the floor in front of the window.

“What took you so long?” She asks when I walk through the door, “It’s after ten. We really have to get on the road.”

“I know, I know,” I tell her as I scramble to gather the last few things that I haven’t already packed in her car. “I’m sorry, that final had way more essay questions than I was prepared for.”

We spend the next ten minutes double checking that we remembered to turn off the gas and the water, adjusted the thermostat, and that all the doors and windows are locked. On our way out the back door, Kate assures me that she remembered to have our mail forwarded to our respective addresses back in Washington, which has been worrying me all morning since I forgot to give Ray my new mailing address in the letter I sent him last night. I suppose that since I’m going to be stuck in the car for most of the next four days, I could write him again and then mail the letter from one of the hotels we have booked along the way.

I climb into the front seat of Kate’s car, waiting while she tries to stuff one last duffle bag into the too full back seat before slipping through the driver’s side door.

“You ready for this?” She asks.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I tell her while I reach around and pull my seatbelt down over me. In reality, I’ve been dreading this road trip since I agreed to go back to Seattle. It’s four long days, stuck in a car, while driving through a lot of open nothingness. Unfortunately, Kate needs her car back home and I didn’t want her making the drive alone. So, rather than buying a plane ticket, I agreed to come with her. Still, on the list of things that have my nerves peaked, the drive falls pretty low compared to what I know is waiting for me in Seattle. Christian and I have been talking pretty regularly over the last few weeks, just a few, short phone conversations two or three times a week, and it’s been civil, but it’s also been superficial. Once I’m back in Seattle, we’re really going to have to face what happened and I don’t even know where to begin.

“I know it’s a long drive, but cheer up,” Kate says brightly, interrupting my concerned thoughts. “I’ve got tunes!”

She reaches down for the iPod connected to her stereo through Bluetooth and, although I don’t see the song she puts on, I recognize it within the first few seconds it begins playing. It’s the Spice Girls’ Wannabe. We grin broadly at each other and begin singing along as she puts the car in reverse and backs out of the alley behind the house we won’t see again for the next three months.

As we weave through the streets of Cambridge, I stare thoughtfully at the tops of the buildings and trees on campus that I can just make out over the houses around us, and I feel a kind of nostalgic sadness cross over me. My junior year is over, I’m almost finished here.

“Kate, do you realize we’re going to be seniors when we come back here?” I ask.

“Weird, right?” She says, looking over her shoulder so she can pull onto the freeway.

“I don’t know if weird is the right word…” I tell her. “I really love it here and this time next year, we’re going to be saying goodbye for good.”

“Yeah, I really love Seattle though,” Kate says. “I mean, it was fun living on the east coast for a while, but, once school’s over, I’ll definitely be ready to move home.”

“Hm,” I hum in reply, and she glances over at me with a furrowed brow.

“You are moving back home, right? I mean, when we graduate, you’ll go back to Washington, won’t you?”

“I don’t know, I guess it depends on where I get a job,” I tell her.

“What!” She cries. “Ana, you have to come home. We’ve been inseparable since the start of college. You can’t break up the dream team now. If you move somewhere else, it will crush Elliot. And what about Ray? He’ll be home next year!”

“Well, of course I’m open to any jobs in Seattle, Kate. But I have to go where the money is and all the largest publishing houses are in New York.”

She narrows her eyes at me but then brightens a little as if something new has occurred to her. “I don’t know why we’re talking about this anyway. Your book is going to be published by the time we graduate, you won’t even need a job. Just a quiet place surrounded by friends and family where you can settle down and start writing your next novel.”

“I mean, maybe,” I tell her with a shrug. “But, that’s not necessarily my dream, Kate.”

“So your dream is working in a publishing house? What are you going to do, edit other people’s work when you could be creating your own?” She asks as if she thinks it’s a step down from doing nothing but writing books all the time. “You’re too good for that, Ana.”

“There are other jobs in publishing houses besides editing,” I reply. “Look, we have a whole other year of school left before we have to start worrying about who’s doing what and who’s ending up where. Let’s cross this bridge when we get to it.”

She purses her lips together like she’s trying to stop the torrent of arguments I know are racing through her mind from coming out of her mouth. It’s actually surprising. Kate usually isn’t one to hold back what she’s thinking or how she feels, but perhaps she’s being cognizant of the fact we’re going to be cooped up in this car together for the next few days and a few miles outside of Cambridge is not the best place to start an argument. Instead, she turns her iPod back up and we sing along to a long list of songs that make me think of middle school until the late hours of the night turn into the early hours of the morning and a very tired Kate pulls into the hotel we’ve booked in Toledo, Ohio.

We’re back in the car first thing the next morning, and it’s Kate’s intention that we continue driving until we reach Bismarck, North Dakota, an astounding 13 ½ hours away. It’s exhausting watching the invariable scenery of the mid-west pass us by and makes the hours seem to drag on and on. By the time the sun starts to go down, we’re both so bored out of our minds that we’re not even capable of keeping up a conversation, which is perhaps the only reason why I hear my phone vibrate in my bag on the floor by my feet.

“It’s Elliot,” I say, when I read his name on the screen of my cell phone.

“Oh, do I have a missed call?” Kate asks, and while she looks down at her own phone, which is wedged between her thighs, I answer the call.

“Hey, Elliot. Here’s Kate.”

“I didn’t call to talk to Kate,” Elliot says curtly. “I called to talk to you, Ana.”

“Oh…” I say, confused by his less than warm demeanor. “Well, what’s up?”

“Did you know?”

“Know what?”

“Did you know why he did it? Did you know that he lied on the stand because she gave him money to start his company?”

“Uh…” I stutter, suddenly taken off guard.

“That’s why you two broke up isn’t it? You were fine, you were going to forgive him, and then suddenly, you were gone. You ran away to Savannah, you refused to see him, and refused to take his phone calls. You found out the truth and that’s why you left him, isn’t it?”

I pause for a moment. “Did Christian come talk to you?”

“Did you know, Anastasia?” Elliot asks, ignoring my question.

“Yes, I knew,” I admit, and he’s silent for a minute on the other end of the phone.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asks, the pain breaking through the anger in his voice. “We’ve all been trying to figure out what she had over him to make him do what he did. Why didn’t you say something?”

“I’m sorry,” I say quietly. “I thought it might ruin any chance your dad ever had of forgiving Christian and I knew how important that was to you and your mom… It made me leave him and I didn’t know if it would make you do the same thing. You’re all he has.”

“So you were protecting him?”

“No… I mean, maybe, I don’t know. Elliot, your family was falling apart and I thought that if I was the one to tell you, the damage would be irreparable. It’s not that I wanted to hide it, I just thought Christian should be the one to tell you. I thought him coming clean was the only way you’d all be able to move past it.”

“Well he did.”

“He did?”

“Yeah, he just left my parents’ house.”

