When we pull up outside the iconic landmark I’ve chosen as the place to reveal to Anastasia that the plans for GEH have been finalized and are ready to be put in motion, I feel a rush of nerves. After these last couple weeks… I don’t really know how she’s going to react. I expect her to be upset. I am leaving her and 3000 miles of distance is a lot. Neither of us want to be apart from one another but I think I’ve worked out a plan to make it bearable. Besides, it’s only until she graduates, and while three years sounds like an eternity now… once it’s over, we’ll be together permanently and I’ll be able to open any door for her that she wants. It’s part of the reason I’ve chosen the tallest building in New York for tonight. It’s symbolic. Once I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, nothing will be out of reach. For either of us.
The thought gives me courage once more, so I hurriedly pay the taxi driver, then step out of the car and move around to the other side to open Ana’s door for her. She reaches out and places her delicate hand in mine and as she steps out of the cab and stares into the sky, trying to see the top of the building, her eyes widen with awe.
“The Empire State Building?” she asks, a kind of excited suspicion in her voice. I smirk down at her, purposefully giving nothing away as I take her hand and lead her through the concrete arch and high glass doors and into the narrow lobby. After we’ve procured tickets to the top observation deck, we step into an elevator, which surprisingly we have to ourselves. There’s a small jolt as the elevator begins the journey upwards, and somewhere around the 80th floor, I turn to look at Ana staring at the steadily climbing numbers over the door. I know she’s afraid of heights, and I can see the trepidation in her eyes as the car passes the 88th floor.
“Are you sure about this?” she asks nervously.
“Don’t worry, we’ll stay far away from the railing so you can’t look down,” I tell her, squeezing her hand reassuringly and brushing my thumb lightly over her knuckles. “You can’t miss this view.”
She nods a little as I turn and watch floors 93, 94, and 95, creep past us. Almost there…
When we finally make it to the 102 floor, I squeeze her hand once more and lead her through the small glass room and onto the deck. Immediately, she gasps, her fears seemingly forgotten as her eyes scan the top of the New York skyline. She’s still for a moment, simply taking pause to take everything in, and after giving her a minute to absorb everything around us, I pull her tightly into my side and lead her around the entire deck so she gets the full view of the city. As she stares out over the ocean, glittering in the light of the setting sun, I feel her shiver a little under my arm, but whether that is from the chill of the wind or from wonderment, I’m not sure.
“Christian, it’s beautiful,” she whispers, taking a few unconscious steps closer to the edge. I smile and then step up behind her, pulling her body against mine and holding her tightly in my arms so that she can’t get too close to the rail. The last thing I need is for her to start freaking out or to get hit with a sudden wave of vertigo.
“It’s the world,” I tell her, leaning down to press my lips against her ear. “And it’s at your feet.”
She turns her head so that she can look at me over her shoulder, the sweet smile that I love beaming back up at me. “Look at you,” she says. “Making good on your promises.”
“I intend to.” I say, more serious now. “I truly to.”
Her brow furrows slightly as she takes a moment to ponder what I mean, or maybe my change in mood, while I take a deep, bracing breath, and turn her so that she’s facing me. I wait for the nerves I’ve felt in anticipation of this moment to intensify, but they don’t. Instead, as I look into her pure, clear blue eyes staring back up at me, they seem to vanish. I don’t know how many times I’ve promised Anastasia I would one day give to her everything she could ever desire, and now… I finally get to make good on that promise. Starting with this.
I reach into my pocket for the small black box from Tiffany’s that contains a pair of diamond earrings I’ve been holding onto for months in preparation of this moment. As I pull the box out of my jacket, her face goes blank and I watch her mouth drop open.
“Here,” I tell her, placing the box in the palm of her hand. She’s shaking slightly as she slowly opens the hinged lid on the box, but when she looks down at the earrings inside, her forehead creases as though she’s confused. Does she not like them?
“They’re beautiful,” she says, looking up at me with a smile that isn’t entirely pacifying. I swallow. Fuck, how can she not like them? There are almost 5 carats worth of diamonds there…
“They’re celebratory,” I tell her, hoping that maybe it’s more uncertainty than chagrin behind her lackadaisical attitude.
“What are we celebrating?” she asks. The beginning of the journey that’s going to change our lives. I take a deep breath.
“I got the money,” I explain. I wait for excitement or at the very least, a sense of congratulations, but instead, the smile on her lips, which had seemed so hesitant to begin with, vanishes.
