It’s difficult to pull myself together once I finally reach the ground level, but because I know Christian will be right behind me, I peel myself off the floor and bolt from the building the moment the elevator doors slide open.
Fifth Avenue is busy as people make their way out for a night on the town and it’s not easy to navigate through the sidewalk, especially in these ridiculous shoes. As I round the corner onto 34th Street, I try to remember what I know about New York in my mind to figure out where I’m going. I don’t want to go back to the hotel, that’s the first place Christian will think to look for me, but where else am I going to go?
Home. I want to go home. Penn Station isn’t far, a few blocks up and over onto 33rd. That’s my best bet, get on a train back to Boston and then switch over to a train back to Cambridge. It’ll take him long enough to follow me back that I can figure something out.
I look over my shoulder to see if Christian is behind me but I don’t see him through the crowd so, as quickly as I can, I push forward, winding my way through the tourists in the street until I see one of the only landmarks I’ve yet to visit in New York.
There isn’t time to enjoy the classic architecture of the station as I race away from the ticket counter just in time to make the very last train back to Boston. When I take my seat, I try and get a hold on my ragged breathing. I don’t want to fall apart on the train. I need to wait until I get home…
But the word home sends another shooting pain to my heart. The only place I have left to go is the house Christian bought. Fuck, what am I going to do? I didn’t re-enroll in housing for next year because I’d planned to live in the townhouse with Christian, Kate, and Elliot. Christian may not be living there next year, but can I really live in a house that he bought for me as a symbol of his love, of his devotion? And what am I going to do this summer? I can’t be alone with him. My heart won’t be able to take it. My world is shattering around me and as I try and grab hold of the fragments and piece together a plan, I can no longer hold back the tears.
Ignoring the looks of people around me as I begin to cry again, I reach into my bag and pull out my cell phone. I have twelve missed calls from Christian, but I clear out the notification and find my mom’s number.
“Hi, Ana,” She answers. “How is New York?”
“M-mom,” I sob.
“Ana?” She says, immediately concerned. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“We-just… I just… I just broke up with Christian.”
“Oh my god, what happened?”
“Mom,” I choke out again, unable to stop the tears. My call waiting tells me there is another call coming through but when I look down and see it’s Christian calling again, I ignore it. “Mom, I need your help. I need a way home.”
“Of course,” She tells me. “Of course. I’ll book you a flight now.”
“Thank you,” I tell her, and then continue to cry as I listen to her rap anxiously on the keyboard of her laptop.
“There isn’t a flight until tomorrow morning,” She tells me.
“That’s fine. I can go home and pack.”
“Is everything okay? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“No. I mean, not physically anyway,” I tell her as the call waiting beeps again.
“I can’t… I can’t talk about it yet. I’m on a train, Mom. Can I call you when I get back to Boston?”
“Of course. Your flight is booked. I’m so sorry, Ana.”
“I call you back,” I say through my tears.
“I love you.”
“I love you too. Bye.”
I hang up the phone and sob into my hands, replaying the scene on top of the Empire State Building over and over again in my mind. This is all really starting to sink in, not just what he’s done but that I’ve left him. It’s over between the two of us. There won’t be any more playful banter, arguments, or loving exchanges. There won’t be any more Valentine’s Days spent in hotel rooms or syrup harvesting in the fall back in Vermont. He’ll never make love to me again…
I choke over my broken breathing as I realize that, worse, there won’t be any trips back to Seattle, no more holidays or vacations spent with the Greys. I’ve lost Christian and he’ll take Mia, Carrick, and Grace away with him. I’ll still have Elliot, that’s a gift Kate has given me, but the others… will I ever even talk to any of them again?
I spend the next hour or so spiraling in my despair as the train hurtles forward towards Boston. Christian calls me what feels like every three minutes or so but I reject his call each time. There is nothing left to say to him. I’ve heard enough of his lies to last me a lifetime. I clench my jaw as my phone rings again but when I look down, I see that it isn’t Christian, it’s Kate. I take a deep breath as I stare at her name on the screen of my phone. Did my Mom call her or did Christian?
“Hello?” I answer.
“Ana, where the hell are you? Christian just called and said you ran away from him in the middle of Manhattan and you aren’t answering his calls. He’s wandering around New York in a panic looking for you.”