“H-how is your Dad?” I ask.

“Honestly, I don’t know. He hasn’t said anything and I don’t know if that’s better or worse than the yelling.”

“Maybe he just needs some time to process it… It’s good though, right? He told the truth. He owned up to it. That’s progress.”

“I don’t know… I’m going to go over to Christian’s apartment tomorrow to talk to him about it, let Dad cool off a little. I just can’t believe this is all because of money. I mean of all the stupid shit…”

“I know,” I say quietly.

“You’ll be here by Sunday, right?”

“Yeah.”

“We’re going to have a dinner at my parents’ house that night, and you need to be here.”

“With Christian?”

“No, just my mom and Mia… and hopefully my dad, although after what Christian just told us, I don’t know. Christian said he has work obligation this weekend so we thought we could use the time to kind of regroup and come up with a game plan now that you’re in town. Since you’ll be at work with him everyday, you’ll probably be around him the most and we just want to make sure we’re being consistent.”

“Okay,” I tell him. “Uh… Can I ask you something?”

“What?”

“You’ve been around him a lot, right?”

“More than anyone else. Pretty much whenever he’s not at work. Why?”

“Has he… I mean, have you seen him contact Elena at all?”

“No, and he doesn’t talk about her. I asked him a few days ago when he last heard from her and he said not since he’s talk to you.”

“And you believe him?”

“I have to,” Elliot says. “We all do. We’re never going to be able to move past this if we never trust him. I believe that he is doing everything in his power to make this better. I think that’s why he came here tonight. He wants to get back to a good place with us, with you. He’s trying.”

“You amaze me, Elliot,” I tell him truthfully. “When I found out the truth about why he did it, I… well you know what I did. You’re an amazing brother to stand by his side and support him unconditionally the way you do and I want you to know that, just in case Christian hasn’t said it.”

“Well, you don’t get to pick your family and at the end of the day, they’re all you have in the world. That’s all that matters to me.”

“I know,” I tell him “And… when you see Christian tomorrow, tell him I said hi.”

“I will,” He promises. “I’ll see you Sunday, Ana.”

“Bye, Elliot.”

“Bye.”

I hang up the phone and take a deep breath as I mull over the conversation. Christian told his Dad. I wasn’t sure if the therapy and reaching out to his mom and putting up with Elliot were just something he was doing to appease me, but telling his dad is something different. He’s finally taking some responsibility for his mistake.

“What was that about?” Kate asks.

“Uh… Christian told his dad why he lied on the stand.”

“What!” She gasps, “What did he say?”

“He lied because Elena paid him to. She’s the one who gave him the money to start GEH.”

“Are you serious?” She asks, and I nod. “I knew it! I knew it! I knew it was too much of a coincidence that he got start-up money right after the trial. What did Carrick say? Is he freaking out?”

“I don’t know.”

“Wow… I wonder if Carrick is going to do anything?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Christian took money to cover up a crime. That’s bribery.”

“And perjury,” I add.

“Exactly, he could go to jail for that. I honestly can’t believe he’d take that risk. I mean, think of what that would do to his company. This could be a PR nightmare, he could lose business deals and fall out with all of his contacts. He could lose everything. He must be really serious about making this up to you, Ana.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“So… the question is, how do you feel about that? I mean, we know why he’s doing it. He’s still in love with you and this is what you asked him to do. Apparently, he doesn’t think there is a price too high, so… is there even a possibility that you may take him back?”

“I don’t know, Kate.”

“Well you said you loved him and that you miss him. Isn’t this what you want?”

“I just don’t know if I could trust him again. I mean, I know he’s reached out to his family and that he’s trying to make amends, I can see that. But if I were to ever get involved with him again, I would need to know that Elena Lincoln was completely out of his life, and,  even though Elliot says he hasn’t talked to her, for some reason, I just don’t trust it. I mean, she was gone before, he’d cut off contact with her before and she clawed her way back to him. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to certain that she’s gone, and how do you have a relationship with someone you can’t trust?”

“So it’s Elena. Elena is the issue?” Kate asks.

“Yeah. And… I need to know that he’s sorry for what he did. Not just that I broke with him, but that he’s sorry he did it and that he knows why it was wrong. Because right now, I’m not sure that he does.”

“Well, he’s in therapy and he has all of us now. He has all the tools to figure it out. We have a long summer ahead of us, maybe you’ll be surprised.”

“I hope so.”

We arrive at our hotel in Bismarck just before midnight that night and then are up again at six AM to continue on to our final stop before Seattle, Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. It’s another grueling 13 ½ hours in the car after not nearly enough sleep when we reach the lakeside city that is finally starting look like home.

“I vote you have your car shipped back to Cambridge,” I tell Kate as we climb into the car Saturday morning for the final 4 ½ hour leg of our trip. “I seriously never want to make this drive again.”

“You’re telling me,” She says, as she sighs and pulls out of the hotel and onto the highway that will take us the rest of the way home.

It’s a beautifully clear day when we finally make it to Seattle, and once we get off the I-90 for 4th Avenue, I realize how glad I am that Kate is the one driving. Not only because I’ve always hated driving in Seattle, which is a confusing mess of one way streets, steep hills, careless pedestrians, and bumper to bumper traffic, but because it gives me a chance to look around at everything I’ve missed for the past two and a half years, including the patchwork of sparkling blue water of Elliot Bay peeking through the lush green trees hanging over the streets of downtown.

I’m so enamored with everything around me, I don’t even realize we’ve stopped until Kate says something.

“We’re here!” She exclaims, and I look away from the shops signs along the tall building across the street and glance over at the apartments to my right. My mouth immediately drops open. We’re idling outside a 30 story tall building made of steel and icy blue glass. The building is round, like several cylinders that have been stacked next to one another, and the front of the building is made of cream colored sandstone with the words Escala written in bold, gold letters next to the doors.

“Are you sure this is the place?” I ask doubtfully. This place looks too nice to be considered simply paid housing for a summer internship.

“Of course I’m sure,” Kate says. “And I can’t park here so you go on in. I’ll pull around to the garage and meet you in the lobby.”

“Okay…” I tell her, and I get out of the car, taking only my purse with me as I make my way up to the wide glass doors. The lobby of the building has stark white walls, sandstone pillars, and a long, curved staircase with a wrought iron hand rail leading up to the second floor. I walk past the contemporary looking furniture and tables with extravagant arrangements of flowers on them, conscious with each step of my shoes clacking too loudly against the white marble floors, towards the shiny black desk with a marble top. There is a woman there dressed in an impeccably cut black suit and pearl colored blouse, concentrating hard on the monitor of her computer.

“Uh… excuse me?” I ask tentatively, and she looks up at me and gives me a broad smile. Her teeth look blindingly white behind her scarlet colored lips.

“Good morning, and welcome to Escala. How can I help you?”