“What do you mean?” she asks, her voice weaker now. I grip tighter to her hands, wanting to be reassuring but not wanting to approach this as if I’m delivering bad news, because it isn’t.
“The money for GEH, uh.. Grey Enterprises Holdings. That’s what we’re calling the company. It came through about a week and a half ago. Ros and I put a bid in for a small fiber optics company in Seattle. They accepted our offer this last Tuesday. She’s filing our Articles of Incorporation with the Washington Secretary of State as we speak.”
Ana takes a moment’s pause, but the more she thinks about what I’ve said, the more the shock on her face morphs into a look of horror.
“So… you’re leaving then?” she clarifies, and I feel my gut clench as I watch the unmistakable sheen of tears begin to well in her eyes. Fuck, I made her cry… Fix it, Grey. Get her to see the big picture here.
“Well, it’ll take a while for our licenses and the different permits we need to come through,” I begin, trying to soften the blow. “I’m going to spend the summer here, with you just as we planned, but, yes. Once the term begins and Kate and Elliot return, I’ll be moving back to Seattle. Ros and I won’t be returning to Harvard in the fall.”
She looks away from me and her eyes begin darting back and forth with frantic thought. I can see her body begin to deflate a little and her hand falls to her side, the $10,000 worth of diamonds still gripped in her fingers all but forgotten.
“I-I…” she stutters, but once it’s clear she’s not actually going to be able to finish a coherent thought, I reach out and pull her into me.
“Hey…” I say gently. “I know this is going to be difficult, but we’re going to work it out. I’ll get an apartment for us in Seattle and if you arrange your schedule so you only have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I can fly you out to Seattle when you get out of class Thursday and you’ll fly back Monday evening. As my company grows, I’ll be traveling to the east coast all the time and I’ll make time to come down to Cambridge to stay with you when I can. And you’ll come home to me for all the holidays. It’s not ideal, but it’ll only be until you finish school and then we’ll be together all the time.”
She pulls her head away from my chest and looks up at me, doubtful. “So… you want me to live in Seattle four days a week and then fly all the way across the country for three days, and then do it all over again, every week, for the next three years?” she asks.
“Yes, and I know it’s a lot, but you’ll have more time than you think. You can do homework on your flights, think of all the extra time you’ll have to catch up on your reading. And maybe it wouldn’t have to be every weekend. I could come to Cambridge one weekend a month when my schedule allows it.”
She shakes her head. “”Christian, surely you see how ridiculous that sounds. I can’t simultaneously live on opposite sides of the country. What about campus life, and study groups, and my job?”
“You wouldn’t have to work,” I tell her, nearly appalled by the idea. “I’d take care of you. You can schedule your study groups for Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I can’t really give you campus life, but isn’t it worth giving up to be together?”
“Christian…” she says again, and really, for the first time, I don’t like the way she says my name. “Of course I want to be with you. I love you, more than is probably good for me, but… Harvard is my dream. I mean, my dad literally went to war so I could be here.”
Fuck. The Dad card? What the fuck am I supposed to say to that?
“I know that,” I tell her, staring purposefully into her eyes so that what I’m about to say comes out very clear. “I’m not asking you to give it up.”
She lets out a harsh breath through her nose and then turns to look away from me again. I wait, unsure whether or not it would be more helpful to try and reassure her more or to give her some time to think through what I’ve already said. She takes a deep breath and for one, blissful second I think I’ve won her over… but then, out of nowhere, her face goes blank and she looks up at me with a new kind of suspicion behind her eyes.
“Where did you get the money?” she asks me.
“What do you mean?”
“You told me you were giving up, that you’d run out of options and that you were going to have to wait a few years before you tried again. So where did the money come from?”
Oh, fuck. Alright, keep it simple, Grey. I take a deep breath, ignoring the warning stab of pain that arises at the idea of knowingly lying to Ana. No, not a lie. Just… just an omission of the truth. Keep it simple, and I won’t have to lie.
“It turns out we hadn’t quite exhausted all of our options,” I tell her. She stares up at me, her blue gaze feeling all too penetrating as I taste the bitterness of the half-truth on my tongue. I look away from her and her grip slackens in my hand.
“Did Elena give it to you?” she asks, suddenly angry. Fuck.
“What makes you think that?” I reply, hoping confusion will come across as more genuine than a flat out denial. My throat constricts, and I begin feeling a kind of pins and needles type pain all over my body. I’m not just lying to her, I’m manipulating her… I’m actually, actively manipulating the woman I love right now.
But if you don’t, there’s a good chance she’ll turn away and never speak to you again. The dark thought makes me shudder. I couldn’t bear that.
