Chapter 45

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It’s early in the morning, too early in the morning, and yet, I’m sitting on a hard bench in a long hallway outside a courtroom in John Adams Courthouse in downtown Boston. Christian is pacing back and forth across the floor in front of me and although I’m sure he’s nervous, he looks debonair and slightly intimidating in his tailored navy suit.

“Are you ready?” Carrick asks, walking up to Christian and holding him by the arm so he stops pacing. Christian nods and Carrick begins going through what to expect again. I shift uncomfortably on the bench as I watch Grace, Kate, and Elliot file into the courtroom, I have no idea where Mia is, although I hadn’t expected to see her here. Carrick is nearly completely through his pep-talk when my attention is drawn by the loud clack of high heels coming up the hallway. I turn to look and see Elena, dressed in black slacks and a modest black blouse, walking towards us alongside a man with a greased back pompadour, who I assume is her lawyer. She gives a last lingering look at Christian before disappearing into the courtroom.

“Don’t worry about her,” Carrick reassures Christian. “Just do everything the way we practiced and you’ll be fine. You’ve got this, okay?”

“Okay,” Christian says, nodding, and his Dad claps him on the shoulder before turning around and walking with purpose through the solid wood doors. Christian turns and reaches his hand out for me.

“Are you okay?” I ask when he pauses for a minute at the door.

“You love me right?” He asks. I’m taken off guard by his question and turn to look at him. For the first time, I see what looks like genuine fear in his eyes.

“Of course I love you, Christian,” I tell him, wrapping my arms around him and holding him tightly to me.

“No matter what?” He asks, and I have to pull away to look him in the eyes as I speak.

“Christian, you have nothing to be afraid of. She’s in the wrong and there is nothing she can do to get away from that. After today, we never have to see her again, okay? I know this is going to be hard but I love you, no matter what is said or done in there. Nothing could ever change that.”

“Okay,” He exhales.

I wrap my arms around him and hold him for as long as I can before I have to go into the courtroom. Christian is being sequestered from the other witnesses, so I won’t be able to sit with him while the other witnesses give their testimony. He’s going to be alone, and I want to leave him with as much comfort and support as possible before we’re forced to separate. Eventually though, that time does come, and after one last good luck kiss, I turn and make my way into the courtroom, and Christian doesn’t follow.

Once I made it to the first few rows of wooden benches, I find Kate, Grace, Carrick, and Elliot, and take a seat next to them. Carrick reaches over for my hand and squeezes it reassuringly just as the bailiff calls for everyone in the courtroom to stand. A man with a severe looking face and thin silver hair enters the room and settles down in the judge’s seat. Each side offers an opening statement and then the judge turns to the prosecutor.

“Will the prosecution call its first witness?” He asks.

“Yes, Your Honor,” He replies, as he stands from his seat. “The prosecution would like to call Mrs. Catarina Ayala to the stand.”

I turn to look to the right side of the courtroom as a small, nervous looking woman I don’t know enters and makes her way up to the stand. The bailiff makes her place her hand on a bible and swear to tell the truth. Once she’s finished, she settles down into the chair, fidgeting as she waits for the prosecutor to gather his things for her examination.

“Will you please state your name for the record?” The prosecutor asks.

“Catarina Ayala,” The woman says.

“And Ms. Ayala, what is your relationship to the defendant?”

“Mrs. Lincoln is my employer,” She says. “I am her housekeeper.”

“And does the name Christian Grey mean anything to you, Ms. Ayala?”

“Yes,” She nods. “Mr. Grey is the son of Mrs. Lincoln’s friend Grace. Before he went to school, he came to the house often to do chores and handywork around the house for Mrs. Lincoln.”

“Was Mrs. Lincoln around when Mr. Grey was in the house? Did she supervise him?”

“Supervise him?” Ms. Ayala repeats. “No, when he was working, he was generally left alone.”

“Were there times when he wasn’t working and Mrs. Lincoln was around?”

“Umm…” She hesitates.

“I mean to say,” The prosecutor continues, “Were there times that Christian Grey was in Mrs. Lincoln’s residence to do something other than work around the house.”

She pauses for a moment, looking as though she doesn’t want to answer, but eventually, she does. “Yes.”

“And what were they doing?”

“I uh… I can’t say for sure. I just know there were times he was asked over to the house when no work was needing to be done, and when I returned to work the following day, nothing seemed to be changed.”

“Did Mr. Grey act a certain way towards Mrs. Lincoln? Frightened, maybe? Affectionate?”