“Yeah, hi. My name is Anastasia Steele. I’m supposed to be moving in today,” I tell her.

“Oh, well, welcome to the building, Miss Steele. Do you have the paperwork from your realtor with you?” She asks as she turns to look through a box of files on the edge of her desk.

“Uh… I didn’t work with a realtor, it’s not really my apartment… I think it’s probably under the name Christian Grey.”

In an instant, her pleasant, professional demeanor diminishes and she frowns at me. “Look, I can neither confirm nor deny that Mr. Grey resides in this building and if he did, you should know that Escala is committed to protecting the privacy of our residents and does not allow any form of press on the property, so I’m going to need you to leave.”

“Oh, I don’t work for the media,” I say quickly. “I um… I work for him, the apartment is part of my internship.”

She raises an eyebrow at me, clearly still skeptical, so I dig in my bag to find the letter I received from GEH three weeks ago.

“Here’s my offer letter,” I tell her as I lay the paper with the GEH letterhead out on the counter. She picks it up and skims the section that gives me the address of the housing provided through the company and then reaches over to pick up the phone on her desk, holding a finger up as a way of telling me to wait a moment while she confirms the authenticity of the letter.

“Hey, what’s up?” Kate asks as she scurries up to the desk from behind the twisted staircase, but I don’t have to answer as whoever it is the woman working behind the desk is calling picks up the phone and she recounts the situation for me.

“Yes, Mr. Thomas, there is an Anastasia Steele out here. She says she’s supposed to be moving into an apartment purchased through Mr. Grey today,” She begins, and the moment the other person begins speaking, her face morphs into a look of panic. “Yes, sir, I know… all matters with Mr. Grey are supposed to go through you, I just wasn’t sure… No, she’s right here. Yes, absolutely. I’ll take care of it, sir.”

She hangs up the phone and looks back up with me, her wide, toothy smile firmly back in place.

“I apologize for the confusion, Miss Steele. If you wouldn’t mind having a seat by the window over there, our property manager, Mr. Thomas, will be right out to help you.”

“Thank you,” I tell her, and Kate and I both cross the immaculate stone floor to a small, modern looking sofa on the other side of the room and take a seat. We don’t have to wait long, as only a minute or so later a man with short, wispy, gray hair and a stern face comes through the door behind the desk and marches over to us with his hand outstretched.

“Miss Steele,” He says pleasantly as I shake his hand. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Mr. Grey speaks very highly of you.”

“Oh… uh… that’s great,” I say awkwardly.

“This packet will give you some details about the many wonderful amenities we have to offer our residents, including the full service gym, spa, and private movie theater,” He says, as he hands me a handful of papers and brochures. “You’ll also find information in there about parking and our guest policies.”

“Okay,” I reply, tucking the packets into my bag to look over later.

“We normally don’t allow subletting in this building but because Mr. Grey is such an important resident here at Escala, we were more than happy to make an exception. However, because Mr. Grey’s name is on the apartment, any service or maintenance requests will have to come from him… I trust that won’t be a problem.”

“Uh, I guess not,” I tell him. Thankfully, I happen to know a very talented engineer/handyman who has been fixing things around the house for me for years, and who conveniently doesn’t live too far away.

“Wonderful. You’ll be on the fourteenth floor, apartment number 1419, and here is your key. Would you like someone to show you the way?”

“Uh no, I think we can manage,” I tell him, smiling at him as I rise to my feet and take the single golden key out of his hand.

“Very good, Miss Steele,” He says, reaching out to shake my hand again. “I do hope that you have a pleasant stay with us here at Escala this summer and if you have any questions or need any help navigating the city, we have a 24 Hour concierge service for your convenience. It’s located just over there,” He says, pointing to another marble desk on the other side of the room.

“Thank-you, Mr. Thomas,” I say, and he steps aside to allow Kate and I to pass. Kate leads the way through the lobby and out to the parking garage but I don’t see her car in any of the spaces close by.

“Where did you park?” I ask.

“Oh… I wasn’t sure which space was yours so I just parked in one of Christian’s,” She says. “But we’ll go get my car and move it into your space before we start unloading your things. I’m pretty sure Christian’s spaces are the farthest away from the elevators as is possible.”

“So then… he really does live here, too? In this building?” I confirm.

“Yeah, he didn’t tell you that?”

“No, he didn’t,” I say irritably as we step into the elevator. “So what, is he going to be in the apartment right next door to me or something?”

“No, he doesn’t live on the 14th floor, Ana. He lives in the penthouse,” Kate says with a laugh and I watch as she reaches forward and presses the button with an engraved “P” on it. As we travel down the one level to the parking garage, I examine the other buttons noting the one at the top that is engraved with a “PH”, and it gives me a small sense of relief. I can count 15 floors between his apartment and mine. I’ll be spending all day with him at work, I don’t think it’s a good idea living in close proximity to one another too.

When the doors open, I follow Kate around the backside of the elevator and up a walkway towards the back of the garage. There is a second gate blocking the roadway with a security guard stationed next to it and Kate has to put a code into a keypad by a locked door for us to continue up the walkway to the back part of the garage. When we finally make it through, I can see why. We turn the corner and we’re facing a few empty spaces and then a line of really expensive looking cars parked along the back wall.

There is a black SUV with the symbol I recognize as Mercedes from driving Kate’s car around and words GL350 on the back, a shiny town car, also black, with a symbol I don’t recognize and only the word Maybach as a distinguisher, and a sleek looking, smoky gray sports car with no name at all, just a fancy letter B. Parked next to the remarkable line of cars is Kate’s convertible.

“Impressive,” I say quietly as I walk up between Kate’s Mercedes and the sport’s car, which looks more like something you would see in a Batman movie than just driving down the road. It’s not surprising really, I suppose. I remember the Bentley he rented in Vegas and his excitement over sailing and helicopter lessons. He’s always had a fascination with power, and not only in the metaphorical sense.

“I see he hasn’t lost his love of new toys,” I say.

“I guess not,” Kate says. “And if, you know, once you start working for him, he asks you to have the Bugatti washed or something and you wanted to say, stop by and pick me up on the way to the car wash so I could drive it around a little, I’d be willing to keep that a secret.”

I roll my eyes at her, but before sliding into the passenger’s seat, I give one last lingering glance through the window of Christian’s car. There is a Mariners cap sitting on smooth leather of the passenger’s seat and I wonder if it’s because he’s recently gone to a game, perhaps with Elliot.

“How much does a car like that cost anyway?” I ask as we pull out of the parking place.

“About $2.5 million,” Kate says casually, as if what she’s just said isn’t one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.

“And he just leaves it in a parking garage?” I ask, my voice raising an octave with my shock.

“There’s a 24 hour security guard twenty feet away, Anastasia. Not to mention…” She gestures with her head to the ceiling and I see the subtle red blink of light on a security camera pointed directly at the cars in front of us. “That’s a live feed that goes directly up to Taylor’s office and I’d really hate to see what would happen to the guy who got on the wrong side of Taylor. That guy can be a little terrifying.”