I look back at her again, electrified by fear that this could be a possibility, and I’m not pacified at all by the accusatory look she gives me in return.
“Did Elena offer to give you money to start your company if you lied for her on the stand?” she demands. I can feel my heartbeat quicken, beating so hard I can feel it in each of my pulse points. I can feel every inch of my skin as adrenaline courses through me. Fight or flight has been triggered and since I can’t flee from her, there is only fight. The only trouble is, I don’t know what that fight should look like. What do I say to keep this situation from slipping out of my grip and shattering on the ground around me?
“She did, didn’t she?” Ana continues when I don’t answer her. “That’s why you didn’t just lie about how old you were when it started, but that you had never had sex with her, because infidelity would still be enough for Mr. Lincoln to divorce her and take his money. You needed to make sure that she would get at least half of his money so that she could pay you, and so you lied about it all.”
“Ana-” I begin, my voice actual quivering as the fear consumes me, but she holds her hand up to silence me.
“Don’t,” she snaps at me, so angrily that I can see her physically shaking. “I don’t want to hear another word from you until you admit to me what you have done.”
Bile creeps up into my throat.
“Admit it Christian, you traded your testimony for startup money.” She’s practically screaming at me now. What do I do? Fuck, what do I do?
I swallow as the realization hits me. The only thing I can do is tell the truth. She knows, I can see that she knows, and lying is just going to make it worse. My best bet is to come clean and then get on my knees and beg her to forgive me.
“Yes,” I admit after what feels like an eternity of being under her piercing, furious gaze. I mean to continue, to try and explain, to grovel if that’s what it will take… but, with a quickness that actually knocks me off balance, Ana raises her hand into the air and then slaps me, hard, across the face. I stare back at her, shocked.
“I can’t believe how selfish you are,” she says. There is a venom in her voice that is close to hatred and it wounds me more than any insult ever could. But she doesn’t stop there… “Do you know what this has done to your mother? Your father? Do you even care? You’ve lied to me over, and over, and over again. There are a lot of things that I would forgive for you, Christian Grey. But this… this is not one of them.”
Her hand thrusts forward, shoving the earrings I gave to her back into my hand before she turns away from me, but finally the fight response kicks in and my hands automatically reach out to grab her.
“Ana, wait!” I nearly shout, not even bothering to hide the fear I feel anymore. “What are you-”
“Don’t touch me!” she screams, cutting me off once again. I feel her pulling against my grip but I don’t release her. I can’t… this can’t happen.
“You can’t leave. You can’t run.”
“Let me go, Christian,” she says through clenched teeth.
“No!” I shout defiantly. “No, no, no!” The words bubble out of my lips as my brain races to think of something, anything, I can say to make this better. Beg, Grey. This isn’t a time for pride or ego, you’re about to lose the most important thing in your life. Fucking beg!
“Please, Anastasia,” I say, nearly incoherent through the panic that seizes me. She pulls her arm again, and this time, she’s able to slip out of my grip.
“You know, I used to feel sorry for you, for everything she’d done to you physically, emotionally… but you’re right. You’re not a victim.” Her eyes look me up and down, and I can see the disgust reflected there. “You’re a whore, and she’s paid for you now.”
The cold edge in her voice seems to cut right through me and the pain is bewildering. I stand there, dazed, uncomprehending. In the span of a few minutes, we’ve gone from negotiating a long distance relationship to complete and utter destruction. What the fuck just happened? How did this… Holy fuck, this is actually happening.
My head snaps up but she is already through the doors to the observation room and pushing her way into an elevator.
“Ana!” I call, but as I sprint after her, the elevator doors close and she disappears from my sight. I nearly launch myself at the elevator call button, but the second elevator is only at the third floor. It takes a full minute for the elevator to arrive and once I push past the tourists spilling out onto the observation deck and jam my finger into the button for the ground floor, I nearly collapse. I reach out to grip onto the handrail against the wall, and then stare angrily up at the numbers ticking away all the time that represents Anastasia’s head start. When the doors finally open and I sprint out into the ground floor lobby, I look frantically around but I don’t see her anywhere.
Fuck! Where would she go? The hotel? I reach into my pocket for my blackberry and quickly dial her number but, of course, she doesn’t answer. I decide that the best place to start is the hotel as if that’s not where she’s headed, she could literally be going anywhere, and sprint out the doors towards 5th avenue. I hail a cab and instruct him to get me to the Plaza as quickly as possible, and once he navigates back into the evening traffic, I begin dialing Ana’s number again. It rings twice and goes to voicemail.