“He was very polite and well mannered,” She says. “Mrs. Lincoln has a certain way about her that commands respect. He seemed to act accordingly.”

“I see,” The prosecutor says, and then he turns to the judge. “Your honor, I’d like to introduce item 1-A into evidence please.”

He reaches into the folder in his hand and pulls out a series of photographs to hand to the judge, and then hands an identical stack to the witness.

“Ms. Ayala, do you recognize these photographs?”

She swallows. “Yes, this is a room in Mrs. Lincoln’s house. In the basement. It’s generally locked. I think only Mrs. Lincoln has access to it. Mr. Lincoln never mentioned it to me.”

“So, how do you know about this room?” The prosecutor asks.

“I was asked to clean it sometimes.”

“I see,” He takes the photos from her, slides them back into his folder, and continues. “Ms. Ayala, did you ever see Mr. Grey enter this room during his visits to Mrs. Lincoln’s residence?”

“No,” She says, quickly. “No, when Mr. Grey was at the house, most of the staff was generally asked to leave for the day so they wouldn’t get in his way.”

“So you never saw him in this room?” The prosecutor clarifies.

“No,” She says, shaking her head, but she’s more hesitant this time. “But…”

“But?” He asks, interested.

“But the times I was asked to clean this room did generally follow the days when Mr. Grey came to visit.”

“Thank you,” The prosecutor says. “That’s all the questions I have your honor.”  He turns around and takes his seat across from the defense just as the judge turns to Elena’s lawyer to invite him to begin his cross-examination. The defense attorney doesn’t say much. He mostly just has Ms. Ayala reiterate that she’d never witnessed any actual contact between Elena and Christian that was inappropriate, and gets her to agree that after she left the house, anyone could have come to Elena’s residence, and no one would know any different.

After Ms. Ayala’s testimony, the prosecutor chooses not to call a witness next, but instead submits a series of documents as evidence to the judge including phone records between Christian and Elena, and even a several bills and receipts from sex shops that sell BDSM equipment and hotel rooms, which were booked for two guests but Mr. Lincoln, through signed affidavit, denies having stayed in. When he gets back to calling witnesses to the stand, the prosecutor questions Elliot and Mr. Lincoln about the night in January when everything came out, but Elena’s lawyer simply responds to each witness with the question, “Have you ever seen Mrs. Lincoln actually engage in sexual congress with Christian Grey?”, to which they both answer, “No”.

Finally, about an hour into the proceedings, the prosecutor calls Christian to the stand and we all watch anxiously as he enters the room. He doesn’t look back at me as he approaches the bench and I wonder why that is. Is he embarrassed now that all of this is out in the open? Is he nervous because I’m now going to have to sit and listen to all the things I couldn’t when it was just us and Carrick? I remember him telling me his concerns over what a high profile child molestation case could do to his chances of starting a business, but according to Ros, all of those plans are on hold. Carrick has assured us that he’ll make sure the records of this case will be sealed after the verdict, so, with a few years distance between now and when he’s actively seeking business deals, he should be able to keep this under wraps… Maybe he’s nervous about that? Or, perhaps, it’s just that this is a very personal matter that he’s going to have to describe in detail in front of an entire courtroom, including his parents, and under Elena’s hawk like gaze. I know how guarded Christian is.

After he’s sworn in, Christian takes the stand and stares purposefully at the prosecutor, waiting for him to begin.

“Would you mind stating your name for the record?” The prosecutor asks as he approaches the bench.

“Christian Trevelyan-Grey.”

“And what is your relationship with the defendant, Mrs. Elena Lincoln?”

“She’s my mom’s best friend.”

Was,” I hear Grace hiss behind me. I peek around Carrick to look at her for a minute and she locks eyes with me before nodding reassuringly. I know she’s thinking the same thing I am in this moment, it’s all about to be over.

“Christian, would you please describe the events of April 14th 2003 for the court?”

“I had just been expelled from Bellevue Christian High School for getting into a fight, and my mom sent me over to Mrs. Lincoln’s to do some chores for her as punishment,” He begins, his eyes flick briefly over to Elena, but turn back to the prosecutor as he continues. “I redid the landscaping around her pool.”

“Did you and Mrs. Lincoln interact at all?”

“I guess.”

I see the slightest hint of tension in Carrick’s jaw next to me when he hears Christian’s response. Even I find myself sitting up a little straighter as I stare at him with confusion. That wasn’t the answer Christian was supposed to give to that question. I’ve heard this examination rehearsed dozens of times. Christian was supposed to tell the judge that when he’d finished, Mrs. Lincoln kissed him, that the very next day she’d had sex with him in her playroom for the first time, which he would identify as the same room depicted in the pictures the prosecutor had submitted as evidence.