“And Taylor is his head of security right?” I ask, vaguely remembering his name from when Christian came to visit the weekend I went out of town with Luke. I grit my teeth together as I think of Luke’s name. It’s been five weeks and I still haven’t heard a single word from my supposed best friend, not that that should matter now. Clearly, he’s moved on.

“Yeah, you’ll probably meet him when you go into GEH on Monday. Christian never goes anywhere without him. Apparently it’s dangerous for mega rich people to just walk around without a full security detail.”

“Why? Because he might get kidnapped and held for ransom?”

“No, because the paparazzi might get a picture of him. You saw what happened to Britney Spears in 2007. Christian’s really just a few pictures away from shaving his head and attacking someone with an umbrella.”

I laugh as we pull into my assigned space, which thankfully is much closer to the elevator than Christian’s. I have one giant suitcase, three duffle bags, and my purple carry on full of things to bring upstairs, so once Kate and I manage to unearth all of the luggage from the depths of the trunk and backseat, we load ourselves up and haul everything towards the elevator, surprisingly managing it all in one trip.

When we get to the fourteenth floor, we have to carry the luggage down a long hallway and take a left turn before we finally get to apartment number 1419. I fish the key out of my pocket and slide it into the lock and when I push open the door, a small, audible gasp escapes my lips.

Just after the short entry way, which has beautiful, pale wood floors and a huge, ornate mirror hanging on the wall, we walk into a surprisingly large, open concept kitchen. The cabinets are a rich caramel color, the counters are made of marble, and all the appliances are spotless stainless steel. There is a wood and steel dining room table with chairs for four just outside the kitchen, which flows seamlessly into the living room. I walk forward, leaving my bags behind as I take in the slate gray, modular sectional sofa, glass coffee table, and huge TV, and that’s all before I get a glimpse of the view through the living room window. We’re surrounded by the tall buildings of downtown Seattle and through the narrow openings between the skyscrapers, I can see the iconic structure of the Space Needle, just a few blocks away.

“Wow, this is awesome, Ana,” Kate says as she too approaches the window to stare out at the cityscape laid all around us.

“I told him not to go overboard,” I say, as I turn around and glance uneasily at the opulence of the room. The whole place looks like something out of one of those interior decorating magazines.

“Maybe this isn’t overboard for him. I mean, there are servants quarters in his apartment, he could have moved you in with him and his apartment is crazy awesome. Although, looking around here does make it weird because it seems as though he does know that you are supposed to put furniture in an apartment.”

“Yeah,” I say with a laugh. “Maybe it’s all a part of this new Christian everyone keeps telling me about.”

“Maybe,” She agrees. “Well, let’s go look at the bedroom so I can get out of here. As much as I love you, Steele, I have a boyfriend waiting for me who I haven’t seen in a month.”

There is only one bedroom in the apartment and the only bathroom is attached to it. Inside the room, we find a comfortable, well made, queen size bed. There is a wide, glass door that leads to a balcony, which has a lounge chair and small table, perfect for a Saturday afternoon of reading.

The bathroom is larger than I expected and is done entirely of limestone. There is a deep, rectangular bathtub next to a walk in glass shower and a double vanity with square, white porcelain sinks.

“And to think, I have to live with my parents this summer,” Kate says as she stares longingly into the cavernous walk in closet just off the bathroom. “Can I move in with you?”

“No, but your clothes can,” I tell her. “I might have to go shopping after I unpack. I don’t know if I have much that is appropriate for a place like Grey Enterprises Holdings.”

“I’ll go through my closet and bring over what I can before we go to the Grey’s tomorrow night,” She promises. “You can probably fit into a bunch of the stuff I still have from a few years ago.”

“Thanks, Kate,” I say gratefully.

“Do you need help unpacking?” She asks.

“No, I’ve got it. Go see your boyfriend,” I tell her and she smiles.

“Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow night,” She says, and she leans in, kisses me on the cheek, and turns around to walk back out through the living room. I follow her to lock the door behind her and then turn around and face the bags I have to unpack. With a sigh, I march forward to tackle the largest suitcase first, but as I do, a vase full of flowers on the dining room table that I hadn’t noticed before catches my eye. They’re pink peonies, my favorite flowers, and after taking a moment to appreciate them, I lean over to inhale the sweet scent, sighing appreciatively. There isn’t a card but I doubt Escala or whatever decorating company Christian hired to furnish this apartment knows my favorite kind of flowers. I smile down at them and then turn around to drag my suitcase back into the bedroom.

It doesn’t take me too long to unpack. There is more than enough space in the dresser and enough hangers in the closet for all the clothes I brought, and, besides the quilt my mom made for me for Christmas two years ago, I haven’t brought much else. I decide once I’m finished that I’ll head out to the grocery store, but when I make it out to the kitchen, I find the refrigerator and the cabinets are already stocked with food. There is already laundry detergent in the laundry room, cleaning supplies beneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks, even the shower is stocked with my preferred brand of shampoo and body wash. There really isn’t anything for me to do.

I should be relieved, excited for the opportunity to relax before having to start a full time job on Monday, but after spending so much time cooped up in the car, I’m feeling a little keyed up. There is a bookshelf in the living room filled with books that I know I could get lost in for hours but I don’t think reading is enough to occupy me right now.

Ultimately, I decide to head down to the gym in the basement and try and run off some of this excess energy. It’s nice because the equipment is state of the art and it’s completely deserted down here. Having no one hovering around waiting for my treadmill like they do back at Harvard actually motivates me to stay a little longer and run a little harder.

When I’m finished, I head back upstairs to take a shower and then wrap myself in one of the over large, incredibly soft bath towels I find in the cabinet in the bathroom before heading out to the kitchen and finding something to make for a late dinner. I decide to keep it simple and settle on a salad which I take with me into the living room while I look through the movies in the cabinet under the TV. I feel a kind of sentimental twinge when I see every one of my favorite movies stacked neatly next to one another. I even let out a small, breathy laugh when at the end of the line, I see the movie Hook, which Christian had played when we went to Vermont together.

Maybe… Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if I went up to his apartment, just to let him know I’m here and to thank him for the flowers, and the apartment, and the job, and… well, everything really. Closing the cabinet door, I stand up, run into the bedroom to get dressed, and then take a deep bracing breath before grabbing the key to the apartment and strolling out into the hallway. I make my way back to the elevator and once inside, hesitate for just a second before pushing the “PH” button. A disembodied robotic voice with a weird accent that sounds vaguely British immediately comes through the speaker in the wall.