I’ve hardly said a word to the cab driver by the time we come to a stop in front of the Plaza. He gives me a total and I throw him a wad of cash over the seat, not even thanking him as I bolt out of the cab and then sprint for the doors. Thankfully, the lobby is fairly empty, which means someone could have seen Ana, so I make my way for the front desk to check instead of immediately heading for the elevator.
“Excuse me,” I interrupt the woman behind the counter. She looks up, and flashes me a broad, toothy smile.
“How can I help you, sir?”
“Did you see a young woman with dark brown hair and a short, metallic looking dress come through here?” I ask, but when her brow furrows, I immediately turn away from the counter and make my way to the elevator, not bothering to wait for her denial and subsequent apology.
Ana isn’t in the room and it leaves me filled with actual anguish. I don’t know whether it’s smarter for me to wait for her here or to start combing the streets looking for her, but she’s out there in a strange city, upset and alone. What if…
My jaw tenses as several unfathomably terrible possibilities roll through my mind, and I pick up my phone to call again. She still doesn’t answer, so I decide to hit the pavement. There’s no way I’d be able to sit here and wait… I’m already going out of my mind and I’ve only been here a few minutes.
Unfortunately, I have no better luck out in the city. I start in the park because it’s getting late and I’m terrified by the idea of her roaming through the underlit pathways alone after dark. I don’t find her though, so after getting her voicemail for probably the fifteenth time tonight, I decide to try Kate. Maybe Ana has called her, told her what happened and where she’s going. I’m sure Kate will be on Ana’s side, but surely she will appreciate the danger of Ana wandering New York City alone and at least tell me where I can find her.
“Hello?” Kate answers after three, interminable rings, but there is a kind of excitement or maybe anticipation in her voice that leaves me disappointed. I wouldn’t expect her to be so happy if Ana had told her what just happened…
“Kate, have you spoken to Ana?” I ask.
“No, she hasn’t told me anything,” Kate practically squeals through her giddiness. “Did it happen?”
“She left,” I reply bluntly. “I can’t find her.”
“Wh… What do you mean you can’t find her?” Kate asks, clearly confused.
“She ran away from me and she’s somewhere in Manhattan and I don’t know where she is. Look, I don’t have time to explain anything right now but she won’t answer my calls. Please, find out where she is so that I can find her.”
“I’ll call her,” Kate says, and she hangs up the phone without any kind of salutation. It’s good though. I appreciate her urgency.
I walk quickly from the park and make my way across 59th and down 7th Ave, hoping that maybe she’s going to Times Square, but before I even make it past Carnegie Hall, I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I fish it out, hoping to see Ana’s name on the screen, but it’s Kate.
“Hello?” I answer quickly.
“What the fuck did you do to her?” she snaps back immediately.
“You talked to her?” I ask, relieved. “Where is she?”
“She’s on a train,” Kate says. “She’s safe, she’s on a train.”
“A train?” I repeat. “Where? Home?”
“What did you do to her, Christian?” Kate demands again, but I ignore her.
“Is she on her way home, Kate?”
“I’m not telling you where she’s going, she’s trying to get away from you because you did something to her. What did you d-”
I hang up the phone, not interested in answering any of Kate’s questions now. If Ana is on a train, the only logical place she could be going is Boston. She’s going home… I need to get to her before she makes any rash decisions. I need to talk to her before this gets any worse and I lose all hope of working through this.
Once again, I hail a cab, but this time I instruct the driver to take me to JFK. As we make our way out of Manhattan, I book the first flight leaving for Boston, and then check the train schedule to calculate the amount of time it’ll take Ana to get back to Cambridge compared to me. If she takes the train from Boston to Cambridge instead of a cab, it should be close. I want her to have as little time alone as possible to prevent her from talking herself into something drastic.
The next few hours are excruciating, as I fend off calls from Kate and Elliot in the airport and then stare helplessly at the inky, blackness out the window on my flight back to Boston. The moment I touch down, I sprint out the doors towards the loading zone where there are a line of cabs waiting. What is only a 25 minute drive from the airport to the house in Cambridge feels like hours, but when I arrive, the lights in the house are on and the relief I feel knowing I guessed her destination correctly is palpable.
I traverse the front lawn in only five or six long strides, then crash through the front door, and immediately call out her name. There is no response, but I can hear her moving around upstairs so I launch myself at the staircase, taking the steps two at a time. She’s there, standing just below the second landing.