“And what happened when you finished your work for the day?” The prosecutor presses him, trying to get him back on track.

“I went home,” Christian says, and this time Carrick’s reaction is more noticeable. His brow furrows and his hands clench into fists as he inches closer to the end of the bench, looking as though he’s ready to leap to his feet. His gaze is baring into his son across the room, but Christian still hasn’t even so much as glanced in our direction.

“Were you subjected to any sexual contact initiated by Mrs. Lincoln on April 14th 2003?” The prosecutor asks, his voice tightening with irritation at Christian’s deviation from the script he’d rehearsed with Carrick.

“Objection, Your Honor,” Elena’s lawyer calls. “Council is leading the witness.”

“Overruled,” The judge says, “Please answer the question, son.”

“No,” Christian responds, and Carrick finally jumps to his feet in disbelief. My mouth is agape with shock as I turn to look at Elena who is watching the proceedings with a self-satisfied smirk on her face.

“Christian!” Carrick shouts, and the judge’s head snaps up in his direction.

“Would those of you in the gallery please remain silent during the court proceedings?” He says, and I see Carrick hesitate, warring between obeying the judge and interfering with whatever it is Christian is trying to do.

The prosecutor returns to the table and sets down his notes. I can see his eyes moving frantically back and forth as he tries to decide his next move. Hastily, he reaches out and grabs a manila folder and takes it up to Christian, producing the same pictures he’d shown it Ms. Ayala earlier.

“These are pictures of a room in Mrs. Lincoln’s basement,” He says as Christian begins flipping through the pictures, looking at them with the mild interest of someone who is looking at a group of photos for the first time. “It is a room that was designed for the purpose of practicing BDSM sex. Do you recognize any of the images in your hand? Have you ever been in this room?”

“No…” Christian says, his voice calm as he concentrates on the pictures in his hand. “No, I’ve never seen this room before.”

Carrick is shaking with anger in the bench next to me, but I can’t think past the confusion to be angry. What is he doing? I practically scream in my mind. I turn around at look at Grace, who has gone pale as a ghost and is gripping tightly to Kate, who is holding her own hand over her mouth in shock.

“Christian, do you know the meaning of perjury?” The prosecutor asks, his own anger breaking through his professional demeanor as he snatches the folder out of Christian’s hands.

“Yes.”

“Then you understand that it is a felony offense and carries a minimum five year prison sentence?”

“Yes.”

“So I’ll ask you again,” The prosecutor says, speaking each of his words carefully as if to make sure Christian couldn’t possibly misunderstand the question. “Did you engaged in a BDSM sexual relationship with Elena Lincoln while you were still a minor?”

“No,” Christian replies. “I’ve never had a sexual relationship with Elena Lincoln.”

I’m dumbfounded, shaking as I stare disbelieving at the scene in front of me, but Carrick isn’t able to hold back any more.

“Objection,” He yells, and the judge looks up at him with confusion.

“Sir, please take your seat and remain silent.” The judge says, more sternly this time, but Carrick shakes his head.  

“Your honor, I’m a licensed attorney in the state of Washington and the witness is my son. If you’d just grant us a recess so that I could speak with him…”

“Sit down,” The judge says. “One more outburst from you, and I will have you removed from this courtroom.”

“Your honor, that is my son! This woman, the defendant, Elena Lincoln molested him when he was still a child! I can’t…”

“Bailiff,” The judge says, cutting Carrick off, and he nods in our direction. The bailiff walks towards us, stopping next to the bench.

“Come with me, sir.”

“No,” Carrick begs, “Please! If you’ll just let me speak with my son…”

“Sir, if you don’t come quietly, we will have you detained,” The bailiff says, and Carrick’s eyes dart around wildly, helplessly, until he has no other choice but to allow himself to be escorted out of the courtroom.

“Councilor, do you have any other questions for your witness?” The judge asks the prosecutor, but he seems lost. He takes a few deep breaths, nods to himself, and picks up a folder off the table.

“Your honor, I’d like to submit item 4-A into evidence,” The prosecutor says, his voice now shaking slightly. “I have a statement from Mr. Christian Grey, detailing his previous sexual encounters with Mrs. Lincoln.”

My mouth drops open as I feel hope flame within me, but as the judge begins flipping through the folder the prosecutor hands him, he frowns.

“This isn’t notarized,” He says.