“Please enter your passcode,” The voice commands, and I frown. Of course there’s a code. Did I really expect to just be able to get in an elevator and push a button to get into Christian Grey’s apartment? I briefly consider texting Elliot… I’m sure he has the code, but now that I’ve had time to think about what I’m doing, I’m starting to have second thoughts. Boundaries are important to maintain between Christian and I right now because I know how easy it will be to fall back into our old patterns again. Dropping into his apartment uninvited, especially this late at night, is crossing the line of a professional relationship, even just a cordial relationship, and until I know for sure that Elena is completely out of his life, that’s all there can be between us.

I reach out and press the “open door” button and walk slowly back to my apartment. I feel kind of tired now and I don’t know if it’s because I’m still on eastern time and it’s technically midnight for me, or if it’s just allowing myself to get caught up in the Christian mess again. I haven’t even seen him yet and I’m already feeling discombobulated. If I’m going to make it through the summer, I’m going to need to stop complicating this in my head. I’m here to work. I’m not here to try and be his friend or to try and…

I stop that thought immediately.

I’m here to work.

With a drawn out sigh of frustration, I turn off all the lights in the living room, then head off to my new bedroom and crawl into the crisp, new sheets.

You’re only here to work. I tell myself again as I stare out at the twinkling city lights through my bedroom window, and then I close my eyes, and try not to think about him only 15 floors above me as I fall deeply into sleep.

I spend most of the next day exploring Seattle, getting to know the shops and restaurants close by. Elliot assures me that I HAVE to try Top Pot Doughnuts and he was correct, the maple bar is probably the best I’ve ever had. I walk through the Pike Market district, Pioneer Square, and even make a quick stop over at Qwest Field to take a few pictures to add to my next letter to Ray.

When I get back to Escala, I take a quick shower and change clothes to wear to the Greys’, and then wait for Kate to call and say she’s downstairs. She arrives with a box of clothes for me in the back seat of her car which we take upstairs for me to sort through when I get back and then we head off towards Bellevue where Christian’s parents live.

I actually feel a little nervous as we pull up to the huge house, which is only somewhat familiar to me. I haven’t been here since the Thanksgiving when Christian brought me home for the first time and staring up at the cream and stone walls and the warm windows twinkling through the dusk elicits an empty kind of feeling inside of me. It just feels weird being here without Christian.

I follow Kate up the walkway towards the oversized solid oak doors, which she opens without knocking or ringing the bell.

“Hello?” She calls as we remove our shoes by the door and hang our jackets in the closet off to the left of the entrance hall.

“In here!” I hear Elliot call back, and we make our way past the winding staircase to the family room where the entire Grey family, minus one key member, is scattered across the various furniture around the room watching the evening news.

“Anastasia!” Grace calls, jumping up from her place on the sectional and quickly crossing the room with her arms held open for me.

“Hi, Grace,” I say, smiling broadly as I hug her tightly. I can hear the others moving around and when I let go of Grace, she’s immediately replaced in my arms by someone with long black hair who I don’t believe could possibly be Mia Grey.

“Hey, Ana!” Mia says as she hugs me tightly and then pulls away to look at me.

“You’re so tall!” I say incredulously, and it’s true. I think she’s the same height as I am, and she’s gorgeous. Her almond shaped, chocolate colored eyes are no longer too big in her face and now that she’s lost the last of her baby fat and filled out a little more, she looks like the kind of girl who would play the prom queen in a cheesy teen movie. “You’re like… a grown up,” I tell her.

“Yeah, well… I couldn’t stay fourteen forever,” She says as I continue to gawk at her. She’s really a completely different person and I wonder if what I’m experiencing now, is what Christian experienced when he got to see her for the first time a few weeks ago. It must have really been a shock for him.

I try to cover my awkward stare with a wink and then turn to look at Carrick, who is smiling fondly at me as he pulls me in for a hug. Does this mean he’s decided to help after all?

“Welcome home, Ana,” He says affectionately.

“Thank-you, Carrick,” I reply. “It’s really good to see you again.”

“Oh, Ana!” Elliot cries dramatically, letting of Kate and forcing himself between me and Carrick, then sweeping me up into a rib crushing hug. “How have I survived so long without you?”

“Hi, Elliot,” I laugh when he releases me, and then he slugs me playfully on the arm before turning a more serious look on his mother.

“Can we eat now?” He asks.

“Not quite yet,” She replies. “We’re still waiting on one more.”

“What?” Carrick asks, a note of his alarm in his voice as we all hear the sound of the doorbell. I turn around, feeling a similar sense of apprehension as Grace crosses the polished stone floor to answer the door. When she opens it though, I feel the smallest amount of relief when I see the man standing on the doorstep isn’t Christian, but rather someone I’ve never seen before.

“Thank-you so much for agreeing to meet with us tonight,” Grace says gratefully as she takes his coat and hands it off to a girl who appears through the formal living room off the right to the hall.

“Absolutely, I’m happy to help,” The man says, and he follows Grace back through the entrance hall to where we’re waiting in the living room.

“Everyone,” Grace begins. “This is Dr. John Flynn. We’ve shared several patients over the years and he’s recently started seeing Christian.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Dr. Flynn,” Elliot says, stretching his hand out for the doctor’s. I too shake Dr. Flynn’s hand but when he reaches out for Carrick, Carrick doesn’t return the gesture. Instead, he shoots an angry glare at Grace.

“I thought you said this was just going to be a family dinner?” Carrick demands, and I watch as Grace inhales sharply through her nose, trying to keep control of her temper while she responds.

Most of your family is here and there is dinner. Dr. Flynn is here to help us so that we have the proper tools to help your son.”

Carrick’s jaw tenses but he doesn’t respond. Grace turns back to Dr. Flynn with a smile and then leads him through the kitchen to the dining room. When we’re all seated around the dining table, Grace begins a casual conversation with Dr. Flynn while the woman I saw in the entrance hall, who I presume is the Greys’ housekeeper, places a large dish of lasagna, a bowl of Caesar salad, and two baskets of garlic bread in the center of the table. Elliot passes me a bottle of wine and I fill my glass and take a sip as everyone begins to fill their plates.

The tension from Grace and Carrick’s little spat in the living room seems to die away as we eat and I spend the entire meal getting caught up with Mia, who it seems has turned into quite the social butterfly. I ask her about her friends, what she does for fun on weekends, and what her favorite subjects in school are, but somehow every question seems to come back to dancing. Now that summer vacation is just around the corner, she isn’t going to have her high school dance team anymore so she’s planning on auditioning for an actual ballet company in Seattle next week.

“That’s great, Mia.” I tell her. “You’ll have to tell me when your first recital is so I can get tickets and come watch you.”

“I will, I’m so excited, Ana. I think being in an actual ballet company will really help when I apply to Juilliard.”

“Juilliard, wow! I didn’t realize you were so serious about dancing.”

“She isn’t’,” Carrick interrupts. “Her mother and I are thrilled that she has ballet as a hobby but she hasn’t been keeping a 4.0 GPA in an advanced curriculum program in the most prestigious private school in Seattle to spend four years at a dance school. She’ll be at Harvard, pre-law, just like your old man.”