“I’m on a train back to Boston,” I tell her, my voice quiet and too flat.
“You’re what? Why?”
“It’s over Kate. I ended it with Christian.”
She’s silent for a minute, probably struggling to register what I’ve just said. When she speaks again, she sounds confused.
“What do you mean you ended it?” She asks. “What- What happened?”
“He’s a liar,” I croak. “He’s a selfish liar who has no consideration for anyone but himself and I want nothing to do with him ever again.”
“What? Ana, what’s going on? What happened?”
“Kate, please… I can’t right now. I’m on my way back to Cambridge to pack and then I’m leaving for Savannah in the morning.”
“But I thought you- I- I, But you-” She stutters, unable to find the words to say as she struggles to understand what’s happening. I’m unsure if I should tell her at all. As much as I hate Christian in this moment, the things I know have the potential to ruin his relationship with his family forever. Carrick already isn’t speaking to him and all he knows is that Christian lied. If he found out Christian lied for money so that he could drop out of school and start his company against both his and Grace’s wishes… I don’t know how they’d come back from that. We certainly can’t.
“I’m coming to Savannah,” Kate says.
“Kate…” I argue, but she isn’t having any of it.
“I don’t understand, I talked to you a couple hours ago and everything was fine, better even. When I answered Christian’s call, I thought he was calling to tell me he’d asked you to marry him. I don’t know what happened between you two, but I know it has to be bad and you shouldn’t have to go through this alone. I’m your best friend, let me be there for you.”
“I can’t talk about it right now,” I say again, through a fresh wave of tears. “Please, just give me some time. I’ll call you when I get to Savannah, I promise.”
“You’re still living with me next year, right? I mean, you missed the housing deadline. What are you gonna do?”
“I don’t know, Kate. I mean, I think I have to but I really can’t think about this right now. Please, I’ll call you when I get to Savannah.”
“Okay,” She says, and I can hear the concern in her voice. “Just… know you don’t have to go through this alone. One phone call and I’m on a plane, okay?”
“Okay. Thank you, Kate.”
“I love you, Ana.”
“I love you, too,” I tell her, and then hang up the phone without saying goodbye. My phone rings again, but I ignore Christian’s call and stare miserably out the window, tears streaming down my face.
When I get to Boston, I have to wait almost an hour before the next train to Cambridge so it’s late by the time I make it to the new house. I flip on a light as I look around at the boxes piled high in the living room, boxes that were intended for Christian and I to unpack together. This house isn’t even familiar to me yet, but already, everything in it reminds me of Christian. I climb the stairs to the bedroom we would have shared, which is also filled with boxes and a bed that would have been ours, a bed he could have made love to me on every night until we graduated. But that future doesn’t exist, there is nothing left between us and so this bed is simply that. A frame, a box spring and a mattress that hold no significance whatsoever.
I start ripping through boxes and yanking out clothes. I’ve left my bag of toiletries in New York, so I’ll have to make a trip to the drug store once I get to Savannah, but I don’t care. The less I have to pack, the less time I have to spend in this house. While I pack, I call a cab to take me back to Boston. I’ll get a hotel room by the airport for the night. I really can’t stay here. I think I’ll have to find a way to make peace with it eventually since I really have no other housing option for next year, but for now, I need to get as far away as I can.
I close the zipper on the suitcase and begin rolling it down the hallway. Before I make it to the top of the stairs though, I hear the front door crash open.
“Anastasia?” Christian calls for me, his voice panicked. Fuck, how did he make it back here so fast?
I’m going to have to face him. There’s nowhere to hide from him and my cab will be here any minute. I’d hoped to have avoided the good-bye, I don’t know if my heart can take it, but I don’t have a choice now. I come around the first curve in the staircase just as I hear him begin up the stairs and he stops a few steps below me. He looks like he’s on the edge of insanity, but when he sees me standing in front of him, his expression changes into a look of relief.
“Ana, thank god,” He says, coming up the stairs and wrapping his arms around me. I cringe. It’s too much to feel him against me now, to smell him, to hear his heart beating furiously in his chest.
“Please, don’t,” I plead, pushing him away from me. He looks down, worried again.
“Ana, I’m sorry…” He says. “But we can get past this, just talk to me.”
“There is nothing past this, Christian. It’s over. The end,” I say, and maneuver around him to continue down the stairs.