“No your honor,” The prosecutor agrees, “But… but it’s in Mr. Grey’s own hand.” He turns to Christian. “Mr. Grey, if you never had a sexual relationship with the defendant, why do I have a written statement from you that says on the afternoon of April 14th 2003, Mrs. Elena Lincoln coerced you into a sexual relationship that lasted until November of 2007?”

“I wasn’t under oath when I wrote that,” Christian says.

“Get off the stand,” The prosecutor snaps, and the judge hands him back the folder he now refuses to allow into evidence.

“I’m sorry, Councilor,” The judge interrupts. “But the defense has the right to cross examin your witness.”

“We have no further questions, Your Honor,” Elena’s lawyer interjects.

“Then the witness is dismissed,” The judge says and Christian nods once before stepping down from the stand.

“Is there anything else councilor?” The judge asks, and his tone is annoyed, as if he thinks this is all now a waste of his time. The prosecutor hesitates for a moment, a look of panic on his face as he searches desperately around the courtroom and the files on his table for anything he can use. He looks up, and his eyes fall on me.

“Yes,” He says at last. “The prosecution wishes to call Anastasia Steele to the stand.” Christian freezes as he reaches the table where the prosecutor is standing.

“No,” He says turning to look at him. “I told my father I would only do this if you left her out of it.”

“You haven’t done anything,” The prosecutor says angrily, but Christian stands his ground and looks back at me as I get out of my seat and walk to the gate that will allow me access to the other side of the bar.

“Don’t,” He says quietly, but ignore him. I’m not sure I can even look at him right now. I walk to the bench where the bailiff swears me in, and then climb the stairs to the padded seat behind the witness stand.

“Will you please state your name for the record?” The prosecutor asks through clenched teeth.

“Anastasia Steele.”

“And how do you know Christian Grey?”

“He’s my boyfriend.”

“And do you recognize the defendant?”

“Yes, her name is Elena Lincoln. I first met her when I was staying with Christian over Thanksgiving last year.”

“And what was that meeting like?”

“Well… Before we had dinner, I saw the two of them in his father’s study. They were arguing and Mrs. Lincoln slapped him a couple times, and then tried to coerce him into having sex.”

“What were they arguing about?”

“Christian wanted out of his contract, the uh… BDSM contract between him and Mrs. Lincoln.”

“So, Christian has admitted to you that he shared a sexual relationship with Mrs. Lincoln. Did he tell you when it started?”

“When he was fifteen.”

“And what happened on the night of January 24th of this year?”

“Christian and I were going to a ballet with his family and the Lincolns. We got to the hotel and discovered that Mrs. Lincoln had paid someone at our school, uh… at Harvard University, named Astor Harrington to try and break us up. Christian confronted them and he and Mrs. Lincoln argued about their past sexual relationship. We got into a verbal altercation that led to Mr. Lincoln finding out about Mrs. Lincoln’s affair with Christian. Later that night, Mrs. Lincoln admitted to the entire Grey family that she had had a sexual relationship with Christian that started when he was still a minor. That was a night she was arrested. Elliot Grey’s and Andrew Lincoln’s testimonies were accurate.”

“Thank you, Anastasia. I have no further questions,” The prosecutor says, though he still doesn’t look entirely pacified. Is that going to be enough?  

I look up at the judge and wait for him to dismiss me but he doesn’t. Instead he looks at Elena’s lawyer.

“Your witness, Councilor,” He says.

Elena’s lawyer gets up and approaches the stand. “Miss Steele, did you ever witness Mrs. Lincoln participating in sexual congregation with Mr. Grey when he was a minor?”

“I didn’t know Christian when he was minor,” I say.

“And have you ever, even after Mr. Grey reached the age of consent, witnessed Mrs. Lincoln or Mr. Grey having sexual intercourse?”

“Well, no. But I’ve witnessed inappropriate contact between them and have heard both Christian and Mrs. Lincoln admit they have participated in an illegal BDSM sexual relationship.”

“Do you have any evidence of these admissions? A affidavit or a video recording perhaps?”

“No.”

“Your Honor,” The lawyer begins, stepping away from me to face the judge. “Both the alleged victim and my client have denied the charges that Mrs. Elena Lincoln ever had any form of sexual relationship with Christian Grey, underage or not. Any evidence that the prosecution has provided the court today is at best circumstantial and is probably the result of a young man’s fantasies gone too far. There is no definitive proof that Elena Lincoln was ever anything but a caring, nurturing role-model who mentored Mr. Grey through a difficult adolescence. Unless the prosecution can provide any concrete proof that any inappropriate sexual relationship occurred, contrary to both parties’ testimony, I move to dismiss.”