“Ana, thank god,” I say, not fully realizing the paralyzing extent of my fear until I see her and it’s suddenly lifted off of me. I take the few steps that are all that remain between us and wrap my arms around her, but she instantly pushes away from me.
“Please don’t,” she whispers. Her voice is thick with tears and as I glance down at her and see the void that looks back at me from behind her eyes, I feel the panic surge again.
“Ana, I’m sorry… But we can get past this. Just talk to me,” I plead with her, but she shakes her head.
“There is nothing past this, Christian. It’s over. The end.” My body tightens as she takes the step to move past me and my eyes fall on the suitcase she’s dragging down the steps behind her. What the fuck is this?
“What do you mean over?” I ask her. “Where are you going?”
“My mom bought me a plane ticket to Savannah. I’m going to spend the summer at home.” She doesn’t look back at me as she speaks, she simply continues on down the stairs, intent on walking away from me… away from us.
“Ana, stop!” I exclaim, reaching out to grab onto the plastic, pull out handle of her suitcase, and wrench it out of her hands. She takes a slow, calming breath and then turns back to face me.
“Give it to me, Christian,” she says flatly, and the lack of any kind of fight in her voice hits me as though she’s physically slapped me again, but harder this time.
“No!” I argue. “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?” she asks. “You can’t un-lie to me, Christian. 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 over me. 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.” I feel anger well deep in my stomach at her defeated tone and I latch onto it, desperate for anything to push off the pain I feel threatening to rip me apart so that I can remain on my feet and fight.
“Will you stop saying it’s over?” I growl back at her, but again, she shakes her head.
“It is. You need to accept that. I’m leaving you. This is done.”
“No!” I roar. “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.”
It’s like she’s already forgotten. How can she be so willing to throw this away, to walk away from what we have? She’s not thinking clearly, she’s not considering what she’s actually doing… I need to show her what she’s actually doing.
She reaches out for her suitcase again, and I call her name as I reach out for her, pull her into me, and bring my lips down to hers. She struggles, but I simply deepen the kiss and reach around for the zipper on the back of her dress. In this moment, I’m somehow both single minded and completely frantic. I need to remind her what we have, what she’s about to walk away from… I have to make her see.
“Christian, stop!” she yells, pulling her lips away from mine and then pushing harder against me.
“Let me make love to you,” I beg her. “Let me remind you… it isn’t over. We’ll never be over.”
“You can’t fuck your way out of this, Christian,” she says angrily, the first real sign of life I’ve seen from her since I’ve come through the door. “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 snaps. “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!”
The pain heightens as I hear the cold accusations in her voice. After everything I’ve promised her in the past, after everything I’ve said to her this week… how does she still not fucking get this. “I didn’t do it for her, I did it for you,” I tell her. “All I want is 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,” she replies, her voice biting now. “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.”
“It’s too late,” she says. “I’m leaving and you have to let me go.”
I’m unprepared for the sheer force of agony those words incite in me. It’s mind boggling. I’ve suffered through pain, I’ve lived through pain, but neither the burn of a cigarette nor the bite of Elena’s cane can compete with the sheer torture I feel now. I’m losing her. The only woman I’ve ever loved, the one person who has ever made me feel any real sense of value… She’s walking away from me, and she doesn’t want me to stop her. She’s not going to let me stop her. I’m anemic, helpless, and it’s eviscerating me.
Ana reaches down for the handle of her suitcase and slowly turns towards the door, and I say the only thing I can think of to try and stop her.
“You said you loved me. You said that nothing that was said or done in that courtroom could ever change that.”
“Sometimes love isn’t enough,” she replies. She turns to look at me, large tears rolling down her cheeks and her voice breaking as she begins to cry. “I never thought you were 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…”
“I love you, Christian,” she says. “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.”
The pain inside of me ignites again, her confession of love stoking the heat that burns away the last ounce of hope that I can do anything to salvage this situation. She loves me. She hasn’t forgotten. She knows that she loves me, but it doesn’t matter. She’s going to walk away anyway.
“Please don’t do this,” I beg, struggling to stay upright.
“Good-bye, Christian,” she tells me, and although I can hear her nearly choking over the tears that try and prevent her from saying those words, she turns around, opens the door, and disappears into the night. I stare after her, in utter and complete disbelief of what has happened. But as I watch the headlights of the cab she’s gotten into pull away from the curb and the realization that I’ve lost her, really lost her, hits me, I fall to my knees and succumb to the all consuming pain.
She’s gone. Period. I’ve hurt her and she’s walked out of my life… for good.
It’s hours before I move again.