“What do you mean over?” He asks, and his eyes fall on the suitcase I’m dragging behind me. “Where are you going?”
“My mom bought me a plane ticket to Savannah. I’m going to spend the summer at home,” I tell him, not even looking back at him as I continue on for the door.
“Ana, stop!” He says, and he reaches out and takes the handle of my suitcase out of my hands.
“Give it to me, Christian,” I tell him, and I’m surprised by the lack of inflection in my tone. I sound lifeless.
“No!” He says. “No, Ana, you can’t go. We have to talk about this. You have to let me make this right.”
“How are you going to make it right? You can’t un-lie to me. You can’t un-lie to the judge and take back everything you’ve done to your family. You can’t even give the money back, but that wouldn’t make it better either. We were over the moment you agreed to take her hush money. The moment you chose her. You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.”
“Ana, please. I-I, I’m sorry. I know it’s hard to see now but really, it was all for the best. It’s going to be better this way, trust me. Just, don’t leave. Stay here with me. Give me a chance to show you it’s for the best.”
“You’re wrong, Christian. You lied to me. You lied to everyone. I can’t trust you. How can I be in a relationship with someone I can’t trust? There’s no coming back from this. It’s over.”
“Will you stop saying it’s over?” He growls.
“It is, you need to accept that. I’m leaving you. This is done.”
“No!” He yells. “No, it can’t be done. I won’t let it be done. Ana, please, just give me a chance to show you… I can’t live without you.”
“Sure you can, you have your company now and apparently that is the most important thing in the world to you. I hope it makes you happy.”
“Anastasia!” Christian yells as I reach out for my suitcase. He grips me tightly by the arms and pulls me into him. His lips come down on mine and he begins to fumble with the zipper on the back of my dress.
“Christian, stop!” I yell, and I begin to struggle away from him.
“Let me make love to you,” He begs. “Let me remind you… it isn’t over. We’ll never be over.”
“You can’t fuck your way out of this, Christian. What makes you think I would ever let you touch me again? You can’t change my mind. There is no re-do button here.”
“Please don’t do this…”
“You did this! She’s been threatening to break us up for months and you let her. You let her win. You picked her. You lied for her. You sold your family for her. You committed a felony for her!”
“I didn’t do it for her, I did it for you,” He says quietly. “All I want to to give you the future you deserve, to give you the world. I can do that now. You’ll see, by the time you graduate, you’ll have everything you could ever want. Please, believe me Anastasia, I did this for you.”
“How dare you say that to me. You didn’t do it for me!” I snap, angry now at the insinuation. “You think you have to build some empire and make millions of dollars to give me the world? Why can’t you see it? I already had everything. I had it all because I had you. That was enough. But you took it away from me. You’ve destroyed everything. It’s gone now, and I’ll never get it back. You’re not the same person to me anymore. You’ve ruined us, and it can’t be fixed.”
“Please, Anastasia…” He begs.
“It’s too late,” I whisper. “I’m leaving and you have to let me go.”
He exhales sharply and his face crinkles as though he’s in excruciating pain, a feeling easy for me to recognize as I suffer from the same affliction. I reach over and grip tightly to the handle on my suitcase. I can see the lights of my cab waiting out front and so I turn to the door.
“You said you loved me. You said that nothing that was said or done in that courtroom could ever change that,” He says, and his desperate tone breaks me again. I feel as though my heart is being literally ripped from my chest.
“Sometimes love isn’t enough…” I sob. “I never thought you would be capable of betraying everyone who loves you for something as meaningless as money. I never thought you would hurt me this way.”
“Ana, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you. Please…” He moans, and he too looks as though he is on the edge of tears.
“I love you, Christian,” I tell him, because despite everything, that hasn’t changed, and I don’t think it ever will. It just doesn’t matter anymore. “I really hope you find success when you get back to Seattle. I hope you take the business world by storm and prove to the world you were right all along. I hope you get every single thing you’ve ever wanted and that someday, you realize that you didn’t need her to do it. That it was you all along. You’re incredible, Christian Grey. I know that. I just wish you did too.”
“Please don’t do this,” He begs again.
“Good-bye, Christian,” I say, my voice hoarse as I try and choke the words out through my tears. I open the door and step into the early summer night, leaving behind the only man I’ve ever loved. Leaving behind the man who broke my heart.