“Councilor?” The judge asks, turning to the prosecutor.

“Your honor, several witnesses have given testimony to Mrs. Lincoln admitting she molested this young man at the age of fifteen.”

“I’ve heard the testimony, and the alleged victim denies he ever had a sexual relationship with the defendant,” The judge replies. “If you have no victim, who are you representing right now?”

“I uh-” The prosecutor stammers.

“Do you have any further evidence to submit to the court?” The judge asks.

I turn to the prosecutor, waiting for him to pull out some miracle, something no one had anticipated. Home security camera footage from the Lincoln’s house, a picture of Christian and Elena together, a voice recording of her admission, but as he stands there in front of me, he looks utterly defeated.

“No, Your Honor,” He says at last.

“Then the councilor’s motion is carried and this case is dismissed. The court rules in favor of the defendant, Mrs. Elena Lincoln and finds her innocent of all charges,” The judge says quickly. He picks up his gavel and bangs it down on his desk, a loud, definite thud that feels as though it punches me in the gut.

“No!” Grace screams from her seat behind the bar. She jumps to her feet but Elliot catches her around the waist and pulls her back towards the double wooden doors as she continues to scream. “No, she can’t get away with this! No!”

The prosecutor turns back to the table and picks up his notebook and briefcase without so much as even looking at Christian. And once Christian is alone, Elena crosses the aisle over to Christian and reaches out touch his arm affectionately, but he pushes her off and storms out of the courtroom after his family. Elena shoots me one last gloating smirk before she too files out of the room.

I’m frozen on the witness stand. I had been so sure of the outcome of this trial I hadn’t even considered what would happen if Elena won. Christian lied. Why did he lie? I try to think about how he was acting this morning, really analyze his actions for any kind of clue that this was about to happen. He was nervous, but that was to be expected. And then I remember what he said to me right before we came into the courtroom.

You love me, right? No matter what?

The memory leaves me winded. This is what he was talking about? He knew he was going to lie, he’d planned it. He wasn’t afraid of what was going to come out and how I might take it, he was worried what would happen after I watched him get up on the witness stand and lie to protect a child molester.

“Ana?” A calm, careful voice says from the back of the courtroom, and I look up to see Kate staring at me apprehensively. The court room is empty around me and I have no idea how long I’ve been sitting here. “It’s time to go.”

“Okay,” I whisper, unable to speak any louder. I stand up, feeling a little shaky on my feet and walk towards her, wondering if I’m too shocked by what’s just happened to cry. Kate holds her arms out for me and I go to her willingly, taking at least a small amount of comfort being wrapped in her arms.

“Are you okay?” She asks.

“I don’t know,” I tell her, and finally, I hear my voice crack as the tears begin.

“It’s going to be alright, Ana,” Kate says. “Carrick will think of something, maybe they can get a mistrial…”

“H-how is he? Carrick, I mean?” I ask, pulling away from her and wiping my eyes.

“Pissed,” She says. “He won’t even look at Christian, let alone speak to him. He and Elliot have Grace in the car and I think they’re just going to go straight to the airport. I just needed to come check on you before I drop them off.”

“I’ll be okay,” I tell her.

“Did you know? I mean, did he tell you he was going to do that?”

“No.”

“Talk to him,” Kate says. “Maybe… maybe there’s a reason he lied.”

“A reason?” I ask her angrily. “What reason could he possibly have?”

“I don’t know,” Kate replies, shaking her head. “But we both know that Christian is a good person and he wouldn’t do this if he didn’t have a really good reason.”

“Okay,” I agree. “You’re right, I’ll talk to him.”

“I’ll see you later tonight?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay,” She says. She kisses me on the forehead and turns around to leave. I take one last moment to prepare myself to face the outside of this courtroom again and then follow after her through the double wood doors.

Christian is there waiting for me. He’s leaning against the wall on the other side of the hallway, staring down at his shoes. His head shoots up though when he hears the doors open and a look of apprehension crosses his face when he sees me standing there, waiting for him.

“Are you ready to go?” He asks, hesitantly.

“Yeah,” I tell him, but there is no life in my voice. I’m still too stunned, too lost, to register any kind of emotion. He reaches for my hand and I take it automatically as I follow him out to the parking lot. I think he knows how upset I am as he’s even more attentive than usual once we’re out of the building. He opens my car door for me and when he slides into the driver’s seat, he asks me if he can take me out to lunch.