He reaches over rub her shoulder with a proud kind of affection, but she rolls her eyes.

“I don’t want to go to Harvard, Dad,” She says in a low, controlled voice that sounds as if she’s saying something she’s repeated a hundred times. “Not everyone wants to be a lawyer.”

“Nonsense,” He says. “Ana will you please tell this girl how much you love Harvard?”

“I do love it. It’s great,” I say. “But… I also want to be there.”

“See, Dad? Why don’t you just stop being so obsessed with the idea of having a legacy at Harvard and let your kids live their lives?” Mia snaps.

“Ballet is a hobby, Mia, not a career. You’re going to get a real college education.”

“Christian did just fine without Harvard,” Mia argues, and Carrick turns to glare at his daughter.

“You need to watch the way you’re speaking to me, young lady. Now, I’m not going to listen to another word about this. I’m not paying for you to go to Juilliard so just drop it.”

“Well if you won’t, maybe Elena Lincoln will,” Mia says angrily, and her voice is loud enough that it echos through the dining room and everyone falls silent.

“Go to your room,” Carrick says in a low, threatening voice, and Mia picks up the napkin from her lap, throws it down on the table, and storms out of the room, leaving us all sitting awkwardly in deafening silence. No one moves, and it feels as though no one even breathes. We all just sit there, staring at Carrick, who is sitting at the head of the table with his eyes closed and his fists clenched as he tries to reign in his anger.

“Do you see now why I don’t want him around Mia?” Carrick asks, looking up at Grace, who is seated across the table from him. “This is the influence he has on her.”

“Christian isn’t even here,” Grace argues. “He’s seen her three times in the last two years, and all three of those times have been in the last month. How can you possibly say he’s been a bad influence on her?”

“Exactly! Three times and now look at her attitude,” Carrick replies.

“That’s not Christian, Dad. Mia hasn’t changed. She just doesn’t want to go to Harvard,” Elliot says.

“I don’t care what she wants. She’s sixteen, she doesn’t understand what it takes to be successful in the real world,” Carrick says.

“You said the same thing about Christian,” Grace argues. “And if you had just listened to him when he told you he didn’t want to go to school, maybe none of this would have happened!”

“So it’s my fault?” Carrick demands.

“Okay, okay,” Dr. Flynn interjects. “Let’s just take a time out here. Everybody relax, we’re all on the same team. There’s no benefit in assigning blame to one another. We all know who is to blame here.”

“Christian,” Carrick says.

“Elena Lincoln,” Dr. Flynn corrects him.

“Great, here we go,” Carrick says, rolling his eyes.

“Mr. Grey, your son was a victim of sexual abuse and assault predicated on a history of neglect and physical abuse-“

“I understand that,” Carrick interrupts him. “No one here is denying that he was her victim, but when we tried to help him, he used it as an opportunity to betray every single person in this room so that he could get what he wanted. That’s on him. He made that choice, not Elena.”

“I disagree with you,” Dr. Flynn says. “I very much believe that Elena Lincoln made that choice for him.”

“He’s not stupid, he knew what he was doing. He wanted money. It’s all he talked about for years, and he took the first opportunity he could to get it without any regard for the feelings of the people who love him.”

“Yes, you’re right. He wanted money to start his company and the way he went about getting what he wanted hurt a lot of people, but Mr. Grey, as hurtful as his actions may have been, I do not believe they were malicious. I think that Christian was so caught up in this pattern of abuse with Mrs. Lincoln, who you’ll notice knew exactly the thing to offer him to get him to do what she wanted, that he wasn’t capable of fully comprehending the gravity of his choice and the effects it would have on everyone around him,” Dr. Flynn says.

“I’m not sure about that,” I say quietly, and for the first time since this conversation started, Dr. Flynn looks away from Carrick towards me.

“I’m sorry, dear. We haven’t been introduced,” He says.

“Oh, uh… my name is Ana, Anastasia Steele. I was dating Christian when all of this happened.”

“Oh, you’re Anastasia,” Dr. Flynn says as an excited kind of smile crosses his face. “I’m very happy you’re here. It’ll make this transition a lot easier… But I’m getting ahead of myself, you were saying you weren’t sure? What exactly do you mean?”

“That he didn’t know that what he was going to do would have consequences,” I clarify. “You see the morning of the trial, he was scared. I’d never seen him so nervous before and then just before we went in, he asked me if I would love him no matter happened in the courtroom that day. He knew what he was about to do was wrong and that it had the potential to drive all of us away, but he did it anyway.”

“Ah, yes, fair point,” Dr. Flynn says. “But let me clarify. When I say that Christian wasn’t capable of fully comprehending the gravity of his choice, I don’t mean to say that he was completely oblivious. Like Mr. Grey pointed out earlier, Christian is a very intelligent young man. He knew that lying under oath was perjury and was a crime, he knew that his family would be upset at what he’d done, and that was probably very overwhelming and unsettling for him. So this is where it becomes very important to understand the extent to which the abuse he has been subjected to has taken hold of his mind and his decision making capabilities.”

Carrick snorts.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Grey, did you have something to add?” Dr. Flynn asks, patiently.

“I don’t buy it,” Carrick says. “We taught him right from wrong. He knew what he was doing.”

“Mr. Grey, I understand how frustrating this must feel for you but please don’t think I mean to impugn your parenting. I mean to illustrate the consequence of the abuse he suffered at the hands of Mrs. Lincoln. You see, abusive relationships have an addictive quality to them, much in the same way gambling or sex can become addictive. The abuse makes the relationship unpredictable, the reward phase and the violence phase are compelling, exhilarating, and even mind altering. It causes a chemical reaction and the release of endorphins and the rush of adrenaline fuel the addiction. That addiction affects their perception of the relationship, it affects their ability to make rational decisions, and leads to compulsive behavior. For instance, you might see an increase in drug and alcohol use, lying, stealing, compulsive working, self-harm, sex addiction, eating disorders… all possible consequences of this manipulated state of mind, and these behaviors become more prevalent in situations of great stress or hardship. Now at the time this event happened, Christian was living in a new environment on his own for the first time in his life, he was attending an Ivy League school, he was in his first real, serious relationship, he was having to face this trial and what Mrs. Lincoln had done to him…”

“He was failing,” I say quietly, inadvertently interrupting as the words come unwittingly out of my mouth.

“Failing?” Dr. Flynn asks.

“He was trying to start his company,” I say. “He was trying to make a deal to get funding to start up and every time he thought he had something, something would go wrong, and it would fall through.”

Dr. Flynn stares back at me for a moment, pondering what I’ve said. “So there’s the self-worth,” He muses aloud. “Excellent, that gives me a new insight. Thank-you, Anastasia. Now, essentially, what I’m here to do is to make sure we have a consistent message and the proper tools to help Christian escape this cycle of abuse with Mrs. Lincoln so that you all can experience a healthy relationship with him once more. Now, I want to preface this by telling you all that this is not going to be easy. I can’t discuss the details of what Christian has said to me in our sessions but I can say that from what he’s told me and from what I’ve discussed with Grace, this seems to be a textbook case of what’s known as Victim Grooming, which is seen in a vast variety of abusive relationships, but is most prevalent in cases involving children. Now we all know the sexual abuse Christian endured began at the age of fifteen but the psychological aspect of the abuse actually goes back much farther than that, I think.”

“What do you mean?” Grace asks. “Has he said…”

“I’m sorry, Grace, I can’t discuss what Christian has said to me, but what I can do is walk you through the victim grooming process which will perhaps help you better understand how deep the psychological abuse really is. Now, when an abuser identifies their victim the first thing they’re going to do is observe the victim for vulnerabilities and then attempt to earn their trust by offering them special attention and being understanding and sympathetic about their feelings.”

“Elena always had a special interest in Christian,” Grace says. “Ever since we adopted him, she was always holding him and talking to him. She was very affectionate towards him and he bonded with her quickly, more quickly than anyone else. When he was older and he was struggling with his past issues and his adolescent angst, she was the only one he would talk to. We encouraged it…” Grace’s voice cuts off as tears begin bubbling up and Kate reaches over to hug her.

“Grace, none of the blame is on you,” Dr. Flynn, assures her. “This is all on Elena.”

Grace nods and Dr. Flynn continues.

“Once the abuser has gained the victim’s trust and has made the victim feel as though they are the only one who really understands them, the abuser will begin to isolate them from their family, get them alone, and used to being alone, so that when the abuse starts, there aren’t any witnesses.”

“Like having him come to her house to work.” Elliot adds.

“Exactly. Once the abuse starts, the abuser will further isolate the victim by creating an expectation of secrecy about their relationship, possibly using the victim’s own insecurities as a way of keeping them silent about what’s happening to them.”

“Or a contract,” I say pointedly.

“Or a contract,” Dr. Flynn concedes, “Now if the abuser is successful up to this point, they are in control of the relationship, and that’s when the cycle begins. Once the victim gets in the cycle, it’s very difficult to get them out. Like I said, the highs and the lows of the relationship become addictive and that addiction actually strengthens the bond between the abuser and the victim. It’s what we psychiatrists call Traumatic Bonding.”

Elliot raises his hands in the air and gives everyone around the table a smug smile as if to say I told you so.

“So what do we do?” Kate asks.

“First and foremost, we need to get Elena Lincoln completely out of his life. Zero contact. And in order to do that, you’re all going to have to make it clear that you all support him, love him, and want to be there to help him.”

“We’ve been trying to get him away from her,” Elliot says. “I’m with him as much as possible so that she can’t get near him, and Ana gave him the ultimatum that if he didn’t cut off all contact with her, she would be gone.”

Dr. Flynn frowns. “And while I understand the merit behind that idea and why you would feel that compulsion, Ana, that is actually the least helpful thing that you could say to him.”

“What? Why?” I ask.

“It reinforces what she is telling him. You have to remember that isolation is one of her most powerful weapons to keep him dependent on her. When you say that if he doesn’t leave her, you won’t have anything to do with him, she’s able to spin that into you don’t care about him and that you’re already on your way out. Remember, Christian faced the loss of a parent very early in his life, abandonment is one of his triggers, and an easy way for Elena to get to him. When you say that you will be out of his life if he doesn’t live up to an expectation, you are placing the blame of the abuse and the responsibility to end the abuse solely on him, and it creates fear and triggers his defense mechanism.”

“So… you’re saying we should encourage him to have a relationship with her?” Carrick asks skeptically.

“No, I’m saying that language that places ultimatums on him or that is attacking her will create a defensive reaction. Let me put it to you this way. When the police receive a tip that there is suspected domestic violence occurring in a home, how is it they know which spouse or parent is responsible for the abuse without the informant telling them?” Dr. Flynn asks. He looks around the table, waiting for one of us to answer, but when we don’t, he continues. “The victim will always try to protect their abuser. You’ll find wives putting themselves in between the police and their husbands, trying to shield them. You see children clinging to their abusive parent, trying to hold onto them so they can’t be taken away. You saw it in the trial. She was facing a prison sentence, he protected her, and she rewarded him for it. That is the cycle. It is essential that we avoid triggering that defensive mechanism because it will drive him back to her.”

“So, what? She just never faces any consequences for what she’s done? She’s just off the hook, just like that?” I ask. “I’m not interested in being in any kind of personal relationship with him if he’s still involved with her. She’s disgusting and a child molester and the fact that he would allow someone like that to be in his life, is inexcusable to me.”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all, but before we get to the point where we can focus on her consequences, we need to completely sever the bond between Christian and Elena. If we move too quickly, the break will be traumatizing for him. He has to be ready for it or you’ll see the same outcome you saw with the trial. He’ll go back to her.”

“So what do we do to break the bond?” Elliot asks.

“All you can do is let him know that you are here to support him, reward any behavior that shows he’s moving out of the cycle, share your feelings with him, encourage him to try new things outside of his dependence on Elena, and make sure he knows that you’ll always be there for him, no matter what. Even if he goes back to her,” Dr. Flynn says. “The rest we’ll work out in therapy.”

“I’m sorry,” I say, shaking my head. “I just… I can’t be supportive if he goes back to her. I can’t do it.”

“If we’re consistent and we really show him that we’re there for him, he won’t go back to her,” Dr. Flynn says. “But you have to remember that she is not going to give up her position of power without a fight and she knows how to play on his vulnerabilities. I know it can be hard to accept, but it is important to acknowledge that this will be difficult for Christian. But I assure you, in time, we will be able to get him away from her.”

“Thank you, Dr. Flynn,” Grace says. “You’ve given us a lot to consider and I think this will all be really helpful.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Dr. Flynn says. “Of course if any of you are struggling with what’s going on with Christian, I encourage you to come and see me and we can talk through what your feeling and see if we can’t work through it together. And… I’d really like it if you would make an appointment to come and speak with me in private, Anastasia.”

“Me?”

“Yes, I think your role in Christian’s recovery is very important and I’d like to talk to you about it more.”

“Okay…”

“Here’s my card,” He says, reaching into his wallet and then handing me his business card. “Call my office and make an appointment for whenever you’re available.”

“I will,” I promise, and he smiles at me and shakes my hand before Grace leads him out of the dining room.

The housekeeper returns and begins clearing the table so we all get up and file out towards the living room. I watch Grace thank Dr. Flynn once more as he disappears through the front door and then turn to sit on the couch, but as everyone settles down around the living room, I notice Carrick slip out the back door alone.