“What was that?” I blurt out, ignoring his question. “Why did you do that, Christian?”

“Ana…” He hesitates. “I… I couldn’t do it.”

“What do you mean you couldn’t do it?”

“Look, I know where you and my dad and everyone else are coming from. I get it. I was young, probably too young and what we did was against the law, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want it to happen. That doesn’t take away the fact that I liked it and that I allowed it. I’ve signed that contract four times, I knew what it was and what I was doing. She didn’t force this on me, I was a willing participant and I could have stopped it whenever I wanted to. I could have stopped it from the very beginning, I could have prevented any of this from ever happening, but I didn’t because the truth is that I wanted it to happen. I know you don’t want to hear that, but… it’s true. How could I possibly send her to prison for giving me something that I wanted? Everyone keeps telling me I’m a victim, but I’m not. If this is really about justice for me, then consider it served. She’s out of our lives. She won’t contact us again. It’s still over, and that’s all I want. I just want it to be over.”

“But what about the next kid?” I ask.

“What?”

“Well, she found you when you were fifteen, what happens when she finds someone else. Maybe someone younger this time?”

“She’s not a pedophile, Ana.”

“Yes she is, Christian! She had sex with a minor, that’s what a pedophile is! The reason these laws exist is because at fifteen years, you’re not mentally capable of making the decision to have sex.”

“I knew what I was doing.”

I stare at the dash, feeling defeated. He’s made up his mind about this, I’m not going to get through to him.

“I know you can’t understand, but I really couldn’t do it, Ana, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask, feeling tears well up in my eyes.

“Would it have made it better?”

“No,” I say shaking my head. “But I was completely blindsided in there, we all were. I mean, think of everything your dad has done, everything we’ve all been through trying to help you win this case. Why didn’t you just put a stop to it?”

“My dad wouldn’t have let me stop. Right and wrong is black and white to him, he would never have understood. Besides, I didn’t make my decision until this morning. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

“So you were conflicted, you knew it was wrong,” I say, almost pleading now as tears break through my voice. “We should appeal, try to get a mistrial…”

“If we appeal, I’d have to admit I lied under oath. You heard what the prosecutor said in there. It’s a felony, Ana.”

I take a deep breath and wipe the tear from my cheek. We sit there in silence for a few moments until he reaches over and pulls me into a hug.

“I promise you it’s over, Ana. She’s out of our lives,” He whispers, turning his head and kissing my hair. “Let me take you to lunch?

“No, I want to go home,” I say. The look on his face makes it very clear this is not the answer he wanted, but he nods and starts the car. We don’t talk for the remainder of the ride back to campus or the walk to Grays Hall.

“You’re not coming in with me?” Christian asks, when I pull out the keys and put them in the lock on my door. “Don’t you think we should talk some more?”

“I don’t need to talk right now,” I tell him. “I need some time to process this.”

“You’ll come over tonight though, right?” He asks hopefully, but I shake my head.

“Finals start next Monday and I’ve fallen behind on studying with all of this trial stuff.”

“I’m… sorry about that, really I am. I didn’t mean for you to fall behind. I suppose, well… take the time you need tonight,” He says quietly, although he sounds as if he doesn’t think it’s okay at all. “But I’ll see you in the morning?”

“Sure.”

“Have a good night. I love you, Anastasia.”

“I love you, too,” I say, and a flash of relief crosses his face at my response. He leans down and kisses me, brushing my cheek before turning and disappearing into his room. I stare after him, trying to decide why this is so painful to me right now. Is it because he’s doing this to protect her? I’m not sure. I mean, part of me understands his reasoning, and maybe it isn’t fair for me, or for anyone, to decide how to make this right for him. He should get to choose for himself and if he really couldn’t be okay with himself for going through with it, then I guess I can’t blame him. Maybe, her permanently being out of his life, out of all the Greys’ lives will be enough. I can make myself believe that, can’t I?

No. No, I don’t think I can. She deserves to be in prison right now and Christian protecting her just shows me the power she still wields over him. How much psychological damage has she done to him to make him to feel this way?

In the end though, it doesn’t matter what I think or even how I feel. I don’t get to make this decision. I never did. It was up to him and he chose what he could live with. If we’re going to move on from here, I have to be okay with it, no matter how sick it makes me.

As I enter my room and settle in to study for the night, I repeat this last thought over and over in my mind, hoping that, eventually, I’ll believe it, and this horrible feeling of betrayal will fade away.

Next Chapter

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