“I’ll be right back,” I tell Kate, who looks at me curiously as I walk around the sectional and follow Carrick through the backdoor. I find him leaning over the railing of the back deck, looking out over the yard and pool with a cigarette in his hand.

“You smoke now?” I ask, as I come to stand next to him.

“No, it just feels like something to do… I don’t know…” He says, and he flicks the cigarette away and into the pool below.

“You know there was a time when I was so angry at him that I thought I hated him,” I say quietly. “But then I realized, anger was just the surface emotion. I love him, but he hurt me and it’s easier to be angry than to deal with the pain. So, I know how you feel.”

“I’m not mad, Anastasia. Well, not at him,” He says.

“You’re not?”

“No. I’m mad at myself. She did this to him for four years, while he was living in my house. I not only didn’t see it, didn’t protect him from it, but I sent him over there. I encouraged it. I have one job as a parent, and I didn’t protect my son. You know, when you have kids, you just want what’s best for them. You want them to be safe, you want them to be healthy and happy and you want them to be successful. Christian fought me so hard on college and I wouldn’t even listen, and now every day I face the reality that if I had just given him the money, if I had believed in him just a little bit, none of this would have happened. Now every time I read an article about how successful he’s been or when I see the amazing things that he’s accomplished because of what she gave him… It’s infuriating. It’s like having your biggest regret shoved in your face over, and over, and over again, and it’s ripping me apart. I know that I’m taking that anger out on Christian, and I shouldn’t, but I just don’t know how to deal with this.”

“You knew, didn’t you?” I ask. “Before he told you last week… you knew why he did it.”

“Yes, I knew almost instantly. I was doing Andrew’s divorce and he called me the minute that transfer was made. It’s my fault he lied. I could have given him the money, and I didn’t.”

“It wouldn’t have been any different. If you had given him the money, he wouldn’t have gotten away from her for those few months that he did and nothing would have changed between them. You would have never found out and there’s a good chance it would still be going on.”

“And he would have never met you. You’re the only reason he got out of it at all. You brought him back from the edge.”

“Yeah, apparently not far enough,” I reply.

“You did what you could, Ana,” He sighs. “It looks the doctor is right and we just weren’t prepared to deal with what she did to him.”

“Well now we have a chance to start over,” I say, and he nods. We sit there in silence, staring out at the lake, which sparkles with moonlight.

“You know, this whole thing has made the situation with Mia and Juilliard impossible for me. All my instincts tell me she needs to go to school. She doesn’t have the same kind of intuition or the focus that Christian has that has enabled him to be successful without a degree, but then I wonder if I’m just making the same mistakes all over again. You know you make plans for your kids, you have an idea of what to do to prepare them for the real world. You get them in the best preparatory schools, you help them with their homework, get them tutors, foster a desire to build a career, and then you send them off to the best college you can. Elliot did it fine, but Christian and now Mia…”

“Elliot loves being an engineer and he needed school for that,” I interrupt. “Christian loves business and he didn’t need school. Mia loves to dance and she’s asking for what she needs to be successful at what she loves to do.”

“Yes, but Engineering and Business are careers. Dancing has a shelf life. She’ll always be just a few years or one injury away from having nothing, and then I’ll have to face the reality of letting yet another one of my kids down. My job is to prepare her for life. I don’t want to fail her the way I failed Christian.”

“I don’t know what the answer is,” I tell him. “Harvard is an amazing school, but it’s not for everyone.”

“I know,” He says, and, as he turns to look back out over the water, the door opens behind us.

“Hey, Ana,” Kate says. “I’ve got work in the morning so I’ve got to head back home. Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” I tell her. Carrick turns to hug me goodbye and, after promising I’ll see him soon, I head back into the house with Kate. Mia’s back downstairs now so I’m able to wish everyone a goodnight before we head out the door and back out to Kate’s Mercedes.

When I’m back in my apartment, and I’ve hung all the clothes that Kate has brought for me in the closet, and picked out the outfit I’m going to wear tomorrow, I crawl into bed and stare out at the Seattle skyline. As I lie there, thinking over everything Dr. Flynn said over dinner tonight, my mind starts to drift and I begin to wonder briefly what’s in store for me on my first day at GEH. What it’s going to feel like when, for the first time in two years, I see Christian again. Am I prepared to do the things Dr. Flynn has asked of all of us, and will the boundaries I’ve tried to keep up since we’ve started talking again hold firm when he’s no longer just a voice on the phone, but actually standing in front of me?

You’re here to work. I remind myself again, and then I close my eyes and drift off to sleep.

Next Chapter

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 07

  1. I love this chapter for so many reasons.

    You see how Christian can’t furnish his own apartment, but he makes sure that Ana has EVERYTHING that she could possibly want in HER apartment. Her favorite movies and lots of books have been placed in her apartment. And it DOES make Ana sentimental enough to try to go to Christian’s apartment.

    But I love the additional meaning behind Christian’s actions—it means that he never furnished his OWN apartment because his life was basically on hold, waiting for Ana to come back into his life again. He wasn’t moving forward without her. He waited to furnish the apartment when he had a REAL FUTURE with Ana. He didn’t want to build a life without her and waited to start furnishing the apartment when she could do it WITH him.

    I also love how Carrick can actually talk to Ana when he can’t even communicate about his feelings to anyone else. That is such a change from when he saw Ana as a potential golddigger and person that could destroy his son. And you see that Carrick actually blames HIMSELF for everything. And Ana seems really able to get to Carrick more than anyone else, even Grace. (I mean, BUT FOR Ana, Elena really WOULD have destroyed Carrick and Grace’s marriage AND Christian.)

    My only problem with Carrick’s estimation of Mia’s choice of dance was that her career would be over after she had an injury. Mia could do what so MANY dancers do—she could open her own studio, give private lessons, etc. And MANY people now go to college later after other career options have failed, so it was not like Mia couldn’t go to college later after she was injured.

    But I LOVE the interaction of Flynn with the family. AND the fact that BOTH Flynn AND the Grey family see Ana as instrumental in getting Christian away from Elena. But ANA gains insight into just WHY Elena was able to manipulate Christian and have so much control over him without him even realizing it.

    So this chapter remains one of my all-time favorites in ABSOF (and possibly of all three of Tara’s books so far).

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  2. Plus, I love what you see of Ana’s CHARACTER in this chapter. Her empathy, her strength and her ability to inspire and help others. You can see so much of what she brought out in Christian in this chapter even though they never directly interact in this installment. Christian clearly KNOWS Ana and values HER MIND, as he has placed books (and movies) that he knows she loves. So Ana can see that she was RIGHT when she thought to herself in ADSOF that Christian was SENTIMENTAL. It comes through in this chapter in all he has done to make Ana feel AT HOME in the apartment that he furnished for her. And the MANY ways he reminds Ana of how well he knows and loves AND values her and her choices. LOVE this!

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